The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(5) by Susan Mallery
One eyebrow raised. “Longer? To what end? You are not worthy of marriage.”
A well-placed slap, she thought, refusing to let him know he’d hurt her. “I will be your mistress for however long you wish. I’ll go with you into the desert and do whatever you say. Anything. In return my father goes free. You can banish him from the country. Make sure he never returns to El Deharia. Just don’t put him in jail.”
Kateb’s dark gaze continued to study her. She trembled but was determined not to let him see. At last he reached for the skinny straps on her nightie. He slid first one then the other off her shoulders. The short gown joined the robe on the stone floor.
Except for a pair of tiny bikini panties, she was naked before him. She desperately wanted to cover herself, to turn away. Embarrassment burned her cheeks, but she continued to stand there. It was the last card in her hand. If this didn’t work, she would have to fold.
Dean McCallan wasn’t worth it—she was clear on that. But this wasn’t about him. This was about the promise she’d made her mother.
He looked her up and down. She had no idea what he was thinking—if he wanted her or not. Then he turned away.
She had lost.
There was nothing left, she thought, refusing to cry in front of him.
Kateb stepped into the hall. Not knowing what else to do, she followed him. He stopped in front of Dean.
“Your daughter has agreed to be my mistress for six months. I will take her into the desert with me until the time is up. Then she may return. You will leave El Deharia on the first flight out in the morning. You are never to step foot in this country again. If you do, you will be shot on sight. Do I make myself clear?”
For the second time that night Victoria had trouble maintaining her balance. He was accepting? Her father wouldn’t go to jail?
Momentary relief was followed by the realization that she’d, in essence, sold herself to a man she didn’t know and who obviously thought very little of her.
The guard released her father. Dean grabbed Kateb’s hand and shook it. “Of course. Of course. Good of you to see it was all a misunderstanding.” He turned to Victoria and actually smiled at her. “I guess I need to be going. That’s all right. I have business back home. Places to go. People to see.”
Victoria wasn’t even surprised. It was as if he hadn’t heard anything except he was free to go. Nothing else mattered.
Kateb glared at him. “Did you not hear me? I’m keeping your daughter.”
Dean struggled. “She’s a pretty girl.”
Victoria felt Kateb’s fury. As a man of the desert, he would hold the protection of his family above all. That a father could give up his daughter to save himself was beyond anything he could imagine.
She quickly stepped between them. She turned her back on her father and stared into Kateb’s angry, dark eyes.
“He’s not worth it,” she whispered. “Have the guards take him away.”
“No tender goodbyes?” he asked cynically.
“What would you have to say to him if you were me?”
Kateb nodded. “Very well. Escort Mr. McCallan to his room. Guard him while he packs his things, then take him to the airport.”
Victoria turned and watched her father being led away. When he reached the corner, he glanced back and waved. “I’m sure you’ll be fine, Vi. Call me when you’re back home.”
She ignored him.
Then she and the prince of the desert were alone.
“We will also leave in the morning,” he told her. “Be ready by ten.”
There was an odd taste in her mouth. She supposed it was a combination of fear and apprehension.
“What should I bring?” she asked.
“Whatever you like. You will be with me for six months.”
She wanted him to tell her that it would be all right. That he wasn’t horrible and the time would go quickly. But she was nothing to him. Why would he offer comfort?
“You may return to your room,” he told her.
She nodded and went in the opposite direction of the guards and her father. The walk to the elevator would be longer, but she wouldn’t have to worry about running into them.
She had gone halfway down the hall when Kateb called to her.
She looked over her shoulder.
“The promise?” he asked. “Was he worth it?”
“Not to me,” she admitted. “But he was to her.”
Victoria had worried she might have trouble being ready on time, but it turned out not to be an issue. The whole not-sleeping thing really helped with time management, she thought as she checked her drawers one last time. There was nothing like a run-in with a guard and a prince, not to mention the worry of being a stranger’s mistress, to keep one tense and awake. Now if only the stress took away her appetite, she could finally lose ten pounds.
She’d had no idea what to pack for six months in the desert. Nor did she know what would happen when her time with Kateb was finished. She knew she wouldn’t have a job to return to. Nadim wasn’t the type to hold the position open, assuming he would be interested in Kateb’s former mistress as office staff. No doubt Nadim would replace her quickly and then forget she’d ever worked for him.
To think she’d spent two years trying to get her boss to notice her. Not that she’d ever been in love with him, or even sure she’d liked him. From what she’d seen, he’d been a little lacking in the personality department. But he’d represented safety and security and after the way she’d grown up, both were very appealing.
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