The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(26) by Susan Mallery
She thought about telling him that seeing the treasure inside wasn’t her heart’s desire so much as fulfilling an intellectual curiosity. However, when the door swung open and she saw inside, she couldn’t speak.
Her body trembled the way it had when Kardal had kissed her, but this time for a different reason. At least a dozen cases stood in a darkened room. Electrical light illuminated the insides of the glass containers. There were no labels, no explanation, but she recognized many of the pieces and stones.
Exquisite Fabergé eggs sat in satin nests in one case. She gasped over the perfection of the workmanship, while itching to hold at least one of them in her hand. But before she could ask, a glitter of diamonds caught her attention. A dozen tiaras filled the next display.
There were gems and set jewels, treasures from El Bahar, Bahania, France, England, Russia and the Far East. A ruby the size of a small melon glittered in a case of its own.
There was too much to take in and this was only one of the locked rooms.
“This can’t be possible,” she breathed, facing Rafe who continued to watch her with his cold eyes. “Kardal must return these at once.”
Rafe shrugged. “You’ll have to take that up with the boss. My job is to make sure no one takes any of it without his permission.”
“I see. We mustn’t steal from the thieves, is that it?”
“On this one, I agree with Kardal.” He flicked his wrist in dismissal. As he did so the sleeve of his dark jacket rose far enough for Sabrina to see a small mark on his right wrist.
Involuntarily she gasped. Without thinking she reached for his wrist, capturing it in her hands. Rafe didn’t stop her, nor did he offer an explanation.
“The mark of the prince,” she breathed.
A small tattoo of the City of Thieves coat of arms stood out against his tanned skin. She touched the desert lion, the castle, all perfectly rendered in their miniature form. While she understood the significance, she’d never seen such a thing outside of history books.
She stared into fathomless blue eyes. “You speak for the prince,” she said, not asking a question. “You bear on your body a scar—proof of a death blow meant for Kardal. You are trusted above all and have been made a sheik.”
Rafe tugged his wrist free. “You know your history.”
An American speaking for the prince? Who had ever heard of such a thing? “You have land?”
He shrugged. “Some. A few goats and camels. I was offered a couple of wives, but I declined.”
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Someone who does his job.”
He was obviously much more than that. A shiver rippled through her. Without saying anything more, she walked out of the vault, still reeling from all she had seen and learned. Something had to be done, she told herself as she headed back to her room. The next time she saw Kardal, she would insist that he see sense in the matter. She would also ask him several pointed questions about his second-in-command.
Kardal left his office shortly after six that evening. He generally worked later but since Sabrina had arrived at the castle, he’d found himself stopping earlier and earlier.
It was simply a matter of wanting to train her, he told himself as he walked along the stone corridors of the castle. The more clearly she understood what would be expected of her, the better chance of success for their marriage. If he married her. He still hadn’t decided.
Their kiss earlier in the week had showed him that physically they got along exceptionally well. He’d hoped for passion, but that single word didn’t begin to describe what had occurred between them. It had been more of an explosion. He’d been seared down to his soul by a need he’d never experienced before. All that from a kiss. What would occur if they became intimate?
His initial plan had been to find that out for himself…if he decided to continue the engagement. But now he wasn’t so sure. From the first Sabrina had claimed to be innocent. He hadn’t believed her but now he wasn’t so sure she lied. There had been a hesitancy when he’d touched her. An awkward eagerness. While she could fake shyness, her blushes had been real, especially those during his bath. If he didn’t know better, he would swear she’d never seen a naked man before.
A virgin. He shook his head as he approached the door to her room. How could that have happened, given the life she’d lived? Yet he was more and more convinced she was untouched. Which meant he had no right to claim her as his own until they were married. Doing so before, even with the betrothal, invited the well-deserved wrath of her father.
Kardal pushed open the heavy wooden door and stepped into Sabrina’s quarters. As usual, she was waiting for him, but this time she did not greet him with a smile.
“I can’t believe it,” she announced, darting toward him, her hands clenched in fury, her eyes flashing with fire. “They’re not yours and you have no right to keep them.”
“Them?” he questioned. “I thought you were the only slave in the castle.”
“I’m not talking about myself. I’ve seen some of the treasure. You can’t mean to keep it. That would be unconscionable. It must be returned.”
“Ah, yes. The treasure. Rafe told me about your wanderings in the dungeon.”
He walked to the tea cart by the window. Adiva had already been by to leave a tray of drinks. Kardal had been raised to respect the ways of his people, so he did not drink alcohol when he was among them. When he was with someone from the west, he occasionally indulged. Around Sabrina, he seemed to drink more than he ever had.
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