The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(41) by Susan Mallery
“I hope you are pleased with it.”
“I am.” She smiled. “Although I still think you should return some of those treasures.”
He dismissed her with a wave, then rested his hand on her shoulder. The slight weight was most pleasant, she thought dreamily, wishing that he would kiss her. While she was a little nervous about repeating their previous intimacy—the one she barely thought of anymore—she wouldn’t mind repeating their kisses.
“I should have told you about the rest of the palace,” he said. “You may change rooms if you wish.”
“No. I already told you, I like where I am.” She tilted her head. “Besides, if I’m your slave it would be inappropriate for me to choose my own room.”
He slid his hand down her arm, making her tremble slightly. Her thighs felt too weak to support her weight. He stopped at her wrist where he fingered the gold slave bracelets binding her to him.
“Are you my slave?” he asked softly.
His eyes flared with a light she didn’t understand. Although she often knew exactly what he was thinking, at this moment, Kardal was a mystery. A looming, slightly intimidating male mystery.
“I wear the bracelets,” she hedged.
“I see that. But do you embrace their philosophy? Is your purpose in life to serve me? Will you do whatever you must to provide me with my heart’s desire?”
It was as if he’d run a feather along the length of her spine. The hairs at the back of her neck rose and she felt goose bumps on her arms.
“Are you asking if I’ll die for you?”
“Nothing so dramatic.”
His fingers continued to rub the bracelet with occasional forays onto her forearm and the back of her hand. She found herself wishing he would spend more time caressing her and less time polishing the gold.
“I simply wondered how far you would go to fulfill your duties. If you are my slave.”
“You mean there’s a question? I’m free to leave if I want to?”
His dark gaze never left her face. She found herself leaning toward him, wanting to be closer. The need for him to kiss her grew until it was difficult to breathe. She wanted to be in his arms, feeling the male strength of him. She wanted the forgetfulness she found when they were together.
“Do you want to leave?” he asked.
It was, of course, a completely logical question. She shouldn’t have been shocked by the inquiry. Yet she was. Stunned, actually. Leave Kardal? Leave the City of Thieves?
She turned away from him until she was staring out the window. But she didn’t see the beautifully landscaped garden. Instead different images filled her mind. The ride out into the desert. Her first view of the city. The way her father had barely bothered to greet her when she’d arrived in Bahania.
She squeezed her eyes tightly closed. “I don’t know if I want to go,” she whispered.
“Then don’t decide now,” he suggested. “You are welcome to stay in the City of Thieves for as long as you like. Should you grow tired of our company, there is always the troll prince.”
She opened her eyes and glared at him. “Talk about threatening me with something horrible.”
“He may not be as bad as you think.”
She shook her head. “With my father arranging things, he’s probably worse.” But she didn’t want to think about that. Instead there was something more important to consider. “Why do you keep me here?”
Kardal smiled. “I come from a long line of men who collect beautiful things. Perhaps you are to be my greatest treasure.”
If her knees hadn’t been in danger of collapsing before, they certainly were now. Whether or not he meant them, she appreciated his words. Did he really think of her as a treasure? She’d never been valued before. In the past she’d only ever been in the way.
“Why did you lie to me about the city?” she asked. “Why didn’t you want me to know there were modern conveniences?”
He grinned. “You are known to be spoiled and willful. I thought to teach you a lesson.”
She knew he was teasing, but the words still stung. “You were wrong about me.”
“It was not your place to teach me anything.”
He shrugged. “I am Kardal, the Prince of Thieves. My place is what and where I choose it to be.”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t go all royal on me. I get enough of that with my brothers.”
“You cannot change my nature.”
“No, but I can insist on retribution. I should be compensated for your lies.”
“They were little more than omissions.” The humor fled his gaze. “What would you like for your compensation?”
Her ability to read him was back. She knew exactly what he was thinking. That she would pick some bauble from the vault. Perhaps a priceless necklace or earrings.
Disappointment filled her. Just when she thought he finally understood her, she realized that he didn’t. Frustration filled her voice. “I’m not her,” she insisted. “I’m not the spoiled brat from the papers. Why can’t you see that?”
And why did it matter that he didn’t? Except she was afraid to answer that question.
He folded his arms over his chest. “What are you talking about?”
“You. Right now you’re assuming I want one of the treasures. Haven’t you figured out that all the gold in the world can’t buy me what I want?”
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