The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(2) by Susan Mallery
“Nothing, Vi. You need to believe me.” He held up both hands, as if to show his innocence. “It was a friendly game of poker.”
“You weren’t supposed to be playing cards. You said you were in recovery. That you hadn’t played in three years.”
Dean flashed her his famous smile, the one that had always made her mother weak at the knees. It triggered the opposite reaction in Victoria. She knew to brace herself because bad times were coming.
“The prince offered me a game. It would have been rude to say no.”
Right. Because it couldn’t be Dean’s fault, she thought bitterly. There was no way her charming father would ever think to say, “Hey, Your Royal Highness, thanks for the invite but I’m not a good bet. Actually I’m too good a bet. Show me a deck of cards and I’ll happily lose myself in any game. I’ll also take the rent money, the food money and any savings my wife might have scraped together.”
Victoria shook off the past. Her mother had died nearly ten years ago, mostly from the broken heart caused by loving Dean McCallan. She hadn’t seen her father since the funeral and now she was sorry she’d ever gotten in touch with him.
“How much?” she asked knowing she would have to clean out her savings and very possibly her I.R.A. to make this right.
Dean glanced at the guards, then gave her a friendly smile. “It’s not exactly about the money, Vi.”
Her stomach knotted as cold fear swept through her. “Tell me you didn’t cheat,” she whispered, knowing if he had, it would have pushed him past saving.
There were footsteps in the corridor. Victoria turned and saw Prince Kateb sweep into the room.
She might be wearing four-inch heels, but he was still considerably taller. His eyes were dark, as was his hair, and there was a vicious scar along one cheek. The end of it just kissed the corner of his mouth, pulling it down and making him seem as if he were contemptuous of everything. Of course, that might not be the scar.
He wore dark trousers and a white shirt. Practically casual clothes, but on him they appeared regal somehow. Without the scar, he would have been handsome. With it, he was a child’s nightmare come to life. Victoria had to consciously keep from shivering in his presence.
“This is your father?” Kateb said, staring at Victoria.
“You invited him to visit you?”
She thought about saying she was sorry. That she hadn’t seen her father in years, and he’d sworn he’d changed. She’d been stupid enough to believe him.
Kateb’s dark gaze seemed to see through to her soul. She pulled her robe more tightly around her body, wishing the fabric was something more substantial than silk. Why couldn’t she have a chenille robe like normal people? And sweats. She should be wearing sweats instead of a short nightie with cute matching panties. Not that Kateb would care about her fashion sense.
“He cheated at cards,” Kateb said.
Victoria wasn’t even surprised. She didn’t bother looking at her father. He would say or do anything to try to make the situation better. The truth would only be a happy accident.
She raised her chin. “I apologize, sir,” she said. “I assume you’ll be deporting him immediately. Is it possible for me to reimburse you for the money he tried to take?”
Kateb took a step closer. “Deportation isn’t enough punishment for his crime, Ms. McCallan. He has dishonored me and by doing so has dishonored the royal family of El Deharia.”
“Wh-what does that mean?” Dean asked, his voice shaking. “Vi, you can’t let them hurt me.”
Victoria ignored him. Her mind raced. Hiring a lawyer wasn’t a quick option. She would have to find one willing to take her father’s case. And as it was against the royal family, that could be a trick. There was always the American embassy, but they tended to frown on U.S. citizens breaking local laws. Especially when breaking those laws insulted princes of friendly countries.
“When his dishonestly was discovered,” Kateb continued, staring into Victoria’s eyes as if to impress the seriousness of the situation upon her, “he didn’t have the money to cover his debts.”
Why would he bother, she thought bitterly. Dean had never been a fan of being responsible.
“As I said, sir, I’ll cover his debts.”
Kateb seemed unimpressed. “He offered something else, instead.”
Victoria didn’t understand. “What could my father possibly have that would be of interest to you? Whatever he’s been telling you, he’s not a rich man. Please. Let me pay the money he owes you. I have it in the Central Bank. I can get the account number right now and you can confirm I’m—”
“He offered you.”
The room began to spin, and Victoria put out a hand to steady herself. She felt the cool, smooth stone of the wall and wished she could sink into it.
“I don’t understand,” she whispered.
Kateb shrugged. “When I confronted your father with his cheating, he begged me to be merciful. He offered me money, which I’m sure he did not have. When that didn’t work, he said he had a beautiful daughter here in the palace who would do anything to save him. He said I could have you for as long as I wished.”
Victoria straightened, then turned to stare at Dean. Her father sagged a little.
“Honey,” he began, “I didn’t have a choice.”
“You always have a choice,” she said coldly. “You could have not played cards.”
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