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As sheriff, the law guided his decisions.
As a man protecting a princess, his libido seemed to be in control?
Sheriff Jake Wolf took pride in two things: his Native American heritage and his adherence to the law. So when Princess Saida Khalid came to him, desperate for answers to an unsolved case, Jake stuck to the facts?and tried not to get distracted by what he wanted. But ignoring Saida's gorgeous features and whip?smart mind were nearly impossible, especially when she claimed he was the only person who could keep her safe. Jake had every intention of maintaining a professional distance?even though he ached to hold her and promise everything would be okay. But remaining alert had to be his priority. And one touch would never be enough.
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A night breeze swept down from the peaks of the Wind River Mountains and cooled the high Wyoming prairie. At his home five miles outside Dumont, Sheriff Jake Wolf opened his arms wide and welcomed the wind against his bare chest. His arms stretched over his head for a couple of modified jumping jacks. His twelve–hour workday was over. Thankfully, there had been no major catastrophes. No sniper attacks. No bomb explosions. No murderous abductions.
After he adjusted his jeans on his hips, he picked up a basketball and began to dribble slowly. The smack of the ball against concrete reminded him of his glory days at the Wyoming Indian High School when the Chiefs had won their first state tournament. Basketball meant more to him than the powwow drumming and the traditions of his Arapaho people. The first thing he did when he'd bought this two–story, cedar–frame house was mount a hoop and backboard above the garage doors. Earlier this summer, he'd hung a couple of floodlights so he could play after dark.
He made a quick pivot in his sneakers, dodging an invisible foe and went in for a layup. Swish through the net. Two points. He backed up, dribbled, aimed a hook shot. Another score. The physical exertion felt great. He ran and shot, ran and shot. Sometimes a hit, sometimes a miss. He wanted to sweat, to get his blood pumping, to feel alive. All day long he'd been clenching his fists, holding on to his self–control while he fended off reporters, coordinated with other law enforcement agencies and investigated a series of crimes the likes of which Wind River County had never seen. It all started a few weeks ago when the princes and sheiks of four island nations in the Mediterranean arrived for a summit meeting at the exclusive Wind River Ranch and Resort. The trouble wasn't over yet; Sheik Amir Khalid was still missing.
Jake ran back for a three–pointer, turned and shot. The ball dropped neatly through the hoop. Nothing but net, baby.
"And the crowd goes wild." His sister, Maggie, strolled from the two–story cedar house. "Come inside and eat. I made a recipe from the Food Network. Linguini with meatballs."
"Not hungry." With the way his sister cooked, he expected the meatballs to be the consistency of petrified elk droppings.
"Come on, Jake. You're in decent shape for an old man of thirty–one, but you need to watch it. You're going to get too skinny and no woman will have you."
"Says the worldly nineteen–year–old."
"Seriously." She knocked the ball from his hand and shoved a bottle of water at him. "I'm only here for the summer. Who's going to take care of you when I'm back in college?"
"I'll manage." Before the royals came to town, his time had been structured and sane. Usually, he'd come home for a lunch break when he tended to the three horses in the barn behind the house.
"It's not like you have a social life," Maggie said. "In the time I've been here, you haven't gone on one single date."
True enough. He'd been elected sheriff less than a year ago and was still preoccupied with cleaning up the mess left behind by Big Burt Maddox, the former sheriff. He uncapped his water bottle and took a drink. "Too busy."
"The whole family is worried about you."
He had two other younger sisters. One was married. The other had a steady job in Denver. Mama still lived on the rez. When all four of these women got together, they were a force to be reckoned with. "I'm fine."
She dribbled toward the basket and made a layup. Her cutoffs and baggy T–shirt didn't match her weird curlicue hairdo—no doubt a style she'd picked up from some fashion program on cable. Signing up for satellite television with over two hundred channels had been a mistake; his sister was starting to quote supermodels.
She flipped the basketball back to him and said, "There's a name for what's wrong with you. The lone wolf syndrome. Just like that stupid belt buckle you always wear."
He touched his lucky pewter belt buckle with the howling wolf design. "What's wrong with this?"
"If you'd sit down for a minute, I could explain. Lucky for you, I'm majoring in psychology."
He looked toward the road and saw headlights turning off the road into his driveway. Gravel crunched under the wheels of a dark green sedan that pulled up and parked in front of his porch. A glance at his wristwatch told him that it was nine–forty–seven, which was too late for a friendly visit. Now what?
A slender woman with shining black hair emerged from the driver's side. Her jacket was metallic gold, and her jeans fit like a second skin. Balanced on sandals with high platform heels, she came toward them. "Are you the sheriff? Jake Wolf?"
He nodded. "Who are you?"
She stepped onto the concrete, straightened her shoulders and announced, "I am Princess Saida Khalid of Jamala." Inwardly, he groaned. Not another royal! His sister approached the princess and attempted a curtsy that looked ridiculous in sneakers and cutoffs. "I'm Maggie, Jake's sister. Love your jacket. Is it designer?"
"Don't remember." She shrugged. "I've had it so long, it's practically vintage."
Maggie laughed as though this comment was the cleverest thing she'd ever heard. "Please come inside, Princess. Is that right? Should I call you Princess or Your Highness?"
"Call me Saida."
"Did you come here from Jamala?" Maggie frowned. "Is that far? I don't know exactly where Jamala is."
"An island nation in the Mediterranean. But I live in Beverly Hills."
Judging by Maggie's rapturous response, California was right next door to Heaven. She babbled about Hollywood and movie stars and some kind of shopping area called Rodeo Drive—a place that didn't sound as though they sold saddles and bridles. She tugged at her curled hair in an attempt to match Saida's smooth bangs and straight shoulder–length style.
Nothing good could come from his sister idolizing a princess. He grabbed his dark blue uniform shirt from the ground where he'd tossed it, stuck his arms in the sleeves and fastened two buttons. "What can I do for you, ma'am?"
Saida smiled at Maggie. "Will you excuse us, please?"
"Absolutely." His sister scampered toward the house. "You're coming in, right? I have linguini."
"I'll be right there," Jake said.
"I wasn't asking you."
He knew what Maggie meant, and she was going to be disappointed. He had no intention of encouraging the princess to stay.
"I adore linguini," Saida said, "with clam sauce."
"I've got to get your recipe." Maggie rolled her eyes. "What am I saying? You don't cook for yourself. I mean—"
"Maggie," Jake interrupted, "that's enough."
He was sick and tired of all this kowtowing to the royal entourage. As individuals, he'd come to respect the princes; they were decent men stuck in a bad situation. But he was more than ready for them to get the hell out of Wind River County.
As Maggie disappeared into the house, Saida strode across the basketball court toward him. She made direct eye contact, compelling him to meet her gaze. A striking woman with flawless olive skin and full lips, she was as pretty as the models in his sister's magazines. Looking into her caramel–colored eyes, he was surprised by the depth of sadness he saw there.
"You must help me." She grasped his arm, and he felt the trembling in her fingers. "Please. Help me find my brother."
Her pain was honest, not a facade. He could tell that her heart was aching, and her vulnerability touched him. He'd always been a sucker for the underdog; it was his nature to protect those who couldn't fend for themselves.
But he doubted that the princess fell under that category. She had too many advantages. Not only was she rich and royal but her beauty was an undeniable asset. All she needed to do was flutter those thick, black eyelashes and most men would jump to do her bidding.
Very deliberately, he removed her hand from his arm. "Amir went missing a while ago. Why are you coming here now?"
"Do you think I waited because I don't care about my brother?"
Or she was too busy getting a manicure. "Why now?"
"All my life, my brother has tried to shelter me. He's almost ten years older than I am. His friends—Sheik Efraim and the others—thought they were doing as Amir would wish when they told me not to worry, that everything was fine." Her amber eyes flashed. "They lied to me."
A harsh judgment. Even if the princes had deceived her, news reporters and paparazzi had been all over this case. "You must have seen the reports."
"The media." She flicked her hand as if swatting an irritating gnat. "I know better than to believe what I see on the ten o'clock news. I thought I could trust my brother's friends. But I've given up on them. They won't answer my questions. The FBI agents refused to speak to me. I have come to you to hear the truth."
"Lucky me," he muttered.
"I read about you on the internet. You promised change when you ran for sheriff. You want to help people and fight corruption. There were some amazing endorsements."
He eyed her skeptically. "If you've been in this country for any time at all, you must know that you can't believe much of what's said during a campaign."
"I've lived in America since I was sixteen."
That must be why she had only a slight accent, just a hint of the exotic.
She continued, "It's true that politicians will say anything to win. But you're different. I trust you."
He had a pretty good idea that she was shi...
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Book Description Harlequin, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110373695608
Book Description Harlequin. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0373695608. Seller Inventory # SKU302884
Book Description Harlequin, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0373695608