The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(24) by Susan Mallery
He stiffened, then seemed to grow taller. He opened his mouth, but before he could speak, she interrupted him.
“Don’t even bother with the whole ‘I’m Prince Kateb’ blah, blah, blah. I’m not the bad guy here. I didn’t do anything wrong. You never asked if I was on birth control. You should have found out before we did it.”
“Return to the harem,” he growled.
“So it’s a prison now? I won’t be allowed out? Are you breaking your word on that, too?” She was shaking, both from fury and fear. He was a powerful man and they were in the middle of the desert. If she disappeared, who would know? Who would bother to come looking for her?
But she couldn’t let the fear win. She’d learned that a long time ago. She had to be strong, to stand up for herself. No one else was going to do it.
“Return to the harem,” he repeated. “You will stay here, in the village, until I know if you are pregnant or not.”
She didn’t like the sound of that. “If I’m not?”
“You will be returned to the city.”
She didn’t bother asking what would happen if she was. She knew enough of El Deharian law to know a royal child would never be allowed to be taken away. That if she wanted any contact with her child, she would be trapped here forever.
There was so much she wanted to say, so much he didn’t understand. But what was the point? He’d made up his mind about her long before he met her. Nothing would change it now.
She turned and left.
Victoria almost wasn’t surprised to find Yusra in the harem.
“Do you know about this?” she asked the other woman. “Did he tell you?”
The older woman’s expression remained calm. “Kateb is concerned.”
“He’s a jackass,” Victoria muttered. “I wish I’d thought to tell him that. He blames me. Did he mention that? It’s all my fault, because I tricked him. Oh, yeah, my whole plan finally worked out.” She sank onto one of the cushioned sofas and covered her face with her hands. “I didn’t do this on purpose. Why can’t he see that?”
Yusra sat next to her. “He will. In time.”
“Want to bet?”
What was worse than all the things he said was how dirty she felt inside. As if she’d done something wrong.
“Kateb isn’t like other men,” Yusra told her.
“He’s just as stupid as they are.”
“That is true,” the other woman said, then smiled when Victoria looked at her. “Men see what they want to see.”
“He thinks I’m only after what I can get. That I’m tricking him.”
“For now. He will calm down and see reason.”
“Want to give me a date when that’s going to happen?”
“Now you’re just saying things to make me feel better.” Victoria dropped her hands to her lap and sagged back against the sofa.
“Come with me,” Yusra said as she stood.
Victoria hesitated. “You’re not taking me to the dungeon, are you?”
“No. There is something you should see.”
Yusra stood, waiting patiently until Victoria stood and followed her. They walked down several hallways before walking into a large room that was totally empty. There were big windows, but no furniture. Before she could ask the point of their visit, she turned and saw a massive tapestry on the wall.
It was perhaps twenty square feet and had to have taken dozens of women several generations to complete it.
Victoria approached it slowly, taking in the detail of the huge family tree. Up close she could see the tiny stitches, the intricate and perfect work.
“This is Kateb,” Yusra said simply. “He can trace his family back over a thousand years. Their blood has been spilled on the sand, their sons and daughters have lived and died here. To be one with the royal family is to have a place in history.”
Victoria had grown up in a small Texas town where she’d hated that everyone knew her past. That everyone knew her father was useless and a gambler and that they were poor. She’d wanted to go somewhere else and start over, without that horrible legacy following her everywhere.
But this was different, she thought, wishing she could touch the tapestry but knowing better. This was living history. This wasn’t about one generation or one king. This was about a dynasty that had survived longer than many governments.
A stab of longing cut through her. Not to be royal but to be a part of something bigger than herself. Something more important.
“If you have his child, your name will be added,” Yusra told her.
“That’s a big if. And if I have his child, I’m trapped here forever.”
“Life is not a trap.”
“Sometimes it feels like it.” Like now.
A baby? She didn’t think it was possible.
She considered Kateb’s words—that she would have trapped Nadim with a pregnancy. Honestly, she couldn’t imagine going on a date with him, let alone sleeping with him. No, Nadim had represented a kind of security she’d never experienced. Nothing more. Not that she would ever convince Kateb of that.
If she was pregnant, everything would change. Did she want that? Her name on the tapestry? A child with Kateb?
The answer came quickly. No. Not like this. Not with him believing she’d tricked him. Not with them angry and accusing each other. That was no way to bring a child into the world.
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