The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(39) by Susan Mallery
She reached for her pad of paper and pointedly ignored the sideboard covered with small ivory figurines just begging to be cataloged. “How many will be in the king’s party?” she asked. “Oh, and how are they arriving? Will there be extra animals to house in the stables?”
Kardal, Rafe and Cala all stared at her. “I assure you the king of El Bahar will not arrive by camel,” Kardal said dryly.
Sabrina thought about sticking her tongue out at him, but restrained herself. “Like that was something I should know intuitively,” she grumbled. “The palace is in the desert. From what I can tell, there aren’t any big roads. A convoy would have difficulty with the terrain and call attention to the location of the palace.”
Kardal leaned toward her. He sat next to her, with Cala across from her and Rafe on her right. She was fairly comfortable with Kardal’s mother, but Rafe still gave her the willies. The man seemed dangerous when he was just sitting in a chair and breathing.
“I understand your point about the convoy and it is well taken. Still, the king will not arrive by camel. Or horse.”
“Fine. Then how?”
“Helicopter,” Cala said, consulting a notepad in front of her.
Rafe did the same, only instead of a pen and paper, he had an electronic device the size of a paperback book. “The king will travel with the pilot and one security agent. We’ll be responsible for his security once he arrives in the city.”
“No entourage?” Sabrina asked, even as she felt Kardal stiffen. As clearly as if he’d spoken, she knew what he was thinking. Why so few people? Was Givon being trusting or showing disrespect?
“My father always travels with at least a dozen people,” she continued. “Even family vacations included staff. Is the king keeping the number down because this is a ‘getting to know you’ kind of visit?”
Cala glanced from her to her son, then understanding dawned in her brown eyes. “Exactly,” she said quickly, flashing Sabrina a grateful smile. “He didn’t want a lot of extra people around to call attention to the visit, or to get in the way. We discussed it and thought this would be best.”
Kardal stared at his mother. “You’ve spoken with him?” He made it sound as if she’d been selling state secrets to a mortal enemy. Perhaps in his mind, she had.
“Yes, Kardal,” Cala said evenly. “I’ve spoken with him. We’ve had several conversations. How do you think this visit got arranged in the first place?”
He didn’t answer. Sabrina searched for something to say to ease the tension in the room. Instinctively she shot Rafe a pleading glance. The blond security agent surprised her by filling the silence.
“Keeping the king safe here won’t be a problem,” he said as if he hadn’t noticed the tension between mother and son. “I understand Sabrina is planning the social portion of his visit, so I’ll coordinate things with her. You’ll want him to see the security center, of course, and perhaps tour the air force facility.”
Sabrina had known about the fledgling air force for several days. “Where is all that stuff?” she asked. “I mean, is it far from the city?”
The corner of Rafe’s mouth tilted up slightly. “I can’t give you the exact location of the air force facility, ma’am.”
“Because I’m such a security risk,” she said, glancing at Kardal. “Let me guess. If he told me, he’d have to kill me.”
Kardal turned his attention from his mother. Some of his anger faded. “Yes, and that would displease me.”
“I wouldn’t be too thrilled about it, either. So how long do you need to show off this secret air force and security center?”
Kardal shifted in his seat. Sabrina stared at him thinking that if she didn’t know better, she would swear he was suddenly uncomfortable.
“Give us an afternoon for the air force,” Rafe said, consulting his tiny computer. “We can do the security center whenever we’d like. What works for you, Sabrina?”
Kardal continued to look uneasy. She glanced at him, then at Rafe. Comprehension dawned. “It’s here, isn’t it?” she asked as outrage filled her. “The security center is in the castle.”
Rafe shrugged. “Sure. Where else would it be?”
She turned her attention to Kardal. “Let me guess. There’s electricity and computers. Fax machines, telephones and all kinds of weird Internet stuff.”
Kardal didn’t meet her gaze. “I had planned to mention it.”
“When? Two weeks after you released me?”
“No. At first I didn’t want you to know and then I simply forgot.” He finally met her gaze. “You are my slave. You have no right to question me. I am the Prince of Thieves and here, within the walls of this city, my word is law.”
“You’re a slimy creep,” she protested. “You let me live like some fourteenth-century sex slave in a room that doesn’t even have running water. Do you realize that—”
Sabrina suddenly realized that all three of them were staring at her. She mentally replayed her last few sentences and felt herself go scarlet when the phrase “sex slave” crossed her consciousness.
She’d done her best to forget what had happened between Kardal and herself three days ago. Actually she’d thought she’d done a good job. Except for strange dreams in which he touched her as he had before, and the occasional moment of inattention as she worked her way through cataloging items in the vault, she’d practically put it out of her mind. Well, not when he joined her for dinner or when she bathed in the large tub delivered to her room every day. There was something about being naked and in steaming water that set her mind to wandering to what it had been like in Kardal’s arms. And often when she was alone, flashes of what had happened appeared in her mind. But other than that, it was as if the incident had never occurred.
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