The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(27) by Susan Mallery
“They have to be returned,” she told him, planting her hands on her hips. “They belong to their respective nations. They’re a part of the country’s heritage.”
He poured scotch over ice and took a grateful sip. “An interesting notion. But to whom should I return them? The nations in question have changed.”
“Not all of them.”
“Enough. What about the Imperial Eggs? The czars are long gone. The Russian government has changed several times in the past ninety years. Who owns the eggs? Do I find a long-lost relative of the czar? Or should I hand them over to the current regime?”
Sabrina hesitated. “Okay, the eggs are a problem, but what about the tiara owned by Elizabeth the First, or gems you stole from El Bahar and Bahania?”
He put down his drink on the tray and held up both his hands. “I have not stolen anything. I am simply holding those items in trust. If the nations who let them go want them back, they should come steal them, as my relatives did.”
“Not everyone wants to be a thief.”
Color stained her cheeks. She looked even more attractive than usual when she was furious with him. Her chest rose and fell with each angry breath. He watched the movement of her br**sts under her dress. While he had enjoyed seeing her in her silly harem costume, he preferred her in the conservative dresses he had provided. In some ways, imagining how she looked underneath was more interesting than simply being able to see it.
Today she wore her long red hair pulled back into a thick braid. A few curls brushed against her cheeks. Wide brown eyes glared at him. She had the most unusual coloring, he thought. The deep red hair, brown eyes and skin the color of honey. Not a single freckle marred her beauty. She would produce attractive children.
“Are you even listening to me?” she demanded.
“With bated breath,” he assured her. “My heart beats only to serve you.”
She turned to the window and stared out at the approaching twilight. “I hate it when you’re sarcastic. My point is illegally taking things isn’t a tradition to be proud of. It’s a disgrace.”
“It has been our way for a thousand years. In the past generation or so the thieving has stopped, but the legacy is still there. In time we can discuss returning some items, but not yet.” He took a sip of his drink. “Since you have so much interest in the treasure, perhaps you would like to begin cataloging it.”
She glanced at him over his shoulder. “No one’s done that? You don’t even know what you have?”
He shrugged. “I know we have enough. But no. There’s no detailed inventory. Also, I believe some of the items might require special treatment to prevent them from being destroyed as they age.”
“You’re right. There’s a tapestry in one of the halls that is turning to dust. It needs to be protected.” She turned to face him. “But you’re talking about thousands of items. Jewels and paintings. It would take years.”
“Perhaps your father will be slow to pay for you.”
He’d expected some kind of teasing response, but instead Sabrina sighed, then nodded slowly.
“I don’t doubt that he’ll be happy to have me out of his way,” she said. “I’ll begin in the morning.”
Kardal frowned. “I hadn’t meant to remind you of something unpleasant.”
“My lack of relationship with my father is hardly your fault.” She crossed to the tea cart and poured herself a soft drink. “At least working with the treasure will give me something to do. What about the royal watchdog? Is he going to trust me?”
“I will speak with Rafe.”
“I saw the mark.”
Kardal was not surprised. “Don’t worry. He will not speak for me in matters of slavery.”
She smiled slightly, then grew serious. “He nearly died for you.”
“And I rewarded his loyalty.”
“So now he’s a sheik.”
“You know the ways of the city. Rafe has a fortune of his own and my trust.”
She glanced at him. “He doesn’t strike me as the type of man who would be content watching over a bunch of vaults. What is he doing here?”
The newspapers and tabloids had given Sabrina many characteristics, but they’d never mentioned that she was intelligent.
“There’s more to running a hidden city than simply stealing from the neighbors,” he told her. “Rafe has many responsibilities.”
“Which is a tidy statement, but doesn’t answer my question.”
A knock on the door interrupted them. Figures, Sabrina thought. Kardal always seemed to have a lucky escape planned. He crossed to the door and opened it.
“Thank you for coming,” he said by way of greeting, then stepped back to let a beautiful woman enter the room.
She was a couple of inches taller than Sabrina, with dark hair swept up in an elegant chignon. She wore a dark purple pants suit with a gold-and-pearl pin on her lapel. Wide brown eyes twinkled with humor as she took in her surroundings.
“At least you put her in a nice, large room,” she said, glancing from Kardal to Sabrina. “I would hate to think you’d chosen one of the dungeons.”
“I’m difficult,” Kardal said, “not a barbarian.”
“Sometimes I can’t see the difference,” the woman murmured before turning her attention to Sabrina. “How nice to meet you at last.”
Kardal stepped between them. “Mother, this is Princess Sabra of Bahania. Sabrina, my mother, Princess Cala of the City of Thieves.”
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