The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(3) by Susan Mallery
His features were dark and hard, like a rock shaped by the blowing winds of the desert. His headdress covered his hair, but she suspected it would be dark, perhaps to his collar, perhaps a little shorter. He had broad shoulders, and he carried himself like a man used to the weight of many burdens.
“For a woman completely at my mercy, you are either incredibly brave or incredibly foolish.”
“You’ve already accused me of being foolish,” she reminded him. “Rather unjustly if you ask me.”
“I did not ask you. Besides, what would you call someone who heads out into the desert without a guide, or even the most basic of supplies?”
“I had a horse and—”
He cut her off with a slight tilt of his chin. “Or the skill to keep them,” he finished.
Rather than answer, she glanced over his shoulder. The men he’d left when he’d chased her had started to set up camp. Already they had a small fire burning and were setting a pot to boil.
“You have water?” she asked, licking her dry lips.
“Yes, and food. Unlike you, we kept possession of our supplies.”
She couldn’t seem to tear her gaze away from the liquid being poured into the pot. “Please,” she whispered.
“Not so fast, my desert bird. Before you partake of our meager offerings, I want to make sure you don’t fly away again.”
“As you already pointed out, where would I go?”
“Not having a destination didn’t stop you before.”
He dismounted. Before she could slide to the ground, he pulled a length of rope from his voluminous robes and grabbed her wrists.
“Hey,” she protested, tugging against his actions. “You don’t have to do this. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I intend to make sure of that.”
She tried to pull her arms away so he couldn’t reach her wrists, but he moved too quickly and tied her. Then she shifted too far back in the saddle and started to slide off the horse. The man caught her by the front of her shirt and pulled her toward him. She lost her balance and fell heavily against him. He didn’t even grunt.
Wrapping one arm around her waist, he lowered her to the ground. While she was still trying to catch her breath, he secured her ankles together, then straightened.
“Wait here,” he told her and led his horse toward the makeshift camp.
“What?” she yelled, wiggling on the ground, unable to get up on her own. “You can’t leave me here.”
He studied her with his dark eyes, then smiled. “I would say that I can.”
Stunned by disbelief, Sabrina watched as he joined the other men. He said something she couldn’t hear and they chuckled in response. Anger replaced the fear burning in her chest. She would show him, she vowed, tugging on her fastenings and kicking at the sand. She would get free and find her way back to Bahania and have him shot. Or hanged. Or maybe both…at the same time. Her father might not pay much attention to her but he wouldn’t be happy about her being kidnapped.
Unable to free herself, she shifted until her back was to the camp. Bad enough that she could smell them cooking dinner, she didn’t want to have to watch it, too. Her mouth and throat felt so dry, they seemed swollen. Her stomach had never been so empty. Was the stranger just tormenting her or was he really not going to give her dinner? What kind of monster was he?
The desert kind, she told herself. Men like him didn’t see women as anything but chattel.
“I would have been better off with the troll prince,” she muttered.
Tears burned in her eyes, but she refused to give in to them. She never showed weakness. What was the point? Instead she vowed to stay emotionally strong enough to survive, so that she could take her revenge. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine herself somewhere else.
As the smell of the food continued to drift toward her and her stomach clenched painfully, she couldn’t help wishing she was still at the palace. Okay, so her father rarely noticed she was around and her brothers ignored her, except when they were teasing her, but was that so bad?
She remembered her rage the previous day when her father, the king of Bahania, had announced that he’d betrothed her. Sabrina had been in shock.
“You can’t be serious,” she’d told her father.
“I am most serious. You are twenty-two. More than of an age to marry.”
She’d glared at him. “I turned twenty-three last month. And this is the modern world. Not medieval Europe.”
“I am aware of the time and the country. You are my daughter. You will marry the man of my choosing because you are a Bahanian princess and alliances must be made.”
The man didn’t even know how old she was, so why on earth would she trust him to pick out a husband? She could only imagine the horrible old man with three wives and bad breath whom King Hassan would consider suitable.
For the past twenty-three years her father had been content to ignore her. While she’d spent every summer in the palace, he’d rarely spoken with her. Although he took his sons on trips, she had been left behind. And when she spent the school year with her mother in California, he never phoned or wrote. So why would he think that she would do what he wanted now?
Rather than stay and meet her troll prince, she’d escaped, hoping to find the City of Thieves. Instead she’d been captured by nomads. Maybe the troll prince wasn’t so bad.
“What are you thinking?”
The voice startled her. “That I need a vacation and this isn’t what I had in mind.”
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