The Sheikh's Virgin(Desert Rogues, Book 13)(58) by Susan Mallery
“Is that the only reason?”
“No. I knew you didn’t want him to die. I’m doing this for you.”
Around them, people started whispering. He ignored them, ignored everything but the woman before him. The woman he loved.
He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t seen it before. Maybe all the steps were required before he could get to this point. Like Fuad, he’d been given a second chance.
“If I grant Fuad his life,” he said. “What will you give me in return?”
Victoria put her hands on her hips. “Excuse me? Haven’t I done enough today? I put my life on the line for you, mister. I was willing to die for you. I think the real question is what are you going to do for me?”
“We will deal with Fuad first,” he said, and looked at the teenager. “Do you accept Victoria’s arrangements?”
Fuad nodded. “Yes. I yield to her wisdom, even though she is a woman.”
Victoria rolled her eyes.
“You will go to Bahania in the morning,” Kateb told him. “I will come see you in a month and we will talk about how you are doing. You are given a second chance, Fuad. Use it well.”
The guards led him away.
“Now that we’re done with that,” Victoria said. “You didn’t answer my question.”
He smiled. “I am the leader of the desert people and you are a mere woman. It is up to you to give to me.”
“If you think I won’t embarrass you in front of this crowd, you are seriously wrong.” But she wasn’t angry. He could see the humor brightening her eyes. Humor and something else that gave him hope….
“This is what I want,” he said, ignoring her threat. “I want all the days you have left. I want your heart, your soul, your body, as my own. I want your children, your future, your wisdom, your laughter. I want all of you, Victoria McCallan.”
She drew in a breath. “That’s a lot,” she whispered. “Why should I agree?”
“You will make me say it in public?”
“If you can’t say it in front of your people, what does it matter?”
He rose and walked toward her. He cupped her face in his hands and stared into her eyes. “I love you. I have loved you from the first moment I saw you, but I fought it. I told myself you were not worthy. Then I told myself you were not to be trusted. Then I told myself you were trying to trick me.”
“You need to stop talking to yourself so much,” she said with a smile.
“Apparently.” He brushed his hand along her cheek. “I offer you all that I have, all that I am. I will love you with my last breath. You outshine the sun. You are my world. Stay with me, marry me. Love me.”
She put her hands on his chest. “Okay.”
“That’s it? Usually you have more to say.”
“You love me?”
“I’ve said it like forty times.”
“I want to hear it again.”
“You are so demanding.” She laughed. “I love you, Kateb.”
Everyone began to cheer.
“You’ll marry me?” he asked over the noise.
“Good.” He bent down and kissed her. “You know this means you’re going to be a princess. You’ll be able to buy all the shoes you want.”
“That’s a lot of shoes,” she said with a laugh.
He smiled. “It’s a big palace.”
Victoria lay on the pillows in front of the Christmas tree. To her right, a fire burned brightly, which would have been a little warm, but the ceiling fan helped stir the air. Kateb stretched out next to her, his arm around her.
“Did you have a good day?” she asked.
“It was a Christmas like no other.”
“I probably went a little overboard,” she admitted, thinking that bringing in forty trees for the palace could be considered excessive, but she’d never had an unlimited budget before.
“Everything was beautiful. The twinkle lights were a big hit. Last night was especially popular.”
She rolled toward him and propped her chin on his chest. “I thought the kids would like being read ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ My mom used to read it to me when I was young.”
Her handsome husband smiled at her. “I’m sorry I didn’t have the chance to meet her.”
“Me, too. She would have been impressed.”
“Are you impressed?”
She laughed. “Most days.”
She stood and stretched, then walked to the large tree. In the back, tucked between two big branches, was one last present. She grabbed the small box and carried it back to Kateb.
“For you,” she said, sitting cross-legged in front of him.
He sat up and frowned. “I have nothing more for you.”
“You gave me plenty. Five pairs of shoes, diamonds, clothes shopping in Paris…The only thing missing really was a pony.”
“Did you want a pony?”
“No. I want to give you this.”
“But I am content with all I have, my love. You were most generous.”
“You’ll want this. Trust me.”
She handed him the box. Before he opened it, he leaned in and kissed her, then pulled off the ribbon.
She hadn’t been sure until just a few days ago. The timing had made her crazy and she’d needed Yusra’s help to get the present. It wasn’t like she could just go buy it in the marketplace. Not if she wanted to keep it a secret.
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