The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(34) by Susan Mallery
She jumped at the sound of the familiar voice. “Yes, Father. It’s me. I’m—”
“I know where you are,” the king said, cutting her off. “I’ve known since you arrived. I’m not surprised Kardal wants to get rid of you so quickly. I had hoped it would be different.” He sighed heavily. “You’re not much use to anyone, are you? Well, I’m not taking you back. Stay in the City of Thieves until you’ve learned your lesson.”
The phone clicked in her ear as her father hung up.
Sabrina walked to the bed and sat on the mattress. She didn’t remember releasing the phone, but suddenly it was on the nightstand and her hands were curling into tight balls that she pressed into her stomach. Pain filled her. Ugly, dark, humiliating pain that made the rising sobs stick in her throat.
Her own father didn’t care about her. Kardal was playing his own game with the kidnapping, but what if he was being cruel to her? What if he’d attacked her? Obviously her father didn’t care. He never had.
She’d known, she thought rolling onto the bed and drawing her knees up to her chest. She pressed her face into the pillow and didn’t bother fighting the hot tears that spilled onto her cheeks. She’d known that she didn’t matter. Or at least she’d believed, but had hoped she’d been wrong. But now she couldn’t deny the truth. Not anymore.
Her body shook with the intensity of her sobs. Her mother had made it clear that Sabrina was no longer welcome. Sabrina no longer looked like a young girl, which made it more difficult for her mother to lie about her own age. Now her father didn’t want her around, either.
Emptiness filled her, making her feel sick. She closed her eyes and wondered what she was supposed to do now.
Unexpectedly, something warm brushed against her cheek and the mattress dipped. She opened her eyes in time to see Kardal sit on the edge of her bed.
“What’s all this?” he asked, his voice low and gentle.
She tried to answer but instead cried harder. He didn’t rebuke her or complain. Instead he drew her into his arms and held her tight.
“Everything will be fine,” he promised.
Sabrina couldn’t believe how desperately she wanted his words to be true.
Kardal pulled Sabrina into his arms. She resisted at first, then allowed him to raise her into a sitting position. Her body shook with the force of her sobs and he freed one hand so that he could stroke her hair.
“I am here,” he told her quietly.
She didn’t respond right away and he was content to wait for her to calm before speaking. Her tears should have bothered him. His mother had never cried in front of him, so his only experience with females and tears had come from the women in his life. It had seemed to him that tears were often a way to manipulate him into giving them what they wanted. But he didn’t think that of Sabrina. She’d had no way of knowing he would enter her quarters at that particular moment.
He also felt strangely protective of her, wanting to keep her close until he knew what was wrong, then leave only to take care of the problem. He frowned. Why would he care about what made her cry? She was a woman and the complaints of her life should be of little consequence to him. And yet he did not feel impatient, nor did he want to tell her that she needed to deal with whatever it was on her own.
Gradually her tears lessened. Eventually she raised her head and wiped her face. He pulled a handkerchief from his trouser pocket and handed it to her. She gave him a wavering smile of thanks, then unfolded the neatly pressed square of cotton and touched it to her eyes.
“I f-found your phone,” she said, her voice shaking slightly.
When she turned and pointed, he noticed the small cellular telephone on the nightstand by her bed. He swore silently. “I left it in my cloak.”
She nodded. “I wasn’t looking through your pockets. I went to hang it up in the closet so that it wouldn’t wrinkle. As I carried it across the room, something bumped against my leg. I was curious. Then I found the phone.” She sniffed. “I didn’t think it would work, but it did. I called my father.”
Kardal tensed. What had Hassan said? Had he mentioned the betrothal? Did Sabrina now wish to leave?
Fresh tears spilled from her eyes. She tried to shift away, but he kept his arms around her, hugging her to him.
“Tell me,” he instructed. “What happened?”
“I c-called my father,” she whispered hoarsely. “You had said you were waiting for ransom and I thought if I spoke to him…” Her voice trailed off. “I thought he would be worried about me. I was wrong.”
Kardal felt uncomfortable. “I did not mean to cause you distress.”
“You didn’t. I don’t want to know what my father said when you called him.” She raised her chin and looked at him. “I don’t think he’s going to pay any ransom. He told me that he wasn’t surprised you wanted to get rid of me so quickly and that he wasn’t going to take me back. He said I had to stay here and learn my lesson.”
She ducked her head as more tears filled her eyes. Kardal swore under his breath and hugged her tight.
He understood that the king was disappointed with his daughter, but Hassan had no right to treat Sabrina so heartlessly. Not only was she the child of his loins, but she was not all the newspapers made her out to be. Kardal had been just as guilty of judging her based on the words of others. As he got to know her better, he found that most of his assumptions were incorrect. Surely her own father knew that as well. But he wasn’t convinced Hassan had ever bothered to spend enough time with her to find out for himself.
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