The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(49) by Susan Mallery
“Don’t you think it’s a little late to pretend you care?” he asked contemptuously. “She is no longer your concern. Despite your neglect, she is all I desire in a bride. I accept the conditions of the betrothal. See that your staff prepares a wedding fitting for your only daughter and the Prince of Thieves.”
Then, without saying goodbye, he hung up the phone. Satisfied he’d captured Hassan’s attention, he turned to the work waiting for him.
The helicopter appeared in the sky, first as a small bird, then growing larger and larger against the impossible blueness of the desert afternoon. Kardal stood alone, watching the security personnel that Rafe had assembled rather than the approach of his father.
Sabrina stood behind him, next to Cala who was practically hyperventilating from nervousness.
“I can’t do this,” Cala murmured, turning as if to leave.
Sabrina put a reassuring hand on her arm. “You’ll be fine. You look beautiful. He’ll be too stunned to speak.”
She was telling the truth, Sabrina thought. Cala wore an elegant suit in deep purple. She’d swept her long hair up into a chignon. Diamond earrings glittered. They were her only adornment and didn’t distract from the loveliness of her features.
Rafe stood to their left. He looked calm, but then Sabrina doubted anything ever ruffled the city’s head of security. As for herself, she was prepared to do whatever she must to make this visit a success for Kardal. He was her main concern. Despite the times they’d talked about it, she knew he wasn’t prepared for the impact of meeting his father for the first time. He said he didn’t care, that Givon would have no effect on him, but she knew he was wrong.
Wind swept around them as sound filled the air. Sabrina tried to imagine what it would be like to meet a man who had ignored her for her whole life. What was Kardal feeling now? While she had problems with her own father, at least he had acknowledged her from the beginning.
But when the helicopter’s doors were opened by two of Rafe’s men and King Givon stepped out into the afternoon, she was surprised to find he didn’t look like an evil man. He wore a tailored suit, which made him look more like a European businessman than the El Baharian king. He was a couple of inches shorter than Kardal, strong looking with dark eyes he’d passed onto his son. She saw wisdom lurking there, and sadness. There was something about the set of his mouth that made her wonder—for the first time—if he’d been suffering, too.
Had he missed the opportunity to get to know his son? Kardal didn’t believe Givon had stayed away because he’d given his word to do so, but Sabrina thought it might be the truth.
She sighed. There were no easy solutions to this situation. What a thing to realize in the first thirty seconds of Givon’s visit.
The king stepped away from the helicopter. A single security agent stepped out after him. The pilot shut off the engine. As the noise wound down, Sabrina waited for Kardal to say something. As the leader of the city, it was his job to greet his father first. Yet he didn’t move or speak.
Cala solved the problem by stepping around her son. She walked slowly and proudly toward a man she hadn’t seen in over thirty years. Sabrina watched as his expression changed. Emotions followed each other—gladness, pain, longing. In that moment, Sabrina knew that Givon had loved Cala with all his heart.
“Welcome to the City of Thieves,” Cala said warmly. “It’s been a long time, Givon.”
“Yes, it has. I had begun to wonder if I would ever see this place again.”
He didn’t say the words, but he didn’t have to. Sabrina heard them and judging from the hesitation in Cala’s step, she heard them, too.
Sabrina’s throat tightened as the older couple stood in front of each other. There was a moment of awkwardness as Cala thrust out her hand to shake his, then withdrew it. Givon took a half step forward. Cala cried out softly and opened her arms. The king stepped into her embrace.
The naked longing on his face was so private and intimate that Sabrina quickly looked away. She glanced at Kardal. He, too, had found something else to interest him. What was he thinking? she wondered. Was he beginning to understand that no one person was to blame for their current circumstances?
Cala released Givon and stepped back. “It is time for you two to meet,” she said.
The king approached his son and held out his hand. “Kardal.”
Kardal nodded as he took his father’s hand. “King Givon, welcome to the City of Thieves.”
While Givon continued to smile, Sabrina saw the flicker of pain in his eyes. He had hoped for a more personal greeting.
Give it time, she said silently to herself. Kardal needs more time.
“And this, of course, is Sabrina. Perhaps you know her by her more formal title—Princess Sabra of Bahania.”
Givon bowed to her. “Sabrina. A pleasure. I did not know you were staying here.” Confused, he drew his brows together. “I spoke with your father just yesterday. He didn’t mention anything.”
“She is my guest,” Kardal said quickly. “She is here, ah, studying our treasures.”
“Oh, sure,” she said with a laugh, hoping to ease some of the tension. “You say that now.” She held up her arms, allowing the full sleeves of her dress to fall back and reveal the gold slave bracelets around her wrists. “That wasn’t your story when you captured me in the desert and took me as your slave.”
Givon looked shocked. “You took a Bahanian princess as a slave?”
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