The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(31) by Susan Mallery
He thought of her advice the previous evening. That he couldn’t refuse the king’s visit because then he would be showing that Givon mattered to him. Not that he did. Kardal had stopped caring about his father a long time ago.
“I had suspected you two had much in common. I’m pleased that’s true,” Cala told him. “Have you decided what to do about the betrothal?”
“No.” Although the thought of being married to Sabrina was less distressing than it had been. “She is willful and still has much to learn.”
“And you can be a real idiot sometimes. I tried to raise you to believe women are the equal of men.”
Kardal raised his eyebrows. “I do not recall that lesson.”
“Of course you don’t.” Cala put both feet on the floor and leaned toward him. She drew in a breath. “Kardal, I’m sorry you’re upset about Givon’s visit. I had hoped that you would be willing to listen and understand now that you’re older.”
He sprang to his feet. “I have nothing to say on the subject.”
His mother’s dark eyes pleaded with him. “What about what I have to say?”
“It is not important.”
She stood and glared at him. “I hate it when you get this way. You talk about Sabrina being stubborn, but you’re the worst in that respect. You didn’t even ask me why.”
“Why King Givon is coming for a visit. Why after all this time he’s finally making an appearance.”
Kardal didn’t want to know, but he also wasn’t about to admit that to his mother. Instead he inclined his head, indicating she could tell him.
“I asked him,” she said simply. “He stayed away because I told him he wasn’t welcome in the city. Last month I sent him a message requesting his presence here.”
He could not have been more shocked if she’d slapped him. “You invited him?” The sense of betrayal left a bitter taste on his tongue. Cala? “After what he did to you?”
She took a step toward him. “I’ve told you dozens of times, Kardal. There’s more to the story than you know. I invited him because it’s time we laid the past to rest.”
“Never,” he announced. “I will never forgive him.”
“You have to. It’s not all his fault. If you’d just let me explain.”
He turned to his computer and touched several keys. “Please excuse me, Mother. I have much work to do.”
She hesitated for a minute or two, then left his office. Kardal continued to stare unseeingly at the computer screen. Finally he swore, stood and left the room as well.
Sabrina consulted the dictionary on her lap, then returned her attention to the ancient text on the small table in front of her. Old Bahanian was a difficult language in the best of circumstances. When written in a curvy script and seven-hundred-year-old ink, it was practically impossible.
Picking up a magnifying glass, she brushed away some dust with her gloved fingers. Was that an r or a t, she wondered. Did the—
The door to her quarters flew open and Kardal stalked into the room. She stared at him thinking that he never walked or stood like a normal person. He was forever looming and pacing and sweeping around. Even as she watched, he unfastened his cloak and tossed it on the bed, then moved to stand next to her.
“What are you doing?” he demanded.
She set down the magnifying glass, then pulled off her gloves. “Trying to read this text. Unsuccessfully,” she added. “It’s something about camels, but I can’t figure out if it’s a bill of sale or instructions for care.”
He looked at the paper. “Why does it matter which?”
“Because it’s an old document related to a way of life that is lost to us. We’ll discover the truth about that time through the mundane. Which, by the way, is not why you came to see me. What’s wrong?”
He threw up his hands and paced to the window in her room. Once there, he stared out into the desert. “My mother invited him. That’s why he’s coming. She actually wrote him. What was she thinking?”
Energy poured from him, filling the room and making Sabrina wish there was something she could do to ease his suffering. Kardal was a strong man. From what she’d heard on her walks through the castle, he was well respected and honored as a wise ruler. But in this matter of his father, he was as confused as anyone else would be.
She put the dictionary on the table and went to stand next to him. “Which bothers you more?” she asked. “That he’s coming or that your mother invited him?”
He turned his dark eyes on her. His mouth twisted. “I don’t know. It’s been thirty-one years. I’ve never met him. What am I supposed to do now?”
“Pretend he is just another visiting dignitary. Have a state dinner with fabulous food and wine. Talk about world events and don’t let him see that you care.”
“I don’t care.”
He spoke forcefully, but she saw his pain and confusion. A part of her wanted to reach out to him. After all, they had a version of this circumstance in common. But she didn’t know him well enough to predict how he would react to an offer of comfort. And the thought of being physically close to him made her nervous.
Instead she crossed to her desk and pulled out a drawer. Taking a modern pen and paper out, she pushed aside the text and dictionary, then sat.
“We need a plan,” she said firmly. “I’m serious about the state dinner. What else do you want to do while he’s here? What about a tour of the castle? It’s been thirty-one years, right? I’m sure there have been changes.”
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