The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(7) by Susan Mallery
It was as if the image of her body were imprinted on his brain. He didn’t have to close his eyes to see her pale skin and full br**sts. The vision taunted him, reminding him how long it had been since he’d been with a woman. And the wanting made him angry.
He knew the anger was more about himself than her, but she was easy to blame. If he’d had less self-control, he would have pulled over and taken her right there, on the front seat, the men with them be damned. But he wouldn’t. Not only because he would never force her or put on a show for his men, but because the need was too specific. He wanted Victoria, not a faceless woman to satisfy himself, and that bothered him.
It had been five years since Cantara had died. Five years during which he’d mourned her loss. There had been times when desire had driven him to someone’s bed, but those brief hours had been about physical need. The woman herself had been a means to an end. Nothing more. He refused to have Victoria be different.
She was nothing like Cantara. His beautiful wife had been desert born, a laughing, dark-haired beauty. They’d grown up together. He’d known everything about her. There had been no surprises, no mysteries, and he preferred that. She had understood him, his position, his destiny. She had been proud, but never assumed they were equals. She had been his wife and that had been enough for her.
He glanced at Victoria, taking in the perfect profile, the fullness of her mouth. This woman would not be content to be anything but a man’s true match, he thought. She would expect her opinion to matter. She would want to talk about everything. Her feelings, her plans, her life. It was more than a prince should have to bear. She would—
He glanced at her again and noticed the slight tremor in her cheek. As if her teeth had been tightly clenched for some time. She was pale and had her hands tightly clasped. He caught it then, the bitter scent.
The knowledge made him weary. He was not cruel enough to allow her to terrorize herself with her concerns.
“Nothing will happen until we arrive at the village,” he said sharply.
Her breath caught. He felt her glance at him. “H-how long will that take?”
“Three days. Very few people know the place. It’s beautiful, at least I find it so. Like nothing you’ve ever seen.”
He hoped she wouldn’t ask what would happen when they did finally arrive. He had no answer for that. He had taken her because she had offered herself in exchange for her father and the desert law respected a noble sacrifice. But to what end? Did he really plan to take her for his mistress?
He looked at her again. She wore jeans and ridiculous boots with high heels. The shirt was made of some clingy fabric that seemed to hug her br**sts. He forced himself to return his attention to the road.
He found her attractive and would enjoy her in his bed, but he was reluctant to commit to longer than a single night. Which meant he was going to have to find something else for Victoria to do.
“I, uh, thought the people of the desert were nomadic,” she said.
“Many are, but many also enjoy life in the desert and do not feel compelled to move from camp to camp. The village provides the best of both worlds.”
“I hope I brought enough sunscreen,” she murmured.
“We will send for more if you did not,” he told her.
“So you don’t plan to stake me out in the sun and let the ants eat me alive?”
“This is not the Old West,” said Kateb, bemused.
“I know, but it’s still a pretty gruesome punishment. Hanging would be faster.”
“There is less opportunity for a rescue with a hanging.”
The fear had faded. Now he could smell her perfume, or maybe just the scent of her body. Either way it pleased him and in being pleased, he was annoyed.
Kateb sighed. It was going to be a long six months.
They made two brief stops for water and bathroom breaks. Victoria was thrilled they used something very close to a rest area, although she had a bad feeling the amenities were going to get worse before they got better.
Just before sunset they stopped for the night and made camp. Several tents were put up along with what looked like sleeping bags and bedrolls. Two men went to work over a large camp stove while another set up something that looked suspiciously like a gas barbecue.
Kateb came up beside her. “You look concerned. Are the facilities not to your liking?”
She guessed he was seeking information rather than offering to change anything on her behalf. She pointed at the stove. “I thought there would be an open fire and we’d be cooking food on sticks.”
That single eyebrow raised again. “Where would we get fuel for the fire?”
She glanced around at the campsite. They’d backed in the trucks, butting them up against a cliff. There were a few sad-looking shrubs, but nothing that could pass for logs or even sticks.
“The stoves are more efficient. They heat quickly and there is little danger from fire.”
“There’s not that much to burn.”
“There is us.”
“Oh. Right.” She looked at the men working quickly by the stove. “Should I offer to help? At the castle the chefs were very fussy about who they allowed in their kitchen. They let me rinse off berries once.” Which she’d apparently done incorrectly because one of the cooks had muttered something under his breath and grabbed the basket from her.
“Why would you help?”
“They’re staff, I’m staff. It’s polite to offer.”
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