“Why is she coming on the train?” Jahni said as they walked into Az-Ma’ir’s central railway station. It was busy, the evening rush hour in full swing. “Wouldn’t it be quicker to fly?”
“I think she likes to see the country and meet people,” Madari said. He examined the arrivals board. “Platform eight. Come on.”
They made their way through the crowds heading home and others coming into the city for the evening. Dodging luggage and rushing commuters, they found platform eight and waited there, the train due in a few minutes. As usual, Jahni surveyed the area carefully. He couldn’t go anywhere now without looking for trouble, Madari thought. But they were out of uniform and anonymous in the crowd, leaving him feeling more relaxed than he did when wearing his uniform in public.
The train arrived and disgorged a crowd of people, most coming from the coast like Karen.
“There she is,” Jahni said as the crowd poured through the barriers, showing their tickets. “Karen!” he shouted, waving. “Over here!”
Madari saw her too, wearing khaki trousers, a long sleeved shirt and sturdy walking boots. Very practical and modest enough for local standards. She carried a pack on her back and had a wide brimmed hat resting on top of that. Spotting them, she waved back, grinning.
“Karen, welcome to Az-Ma’ir,” Madari said as she came up to them. He feared she’d attempt to hug him, but was relieved when instead she held out her hand for a shake. He returned it warmly and Jahni did the same.
“Great to be here, and to see you, Colonel, and you Kahil. You fellas look great.”
“How was your journey?” Jahni said as they moved away from the platform.
“Fine, fine. But they had no food service on the train. Any chance we can stop for a quick bite?”
“I was going to invite you out to dinner,” Madari said.
“I won’t make it that far,” she said, “my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut.”
Well, it was at least a couple of hours until dinner. “Of course.” He led her to a small coffee shop on the concourse, tables arranged outside. While Karen and Jahni secured a table and settled down, Madari went to the counter and came back with coffees and cake and a sandwich for Karen and a bottle of water. She drank the water quickly.
“Thanks, Colonel, I was parched.” She started on the sandwich while the men sipped their coffee and Jahni ate cake.
“I bought that for Karen,” Madari pointed out. Jahni shrugged.
“So, any adventures since you left Port Said?” Madari asked. “Did you like the ‘pointy buildings’?”
She laughed. “Yeah, they were great. Had a pretty good trip, not too many adventures. A camel on the line delayed the train for a bit once. But the guard shot it, so it only held us up for an hour.”
She might be kidding, she had that teasing look in her eyes, hoping for a reaction perhaps. Madari affected a casual air. “Camels can be such a pest this time of year.”
“So, you went through Egypt on the train, then got the ferry over here, then got a train to the city?” Jahni said. “On your own?”
“Well, there were a few other people aboard,” she said, glancing around at the bustling station.
“Karen is quite capable of looking after herself,” Madari said.
“Men didn’t bother you?” Jahni asked.
“Sometimes,” she said with a shrug. “But a couple of older ladies in a sauna in Cairo taught me some phrases to ward creepy blokes off.” She frowned in concentration and spoke slowly in Arabic. Madari blushed and Jahni choked on the coffee he’d just taken a sip of. Karen grinned. “Of course, I don’t know what that means. But it seems to work.”
“Ah, yes,” Madari said, glancing at Jahni, flushed too as he recovered from his choking. “Yes, I can see it would be quite effective.” He got the feeling from her grin that she knew exactly what it meant.
“I’ve got a couple of other ones if you want to hear them.”
“No, thank you,” Madari said, raising a hand before she said anything else, realising for the first time how much he missed her. His time since he came home had been so busy, getting up to speed on everything, that he’d had little time to brood on his friends from Zaire. But seeing her here, now, on his home ground, made him remember how sad he’d been to say goodbye to her.
“So, are we going to give Karen a tour of the barracks?” Jahni asked. Of course she’d want that, and of course Madari wanted to both show off the barracks and stir things up a little. He’d mentioned her a few times to other officers, and many had scoffed at the concept of a woman officer. He just had to see how they responded to her in person.
“Are you sure you won’t join us for dinner?” Madari said as they walked into the hotel lobby and made for the reception desk.
“Thanks, Colonel, but I’m just exhausted. I need a long soak in the bath and then my bed.” She dropped her pack by the reception desk. “Besides, I don’t think I’ve got so much as a clean sock in here, never mind anything to wear out to dinner.”
“They have a laundry service here,” Madari said. “Please feel free to use it.”
“You know you don’t have to pay for me to stay here,” she said, looking around at the well-appointed lobby and the wealthy looking people occupying it. “I’m used to roughing it.”
“I insist,” he said. “You’re my guest.”
Typical of him, Jahni thought. He’d skimp on accommodations for himself, yet put his guests up in five star luxury.
“Well, if you insist,” she said, grinning. “I’ll try to behave myself.”
“They are used to foreigners here.” Madari teased her a little with that, and she chuckled.
“Crazy foreigners, eh?”
Madari turned to the desk and started to check her in. Jahni looked around. “It’s a good hotel,” he said. “The rooms are excellent.”
“Oh. You’ve stayed here?”
“Um, for a night now and again,” he said, hastily, suddenly wanting to dismiss the subject. The receptionist was looking at him. Did she recognise him? If she did was it as the famous Captain Jahni, or as the man who picked up foreign women in the bar?
Foreign women… He glanced at Karen again. Even rumpled and tired she was attractive. That ready smile and the twinkle in her eye. Her sun-bleached hair and golden tan. Rather different than the businesswomen usually found in these hotels. And her body of course…
Looking too long, she’s seen me. Look away.
“You’re checked in,” Madari said, turning to Karen. “The porter will take your pack and someone will come up in an hour to collect your clothes for laundering. You can order dinner from room service whenever you’re ready.”
“Thanks, Colonel.” The porter appeared, picked up her pack and took the room key from the receptionist. “I guess I’ll see you fellas in the morning then.”
“I’ll pick you up at nine,” Madari said. “Sleep well.”
She leaned in closer and for a second Jahni thought she was going to kiss Madari, but instead she nodded at the waiting porter. “How much do I tip him?”
Madari chuckled, the momentary panic vanishing from his face. He told her and Jahni clicked his tongue.
“Double that,” he said. “He’s a terrible tipper.”
“Kahil!” Madari protested.
“Faris, waiters spit in your soup everywhere in this city.” He couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he said it though, happy to see it make Karen laugh. Madari just rolled his eyes.
“Okay, goodnight,” she said, following the porter to the lifts.
“Of course,” Jahni said when the lift doors closed and she vanished from sight, “a good looking woman doesn’t need to tip as generously as a man.”
“No. I suppose not.” Madari glanced at the large clock over the reception desk and they left the hotel, walking back out into the evening sunlight, a doorman holding the door open for them.
“So, just us boys for dinner,” Madari said as they strolled to where his car was parked. “Do you want to go anywhere in particular? I hadn’t made any reservations.”
“I always hold a table open for you at my place,” Jahni said, slipping on his sunglasses. “And there’s a football match on later.”
“That sounds good.”
“Unless you were going to head over to Sophia’s.”
“No, she’s busy tonight.”
“I suppose she’s keen to meet Karen?”
Did Madari grimace there? Was Sophia a little jealous of the woman who’d spent six months with Madari?
“Um, yes, she’s very keen to meet her.” They were all getting together tomorrow, and Jahni knew Madari planned to take the group out to the falconry centre so he could show off Ruya.
“And I’m sure Karen is keen to meet Sophia.”
“Well, not exactly.” Madari sounded uncomfortable. “Karen doesn’t exactly know about Sophia.”
Jahni stopped and stared at Madari. He took off his sunglasses to get the full effect across better.
“She doesn’t know about Sophia? All those months and you never mentioned her?”
Madari stopped too when Jahni did, a step or two in front of him. He turned to Jahni putting his own sunglasses on, hiding a nervous look in his eyes.
“It would hardly be proper for me to discuss my private life with a young woman.”
“Does Sophia know?” Jahni said, trying to keep from smirking. “I mean that Karen doesn’t know she exists?”
“No,” Madari admitted. “Come on, before I get a parking ticket.” He hurried on and Jahni caught up, falling into step with him.
And he’d thought taking Karen to the barracks was going to be fun. Sounds like that would be just the start.
Madari arrived at Karen’s hotel the next morning at nine, in his staff car. He thought she would probably enjoy that, and anyway, it was a much nicer car than his own. He really should get a new car – he’d started to feel rather ashamed of taking Sophia out in his old Volvo. Not that she said anything about it, unlike Jahni who kept pointing out this week’s good deals on new cars and asking if he needed a new supply of mothballs for his wallet.
Karen was waiting for him in the lobby, wearing clean and well-pressed khakis and a white cotton shirt, along with her walking shoes. It wasn’t a uniform, but it had the same feel about it. Anyway, it looked modest and smart enough that he could introduce her to his fellow Royal Guard officers without embarrassment. Of course the embarrassment would come once she opened her mouth…
Sijad opened the door for them as they approached the car.
“Thank you, Sergeant.”
“Ma’am.” He nodded his head, returning her smile. Conquered already, Madari suspected.
“Nice car,” Karen said as they drove through the city streets.
“Perhaps one day you’ll have a staff car and driver yourself,” Madari said. She had the potential to make the senior officer ranks, but would sexism even in her country keep it from happening?
“That would be nice. I could have a nap on the way to meetings. Does the colonel ever do that, Sergeant?”
“That would be classified information, ma’am,” Sijad said, a smile on his face.
“Your discretion is appreciated, Sergeant,” Madari said. He had dozed off on occasion in this seat, but only when exhausted from a long mission.
They reached the barracks and Sijad dropped them outside the Special Forces unit, before driving off to park the car.
“Colonel Rahama is keen to meet you, but he’s busy this morning, so I’ll take you along later. Now, let me give you the tour. Kahil is around somewhere.”
“So are you a medic, Lieutenant?” One of the officers asked after Madari introduced Karen to them in their ready room.
“A medic? Oh no. Nothing like that.”
“An administrator?” another man asked.
“You mean like a clerk?” Karen said, still smiling, her voice still neutral, but Madari felt sure he heard an edge of something in it. Anger, impatience? “No. Not a clerk.”
“So you’re …”
“An officer,” Madari said. “Like you gentlemen.” Some of them looked dubious at that. The ones who didn’t were too busy staring at the exotic creature in their midst.
“You give orders to soldiers?” Raian asked, sounding amazed.
“I’m taking up a posting leading a team of weapons analysts after I get home from leave.”
“You’re trained to handle weapons?” Raian sounded horrified by the barbarity of the Australians arming women.
“Tends to be something you pick up when you join the Army, don’t you find?” She grinned at her fellow lieutenant and he blushed.
“Miss Bennett handles a rifle as well as most of you,” Madari said, and was surprised at her small frown at him. He supposed he’d done a lot of jumping to her defence since they started the tour. Odd that she wouldn’t like that. Did she feel she didn’t need his defence?
“Perhaps we should take a stroll over to the firing range,” Jahni suggested, an innocent expression on his face.
“I’d enjoy that,” Karen said, with a wicked smirk.
“What’s your weapon of choice?” Jahni said, as they headed for the range, several of the officers following. “I know you like the Kalashnikov, but we don’t have those.”
“I’d love to try your MP5s,” she said.
“Of course. And, I was just thinking, sir,” he said, turning to Madari, “that maybe you should let her have a try of your old G3?”
Madari looked surprised. “Well, of course, if she wants to.”
“The gun you used when you were a guerrilla?” Karen said. “Yeah, I’d love that. I’m familiar with those.”
“Of course.” Madari sent a soldier to fetch the weapon and some ammunition.
At the range Jahni gave Karen one of the MP5s and they had a long chat about it, mostly telling each other things they already knew, and Madari recognised that they were putting on a show for the gaggle of curious officers.
Once Jahni finished his instructions, Karen loosed off the rifle at the target. She wasn’t any kind of remarkable shot, Madari already knew that. Though she had a sharpshooter rating, she probably didn’t perform to that standard today, using a rifle she had no experience of and perhaps conscious of her sceptical audience. But the fact she could fire the rifle at all and not hurt herself with the recoil, or be frightened of the noise impressed the rest of Madari’s officers regardless of her marksmanship.
The G3 lay ready on a table and she moved on to that next, checked it, loaded it, and now the officers were even more impressed to see her handle the larger weapon as easily as the shorter MP5. By Madari’s estimation she performed better this time, the longer gun perhaps suiting her more. She had fired around a dozen shots when the rifle jammed. Madari winced.
“I’m sorry, Lieutenant, it’s a little worn out now. If you let me…” He took a step towards her to take the rifle, but she had already started to break it down on the small bench in the firing range booth. Her hands worked fast, perhaps even faster than a man’s larger hands could. The officers watched in silence as she cleared the jam, reassembled the weapon and fired off a few more shots, before turning to Madari and taking off her ear defenders and safety glasses.
“Nice weapon, but could do with an overhaul. Be as good as new then.”
“Thank you,” Madari said, taking it as she handed it back to him. “You’re right. I’ll send it to our weapons master. I’m sure he’ll be able to get it back into top shape.”
Karen looked around at the rest of the officers, most staring, with a mix of expressions on their faces ranging from amusement to shock.
“What’s wrong, fellas? You never see a lady firing a machine gun before?”
“No, Lieutenant,” Jahni said. “Most of them haven’t.”
“Right,” she said. “Any volunteers to go stand downrange with an apple on his head?”
That brought nervous laughter, though most probably didn’t understand the reference.
“You’re not that good,” Jahni said, and Madari felt sure he winked at her. He turned to the officers. “Okay, show’s over. Everybody back to work.”
The officers tore themselves away reluctantly, leaving only Madari and Jahni and Karen. A soldier cleared away the weapons.
“Well, that was enjoyable,” Madari said as they left the range. “Now, I think Colonel Rahama will be free and he’s dying to meet you.”
Rahama stood up from his desk and held out both hands to take Karen’s when they were shown into his office.
“My dear Lieutenant Bennett, how delightful to meet you. Colonel Madari has spoken so highly of you.”
“And vice-versa, sir. Please, call me Karen.”
“Oh, no, I insist I shall call you Lieutenant.”
Was that for the novelty of it, or simply respect, Madari wondered. Rahama wouldn’t patronise her – he knew how hard won an officer’s rank was – but he probably found the whole situation quite amusing. Karen didn’t seem to mind though, and they were soon chatting away like old friends, mostly about Madari, to his considerable embarrassment.
“Now, shall we all have lunch,” Rahama said, after they’d sat over coffee for nearly an hour, Madari and Jahni barely getting a word in.
“The colonel was always raving about the standard of the food in your officer’s mess,” Karen said. “So I’m dying to try it.”
“Then you are my guest. Come, let’s continue our chat in the dining room. I want to hear more about the way things are done in the Australian Army, Lieutenant.”
“Of course, sir.”
They went to the mess, Rahama and Karen walking together and talking business. Madari and Jahni walked behind them and exchanged looks. It wasn’t only charm and banter flowing between Rahama and Karen, Madari noticed. They spoke about army life, the differences in their methods, command. They had much in common, he thought, bizarre as that seemed. Both took every opportunity to learn from someone who had knowledge they didn’t have. And both seemed to find a kind of quiet amusement in those everyday absurdities of life that produced anger and frustration in other people.
Rahama always had his particular table in the mess, of course, prominently on display, and seemed to relish it today, enjoying the attention Karen. Not all of the officers in the room felt the same, and there were many stares and much muttering. Many of the looks were directed at Madari, as word got around that he had brought this woman into the barracks. What could he be thinking?
His discomfiture at that was only minimal though. Since bringing in Jahni and setting up his new unit he’d gained a reputation as a man who didn’t play by the rules. That had bothered him at first, but as both those moves proved successful and received Rahama’s support, he’d grown less self-conscious. So he was a reformer, even something of a radical? People would have to live with it.
“So, did you enjoy your lunch?” Madari asked as they sat with coffee afterwards.
“Oh, it was very nice,” she said. “Though… well, very French. I mean great, five star, but I’m hoping to try some more local dishes.”
“Sheep’s eyeballs?” Jahni said, with what was definitely a wink this time.
“Battered and deep fried?” Karen came back with.
“Please,” Madari said, “we just ate. Karen, you’re quite right. I’ll ensure you get some good regional cuisine while you’re here. Tonight in fact, after we go to the falconry centre we’ll all go out for dinner for some authentic local food.”
“I can’t wait,” Jahni said, wearing a smirk on his face that Madari didn’t understand. He didn’t think Madari would take her to eat something nasty, did he?
“Well,” Rahama said, “I intend to monopolise this young lady for the afternoon and show her the whole place. I’m sure you gentlemen have work to do.”
“Oh,” Madari said. “Well, if you have time, sir.”
“I’ve cleared my diary,” he said. “Off you go now. Miss Bennett is quite safe with me.”
“Karen?” Madari said, and she nodded.
“That’s fine, I’m looking forward to it.”
It made sense, Madari supposed, for Rahama to give her the tour of the whole base. He could take her to any part of the barracks she was interested in, where Madari could really only show her around his own unit, not the other companies, without potentially treading on toes and causing friction.
“Well, enjoy yourself and I’ll see you later in my office.”
A soldier brought Karen back to Madari’s office later in the afternoon and looked on the verge of asking Madari to sign a chit for her, before Madari dismissed him.
“My feet are killing me,” she said, dropping into a chair beside Madari’s desk. “The old Colonel can cover a lot of ground for a man his age. He should have a golf cart!”
“I’ll suggest that to him. I hope you’ve found your tour interesting.”
“Definitely. Lots to think about. You fellas do things differently from us all right, but I’ve picked up some ideas.”
“Very good. I expect the colonel has picked up some ideas from you too, I know I have.”
“Going to start bringing in some lady officers?” She gave a quirky smile, clearly knowing the answer to that one.
“I can’t see that happening for a while yet.” He glanced at his watch. “Kahil and I will be done in about an hour, unless something comes up, and then we’ll head over to the falconry centre.”
He ordered his clerk to bring them some tea and when it arrived, looked at the door, wanting to close it, but knowing it would look strange when she was alone in here with him. Yet he needed to say something to her in private. He compromised, leaving the door standing half open and beckoning her over to the window. With a curious look on her face, she joined him.
“Karen, we’ll be stopping to pick someone else up on the way to the falconry centre.”
“A lady. A very close friend of mine.” Did she understand? Did he have to spell it out?
“Oh, your, um, girlfriend, sir?” She actually blushed when she said it, her voice unusually cautious, as if fearing she’d jumped to the wrong conclusion.
“Yes,” he said, relieved she got it. “We’ve been friends for several years. She’s a very important part of my life. I know it may seem odd to you that I never mentioned her to you before, but please don’t misunderstand why that was. Please don’t think I don’t trust you. It’s simply that we don’t talk about our private lives that way. I’m only telling you now because I don’t want you to be taken by surprise later.”
“I understand,” she said, nodding.
“You’re not offended?”
“Of course not. You’re an odd sort of bloke, Colonel, but I know you’ve got your own ways here.”
“Thank you for understanding. I’m looking forward to introducing you two now. My friend’s name is Sophia Giordano. She’s Italian, but she lives here in Qumar.”
“Oh, well I can’t wait to meet her. Er, does she know that I didn’t know about her?”
“I haven’t mentioned it,” Madari said. Sophia would understand of course, she know the customs here, she know Madari was old fashioned. Of course she would understand. She’d find it surprising if he had mentioned her to Karen. Wouldn’t she?
Madari checked the rear view mirror and then caught Jahni’s eye. Jahni wore a rather disappointed look, Madari couldn’t understand why. Personally he was relieved to see Karen and Sophia chatting away in the back seat as if they’d known each other for years.
Thankfully, the subject of exactly when Madari had first told Karen about Sophia hadn’t come up, so Madari had begun to relax on that score. After her discretion over his emotional crisis following that nightmare at Christmas back in Zaire, he trusted she would be just as discreet here.
Of course, he had to wonder if Karen was now questioning why it was Jahni Madari wanted to speak to on that night, and not Sophia. Forget it. That probably hadn’t even crossed her mind.
At the falconry centre the other three waited outside by the car, the women still chatting and Jahni just frowning, until Madari brought Ruya out, perched on his wrist. She gave his guests her usual baleful glare.
“Oh, she’s beautiful,” Karen said. “Can I touch her?”
“With the gloves on,” Madari said. “She’s a little highly strung.”
Jahni snorted at that. “Careful, Karen. By highly strung he means ‘unspeakably vicious’.”
“Oh she is not vicious,” Madari protested as Karen put on a handling gauntlet. “Ignore him. He’s been afraid of her ever since she gave him a little nip.”
“A little nip! She tried to rip my arm off.” He showed off a triangular scar on his right arm. “She got down to the bone.”
“You just have to be confident with her, show her who’s the boss,” Madari said, watching carefully as Karen reached out with her gloved hand. Ruya made a half-hearted shredding attempt, but then let Karen pat her lightly on the head. “See? She’s never bitten Sophia either, has she?”
“No, I’ve always found her quite friendly,” Sophia said.
“Females sticking together,” Jahni muttered. “I’m going to bring my body armour next time.”
“I don’t think Kahil likes animals or birds very much,” Madari observed.
“I like them fine, as long as they aren’t vicious.”
The evidence didn’t support that. Jahni was nervous of horses, had always been exceptionally wary of the guard dogs back at the prison, had once said that camels should be exterminated from the face of the planet and he and Ruya had been enemies at first sight. He apparently found the birds and beasts too unpredictable.
As Karen started teasing Jahni about being afraid of kittens and budgerigars, Madari moved away to the training area, ready to show off Ruya’s skills. The others called out encouragement and praise as he put her through her paces. Jahni cheered up, probably thanks to Karen’s joking. In a few minutes he was laughing and joking with the two women.
It surprised Madari how much he enjoyed seeing Karen again, and how much he’d missed her since he left Zaire. However unlikely the idea seemed to others, to himself even, he didn’t want to lose touch with her. He wanted to continue their friendship. He had absolutely no romantic designs on her, but found her intriguing, loyal, dependable and just a pleasure to be around.
And as a young officer, she had so much potential. He’d always prided himself in his ability to develop the careers of bright young officers. Perhaps he couldn’t do that directly with her, but he could offer her advice as she progressed in the ranks. He hoped she’d accept that.
If he had no romantic intentions towards her he had to wonder who else might. Did Jahni find her attractive? They were developing a friendship, he could see that, and it pleased Madari to see them get along so well. But could they develop something more? How would Madari feel about that? Jealous, perhaps, and yet that would feel very selfish, when he had his own woman. Could Karen be for Jahni what Sophia was for him?
She could even be more. They were so much younger than him and Sophia, and with less baggage, no previous marriages. What if they… he flinched as Ruya landed back on his wrist after a flight, digging her claws in deep, as if punishing him for not taking enough notice of her, too busy looking at his friends.
“Ease off, girl,” he said softly, taking a piece of meat from the bag on his belt and handing it to her. She tore into the raw flesh, while Madari glanced over at the other three again. They were smiling at his flinching, having seen him taken by surprise.
Jahni and Karen looked good standing side by side. An ideal couple in many way. Intellectual equals, both ambitious. He was a couple of years older and three inches taller. She was a match for him in wit and personality. He couldn’t imagine Jahni would want a traditional, submissive, wife.
Wife? Madari’s mind ran ahead, seeing them in wedding clothes, a guard of honour from the unit. Perhaps some kind of secondment, or UN position could be arranged to allow her to stay here. And in a few years time… now his imagination really ran away, and he saw a sturdy little boy, dark haired like his father, playing football with Jahni. And a pretty little girl, younger than the boy, golden-brown hair, hazel eyes. Pretty, but as feisty as her mother. The children would call Madari “Uncle” and he would dote on them, spoil them…
Ruya bit him hard on the thumb and he gave a cry of protest at the pain even through the gauntlet. Bird and man glared at each other, she bored with his lack of attention, he angry that she’d brought him out of his fantasy of the future. But then he sighed and gave her more meat, knowing the fantasy was absurd anyway.
“I told you!” Jahni called, grinning. “Unspeakably vicious!”
Perhaps, but with a sense of timing second to none. Still… he looked at his laughing audience again. The two of them did look good together.
They went on to a cafe for supper after they left the centre, took a table outside and lingered over a pot of tea after they finished the meal.
“Kahil, you should take Karen on to a nightclub after this,” Madari suggested.
Jahni looked surprised. “I suppose.” Then he nodded. “I’m on duty at three a.m. so yes, I could do that, then drop her off and go to work.” He liked to cover some of the standby shifts, Madari knew, be with the men who waited on alert through the night for any emergency calls and observe the handover to the next shift. “If you’d like that, Karen?”
“I didn’t even know you had nightclubs!”
“Of course,” Madari said. “There’s probably less drinking in them than you’d be used to. But just as much dancing.”
“Suits me,” she said. “I’ll have to change though. It’ll only take me five minutes.”
Jahni snorted. “I’ve heard women say that before.”
She tossed a paper wrapped sugar cube at him and he caught it.
“Why don’t you and Sophia come?” Karen suggested to Madari.
“Oh, my dancing days are long over,” Sophia said.
“And Faris’s never started,” Jahni said, crunching up the sugar cube. Sophia chuckled at that.
“I did try to get him to dance at our Christmas party at the lodge,” Karen said. “But he wasn’t having it.”
“I haven’t managed to get so much as a foxtrot out of him since I met him,” Sophia said. “He’s not a dancing man.”
“Dancing is interesting to watch other people do,” Madari said. “But a rather undignified activity for a colonel.” He used his most haughty tone, but let his amusement at their teasing show in his eyes.
And Jahni was going to take Karen dancing. That could only be good.