The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(53) by Susan Mallery
Givon circled the room, pausing to speak with several technicians. Kardal stayed still, watching his father, wishing the visit would end quickly. He didn’t like being uncomfortable, but that was how he felt around King Givon. If they weren’t discussing matters of mutual political and economic interest, he didn’t know what to say.
His father was not as he had expected. Kardal hadn’t realized he even had expectations until they were not met. He’d thought Givon would be more arrogant and brusque. Instead he found the king to be a thoughtful man who didn’t pontificate or insist his opinion be the only one.
He wore western-style dress rather than traditional robes. He could have been a visiting executive rather than a reigning monarch.
Givon returned to his side and smiled. “You are doing an extraordinary job. Your unique blending of traditional methods with new technology has given your security an edge.”
Kardal led them out of the security monitoring station and into one of the conference rooms. Unlike the ones by the old throne room, this space was completely modern and impersonal.
“The City of Thieves receives a percentage of the oil profits from both your country and Bahania. In return we provide security for the oil fields. It is to our advantage that there is no trouble, or any delays in production.”
Givon took a seat on the far side of the table. “I agree, but there are degrees of excellence. You aim for the top.”
Kardal settled in the chair opposite his father. Was that pride in Givon’s voice? Kardal felt both pleased and annoyed.
“You have a natural affinity for leadership,” Givon continued.
“I suppose you want to take credit for that,” Kardal growled before he could stop himself.
“Your grandfather raised you and you are now your own man. I think any praise should be shared equally between you and him.” Givon paused, then pressed his hands on the table. “Whatever you might have inherited from me could have easily come to nothing. So no, I do not believe I am entitled to take credit for your success. I will admit to feeling some sense of pride, however misplaced. That is a father’s right. Even a father who has done as badly as me.”
Kardal didn’t know how to answer that. He wanted to storm out of the conference room and not have this conversation, however he didn’t think he would. He and Givon had been heading toward this moment ever since Cala had issued the invitation to the king.
There was a pitcher of water in the center of the table, along with several glasses. Givon turned one of them right-side up and poured the water. He took a sip.
“I should have come sooner,” he said, studying Kardal.
“Why? What would have changed?”
Givon shrugged. “Perhaps nothing. Perhaps everything. We will never know.”
“You wouldn’t have received any better security service.”
Givon set the glass on the table. “This is not about your work, Kardal. It is about you and I. However much you do not wish us to discuss these matters, we must. I can tell you that I have learned over my life that some things can be delayed, but few can be escaped entirely. I don’t blame you for being angry with me.”
Kardal continued to sit in the chair. He forced his features to remain calm, but both activities took all his strength of will. He wanted to spring to his feet and rage against the man sitting across from him. He wanted to shout his frustration and demand Givon explain his arrogance in coming here after all this time. He wanted to yell that his father was nothing to him—less than dust and no words were going to change how he felt.
Anger, frustration and deep, ugly hurt filled him. Emotions he’d never acknowledged before bubbled to the surface. He could barely breathe from the intensity of it. Sabrina had warned him, he thought suddenly. She had said he must prepare himself for what would happen when he finally met his father. That if he didn’t consider the impact the meeting might have, he could be overwhelmed.
She was more wise than he had been willing to admit.
“I know you are angry,” Givon said.
“Anger is the least of it.” Kardal spoke between clenched teeth.
“Yes. That must be very true. I wish…” He sighed. “I want to explain. Are you willing to listen?”
Kardal wanted to shout that he was not. But he refused to storm out of the room like an angry adolescent. Instead he offered his father a curt nod and wished fiercely that Sabrina was with him. He could use her gentling presence.
“Thank you.” Givon leaned back in his chair. “I am sure you know the story of how I came to be here. When your grandfather produced no male heirs, tradition dictated that either King Hassan or I provide Cala with a son. The tradition also stated that the king of Bahania and the king of El Bahar would alternate. The last time there had been no heir had been over a hundred years before. It was my turn, so I left my wife and sons and came here.”
“I am familiar with the history of the city,” Kardal said impatiently.
“Perhaps, but this isn’t just about history. This is about the people involved. We are not talking about cold facts. I was married, Kardal. I had two sons. I cared for them very much. None of them wanted me to come here. I did not want to come here. The thought of seducing an eighteen-year-old girl was repugnant to me.” He paused and stared directly at Kardal. “I was the same age you are now. How would you feel about taking one of the elder’s daughters?”
Kardal shifted uncomfortably. He understood his father’s point at once, but didn’t want to admit that. “Go on,” he said instead.
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