The Sheikh and the Runaway Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 4)(63) by Susan Mallery
Cala began to cry. It was the other woman’s tears that convinced Sabrina this was really happening. She looked at Givon. “This is real, isn’t it?” she asked.
Kardal’s father nodded. There wasn’t a flicker of humor in his eyes. “Kardal has been a law unto himself for many years. But even the greatest leader must answer to a higher power. Kardal took something that was forbidden. He is fortunate to still be alive.”
She turned to Kardal. His steady gaze didn’t show any fear. “It’s not so bad,” he told her. “You can either marry me and all will be forgiven, or you can refuse me and I will be banished.”
Feeling returned to her body, and along with it, pain. “So this is another trick. You’ve got them all on your side. I’m not going to marry you, Kardal. No matter how many games you play.”
His dark eyes continued to watch her. “Good,” he said. “I do not wish you to marry me.”
She hadn’t thought he could continue to hurt her, but she was wrong. Another knife wound cut through her heart. “I see.”
“No, you don’t.” He started to stand but the guards on either side of him pushed him back to his knees. He frowned at them, then returned his attention to her.
“Sabrina, I was wrong from the beginning. I shouldn’t have kept the truth from you. My excuse is simple arrogance. I had read things about you, things that made me not like you. I had agreed to the betrothal, but I had second thoughts about the bride. I wondered if the alliance with Bahania would be payment enough.”
“Gee, thanks,” she muttered.
He shrugged. “Then I began to spend time with you. I learned the truth about your heart and your soul. I knew then that I would be proud to call you mine. I wanted to teach you a lesson—how to be a docile wife—yet I was the one who changed.”
He paused and shifted on his knees. She thought that his bindings looked uncomfortably tight, then scolded herself for caring. Kardal deserved whatever happened to him.
“I love you,” he said bluntly. “I who had thought men were above such emotions have realized you are my moon and stars. My father has loved my mother for thirty-one years, despite being apart from her. I fear that I would suffer the same fate should you cast me aside.”
Too much had happened too fast, Sabrina thought, still not sure what to believe. Her heart ached, desperate to be convinced by his words, but her spirit was not so sure.
“Kardal, how do I know this isn’t just some way for you to get what you want?” she asked.
“You don’t,” he said simply. “So I ask that you refuse my proposal. Then I will be banished.”
Her lips parted. “What? You would leave the city?” The desert? The place he loved more than anything in the world?
“Yes. Once banished I would come to you and spend the rest of our days convincing you that you are my one true love.” He smiled, then. A warm, open, loving smile that began to heal the wounds of her heart. “I can live without the city, but I could never survive without you.”
Sabrina took a step toward him, then paused. What should she do? She so wanted to believe him, but could she?
“Follow your heart,” Cala said, stepping into Givon’s embrace and holding him close. “Sabrina, trust what you know to be true.”
“Don’t marry me,” Kardal said. “Please. Have them send me away. I swear I will come to you. I will prove it all. I will worship you as the sun worships the City of Thieves.”
“Sabrina, you were right. I didn’t mean to play you for a fool, but that is what happened. You deserve to be sure of me and what I tell you here today. Banish me. Banish me and I will love you forever.”
His dark gaze seemed to see into her soul.
“You know we belong together,” he continued, his voice low and heated. “We are too much alike to ever be happy with anyone else. Let me prove my love.”
Sabrina shook her head, then turned and hurried from the room. There was too much information. Too many questions. Banish Kardal? Have him lose everything to prove his love?
She reached her quarters and slipped inside. Footsteps sounded in the hall, then her father stepped into the room.
“This is not a bluff,” Hassan said. “Givon and I will have him banished.”
“I don’t want that,” she told him. “I just want to be sure.”
“What would you have him do to convince you? Give up his heart’s desire?”
Which is what Kardal had done. She thought of the beautiful city and how happy he was there. She thought of all the times he’d come to speak with her, seeking her advice, sharing secret fears with her. These were not the actions of a man who didn’t care. He’d been arrogant and stupid. He was a prince—and a man—why was she surprised?
“I love him,” she said, impulsively hugging her father. For the first time in her life, he hugged her back.
“I’m glad. After all, you could be pregnant with his child.”
Sabrina froze. “I hadn’t thought of that.” Pregnant? With Kardal’s baby?
Joy filled her. Joy and a certainty that eased the pain in her heart and made her feel as if she could fly. She loved him. Cala had been right. It was time for her to follow her heart.
She ran across the room and opened the first of the small trunks she’d brought with her. Inside were dozens of priceless treasures.
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