The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(51) by Susan Mallery
He crossed to the window and stared out at the desert. “I’ve always thought the city a most beautiful place,” he said conversationally. “How much of the story do you know?”
“Some of it. Cala told me what happened but only you and she know the details. I doubt anyone knows the entire truth.”
“I suspect you are correct.”
He nodded. There was much gray in his hair and lines by his eyes, but he didn’t appear to be an old man. There was still an air of vitality about him. Did Cala find the king attractive? Sabrina thought she might.
He turned away from the window and walked to the far end of the room where an ancient tapestry showed several women being gifted to the king of El Bahar.
“That was a long time ago,” he said.
For a second Sabrina thought he meant the tapestry. “Yes, it was.”
He kept his attention on the tiny stitches. “Choices had to be made. Difficult choices. Ones that no man should have to make. Is he very angry with me?”
She ached for his pain. “You’ll need to discuss that with him,” she murmured.
“I shall.” He glanced at her over his shoulder. “But your lack of answer gives me the information I need. Kardal is very angry. I can’t blame him. From his perspective, I abandoned him. He was never acknowledged. I had no place in his life. There were reasons, but do they matter?”
“No,” she said before she could stop herself. “Children don’t care about reasons. They only know the results of actions. When a parent isn’t there, or makes it clear the child isn’t important, then the child is hurt and feels betrayed.”
He walked toward her, studying her. Sabrina kept her chin high and her shoulders square, but her manifestation of pride didn’t erase the fact that Givon knew her life story. He would know that she wasn’t just speaking about Kardal.
When he was standing in front of her, he took one of her hands. “I was a fool. Partly because I was hurt when Cala demanded that I never contact her or her child again, and partly because it was easier. I could suffer silently when I was alone, and no one else had to know. If I had acknowledged Kardal, questions would have been asked. Questions that I did not want to answer.”
He squeezed her fingers, then released them. “Expediency is never the answer. I should never have promised Cala. Or having promised, I should have broken my word. Kardal was more important than both of us.”
Sabrina followed him to the sofa and settled next to him. “King Givon, it’s not too late. Seeing the truth is the first step in making it right.”
“This can never be right.”
“Perhaps, but it can be better than it is now.” She leaned toward him. “Why did you come if not to make peace with the past?”
He was silent for a long time. “I came because I could no longer stay away. The pain of being without was too great. I wanted to know if there was a second chance.” He shrugged slightly. “Perhaps with both of them.”
Was it possible that after all this time they would rekindle their romance? Sabrina felt pleased at the thought.
King Givon smiled. “You think I am too old?”
“No. I think things are going to be very interesting around here.”
“Kardal will not approve.”
“Perhaps not at first,” she admitted. “But I don’t think it’s going to be his decision. His mother can be just as determined.”
“Tell me about Kardal. What is he like?”
She drew in a breath. “Obviously the best thing would be for you to get to know him yourself. But until that happens, I can tell you that he is a wonderful man. You’ll be proud of him.”
Givon shook his head. “I have no right to pride. I had no part in forming the man he has become. Is he a good leader? Do his people respect him?”
“Yes to both. He does not shy away from difficult decisions. He is strong, yet fair. You know about the joint air force with Bahania?”
“Yes. El Bahar will be a part of that as well. We will contribute financially as well as having airfields out in the desert.” He touched her slave bracelets. “I suspect you and Kardal met under most unusual circumstances.”
She laughed, then told him about getting stranded in the desert. “He brought me here, so I have found the City of Thieves after all.”
“You have not known him very long, yet you seem to understand him.”
“I try. In some ways we make each other crazy, but in other ways we get along perfectly.”
King Givon’s expression turned knowing. Sabrina shifted uncomfortably. “It’s not what you think,” she said, refusing to remember the kisses they had shared. “We’re friends. There’s not all that much royalty running around so we understand each other.”
“Does he know what he has in you? Does he know what is in your heart?”
Heat flared on her cheeks, but she refused to be embarrassed. “I assure you, there’s nothing to know.”
“Ah. So you have not yet admitted the truth even to yourself.”
“There’s nothing to admit.”
And even if there was, she thought to herself, and there wasn’t, it all meant nothing. Because no matter what she might dream about, reality was very different. Her destiny lay elsewhere, and not here with the Prince of Thieves.
Sabrina did not return to her own quarters after leaving King Givon in his. She had too much to think about. Too much to consider.
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