The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(57) by Susan Mallery
Victoria no longer felt the sting on her arm. “That fast?”
“Yes. There are thousands of witnesses. He will be convicted and sentenced.”
She didn’t want to know. “To what?”
“Death by the same poison he gave to Kateb. Fuad will die before sundown.”
Still feeling the effects of the poison, Kateb made his way to the main hall in the palace. His doctor had given him something to sleep so his body could heal, and while Kateb appreciated the effort, he hadn’t wanted to lose the day. There was too much to be done.
He knew the law, knew what would happen to Fuad. This was more pointless than the challenge, he thought grimly. An angry young man put to death. What would that solve? Any chance at reprieve was gone. He knew—he had sent for Victoria the moment he awoke and had been told she could not be found.
She had left, as she had told him she would. And he’d been the fool who let her go.
Zayd and the other elders walked into the hall ahead of him. They would proclaim him leader, then step aside so his first act would be to put Fuad to his death. Not a legacy that pleased Kateb.
Kateb walked to Zayd and knelt before him. The words were spoken and the crown of leadership placed on his head. At that moment he ceased to be what he had been before. He rose to the cheers of his people.
This was his destiny. He knew that—knew he was where he belonged. But nothing about this day was what he had expected. He had let Victoria go because he hadn’t been willing to accept his own weakness. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust her—he didn’t trust himself to survive her loss. He had loved Cantara and always would, but Victoria had touched him in a way no one ever had. She could see into his soul. She knew his flaws, his darkness and still she loved him. He was a better man for knowing her.
He must save Fuad. He saw that now. If he saved the boy, he would be worthy of the woman. But how? There was only one way and who would speak for a stranger who tried to commit murder?
Kateb walked to throne and called for Fuad to be brought to him.
The teenager was led in by guards. He was no longer defiant. Instead he appeared very young and very afraid.
Kateb waited until the room went quiet, then spoke. He read the charges and offered the petition signed by those who had witnessed the crime. Then he read the punishment—death by the same poison, to be administered before sundown.
Fuad bowed his head and sobbed.
“Is there one who will speak for the boy?” Kateb asked, scanning the crowd.
Only one was required. Someone who wasn’t a member of Fuad’s family or Kateb’s. A single person to stand up to the accusers and say the boy was worth saving.
No one could be asked to speak for another. The responsibility lasted a lifetime. Should Fuad commit the same kind of crime ever again, the speaker would bear some of the blame.
Silence filled the large room. Defeat weighed on Kateb. Were he allowed to speak for Fuad, he would. But the law was clear. There had to be—
“I will speak for him,” a voice called.
Kateb leaned forward as Victoria made her way to the front of the room.
She hadn’t left. Relief lightened his heart and made him want to go to her. She was still here and someone had told her how to save Fuad.
She stepped next to Fuad and shooed away the guard. Then she took the boy’s hand in hers and stared into his eyes.
“Tell me the truth,” she said. “Do you want to die?”
He shook his head. “No. I thought…You’re right. Revenge won’t bring my father back. I’m sorry, too.”
“Okay.” She turned to Kateb. “I speak for him.”
“You were the sacrifice,” he said, knowing that he would never be worthy of her but more than willing to spend the rest of his life trying. And later he would talk to the elders about letting Victoria nearly give up her life for his.
“I’ve never been one before. You know how I love getting in the middle of things.”
He did his best not to smile. There were formalities to be worked through. “Do you know Fuad?”
“Do you understand the responsibility of what you do?”
“And people say I talk too much.” She nodded. “Yes. For the rest of his life, what he does reflects on me. If he screws up, he is so going to pay.” She glanced at the boy. “You know that, right?”
“Yes. But I won’t.”
“I’ve heard that before.” She turned back to Kateb. “I have a plan. I called the Bahanian palace and spoke to one of the princes there. Fuad will be given a job in the stable. I’ve heard he’s good with horses. They’ll watch him and take care of him. He’ll get a fresh start. Maybe go to night school. There’s a retired policeman who will give him a place to stay.”
“Why do you do this?” Kateb asked.
She frowned. “Yusra didn’t say that was one of the questions.”
“I am asking. Why would you bother? You said you don’t know Fuad. What is this to you?”
She drew in a breath. “I feel bad for him. He lost his father when he was young and he was basically abandoned. You’re going to work on changing that, right? See what happens when a society doesn’t take care of its children?”
He held in a smile. “Yes. I will do something about it.”
“Good. I don’t think Fuad is bad. I think he’s angry. There’s a difference. I want to give him a chance.”
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online