The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(55) by Susan Mallery
“Prepare to die, old man,” Fuad said with a sneer. “Today I will spill your blood and avenge my father.”
Old man? Kateb supposed that thirty did seem old to the boy. “Your father kidnapped me and was prepared to kill me. His death was my right.”
“I am his son. Your death is my right.”
Victoria would not approve of this circle of violence. She would say that it was stupid and a waste of resources and that if he was really good at his job, he would find a way around it.
“You’re not going to listen to reason, are you?” Kateb asked.
Fuad turned his back and walked away.
“I don’t want to kill you,” Kateb called after him. “Ask for mercy and I will grant it.”
Fuad spun and raised his sword. “It is not yours to give, old man. I will kill you slowly. You will watch your lifeblood spill on the dirt and have time to know why you die.”
Victoria couldn’t hear what they were saying, but she didn’t like Fuad’s body language. He wanted Kateb to suffer. That much was clear. Fuad rushed at the prince, his sword raised. She winced and tried to look away, but couldn’t. The sound of metal on metal echoed in the afternoon. Kateb deflected the blow and turned.
Over the next few minutes, she managed to relax. Fuad fought with anger and it made him clumsy. Kateb was the more rational opponent. He moved with a grace that was almost a dance. She quickly realized his goal was to tire Fuad, rather than hurt him.
“He can grant Fuad his life, can’t he?” she asked Yusra.
“If the boy begs for mercy.” She sounded doubtful. “Fuad is determined.”
“He’s not hurt yet. Kateb will wound him. I’m sure of it. He doesn’t want Fuad dead.”
“How can you know that?”
“I just know.”
The fight continued. While Victoria didn’t enjoy watching Kateb being attacked by a broadsword, she knew that he was by far the better fighter. Fuad didn’t have a chance. She was even able to appreciate the sleeveless karate-type shirt he wore that left his impressive arms bare. Later, she would have to ask him to model it for her. Then she would take it off and…
No. That wasn’t going to happen. She was leaving after the challenge. She couldn’t stay. While his proposal had been tempting, she wouldn’t trap herself in a half life where she almost had her heart’s desire. In the short term, it would be fine, but eventually her heart would wither and die. There were—
Fuad dropped his broadsword. The crowd was instantly on its feet. Yusra crowed with delight, but Victoria knew something was terribly wrong. She felt it in her gut and cried out to Kateb to be careful.
Not that he could hear her over the thousands of screaming voices.
Being honorable, he lowered his sword to give Fuad time to retrieve his weapon. The teen bent down but instead of picking up the broadsword, he pulled a knife from his boot and stabbed it into Kateb’s leg.
“Is that allowed?” she screamed.
“No, but not to worry. It’s a small cut. Of no consequence. It will barely bleed.”
“That’s not the point,” Victoria told her, not sure how she knew, but so very sure. A voice in her head screamed this is bad. Fuad had planned the moment. “It’s not the cut, it’s what’s on the blade.”
Even as she lunged for the half door that would open onto the field, Kateb dropped his sword and fell to his knees. Fuad grabbed his sword and lifted it above his head, obviously prepared to end his opponent’s life.
“No!” she yelled as she ran. “No! You can’t. You can’t. I am the sacrifice.”
Fuad stared at her. He was wild-eyed, his face pale. “Go away, woman. You have no place here.”
Victoria heard other people running behind her. She nearly tripped on her stupid heels, but caught herself and raced up to thrust herself between Fuad and Kateb.
“I’m the sacrifice,” she yelled in his face. “Me. You have to kill me. It’s the law.” She turned and saw several men bent over Kateb. “It’s poison,” she told them, frantic that he be saved in time. “I believe there’s something on the knife blade.”
Zayd hurried toward them, breathing heavily. He bent down and grabbed the knife, then sniffed the blade. Then he looked at Fuad.
“False revenge is meaningless, boy.”
“Dead is dead,” Fuad said angrily.
Victoria slapped him across the face. “What is wrong with you?” she demanded. “Your father’s shame continues in you.”
Fuad looked stunned and pointed the sword at her chest. “You want to die in his place, I will kill you.”
“Fine,” she yelled at him. “Do it, if you can. Kill me. Run me through. And then what? Your father is still dead. Killed by a boy he kidnapped. A boy much younger than you, Fuad. Did you ever think about that? Kateb was just a kid. Do you think he wanted to hurt your father? He didn’t have a choice—you do. At least you had the chance of a fair fight. That’s more than your father gave Kateb. It’s more than you gave him, too.”
“Shut up,” Fuad told her. “Stop talking at once.”
“So you can kill me? Big Fuad kills a girl. That will make you proud.”
There was activity going on behind her, but she didn’t dare look. She could only hope they could save Kateb.
Fuad jabbed her arm with the sword. The point broke the skin and forced her back a few feet. Blood trickled down her arm and the wound hurt way more than she would have thought.
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