The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(3) by Susan Mallery
The sense of betrayal was familiar, as was the disappointing realization that Dean wasn’t like other fathers. Nothing mattered more than the thrill of gambling. No matter how often he promised or went to meetings or said all the right things, in the end, the cards won.
She forced herself to stand tall and face the prince. “What happens now?”
“Your father goes to prison. It will be up to the judge to determine the sentence. Eight or ten years should suffice.”
“Dear God, no!” Dean McCallan sank onto the stone floor and covered his face with his hands.
He looked broken and defeated. She wanted to believe he finally understood that his actions had consequences, that he’d learned his lesson, that he would change. But she knew better. He was probably incapable of being different. It was time to turn her back on him.
Except she’d made a promise ten years ago. As her mother lay dying, she had made Victoria swear she would protect Dean, no matter what—at any cost. And Victoria had agreed—because her mother had always been there for her, had always loved her and supported her. Dean had been her only weakness and wasn’t everyone allowed a single mistake?
“Punish me instead,” she said, turning back to Kateb. “Let him go and take me.”
Dean scrambled to his feet. “Victoria,” he said, sounding hopeful, “you’d do that for me?”
“No. I’d do it for Mom.” She stared at the prince. “Put me in jail. I’m a McCallan as well. The shame and dishonor is as much mine.”
“I have no desire to imprison you,” Kateb said, wishing he were back in the desert, where life was simple and rules enforced without thought. Had Dean McCallan been caught cheating out there, someone would have cut off his hand…or his head. There would not be endless discussion of the problem and various solutions.
Send a woman to prison for her father’s crimes? Impossible. Not even this woman who was nothing but a waste of space.
He knew Victoria McCallan—at least as much as was necessary to understand her character. She was pretty enough, in an obvious way, with impressive curves and blond hair. She worked for Prince Nadim as his assistant and had spent the past two years trying to get Nadim to notice her. She wanted to marry a prince. She cared nothing for Nadim, not that he could blame her for that. Nadim had the emotional depth of a grain of sand and the personality of gray paint. Still, Victoria had pursued him. Not that he had noticed.
Nadim’s recent engagement to a woman of the king’s choosing had shattered her plans. Kateb was sure that Victoria would soon be leaving their country in search of other potential rich husbands. In the meantime, there was the problem of what to do with her father.
He looked at the head guard. “Take him away.”
Victoria sucked in her breath, then grabbed Kateb’s arm. He ignored his body’s reaction to her touch. She was female, he was male—it meant nothing more than that.
“No. You can’t.” She stared at him. “Please. I’ll do anything.”
He shook off her hand and her claim. “You exceed your position and try my patience.”
“He’s my father.”
Kateb looked between her and the other man. He would have sworn Victoria had nothing but contempt for her father, so why this display of emotion? Why would she care? Unless the situation with Dean wasn’t the main point at all. Did she see this moment as an opportunity? Was one prince as good as another?
There was a time when he had not been so cynical about women. When he had believed in love and marriage and a happy union. But he had spent the past five years being pursued by women on every continent. They didn’t care about him directly—they wanted the title and the wealth that came with marrying a sheik. Nothing more.
He stepped back and looked at the woman before him. She was dressed in silk and lace, and ridiculous slippers. Her long, curly hair, large eyes and red lips were all designed to seduce. Where her robe gaped open, he could see full br**sts that quivered with every breath.
She would do whatever was necessary to get what she wanted. And while he respected an adversary who would use any means to win, he didn’t like those tactics being used on him.
Did she really think he was foolish enough to fall for her superficial beauty? How far would she go in her pursuit of a prince?
He looked at the father who stood anxiously awaiting the next move in the game. The man who should be defending his child, yet did nothing. Would Dean allow his daughter to sacrifice herself on his behalf, or was he in on the scam as well? Had they conspired to set up Kateb?
His gut told him they had not, but until he was sure, he would assume the worst.
“Take him into the hallway and keep him there,” Kateb said, his voice low.
The guards grabbed Dean, who whimpered and pleaded, and dragged him out. The door closed behind him.
“What will you do to save your father?” he asked.
“Whatever you ask.”
Something flickered in her blue eyes. Had he been a kinder man, he would have assumed fear. But he hadn’t been kind for many years now.
“It must be difficult for you, a woman alone, to make her way in a man’s world,” he said, ignoring the growing need pounding through his body. Even disheveled and taken from her bed, she appealed to him. “The equality you took for granted in America is more difficult to find here. Yet you have done well. You’ve been Nadim’s assistant for some time now.”
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