A waiter entered at that moment, stepping in between them and Shantra took that opportunity to step out, escape. But even as she pulled the door closed, she was painfully conscious of one man’s eyes following her. His gaze felt like it was burning a hole in the silk of her dress.
Ramzi watched his baby sister leave, curious about the way she’d acted during dinner.
“She needs to be married,” Rais announced.
Ramzi was startled by that declaration and his eyes moved swiftly to his brother. Then all three men looked at the Sheik sitting at the table.
Laithir lifted the glass of brandy to his lips, ignoring their silent suggestion. “She’s a beautiful woman.”
The men respected the sheik’s comment and moved on. They all knew that the issue hadn’t been dropped. A potential union had just shifted to a back burner while each of them considered the possibilities.
“I think we’ve made some good progress over the past two days,” Ramzi said, shaking Laithir’s hand the following afternoon.
Laithir nodded his agreement as he shook his counterpart’s hand. “We have. And thank you for initiating these meetings. The groundwork is solid. I look forward to next month when we continue the conversations in Piora,” Laithir replied, and both men bowed slightly in respect.
“I look forward to that as well,” Ramzi replied politely.
Laithir hesitated for a moment, then made his decision. “Would it be possible to speak with Princess Shantra in private for a moment?”
Ramzi immediately looked back to his guard, silently asking for the whereabouts of his sister. The guard relayed that she was in the west gardens. “A servant will take you there,” Ramzi said.
Minutes later, Laithir dismissed the servant. He watched as the lovely woman in question shimmered in the sunshine, a sketchpad on her lap and a set of colored pencils beside her. She wasn’t drawing at the moment, but looked extraordinarily beautiful while she lifted her face up to the sunshine.
He walked over to stand behind her, silently looking down at her drawings. He was startled to realize that they were drawings of dresses. Things she wanted to wear? He wasn’t sure, but he was determined to find out more about this woman. She intrigued him and enchanted him in unexpected ways.
Stepping back, he moved into the shadows, just watching the lovely woman for a long moment. She looked too beautiful to disturb. He’d thought about having a short conversation with her, talk to her and see if he could somehow ease her anxiety towards him. But as he watched her, Laithir changed his mind. He was going to hold off for now. After his experience with his first wife, he needed to fully understand this latest temptress. He refused to enter into a relationship blindly again. Once was disastrous enough.
When he’d had his fill of her profile, he stepped back into the building and walked towards the exit. He had some serious thinking to do.
“What did Laithir say to you?” Ramzi asked when she walked into his office later that afternoon.
Shantra almost tripped over the carpet on his floor. “What do you mean?” she asked as she tried to right herself without looking like she’d actually tripped. Good grief, just the man’s name was making her stumble? This had to stop!
One dark eyebrow went up as he watched Shantra try to appear casual, but he didn’t comment on her gracelessness. “He asked for a private conversation with you before he left. He didn’t find you in the garden?”
Shantra stopped, her fingers clenching the back of the leather chair. “In the garden?” she replied weakly. She’d felt something strange, but hadn’t realized that it was the man in question. He’d been on her mind so often over the past twenty-four hours, she wasn’t sure what was real now. “I didn’t see him,” she told her oldest brother, her voice sounding strange even to her own ears. But she’d felt him! Oh yes, that strange, tingling sensation must have been him!