The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(46) by Susan Mallery
“I sent for you twice.”
She stayed under the water, looking both wary and defiant. “So I heard.”
“I am Prince Kateb of El Deharia. You will come to me when I summon you.”
“You are my mistress.”
“For the next few days, then I’m gone. Or are you going to change the rules again? For all your claims of greatness, your word isn’t worth much.”
Fury erupted inside of him. “You dare to speak to me this way?”
She actually yawned. “I’m sorry. What was the question?”
He wanted to grab her and shake her. He wanted to pull her out of the pool and…and…
Desire swept through him. Blood pooled in his groin. Wanting was stronger than anger, and he resented her power over him.
As he stood well above her and was fully clothed, he should have had the advantage. So why did he feel she was winning?
“I don’t understand,” he said at last. “Why are you angry? I’m offering to help.”
“I don’t remember telling you there was a problem.”
“I want to ensure your future.”
“By finding me a husband?” she asked, obviously outraged.
“Yes, but if you don’t want one, I’ll give you money instead. You’ll be taken care of.” Shouldn’t that make her happy?
“What is the going rate for a month of mistressing?” she asked in a tone that warned him she was not pleased. “It’s more than I would have thought. I’m surprised more women don’t seek the position, as it pays so well.”
He frowned. “Your sarcasm is unnecessary.”
“It feels pretty necessary to me. Now please, go away.”
“You keep saying that, but I will not until this is settled.” He drew in a breath. One of them would have to be rational and as the male, the job fell to him. “Victoria, I know your past and how it has shaped you. My goal is to make sure you never worry about money again. Why is that a bad thing?”
“Why are you so concerned?” she asked, sounding almost reasonable.
“Because you are someone I appreciate. When I first brought you here, I had a different view of you. I was wrong. You should respect that.”
She stood. The water came to her waist, leaving her br**sts bare and wet. His need for her grew.
“You mean I’m not the money-hungry bitch you’d first imagined? You no longer have to worry about punishing me? I’ve become worthy of your attention?”
He sensed the trap but couldn’t see it. “Yes.”
“What a terrific statement about my character. I would think you’d be more worried about my pregnancy. But you don’t seem to be at all.”
Still wary, he said, “It is unlikely. As you said, it was one night.”
“So you might have overreacted,” she snapped. “What a shocker. But we have to be sure, because it’s a royal child. Let’s see. If you’re going to give me money and a husband for a month of being your mistress, what would you offer if I had a child? The moon? The Arabian Sea?” She turned her back on him. “Just leave.”
Kateb stared at her bare shoulders. He genuinely didn’t understand her. “What do you want?” he asked. “How can I make you happy?”
An interesting question, Victoria thought sadly, wondering how he would handle the truth. Would he listen? Would he consider the words? Or would he use them against her, ripping her heart from her body and trampling it into dust?
She climbed out of the bath and grabbed a towel. After wrapping it around her body, she tucked in the end and crossed her arms over her chest.
A defensive move, perhaps, but necessary. It was that or grab something like a shield from the wall. Odds were, Kateb wasn’t going to react well to what she had to say.
Not that fear would stop her. Yusra had been right. In the end, not knowing would be worse than rejection. At least that’s what she would tell herself later.
Unless Kateb surprised her. Unless he had feelings for her, as well. The possibility and hope gave her courage. It would have to be enough.
“I don’t want you to find me a husband,” she said quietly, staring into his dark eyes and wishing being around him didn’t make her heart beat faster. “I don’t want your money. You’re not responsible for me. When I leave, I’ll be on my own. It’s better that way.”
He frowned. “What do you want?”
She sucked in a breath. “You. I want this to be real.” She glanced around the room. “I’m not interested in being your mistress. I want it all, Kateb.”
She could feel herself shaking. She did her best to hide it. “I’ve fallen in love with you. I didn’t mean to. It just happened. You’re not what I expected at all. You’re a good guy. I like being with you. You make me laugh, even when you don’t mean to, and that’s pretty cool. I want us to be together. I want—”
“Stop,” he commanded, darkness invading his eyes. “Do not say any more.”
“No.” He stepped back. “No. This is not allowed. This is not to be. Love between us is impossible.”
Knowing this could happen still hadn’t prepared her for the pain that sliced through her. Her heart fell still. And yet she was able to stand before him.
“I don’t have a choice,” she whispered.
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