My father is a war hero in Khalil's kingdom. It's the only reason why our paths crossed, and I never let myself forget this.
The Emir Sheikh already has the whole world worshipping him at his feet. He doesn't need another American girl added to his endless list of fans and groupies.
And besides, I'm too ordinary and snarky for his taste. He might be in dire need for a queen, but I doubt he'd ever look my way. Right?
“Umm, it’s nice to see you, too.” She cleared her throat. “Anyway---”
Altair slowly shook his head. You know why I’m here.
Harper scowled. It doesn’t mean I should just give up without a fight.
Because they had just about the same conversation for so many years now, words no longer needed to be spoken.
When Harper opened her mouth to argue anew, Altair said gently, “The king wishes you to stay where you are.”
Harper glared. And if I don’t obey him?
“We have recently expanded the palace’s dungeons,” Altair said very politely. “Perhaps you’d be interested in a personal tour?”
He was going to have her locked behind bars, in other words.
Harper forced a smile between clenched teeth, saying, “Nope.”
“I thought so.”
And so she stayed, fidgeted, and cursed the sheikh to perdition.
Maybe if he weren’t single, she wouldn’t mind being around him so much, Harper thought moodily. Maybe if he found himself a queen, she’d stop being stupid. Maybe, just maybe, she’d finally accept the fact that Khalil Al-Atassi was untouchable, unreachable, and would always be, especially to girls like her.
It took over ten minutes before the sheikh finally found his way to her, having had to pause on his way twice, the first to speak with a French ambassador and later, to exchange a few words with a UN envoy.
His cousins spread out in what seemed like natural synchrony, affording them a circle of privacy, but Harper wasn’t fooled. These five guys were thick as thieves, and nothing they did was ever unplanned.
For a long time, the sheikh simply stared at her, stared and stared, making it seem like he had the hots for her. But they both knew he was just baiting her. Damn sheikh. He knew how much she hated being the center of attention, and that was exactly what he was making her to be.
Finally, his beautiful lips curved, and the sheikh said softly, “Marhava, qalifa.” Hello, little girl.
Harper almost scowled, almost glared, but then she caught sight of her father’s warning look from across the hall. Shit. And so she had to resign herself with a stony expression as she said, “Hello, sheikh.” Now go away.
But he didn’t.
Instead, Khalil Al-Atassi remained in front of her, his gaze patient and knowing.
Don’t do it, Harper warned herself. You know he just likes seeing you mad for whatever reason. And the damn sheikh knew how much she hated it whenever he stared at her. She tried counting to ten, but when the sheikh seemed to be enjoying looking his fill of her, Harper’s quick temper eventually got the better of her.
“Stop that,” Harper grouched.
“You know what!”
“I truly do not know,” the sheikh said ever so solemnly that Harper wanted to strangle him. “Is it because I called you qalifa?”
Her teeth gnashed. “I am not a little girl.” Damn sheikh.
The sheikh appeared surprised. “You say it as if it is an insult, but it is not.”
“It is an endearment, one I only use for special childhood friends such as you – dear qalifa.”
“Call me qalifa one more time, and you’ll see just how good this little girl is at trying to choke the hell out of you.” And who the hell was he trying to kid? Endearment? Ha! He only called her ‘little girl’ because he knew how much she hated her youthful looks. And really, childhood friend? Double ha! He was a sheikh, and she just happened to be the daughter of the American soldier who had saved his uncle’s life. Even if special circumstances had allowed them to see each other for one week every year, it still wasn’t enough to constitute a childhood friendship, and they both knew it.
“You are as feisty as ever,” the sheikh suddenly stated.
She only stared at him. You’re a pain in the ass…as always.
The sheikh laughed, the lovely, deep sound causing everyone to turn towards them, and Harper almost swore out loud. For the love of God! This man was the worst. He was often described as aloof but gentlemanly, but in her presence the damn sheikh would always make it a point to smile, laugh, do whatever that would make it seem like they were such good friends –
And all just so she could blow her top, Harper thought furiously, which the damn sheikh found so enjoyable to watch for some reason.
“I am glad you have not changed all this time.” The sheikh reached out to ruffle her hair, just like the ‘qalifa’ he thought her to be, and Harper was tempted to sink her teeth into it like a rabid dog. Oh, to hurt him just once, she thought wistfully.
“Why are you looking at me like you want to kill me?’
“Because I am.”
The sheikh laughed again.
She grimaced. She had wanted him to feel insulted, not amused.
“One day, some people may tell you to refrain from speaking your mind to me.”
Harper only stared. Where did that come from?
“When that happens – do not listen to them.”
“Umm. Okay.” The sheikh was sounding crazier and crazier by the second, but oh well. Maybe sheikhs simply applied a different kind of logic to life. Whatever.
The sheikh suddenly leaned forward, catching her by surprise, and when he lifted his hand to touch her cheek, Harper’s first instinct was to turn away from his touch---
But again, her gaze once again collided with her father’s, his ferocious scowl perfectly summing up his one-word command. Behave!
And so she gnashed her teeth and forced herself to bear the sheikh’s touch.
I can do this, I can do this.
But with every millimeter of skin that his fingers brushed against blazing to life, flushed hot and tingling, it was so damn hard---
His fingers finally fell away, and Harper almost expired in relief.
Oh, thank God.
“Enjoy the rest of the night, Harper.” His gaze dipped just as her fists clenched against her sides, and amusement once again gleamed in the sheikh’s dark gaze. “You are itching to wipe my touch away, nem?”
She smiled ever so sweetly up at him, saying, “Nem.” Yes. It was a lie – but she would rather cut her tongue off than let him know that. “How did you guess?” Harper was hoping the words would at least win a frown from the sheikh, but instead the damn man remained unflappable as ever.
“I will see you at dinner, qalifa.” And just before turning away, he said huskily, “It was lovely flirting with you.”
The sheikh left her gaping.
Flirting? FLIRTING? How dare he imply---
Harper snapped her mouth shut, but it was too late. The official photographer had already taken her photo, and again the sheikh had managed to bait her into showing a God-awful face.
I love a good Sheikh story and this did not disappoint. Unable to put the book down because of the wonderful characters and chemistry. Harper was fabulous. So glad she and Khalil got their HEA! ~ Amazon 5-star verified review