Shantra gasped, her eyes moving from her brother’s to the other man, praying that he wouldn’t reveal her pathetic attempt to explain away her brother’s matchmaking attempts. “We’re fine,” she snapped. “Everything is fine. We didn’t even notice that you were late,” she said and forced a bright smile.
Ramzi looked down at her with a curious look. “Are you okay?”
Shantra placed a cold hand on her cheek, trying to ease the heat slightly. It would be better if she could lift her wine glass to cool her cheeks, but she was fairly certain her brother would think she was nuts if she did something that uncouth. “I’m fine!” She didn’t want another repeat of Turk and Rais’ comments about how flushed her cheeks were. No need to point out the obvious! “I think dinner is ready.”
Before either of them could remark on her strange behavior, she walked away, leaving the two men staring after her. She knew she was acting oddly, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself. The whole evening was a strange situation anyway, so she felt justified.
She walked into the dining room, not bothering to wait for one of them to escort her in to dinner, as she should. She was ignoring protocols that had been drilled into her all of her life and didn’t care a fig! Shantra accepted that she was in survival mode right now. She had to survive this night without further embarrassment!
She almost groaned at the small table set out with beautiful flowers and candles. It was a very romantic setting and she couldn’t believe how lovely it all looked. She was going to kill Ramzi for this tomorrow! Or tonight, if she could catch him before he got to Mia. She couldn’t kill her brother in Mia’s presence. That would just be rude, and Mia might defend her husband. But he was definitely going to be hurting!
She was about to pull her chair out when strong hands took the chair from her and pulled it out for her. She glanced up and, sure enough, there he was, looking down at her with that enigmatic expression on his features, and that fascinating yellow glow about his eyes.
“Thank you,” she finally choked out, wishing he would step back so that the man’s heat wasn’t so intense.
The man simply nodded his head in response. A man of few words, she thought. Goodness, that made her even more nervous! She hated silences. They made her nervous and even more chatty than usual. As evidenced by the way her mouth had just gone on and on before Ramzi had entered the room.
Even knowing that, she couldn’t stop the flow of words. “Did either of you happen to hear about that article on the butterflies?”
Both men froze in the act of putting their napkins on their laps. “Butterflies?” Ramzi echoed, looking at Shantra as if she’d completely lost her mind.
Shantra ignored Ramzi’s confounded expression and nodded enthusiastically. She smoothed the starched linen napkin across her lap several more times, blinking rapidly to try and regain her focus. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working.
“Yes. Apparently, we’re killing off butterflies in huge numbers. They’re pollinators, you know, and we’re killing them off with the herbicides that kill the other pests but the chemicals are also killing the butterflies even though they aren’t the pests. We really should do something to help them.”
“The butterflies,” Ramzi said with a look that told her she was nuts.
Laithir watched the delicate beauty and wanted to laugh. He was enchanted. She was sweet and flustered, even while she sat opposite him and looked like a goddess in her black satin that made him want to run his hands over her curves.
And she’d been absolutely correct when she’d compared herself to his first wife. Princess Shantra Samara was definitely different from Angela. Thank goodness!