The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(4) by Susan Mallery
She opened her eyes and saw her captor standing in front of her. He’d removed his headdress and outer robes. Dressed only in cotton trousers and a tunic, he should have looked less formidable. Unfortunately he did not.
He loomed like a deity, silhouetted by a beautiful, inky-black night sky. While she might not be completely comfortable in Bahania, she’d always admired the perfection of its stars. But tonight something other than twinkling lights captured her attention.
The man was tall. His thick dark hair was short and layered. In the darkness of the evening, his features blurred, although she saw a flash of white teeth when he smiled.
“You have the courage of a camel,” he told her.
“Gee, thanks. Camels aren’t brave.”
“Ah, so you know that much about the desert. Fine. How about the courage of a desert fox.”
“Don’t they run away all the time?”
He shrugged. “You see my point. Good.”
She had the most childish urge to stick her tongue out at him. Instead she took a deep breath and smelled something wonderful. Her stomach growled loudly as she realized he held a plate in one hand and a cup in the other.
“Dinner?” she asked cautiously, trying to keep the hope out of her voice.
“Yes.” He crouched in front of her and set the plate and cup on the sand before helping her into a sitting position. “But can I trust you enough to untie you?”
It was all Sabrina could do not to throw herself at the food and start eating directly from the plate. Her mouth watered so much she had to swallow twice, and her throat ached at the thought of water.
“I swear I won’t try to run away.”
He settled next to her on the sand. “Why would I trust you? I don’t know anything about you except you have the sense of a flea.”
Her gaze narrowed. “I really hate all these animal comparisons. If you’re discussing the fact that I misplaced my horse and my camel, it’s not my fault. I tried to tether them when the sandstorm approached. I covered myself with a thick cloak and stayed low to the ground. I would say the fact that I survived the storm at all is a testament to my good sense.”
He did not appear the least bit impressed by her argument. “What about the fact that you’re in the desert by yourself?” He picked up the cup. “Or would you rather discuss the fact that you lost both your horse and your camel?”
“Not really,” she muttered, then leaned forward to sip from the cup he held out to her.
The water was cool and clean. She swallowed greedily, taking in the life-giving moisture. Never had anything tasted so sweet, so perfect.
When she finished the cup, he put it on the ground and picked up the plate.
She looked from the strips of meat and pieces of vegetables to his hands. “You aren’t seriously considering feeding me, are you?” She held up her bound wrists. “If you don’t want to untie me, at least let me feed myself.”
The thought of him touching her food was too weird. Although she was pretty hungry and he looked clean enough. Despite the heavy robes and the heat of the desert, the man in front of her didn’t smell.
“Allow me the privilege,” he said mockingly, and picked up a piece of meat.
She probably should have been brave and stubborn and refused. But her stomach was so very empty. Instead she leaned forward and took the meat from him, making sure her mouth never touched his fingers.
“I am Kardal,” he said as she chewed. “What is your name?”
She took her time in replying. After she’d swallowed, she licked her lips and stared eagerly at the plate. For reasons that weren’t completely clear to her, she didn’t want to tell him who she was.
“Sabrina,” she answered, hoping he wouldn’t connect that name with Princess Sabra of Bahania. “You don’t sound like a nomad,” she said in an effort to distract him.
“Yet I am.” He offered her another piece of meat.
“You must have gone to school somewhere else. England? America?”
“Why do you say that?”
“The way you speak. Your word choices and syntax.”
One corner of his mouth lifted. “What do you know of syntax?”
She chewed and swallowed. “Despite what you think, I’m not an idiot. I’ve studied. I know things.”
His dark eyes seemed to take possession of her soul. “What things, my desert bird?”
She was saved from having to answer by him feeding her a grilled bit of vegetable. This time, however, she wasn’t so very cautious and the side of his index finger touched her lower lip. At the moment of contact, something odd shifted inside of her. Food poisoning, she told herself. No doubt he’d laced the food with something horrible.
But she was hungry enough not to care. She continued eating until the plate was empty, then drank the second glass of water Kardal gave her. When they were finished, she expected him to return to the men sitting around the small fire. Instead he continued to sit across from her, studying her.
She wondered how bad she looked. Her hair was a tangled mess and she was sure she had smudges of dirt on her face from the sandstorm. Not that she wanted to be attractive for her captor. This was generic female vanity—nothing specific about the man in front of her.
“Who are you?” he said quietly, staring into her eyes. “Why were you alone in the desert?”
With food in her belly, she felt a little less vulnerable and scared. She thought about lying, but she’d never been very good at that. Refusing to answer might be an option, except there was something compelling about Kardal’s steady gaze. The easiest course of action was to tell the truth. Or at least part of it.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online