The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(29) by Susan Mallery
The men filed out, leaving behind a few big guys she assumed were guards. Yusra had been correct—they could see everything from where they sat.
The men approached a podium she hadn’t noticed before. One of them, walking slowly and leaning on a cane, approached. He raised one hand and the music was still.
“Good people of the desert, we, your elders, come before you.”
He spoke about the importance of wisdom and how the village had been prosperous. Then he mentioned Bahjat, the previous leader, and how fortunate they had been to know him.
Yusra leaned close. “They will nominate Kateb now.”
Victoria turned her head so she could speak into the other woman’s ear. “By the way, he said that outfit you left for me wasn’t exactly traditional.”
“I am surprised.”
“Like I believe that. Did you really expect me to wear that here? I don’t think the old guys want to be looking at my butt.”
Yusra chuckled. “Or perhaps they would like it too much.”
Victoria didn’t want to think about that. “What did you think you were doing, sending me in there dressed like that?”
“I wanted Kateb to know what he was missing.”
Victoria didn’t know what to say to that. Apparently Yusra had figured out Kateb wasn’t spending his nights in the harem. That he was only counting the days until he knew if Victoria was pregnant or not, so he could send her away.
“Are you trying to trick him?” she asked.
“I’m trying to show him that there are many possibilities,” Yusra said. “Do you object?”
“Not exactly,” Victoria admitted. Although if she were really a self-actualized modern woman, she should care a whole lot.
“Here it comes,” Yusra said, pointing out into the arena. “They will nominate him, then call for challengers.”
“What are they?”
“Someone who doesn’t agree with the elders’ decision. He can challenge Kateb to be the leader.”
“What happens then?”
Victoria stared at her. “As in…fight? There isn’t a vote?”
“No. They fight with swords.”
“Do they know it’s a new century? Swords? How do they figure out who wins?”
Yusra looked at her. “Whoever doesn’t die.”
“What?” Victoria stood. “They fight to the death?”
“And Kateb knows this could happen?”
“Of course. It is our way.”
It is a stupid way, Victoria thought, taking her seat again.
She stared out at Kateb. She could see the scar on his face, the regalness of his bearing. She might have made love with him but in truth, she didn’t know the man at all.
A couple of days later, Victoria took a break from working on Rasha’s business plan. She’d been walking through the palace, trying to learn her way. Unfortunately there weren’t any you-are-here maps posted. Something they should really think about.
She’d already explored the main floor, which was mainly public rooms, and had found that most of the second floor was used for business space. The third floor would be the private areas of the palace.
She took the stairs rather than the elevator, mostly because she was worried about her hips and their pressing need to ever expand. Back in the city, she’d come up with a walking plan, designing circuitous routes that added plenty of extra steps to her day. Until she’d figured out where everything was, she couldn’t do that here. Of course there was always the tub in the harem bath. She could start doing laps.
Once she reached the third floor, she paused to get her bearings. The vase across from the stairs was huge and particularly ugly. It would serve as a good reference point when she wanted to find her way down again.
The main building of the palace was basically a square, so it didn’t matter which way she turned. As long as she stayed on the main corridor, she would return to her starting place.
She set off to her right, glancing in open doors. There were plenty of guest rooms, a game room complete with pool table, video games and one of those golf stations where you hit the ball into a fabric wall. At the end of the hallway, she saw double doors leading out onto the balcony.
She opened the doors and stepped outside. It was warm, but not oppressive. There was shade from the awning above and an intricate wrought-iron balcony. The El Deharian palace had much the same feature on the living-quarters level. The balcony wrapped around the entire floor. She decided to see if this one did, too.
She walked past many rooms, pausing when she saw one that appeared familiar. After a second, she realized it was Kateb’s room and pushed open the door.
The space was as she remembered from that single night when she’d been brought to him. She recognized the furniture and the pile of pillows where they’d made love.
There were signs of him everywhere. In a book left open on a table, the shirt tossed carelessly over a chair. She walked through the bedroom, both nervous about trespassing and yet interested in seeing where he slept.
The room was large, as was the bed and the bath off to the side rivaled that in the harem…minus the swimming-pool tub. She stuck her head in the closet, only to stop and stare at the clothes he had hanging there.
His things were neatly together. A few Western-style suits, shirts, the traditional white trousers. Shoes were lined up on a shelf. It wasn’t what he had that caught her attention, but rather what he didn’t. The closet was mostly empty, almost lonely. This was not something a man was supposed to have for himself, she thought. It was something he was supposed to share.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online