The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(43) by Susan Mallery
Sabrina shrugged. “Maybe. No one has mentioned anything to me, not that I’m surprised. As a woman, I’m not considered bright enough to follow any kind of meaningful conversation.”
“Obviously they have not spent much time in your company.”
She smiled. “Obviously.”
Their horses were practically bumping shoulders, they were so close. Sabrina liked the feeling of being next to Kardal. He was unlike anyone she’d ever met.
She stared out at the desert and tried to imagine a jet cutting through the silence. “The planes are going to be very out of place in the middle of all this,” she said thoughtfully. “Are any pilots going to be stationed in the City of Thieves?”
“Probably not. They will be at different bases in the area.”
“Is Rafe going to coordinate all that?”
“Because you trust him.”
“He has given me reason.”
In the process Rafe had become a rich, powerful man. “I can’t imagine him as a sheik in traditional robes. I would guess—”
Without warning Kardal reached toward her and grabbed her by the hair. He wrapped her long red curls around his fist and held her tight.
“Make no mistake,” he growled, pulling her close, forcing her to lean toward him. “I may be willing to give you some freedom, but you are still mine. All the men of the city, including Rafe, have been warned.”
He held her firmly, without hurting her. She listened to his words and stared at the fury in his face. Energy poured from him.
“What on earth is wrong with you?” she demanded. “I asked a simple question.”
She supposed she should have been afraid, but she was not. Not of Kardal. Nor of his power or his possession.
He released her, then ran his palm along the length of her hair. His dark eyes glittered. “You asked about another man.”
“We were discussing the air force. Rafe is in charge of security and getting the whole thing off the ground, so to speak. I didn’t think inquiring as to whether or not he would be coordinating it for the city was out of line.”
Kardal urged his horse to take a step away from hers. “I see.” His voice was tense. “He is an American. Many of the women find him attractive.”
Sabrina stared at him. “You can’t be worried I’m going to do anything with Rafe. Kardal, I’ve avoided men and romantic entanglements all my life. Why would I give in now?”
He shrugged. “I do not know. We will speak of something else.”
“Aren’t we being Mr. Imperious?”
She wanted to pursue the topic, to find out what he thought she might do with his chief of security. She found she sort of liked the idea of Kardal being a little bit jealous. He’d never said how he felt about their kissing and the touching. She didn’t want to be the only one affected by the experience. Apparently she was not.
Kardal felt restless as he approached Sabrina’s room that evening. He normally didn’t allow himself to feel ill at ease. Not since those first disastrous years at the American boarding school. He’d taught himself all he needed to know in order to fit in. Since then he had not experienced the nagging sensation of needing to be doing something else.
But the feeling was with him tonight. Perhaps it was because he was going to dine with his betrothed, speak with her, look upon her and perhaps touch her. But he would not be able to have her.
He had thought he might grow to like his future wife, although he had doubted the possibility. He’d thought they might find some common interests…eventually. He’d hoped to find her somewhat easy to talk to. He had never thought he would ache for her. Ache in a way that haunted his sleep until he was reduced to dreaming about her like a teenage boy dreaming of a film star.
He was the Prince of Thieves. Custom stated that it was an honor to be chosen for his bed. Like his grandfather before him, he had been careful not to abuse the privilege, taking only the willing and experienced. A young widow of an unhappy arranged marriage. A divorced computer technician trained in the west. No married women, no innocents. The Prince of Thieves did not defile virgins.
Nor did he take innocent princesses to his bed, however much he might like to. Which left him wanting and unable to satisfy that want. It was a most uncomfortable and unfamiliar circumstance. One he would like to change as soon as possible. Yet he could not. Not without setting both himself and Sabrina on a course from which there was no escape.
Did he want to marry her? Was the wanting simply a desire to tame a beautiful woman who challenged him, or was it something more? Love was an emotion created by women for their own use. It had no place in a man’s world, except for the love a man might have for his children.
Kardal paused in the corridor and frowned. Children? Had he thought “children” and not just sons? Would he love his daughters as well?
The image of a red-haired girl riding fearlessly across the desert filled his mind. He heard her laughter and felt pride in the strong, sure movements of her small body. Yes, he thought in some surprise. He would love a daughter. Perhaps even as much as a son. Five years ago he could not have imagined such a thing. What had changed?
Not wanting to know the answer, Kardal stalked toward Sabrina’s room, then entered without knocking. He found her curled up in a chair in front of the fire, comparing a gold and ruby bracelet with some pictures in a large textbook.
“I knew you would be unable to resist taking some of the treasure for yourself,” he said by way of greeting. “As you see, it’s easy to say ‘give it back to the rightful owners’ when it is not yours to own. But put the items in your hand and things change.”
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