The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(40) by Susan Mallery
“I see,” Cala said at last, gazing at her son. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
“No.” He didn’t seem the least bit embarrassed when he turned to Sabrina and said, “I had meant to tell you about the remodeled section of the castle. However, with all that has happened the past few days, I forgot. Would you like to move to a more modern room?”
She thought about the beauty of her quarters, the ancient books and the large four-poster bed upon which…She cleared her throat. “No. I like where I am. However, I would like access to a real bathroom.”
“Of course. Tell Adiva to show you where the closest one is located.” He inclined his head as if to say the matter was closed. “About the king’s visit.”
Sabrina returned her attention to her notes. “How long is he staying?” She glanced from Rafe to Cala as they seemed to be the ones in the know on the subject of Givon’s visit.
“I’m not sure,” Cala murmured. Now she was the one looking flustered. “A few nights. I don’t think it’s necessary to have a formal state dinner. Perhaps just one with a few close friends.”
Kardal appeared uneasy at the suggestion. Sabrina knew he was wondering what they would all discuss. The reasons he, Givon, abandoned his family? Why he’d never acknowledged his bastard son? She sighed. While her summers in Bahania had not allowed her to move in royal circles beyond Bahania, she’d met King Givon several times. From her personal experience, not to mention all she’d heard about the man, he was a decent person. Stern, but not cruel. So why had he treated Cala and Kardal so badly?
“What about a small dinner the first night,” Sabrina said. “Just you, the king and Kardal.”
Cala nodded slowly. “Yes. That would work. Rafe, you are welcome to attend, and of course you’ll be there, Sabrina.”
She wasn’t so sure she wanted to participate in what promised to be a most awkward meal, but felt it was important for her to be there, at least for Kardal.
“As for the meal itself,” Sabrina said, “I’ll discuss several options with the chef and come up with a tentative menu. There is also the matter of entertainment. I was thinking of background music more than an actual show.”
They continued to discuss different ideas. At least Cala, Rafe and Sabrina did. Kardal was no longer participating in the conversation. Sabrina wished there was a way to make this easier for him. She wished a lot of things. She wished that she understood why she cared if Kardal was apprehensive about meeting his father. She wished she knew why she wasn’t anxious to leave the City of Thieves. While the opportunity to study the stolen treasure was not to be missed, she was here on the whim of a man who claimed her as his slave. Not that he’d treated her badly. He obviously had no plans to abuse her or mistreat her. So why exactly was she here? What did Kardal intend for her?
Cala asked a question, forcing her attention back to the conversation at hand. Fifteen minutes later everyone stood.
“I think we have a basic understanding of what we plan to do,” Cala said brightly, although her eyes looked more haunted than happy. “Kardal, you are pleased?”
He took his time in answering. Sabrina could practically read his thoughts. He wasn’t pleased about any of this, but he didn’t want to make his mother more uncomfortable. She wasn’t surprised when he replied in a reassuring tone.
“Yes. Well pleased.”
He walked to the door and held it open. Cala went first. Rafe hesitated. Kardal murmured something to him that Sabrina couldn’t hear. The American nodded and stepped into the hallway, leaving Kardal and Sabrina alone.
She collected her notes. “Are you all right?” she asked.
Instead of answering, he crossed to the window and stared out at the elaborate garden. Today he wore western garb—a well-tailored suit in dark gray with a white shirt and red tie. She wasn’t used to seeing him dressed like a businessman. In some ways she found that she preferred Kardal in more traditional clothing.
He motioned for her to join him at the window, then pointed to the stone benches circling a large tree.
“This is a replica of a French garden,” he said. “From some time in the eighteenth century.”
“Early or late?” she asked, following his gaze and staring at the neatly trimmed shrubs.
“Late. When being a member of the royal family put one’s head at risk.” He touched the glass. “It takes more water than it is worth, yet I cannot find it in myself to instruct the gardeners to dig it up. Sheer folly.”
“I’m surprised the heat doesn’t destroy everything.”
“It would, however in the summer the gardeners hang tarps to provide shade.” He looked at her. “As I said, a waste of time and resource. There was an English maze on the other side of the palace. It had taken nearly fifteen years for the hedges to grow tall enough. Every fall and spring there were festivals in the maze. The children loved it.”
He shrugged. “During the Second World War there were more important concerns than caring for the maze. It, too, required protection from the desert summer. The decision was made to dig it up. The land is now a park. Something easier to maintain within the walls of the city.”
“This world is so different from any I’ve ever known,” she said, wondering how it was possible that something so magical existed within a few hundred miles of the capital of Bahania.
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