The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(38) by Susan Mallery
“No young man tried to change your mind?”
She couldn’t believe they were having this calm conversation lying on her bed. She might be wearing a long-sleeved dress but her panties were somewhere on the floor and just a couple of minutes ago, Kardal had been touching her in a way she’d only ever read about.
“A couple of boys tried to, you know.” She bit her lower lip. “Most of the time I wasn’t interested and it was easy to say no. When I was interested, I felt obligated to tell them the truth about me. They didn’t take it well.”
Humor brightened his dark eyes. “I imagine they did not.”
She laughed, then gathering her courage, pressed her fingers against his high, sculpted cheekbone. When he didn’t protest, she slowly traced his features. The sweep of his eyebrows, the firm line of his jaw. She lingered longest on his mouth, outlining his lips, then laughing when he unexpectedly nipped at her fingers.
“Did you tell people who you were?” she asked.
“No. The city is a secret. I had to protect it. Besides, telling people I was a prince made them act differently.”
“I know what you mean. Keeping that part of me from my friends meant there was always something between us. I wanted to be close…I wanted to confide the truth, but I couldn’t.”
Kardal rolled onto his back and pulled her along with him. When he wrapped an arm around her, she rested her head on his shoulder.
“I could talk to my grandfather,” he said. “He understood because he’d led the city for nearly forty years.”
“You still miss him.”
“Every day. It’s been four years and I still long to hear his voice. I have so many questions and no one has answers. No one who understands.”
She thought about pointing out that King Givon would understand. But even if Kardal and Givon could make peace with the past, it would take time to build a relationship based on trust.
“It’s too bad about your father,” she said.
“I agree. I do not approve of how he handled things here, but in El Bahar, he has been a good and strong leader for his people.”
Sabrina ached for him. “I wish there was something I could do,” she said. “I’d listen, if it would help. I don’t know much about running a city, but I get the whole royal thing. More than I want to.”
Kardal raised his head and looked at her. “Thank you. I would like to speak with you about my concerns.”
He nodded. “I am surprised as well, but then you are nothing like I imagined.”
“Don’t even pretend to tell me what you thought before. You got all your ideas out of those stupid articles. I’m nothing like that.”
“I know.” He sat up. “The troll prince is a most fortunate man.”
He started to say something more, then turned and rose. “Thank you,” he said, leaning forward and kissing her mouth. “I was most honored this afternoon.”
He straightened and adjusted the front of his bulging trousers. “And most aroused.”
He gave her a smile, then turned and left. Sabrina stared after him. When the door closed, she pressed her head to her pillow and sighed. What a strange encounter. She didn’t understand Kardal at all, yet she liked him. A shiver rippled through her as she wondered how long it would be until he touched her again.
Sabrina, Kardal, Rafe and Cala sat around an antique oval table in a small anteroom outside the old throne room in the palace. Despite the importance of the meeting, Sabrina found it difficult to focus on what everyone was saying. She was too busy admiring the room.
It wasn’t large, maybe sixteen feet square, with tall, narrow windows on one wall. Instead of a view of the desert, she could see a beautiful garden. Lush and green with exotic flowers from around the world. The bougainvillea tree looked ancient and she wondered where it had originally come from. What Prince of Thieves had requested it be carried by camel to his secret palace? Or perhaps one of the princesses had wanted something beautiful to gaze upon while waiting for her husband to finish his business for the day.
There were several stunning tapestries on the wall, although she winced when she saw bright sunlight falling directly on a length of cloth depicting Queen Victoria attending an elegant picnic. There were faded patches and frayed threads. The tapestry needed immediate attention if it was to be saved.
Kardal spoke her name with some impatience, as if he’d been trying to get her attention for some time.
“What? Oh, sorry.” She turned her attention away from Queen Victoria and settled it firmly on those in the room.
Cala smiled at her. “Kardal and I have grown up in the palace so we’re used to its splendors, but it can be overwhelming for someone seeing it for the first time.”
“It’s not just that,” Sabrina said heatedly. “So many of the treasures are in serious danger. These tapestries—” she pointed to the cloths on the wall “—should never be exposed to sunlight. They’re being destroyed.”
Kardal glared at her. “You may deal with them later. Right now we need to plan for the visit.”
Instead of arguing, Sabrina simply nodded. Kardal had been growling like a lion ever since he’d agreed to allow King Givon to visit. She couldn’t blame him for his temper. No doubt he was fighting nerves, not to mention second and third thoughts about the whole thing. Meeting one’s father after all this time couldn’t be easy.
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