The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(19) by Susan Mallery
Kardal didn’t answer. A few minutes later she heard the door open and several people came in with large buckets of steaming water. An empty tub was placed in front of the tiled fireplace across from her bed. Water filled the tub, and then they were alone.
“I am ready,” Kardal announced.
“That makes one of us,” she murmured under her breath, not moving from her place by the window.
“Sabrina, do not make me angry with you.”
“Or what? You’ll beat me? Tie me in chains? Starve me?”
“I have no desire to physically abuse you, but if you try my temper, I will be forced to remind you that you are my possession. I am a fair master, but I expect obedience from my subjects.”
Her eyes burned, but she refused to give way to tears. They wouldn’t do any good and she wouldn’t give Kardal the satisfaction of knowing that he’d won. If he wanted a bath, she would give him a bath. If he tried anything, she would fight and claw and scream until he was sorry he hadn’t left her to die in the desert.
With her shoulders back and her head held high, she marched over to the tub and stood next to him. “What do you want me to do?”
He smiled. “Nothing until I’m undressed.”
Her resolve dissolved like sugar in boiling water. Instinctively she stepped back, then averted her gaze as he reached for the buttons on his linen shirt.
He chuckled. “Surely even the great virgin princess has seen a man’s bare chest before.”
“Yes, of course.” But not while she was alone in the room with him, she thought, then forced herself to look at him.
He removed the shirt slowly, as if she would find the process appealing. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Her desire was for him to get it over with so she could be done and he would leave her alone. But no. Inch by inch he slid the material down his arms.
She took in the impressive size of his muscles and the way they rippled with each small movement. There was an interesting scar on his left shoulder, and another along his rib cage.
“Another assassination attempt?” she asked, pointing to a mark on his midsection.
“An encounter in the desert. I was young and foolish and riding out alone. I was trapped by an unfriendly group. They thought killing me would be great sport.”
He spoke easily, but his words made Sabrina shudder. Whether or not he was simply recounting a story or warning her about the dangers of the desert, she got the point. While most nomads were honorable and attacked only when provoked, there were renegades who cared naught for the laws of the desert. Those dangerous few killed with the ease of a horse using its tail to swat flies.
“You survived,” she said, trying to act casual as he stepped out of his shoes.
“Don’t sound so sad,” he told her. “You may yet find a use for me.”
“I doubt it.”
He reached for the waistband of his trousers. Sabrina instantly turned away. She busied herself rearranging the bowl of fruit on the table and it was only when she’d heard the splash of him stepping into the water that she dared to turn back.
But she’d looked too soon. Kardal had not submerged himself in the tub. Instead he stood naked in the water. Facing her.
Sabrina blinked and tried to turn away, but she couldn’t seem to make her feet obey her. Nor could she tear her gaze from him.
He stood casually, as if nothing of great import had occurred, arms relaxed, one leg slightly in front of the other. She told herself that if she couldn’t seem to look away, she could at least look at something else, but no. Her attention was firmly fixed on that most male part of him. The part that had, until now at least, been a complete mystery to her.
His hips were narrow, his legs long and powerful. Dark hair bisected his belly, drawing her attention to that which she most wanted to avoid. His, ah, maleness seemed much as she had observed on various statues and in old paintings, although it looked more threatening in person. And it was getting bigger by the minute.
So that part of a man was supposed to fit inside of her. Sabrina squinted slightly, hoping to make it look less imposing. She considered herself a modern woman, quite clear on the ways of the world. But there was something about being a virgin and looking at a naked man for the first time. She felt…intimidated.
“Perhaps I should have specified a cold bath,” Kardal drawled as he lowered himself into the tub. “You may begin bathing me whenever you would like.”
“That may be never,” she answered before she could stop herself. Bathe him? He had to be kidding. She couldn’t touch him. Not while he was naked and certainly not there.
“Let me change my instruction. Sabrina, I wish you to bathe me now. Pick up the washcloth and begin immediately.”
She sighed. He had ordering people around down to an art form. She eyed the distance to the door. She could probably make it out of the room before he could jump out of the tub. However, she didn’t doubt that he would come after her, naked or not, and that he would catch her. There would be trouble after that. Besides, even if she got away from him, no one was going to help her. She would be left wandering the castle, dressed like a stripper sing-o-gram.
“I wish you’d left me in the desert,” she grumbled. “I would have been fine.”
“You would have been dead.” He glanced at her. “Tell the truth. You would rather be my slave than dead.”
She picked up the washcloth and soap Adiva had left on a small table next to the tub, then moved to stand behind his head.
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