The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(61) by Susan Mallery
The king of Bahania nearly vibrated with rage. He might be wearing a western-style suit, but he had been born in the desert and the blood of vengeance ran in his veins.
“This afternoon?” he repeated icily.
“We’re engaged,” Kardal reminded him. “You’re the one who said you couldn’t vouch for her virtue.”
“And you’re the one who told me she was innocent. Until you had your way with her. I had assumed you were bluffing. Trying my patience to get my attention.”
Kardal drew in a breath. “It is important that Sabrina and I are married right away.” He squared his shoulders. “This afternoon I made her mine.”
Hassan lunged at him. Givon grabbed for Sabrina’s father, and Rafe sprang up from the sofa, but Kardal waved them both off. He moved even closer to Hassan.
“What are you going to do to me?”
“Behead you,” Hassan spat out. “If you are lucky. Or perhaps I’ll simply make sure you aren’t able to be with another woman again.”
“Why?” Kardal challenged. “You have never cared about Sabrina before.”
Hassan opened his mouth, then closed it. “You were wrong to take her,” he said at last.
“I know. I want to make it right by marrying her.”
Rafe shoved his hands into his trouser pockets. “I think this is where the argument started, King Hassan. The trick is Sabrina no longer wants to marry him.”
“What?” Hassan looked surprised. “Why would she refuse you?”
“Who knows the mind of a woman,” Kardal said, trying to sound casual, but inside he felt uneasy. He knew that he could force Sabrina to marry him. Theirs was an arranged marriage and she did not have to be present for it to take place. Perhaps with someone else, he might have simply seen it done, but not with her. He found himself wanting her to want him.
“She loves him,” Rafe said, earning another scowl. “But he doesn’t love her back. So she left.”
“Love.” Hassan threw up his hands. “Women and love. They think it is both the moon and the stars.”
“They are right,” Givon said. “Thirty-one years ago I chose duty over love. While I cannot regret my decision because I did not feel that I had a better option, I have hated the outcome every day since then.”
For Kardal it wasn’t a matter of duty. It was practicality. Women loved and men…He frowned. What did men do? They respected their wives, treated them well, supported them and their children. But love?
He glanced at his father. Givon claimed to have never stopped loving Cala.
“Why?” he asked his father. “Why did you love my mother?”
Givon smiled. “To quote your future father-in-law, she was my moon and stars. There was passion between us, but more than that, there was a meeting of the minds. There was no one I wished to speak with more, no one else who understood me and whom I could understand. I would not have minded her seeing me ill or weak. I could trust her with my heart.”
“Yes, yes, all that is fine,” Kardal said impatiently. “But men do not love.”
Givon nodded. “Perhaps you are right. Perhaps you will be content to live without Sabrina.”
“I do not want to live without her,” he said. “I want her here.”
“Why?” asked Rafe. “She’s just some good-looking princess with a mouth the size of Utah. Frankly, I always thought she was a pain in the butt. I could easily get you a dozen, all of them better in bed.”
Kardal turned on him and grabbed him by the front of his shirt. “Speak of her that way again and I will kill you with my bare hands.”
“Powerful words for a man not in love,” his friend told him, not looking the least bit impressed by the threat.
Kardal released him. “I do not—”
But he found he couldn’t say that he didn’t love Sabrina. He walked to the window and stared out at the vast emptiness. He tried to imagine a world without his desert bird. In his mind the walls of the castle became a cage. How could he survive without her laughter? Her beauty? Her sharp mind? The way she insisted he return treasures to governments long past caring about them?
He stalked to the door. “Come,” he said. “We are going to find them. Hassan, you may join us if you promise to treat your daughter with respect. Givon, you must go with me because you are the one who knows the way.”
Hassan stepped toward him. “Not so quickly, my young prince. You still have to answer for your crime against my daughter.”
Sabrina sat on her balcony and watched the sun rise over the Indian Ocean. Givon’s island paradise was more lovely than anything she could have imagined. But the stunning profusion of colorful blooms and soft balmy breezes didn’t wipe the tears from her cheeks or ease the pain in her heart.
“Kardal,” she whispered, then gasped as the sound of his name inflicted new pain.
She was never going to see him again. She might love him for the rest of her life, but she refused to give her heart to a man who wouldn’t love her back. Worse, Kardal wouldn’t even admit that him loving her was necessary for them to have a successful relationship.
She’d been so stupid. How could she have let him trick her that way? Why hadn’t she seen what was going on? She’d been so worried and he’d known the entire time.
“Did you sleep at all?” Cala asked as she walked onto the balcony.
Sabrina shook her head. She sniffed and brushed the tears from her face. “I would like to tell you that I spent the night planning painful ways for your son to die, but I can’t quite wish him dead. I’m sure that will come in time.”
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