The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(25) by Susan Mallery
“I did not know,” he said quietly.
She released him. “Yeah, well, I’ve been trying to tell you. Next time pay attention.”
He wasn’t even listening, she thought in disgust as Kardal continued to stare at her. Then he turned on his heel and stalked from the room, leaving her standing by the wall, out of breath and still trembling from the power of his kiss.
Sabrina pressed her back against the castle hallway wall and tried to hear if anyone was approaching. For the first time since she’d arrived five days before, she’d found her bedroom door unlocked after breakfast. Not knowing if Adiva had simply forgotten to secure it after delivering the meal or if Sabrina was now allowed to roam at will, she’d taken the opportunity to leave her room while trying not to be seen.
At this point she didn’t care if Kardal would be furious if she was caught. She couldn’t stand to stay inside those four walls for another second.
Sabrina drew in a deep breath and listened. There was only the sound of distant voices and the rapid pounding of her own heart.
Usually she enjoyed being by herself, she thought as she continued down the hallway. There were plenty of wonderful books to read and Adiva brought her newspapers and magazines every day. But ever since two nights before when Kardal had kissed her, Sabrina had found her world had shifted on its axis.
She couldn’t forget the way she’d reacted to his kiss and his touch. She’d enjoyed everything he’d done and found herself longing to repeat the experience. Although there hadn’t been many men in her life, she had kissed a few and not one of them had left her so aroused and shaken. Was her reaction specifically about Kardal or was it something more sinister?
Ever since Sabrina had begun to understand her mother’s relationship with men, she’d feared turning into the same kind of woman. She didn’t want to be driven by passions, making bad choices because of a man’s ability to please her in bed. If she were to fall in love, she wanted it to be because of a meeting of the minds and an understanding between souls. She wanted to respect her lover and have him respect her. Passion appeared to be both fleeting and dangerous.
She came to a set of stairs leading down to the left. The corridor in front of her stretched on for several feet before bending to the right. Sabrina paused. If she continued on her current path, she might find her way out of the castle. If she went down, she was more likely to find the treasure stores. As much as she wanted to get away from here and stop thinking about what had happened with Kardal, she wanted to see the plunder more. Telling herself she was an idiot, she hurried down the stairs.
Since the kiss, she’d seen Kardal twice, once when he dined with her for lunch and once late last night when he’d invited her to watch a movie with him and several of his staff. She’d refused the latter invitation because she felt strange about being seen as his slave.
Just being in the same room with Kardal was enough to get her heart racing. She wasn’t sure how she managed to have sensible conversation when her brain could only focus on how his mouth had felt against hers and was he planning to do that again?
“I need a vaccine,” she murmured to herself, taking another staircase down, then pausing to study a beautiful seventeenth-century tapestry showing an elegant Queen Elizabeth greeting a visiting Spanish delegation.
She raised her fingers toward the intricate work but didn’t touch it. There was a slight fraying at the edges and more dust on the cloth than she would like.
“It needs to be cleaned,” she said aloud. “Then put under glass and protected from the elements.”
What Kardal was doing here was a crime, she thought as she continued moving down the stairs. The dry desert air offered a measure of protection but so many of the stunning artifacts needed to be protected. She would take him to task the next time she saw him.
She turned at the bottom of the stairs. In front of her was an open area leading to several rooms. All the rooms had thick wood doors and massive locks. The good news was she’d found the treasure of the City of Thieves. The bad news was she’d never learned to pick a lock.
“Visiting or stealing?”
The voice came from behind her so unexpectedly that Sabrina screamed. She turned and saw a tall, blond man in a dark uniform standing on the bottom stair. He loomed nearly as well as Kardal. Despite being as fair as a California surfer, there was something spooky in his midnight-blue eyes.
She touched her fingers to her chest and tried to catch her breath. “I’m visiting. I’d hoped to see some of the treasures of the city. I have a great interest in the city’s past. Who are you?”
The man stepped down on the stone floor. “Rafe Stryker. I’m in charge of security here in the City of Thieves.”
“You’re American,” she said in surprise. “What are you doing here?”
“Prince Kardal hires the best.”
“And that’s you?”
He was good-looking but in an icy way that made her think twice about making this man angry. Kardal could be dangerous but there was fire in his blood and she understood heat far more than cold.
His steady gaze never left her face. “I understand that you’re the princess Kardal found wandering in the desert.”
She couldn’t help smiling. “That’s one interpretation of the events.” She glanced at the gun holstered at his waist. “Are you here to escort me back to my room?”
“Not at all.” Rafe moved toward the first of the heavy doors and drew a key from his trouser pocket. “My instructions are to show you your heart’s desire.”
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