The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(19) by Susan Mallery
Kateb wanted to tell himself he had taken Victoria unaware of who she was. That his need had been powerful and she had been conveniently naked. But through every stroke of their joining, he had known exactly who he was with and he had wanted her specifically. Now, still inside her slick heat, he stared into her blue eyes and didn’t know what the hell he was supposed to say.
A case could be made that she had released him from his promise with her offer of a second kiss. Not much of a case, but it was the best he could do. Claiming he had been overwhelmed was true, but not something he would admit.
She appealed to him on a physical level. Not a bad quality in a mistress. Except he’d never thought to truly claim her as his. He’d brought her to the Winter Palace because she had offered herself in exchange for her father. Perhaps he’d brought her to punish her, although he couldn’t name her crime.
He withdrew. Reluctantly.
She scrambled to her feet, nearly kicking him in her haste. She grabbed the pieces of her dress and held them up to her body.
“So you really hate the dress,” she murmured before stepping off the cushions and picking up her cloak. In seconds, she was covered.
“Am I allowed to just go?” she asked, not looking at him. “Or do I have to ask for permission?”
“You may leave.”
She nodded once and was gone.
He rose more slowly and pulled on his trousers. She’d left the dress, which he picked up and squeezed in his hands.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not like this. Yes, she’d been obviously willing during their lovemaking, but that didn’t erase his responsibility. Still, apologizing was not his way. He was a prince.
He told himself she’d enjoyed the experience. That he had pleased her. She’d responded to his touch, had been wet and swollen when he’d entered her, yet he couldn’t push away the thought that he’d taken her against her will.
“That did not happen,” he said aloud. “She was willing in every way.”
Very willing. Too willing?
Had he played into her hands? Was the fear nothing more than an act? Had she hoped this would happen, thinking she could shame him into marriage? Was he her next Nadim? She wanted to marry a prince. Had she planned everything with her father? Was he a fool to worry about her?
Two extreme points of view, he thought grimly. Which was true? Or did the truth lie somewhere in the middle?
He walked into his bedroom. Despite his recent release, thinking about what had just happened made him want her again. He could call her back, insist she submit to him. But he would not.
Victoria was a complication he didn’t need. A distraction. Women, he thought, feeling tired. With Cantara things had been easy, as they were with the other women he saw occasionally. There was no confusion—just an understanding of the expectations. That he was there for the night and nothing more.
What did Victoria expect and did he care? Was she truly sacrificing herself or playing a game? How was he to find the truth?
Victoria spent a restless night and woke feeling tired. She showered in the amazing bathroom, but didn’t feel as at home as she had the night before. The beautiful space seemed to mock her a little, which was insane. Hadn’t she fulfilled her mistress destiny by sleeping with Kateb? Didn’t that make her one of the girls?
Nothing made sense, she thought as she dressed in a short-sleeved T-shirt and long skirt. On the one hand, she couldn’t really regret what she’d done. Kateb had dazzled pretty much every cell in her body and who wouldn’t want that in a lover? She was here for six months—wasn’t enjoying him in bed better than the alternative?
On the other hand, she was a little freaked out by being so incredibly swept away. That had never happened to her before. She’d never felt such desperate need or so out of control. It felt as if she’d given him a part of herself and she couldn’t get it back.
“Deep, deep thoughts,” she murmured, and she only knew one way to restore her equilibrium.
She tucked some El Deharian currency into her pocket, found her sunglasses and tested Kateb’s statement that she could come and go as she pleased, as long as she didn’t head out of the village.
No one stood at the door of the harem when she left. She paused in the long corridor, not sure which way to turn. She picked a direction and started walking. The main part of the castle was basically a square. If she kept on going, eventually she would run into the front foyer.
She saw dozens of people, some in traditional clothing, others in Western suits and dresses. A few smiled at her, most ignored her, but no one asked her what she was doing. After a few minutes, she recognized some of the art on the walls and figured she was heading in the right direction. Five minutes later, she found herself in the massive foyer and from there it was an easy walk to the bazaar.
The open stores and carts reminded her of the markets in the main city. She smiled at vendors, admired a few shawls, then turned a corner and stopped in front of an amazing display of woven gold.
Each piece was exquisite, delicate and gleaming in the sun. There were bracelets and necklaces, earrings in the shapes of flowers and hearts.
“Very pretty,” the woman behind the counter said in English. “You like?”
“It’s all lovely. I’ve never seen a selection this big before. Is it made locally?”
“Yes. Here in the village. You are from the city?”
Victoria nodded. She hadn’t brought enough money to buy anything, which was really too bad. Or maybe not. The temptation to put a sizeable chunk on her credit card would be hard to resist.
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