The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(62) by Susan Mallery
“Although I believe my son is behaving very badly,” Cala said, pulling up a chair and sitting next to her, “I don’t wish him dead. Besides, if you truly love him, you won’t want to live without him.”
“I don’t have a choice.” She looked at Cala. “Would you tell me to go back and simply accept all that happened?”
“No. Of course not. However, walking away can be difficult.” She stared out toward the ocean. “Forgiveness isn’t easy, Sabrina. But sometimes it’s the only alternative.” She sighed. “Kardal always asked me why I never married. It wasn’t for lack of offers. There were men in my life—good men. I wasn’t holding out for Givon. Instead, after a period of mourning and growing up, I decided I would find someone I loved as much, and then I would get married.”
“What happened?” Sabrina asked, intrigued despite her pain.
“I never met him. All I wanted was to love someone as much. Not more, just the same amount. But I couldn’t. I had great affection and respect for many of the men I met. Some I took as lovers and we were together for several years. But I never loved the same way, so I never married. For the past thirty-one years, I’ve been haunted by a ghost.”
“He’s back now,” Sabrina said.
“I know.” She smiled. “And his feelings are exactly as they were. He has asked me to marry him.” She turned toward Sabrina. “My choices are simple. I can forgive him and take the happiness he offers, or I can live with the bitter taste of knowing I finally have revenge when I refuse him.”
“You’re going to marry him,” Sabrina said without doubt. For Cala there was no other choice.
“I am. I will go with him to El Bahar and we will begin a new chapter together.” She tucked a strand of dark hair behind her ear. “Kardal was wrong to keep the truth from you. And if he can’t admit that he loves you, then I believe you are right to walk away. For a man who will not tell the truth about the secrets of his heart will lie about other things. But if he comes to you and confesses his devotion, I would urge you to forgive and begin a new chapter of your own. If you do not, I fear you will regret it the rest of your life. And even if you are offered a second chance later, you may find that it is not as precious as the first.”
Sabrina didn’t know what to say. She respected Cala and her life’s wisdom, but Kardal had made it clear that he didn’t love her. He’d been playing her for a fool, not wooing a wife.
A commotion in the hallway made them both turn. Loud voices called out. Sabrina pulled her robe closer around her as she rose to her feet.
One of the servants came running out to the balcony. “Princess,” she said, looking at both women. “You must come at once.”
Cala and Sabrina exchanged confused glances, then hurried after the servant. The young woman led them into the hallway, then back toward the entrance. Sabrina heard men yelling and what sounded strangely like the clink of chains. Chains?
They rounded the corner and stopped instantly. Sabrina’s breath caught in her chest. She had to lean against the white walls of the small villa. Cala gasped out loud, then ran toward her son.
“Kardal!” she screamed.
Two armed guards captured her, keeping her away from the people just inside the main door.
Sabrina shook her head, convinced she was seeing things. But the image in front of her didn’t go away. Kardal knelt on the floor, shackled and held by large, burly guards. Beside him were King Givon and…her father!
She blinked several times. “I don’t understand.”
Hassan nodded at the guards holding Cala. They released her instantly, but when she tried to approach her son, Kardal looked at her.
“Mother, stay back.”
Cala turned to Sabrina. “Help him.”
Sabrina didn’t know what to think. “I will. Of course, I just don’t know what’s going on.”
She glanced at the two kings, then focused her attention on the Prince of Thieves. “Is this some kind of game? What are you playing at?”
“He’s not playing,” her father said, stepping toward her. Hassan crossed the tiled floor and took her hands in his. “How are you, my daughter?”
“Confused,” she admitted. “Why are you here?”
“Because you are my child and I have behaved badly toward you.”
Sabrina stared into her father’s familiar face. They didn’t look very much alike—she’d always taken after her mother—but she knew him. Now she gazed into his eyes and tried to tell what he was thinking.
“You don’t believe me,” he said sadly. “I suppose that is your right. For all these years I’ve ignored you and treated you as if you were little more than a bother. I’m sorry. I’ve learned that you’re nothing like your mother. I was wrong to judge you as if you were.”
She pulled her hands free. “That’s a pretty crummy apology. What you should be telling me is that it doesn’t matter if I’m like my mother or not. I’m still your daughter. Parental love shouldn’t come with conditions.”
Surprisingly Hassan bowed his head. “You are correct. I have been gravely at fault. I hope that with time, we can begin to rebuild our relationship.”
She wanted to believe him. Perhaps she would…someday.
Hassan moved to stand next to her. He draped one arm across her shoulders. “On a different matter, Kardal, the Prince of Thieves has confessed to defiling you. Under normal circumstances, he would be put to death, but there are extenuating circumstances. The two of you are betrothed. Also, I have responsibility in the matter as I allowed you to stay with him.”
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