The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(21) by Susan Mallery
Kardal watched the various emotions flash through Sabrina’s eyes. He read curiosity and fear, confusion and desire. The combination intrigued him…and made him wonder. If he didn’t know better, he would think she was as innocent as she claimed.
But that wasn’t possible. She’d been raised in Los Angeles. There was her lifestyle, the parties she attended, the men she’d been associated with.
But the seed of doubt had been planted. Kardal found himself wanting to know the truth. He touched her soft cheek with one hand and with the other, drew her fingers under the water, toward his arousal. He’d been fully erect for some time and welcomed the thought of her touching him.
But she barely brushed against him before pulling free and jumping back as if she’d come in contact with an open flame. Color flared on her face and her mouth trembled slightly.
“You’re going to have to finish your bath yourself,” she said, turning away from him. “I can’t do this anymore.”
Interesting, he thought to himself. Sabrina might not be a virgin, but she wasn’t as experienced as he’d thought. She might be able to play at certain things, but she couldn’t invent a blush, or the haunted expression in her eyes.
“Hand me my towel,” he said, preparing to rise. When she didn’t move, he sighed. “The towel is by the fire, which is across the room. I will walk there naked, if you would prefer. If not, hand me the towel and avert your gaze.”
She did as he suggested, keeping her back to him as he stepped out of the water. After covering himself, he collected his clothes and headed for the door.
“We will have dinner tonight,” he told her. “Both in clothes.”
She glanced at him, appearing unsure of his purpose. Kardal didn’t understand it, either. It seemed that he wanted to get to know Princess Sabra. Perhaps because she might not be exactly who or what he’d first imagined.
“A girl’s school?” Kardal asked in disbelief.
Sabrina leaned her elbows on the low table between them. Humor brightened her brown eyes. “Well, duh. Eastern fathers aren’t the only ones trying to protect their daughters. Rich people do it, too. Also, a lot of studies have been done showing that girls learn more and perform better in school when they aren’t in mixed classrooms.”
“I don’t dispute that,” he said, dismissing her with a wave. “I had never heard that you attended such an establishment.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Like you would have believed it. You only want to know that I went to wild parties and dated lots of guys. That’s far more interesting than the truth.”
She had a point. He’d been guilty of assuming the worst about her.
He studied the woman lounging on pillows across from him. As a concession to her complaints about her costume, he’d had Adiva bring Sabrina a dress of cobalt-blue. The long sleeves and high neckline were so modest, even the sternest father would approve. Yet he found sensual pleasure in watching her. The supple silk covered her curves, but did not hide their existence. He watched the turn of her neck and the way her br**sts shifted as she moved.
Tonight Sabrina wore her long red hair down around her shoulders. The loose curls tempted him. He wanted to let them twist around his fingers to discover if they were as soft as they looked.
“So you did not live the hedonistic life of a wanton western woman?” he asked as he reached for a strawberry in the bowl between them.
Sabrina sighed. “All that muck about me and men doesn’t come from me.” She ducked her head but not before he saw color staining her cheeks. “It’s my mother. She’s a bit of a flirt.”
“That bothers you?”
She shrugged. “It was weird when I was little. There were different men around all the time. I missed my father, but she didn’t want me to talk about him. Of course when I was with him, I wasn’t allowed to speak of her, either. I always wanted her to find one person and marry him. But she said she’d been married once and she’d hated it.”
She picked up a slice of pineapple, then put it on her plate. “When I turned fourteen, she told me it was time for me to have a boyfriend.”
Kardal had heard stories of Sabrina’s mother’s wildness, but he had never thought she would push her own daughter in that direction. “What did you say?”
“That I thought life should be about more than body parts.”
Kardal bit into his strawberry. He wasn’t sure he believed Sabrina, but he liked her answer.
“School was important to me,” she continued. “Especially after I went to college, but Mom never got that. The irony is I maintained an A average in college, which meant I spent a lot of time studying. I couldn’t physically have attended all those parties and still gotten my grades. But no one bothered to figure that out.”
More and more interesting, Kardal thought. Sabrina was a woman of many surprises. Some of them were turning out to be quite pleasant.
“Perhaps it was not a mistake to rescue you in the desert,” he told her.
She rolled her eyes. “I cannot even begin to tell you how your words make me quiver with joy.”
“You have a most disagreeable personality,” Kardal said, rebuking her as he took another strawberry. “A slave should be more docile. I do not approve of sarcasm in a woman.”
“Hey, I don’t approve of being kidnapped, but no one asked me,” Sabrina told him, somewhat pleased to be holding her own with the Prince of Thieves. Of course the fact that he was fully dressed helped her situation considerably. Naked, he was the hands-down winner.
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