The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(1) by Susan Mallery
When Victoria McCallan woke to find five armed and burly palace guards standing around her bed, she had a feeling this might not turn out to be her best day.
She was more curious than concerned about the intrusion, mostly because she hadn’t done anything wrong. Well, unless she counted the extra brownie she’d had at lunch, not that anyone but her would care about her skirts getting tighter. So this had to be a mistake.
Careful to keep the sheet pulled to her shoulders, she sat up and turned on the lamp on the nightstand, then blinked in the sudden brightness.
Yup, burly guards, in uniform. She frowned as she noticed their hands seemed to be hovering by their side arms. That couldn’t be good.
She cleared her throat and looked at the guy with the most ribbons on his jacket. “Are you sure you have the right room?” she asked.
Damn. Curiosity and concern flowed away, leaving a good dose of fear in their place.
Not that she would let the guards know. She’d always been good at acting as if everything was perfect, even as her world crumbled around her.
She raised her chin and did her best to speak without letting them see she was shaking. “That’s right. How can I help you?”
“Prince Kateb would like to see you right away.”
She’d met him, of course. As personal assistant to Prince Nadim, she knew all the members of the royal family. Kateb rarely came into town, preferring to live in the desert. Much to the annoyance of his father.
“What does he want with me?”
“That is not for me to say. If you’ll come with us?”
The guard might be asking a question, but she had a feeling she wasn’t going to be allowed to say no.
“Of course. If you’ll just give me a moment and some privacy to get dressed, I’ll—”
“That won’t be necessary,” the guard told her. He tossed her the robe from the foot of the bed, then motioned for the other guards to turn around.
Victoria blinked at him. “I’m not meeting the prince in my robe.”
The head guard’s steely gaze told her that she just might have that one wrong.
What was going on? she wondered, as she pulled on the silk robe and then scrambled to her feet. She jerked the fabric closed and fastened the tie before slipping into her matching, lavender marabou slippers.
“This is crazy,” she muttered, as much to herself as to him. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”
She was a good assistant, who kept track of Prince Nadim’s appointments and made sure his office ran smoothly. She didn’t have parties in her room or run off with the royal silver. Her passport was up-to-date, she was friendly with the other palace employees and she paid her taxes. What on earth would cause Prince Kateb, whom she barely knew, to send guards to her room? There weren’t any—
She came to a stop. The head guard motioned for her to keep walking, which she did, but she wasn’t paying attention to where they were going. She’d figured out the problem—and it was a big one.
A month ago, in a moment of weakness, she’d e-mailed her father. She knew better, knew that getting in touch with him would be a huge mistake. Once he’d answered, it had been too late to change her mind. He’d been delighted to discover she was living in the royal palace in El Deharia and had quickly flown out for a visit.
The man had always been nothing but trouble, she thought grimly as she was taken into an elevator and the basement button pushed. Palaces didn’t actually have basements…they had dungeons. She knew enough about El Deharian history to know that nothing good ever happened in the dungeon.
The doors opened onto a long corridor. But this wasn’t just any corridor. The walls were stone, and there were actual torches in iron holders, although the light came from wired fixtures on the ceiling. The place was cool and the air had a heaviness that spoke of centuries gone by and of fear.
Victoria shivered slightly and wished she’d brought a blanket to wrap around herself as well as her robe. Her high-heeled, feather-covered slippers clicked loudly on the worn stone floor. She kept her gaze firmly on the guard in front of her. His back was much safer than anything else she might see. She was terrified that ancient whips and torture devices could lie behind closed doors. She braced herself for the sound of screams and hoped if she heard any, they wouldn’t be her own.
Anxiety caused her throat to tighten and made it difficult to breathe. Her father had done something bad. She was sure of it. The only question was how bad and how would the consequences affect her…again.
The guard led her to an open door, then motioned for her to go inside. She squared her shoulders, sucked in a breath she hoped wouldn’t be her last and stepped into the room.
Surprisingly, the space wasn’t all that scary. It was larger than she would have expected with tapestries on the wall. A carved gaming table sat in the middle and there were a half dozen or so chairs that—
Her gaze returned to the gaming table covered with playing cards, then scanned the area until she found her father standing in a corner, obviously trying to look casual.
One look at Dean McCallan told her the truth. Her charming, handsome, gambler of a father had broken his promise to never play cards again.
He was pale under his tan. His too-long blond hair no longer looked stylish. He’d gone from successful man of the world to frightened failure in the space of an evening.
“What did you do?” she asked, not caring there were other people in the room. She had to know how bad things were going to get.
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