The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(56) by Susan Mallery
“You want to fight me,” he jeered. “Fight me, sacrifice. If you are so eager to die, you will see death this day.”
The fear was as real as the hatred burning in his eyes. Victoria didn’t want to do this. She didn’t want this to be her last day, her last breath. But there wasn’t any choice.
“Pick up the sword,” Fuad told her.
“You’ve got to be kidding. Do you know how much that weighs? I’m not picking it up. And even if I did, we both know I haven’t got a clue what to do with it.”
She sucked in a breath. “Okay, Fuad. Just do it. I’m going to stand here. I don’t know what works best. Through the heart, I guess. But don’t screw up. I’m not big on suffering. I’m a screamer and that’s not how I want to go. So get it right the first time.”
He blinked at her. “I will not kill an unarmed woman.”
“Why not? You poisoned Kateb. What’s the difference?”
He lowered his sword. “Why are you doing this? This is man’s work.”
“Dying? It think death is a universal experience. Everyone dies.”
He glared at her. “Why are you doing this?” he asked again. “Why are you the sacrifice?”
“Because I love him too much to watch him die. He’s my world. He’s the only man I’ve ever loved.” She fought to hold back tears. “Do you like torturing me? Is this fun for you?”
“I can’t kill a woman.”
“Why not? You were happy to do it a second ago.” She stepped toward him. “I’m sorry about your dad. I lost my mom and it was really hard. My dad is a total loser. He gambles and he was never there when I was growing up. But my mom loved him and I never understood why—until now. Kateb isn’t perfect, but he’s a good man. He tries to do what’s right. He’ll lead the people into greatness. I believe that. But I’m still sorry about your dad.”
Fuad started to shake. The sword slipped from his hands and fell to the dirt.
“No one has ever said that,” he whispered, and began to cry. Victoria went to him and put her arms around him.
His sobs cut through her. For all his height and strength, he was still that small boy who had lost his father so many years ago.
“How do we end this?” she asked, still hugging him tight.
He raised his tear-streaked face and looked into her eyes. “Mercy,” he whispered.
The guard led Fuad away. Victoria ran back to the elders’ chambers and found Kateb lying on a makeshift bed. He was pale, but breathing.
“What happened?” she demanded, pushing her way to him. She dropped on her knees next to a man with a stethoscope around his neck. “Is he all right?”
“He will recover,” the doctor told her. “The poison is ancient and powerful, but easily reversed. In a few hours, Kateb will be back to normal.”
“Thank God,” she breathed, bent down and kissed him.
He opened his eyes.
“You make me insane,” she said, not caring about the people around him. “I swear, I’d kill you myself if I thought it would make a difference. You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
He smiled weakly. “You would kill me to teach me a lesson?”
“You know what I mean. Don’t do that again.”
“I will not.” His gaze narrowed. “Why is there blood on your arm?”
He frowned. “I don’t remember everything that happened, but I heard something about a sacrifice. Was that you?” He managed to sit up and look fairly intimidating, despite his weakened condition. “Is that true?” he demanded. “Were you the sacrifice?”
“Technically,” she began.
He cut her off with a roar. “Who allowed this? Who accepted a woman as a sacrifice?”
“Hey,” she said, poking him in the chest. “There’s nothing that says a woman can’t be the sacrifice. I looked it up.”
“You don’t read the ancient language.”
“I had help. So what? You’re not dead, I’m not dead. Fuad wants mercy. It’s a good day.”
“He needs to rest,” the doctor said. “He must sleep for a few hours.”
Victoria found herself being pulled away. She wanted to go with Kateb, but suddenly wasn’t sure of her place. She’d told him she was leaving after the ceremony. He was fine, so shouldn’t she go?
But leaving didn’t seem so easy, all of a sudden. Life without Kateb was impossible to imagine. She wanted more. She wanted a miracle.
Yusra led her into a side room. “That stupid boy,” she murmured as she closed the door, then collected a bowl of water and began washing Victoria’s still-stinging wound.
“What? He’s fine. Mercy’s allowed. You told me that.”
“He tried to poison Kateb. Mercy only helps with the challenge. Attempted murder is a serious crime.”
Victoria’s stomach clenched. “Are you kidding? I know what he did was wrong, but there are reasons. His father dying. He was abandoned for years. It’s surprising he managed to survive this long. So he’s going to punished for all that?”
“The law requires it. Wouldn’t your law insist he be punished?”
“Yes, but it’s not completely his fault.” So much for this being a good day. “What happens to him now?”
“There is a hearing. Today. Before sundown.”
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