Traded to the Desert Sheikh(4)

By: Caitlin Crews

For her.

She jerked her gaze back to Kavian. “How long have you been following me?”

His dark eyes gleamed.

“Since we located you in Mont-Tremblant, all the way across this great, wide country in Quebec ten days ago.” Kavian was calm, of course. But then, he’d already won. Why wouldn’t he be calm? “You should not have returned there if you truly wished to remain at large.”

“I was only there for three days.” She frowned at him. “Three days in six months.”

He only gazed back at her as if he were made entirely of stone and could do so forever—and would, if it was required. As if he were a monolith and as movable.

“Mont-Tremblant was your favorite of the upscale ski resorts your mother preferred whenever her winter tastes ran to cold weather and ski chalets. I assume that played a part in why you opted to go to university in Montreal, so you could better access it in your free time. I’ve long suspected that if you were likely to return to any of the places your mother dragged you over the years, it would be there.”

“How long have you been studying me?” Amaya managed to scrape out, her heart right there in her throat. She was surprised he couldn’t see it.

And Kavian smiled then, a quirk of his absurdly compelling mouth that made her doubt her own sanity. But there was no doubting the way it wound in her, tightening the knot in her belly, making her feel unsteady on her feet.

She had the strangest notion that he knew it.

“I don’t think you’re ready to hear that,” he told her, and there was something else, then, in those slate-gray eyes. Inhabiting that warrior’s face of his, stone and steel. And he was right, she thought. She didn’t want to hear it. “Not here. Not now.”

“I think I deserve to know exactly how much of an obsessed stalker you are, in fact. So I can prepare myself accordingly.”

He almost laughed. She saw the silver of it in his gaze, in the movement of that mouth of his, though he made no sound.

“What you deserve is to be thrown over my shoulder and bodily removed from this establishment.” She’d never heard him sound anything but supernaturally calm and almost hypnotic in his intensity, and so that rough edge to his voice then shocked her. It made her jolt to attention, her eyes flying wide on his. “Make no mistake. If I’d caught up to you in a less stuffy place than Canada, we wouldn’t be bothering with polite conversation at all. My patience ran out six months ago, Amaya.”

“You threaten me, and then you wonder why I ran?”

“I don’t care why you ran,” he replied, ruthless and swift, and she’d never heard him sound quite like that, either. “You can walk outside and get in that car, or I can put you there. Your choice.”

“I don’t understand this.” She did nothing to hide the bitterness in her voice, the anguish that she’d walked into this trap six months ago thinking her eyes were open, or the fear that she’d never get out of it again. “You could have any other woman in the world as your queen. I’m sure there are millions who lie awake at night dreaming of coronations and crowns. And you could certainly ally your country to my brother’s if that was what you wanted, whether or not your queen was related to him. You don’t need me.”

Again, that smile, dangerous and compelling and world-altering at once. The essence of Kavian, boiled down to that small quirk of his too-hard mouth.

“But I want you,” he said, deep and certain. So very certain, like stone. “So it amounts to the same thing.”

* * *

Kavian thought for a moment she would bolt, despite the obvious futility of another such attempt.

And that wildness that was always a part of him, the desert that lived inside him, untamed and unconquerable and darker than the night, wished that she’d try. Because he was not the kind of man she’d known all her life. He was not pallid and weak, Western and accommodating. He had been forged in steel and loss, had struck down treachery and rebellion alike with his own two bloodstained hands. He had made himself what he most hated because it had been a necessary evil, a burden he’d been prepared to shoulder for the good of his people. Perhaps it had been too easy a transition; perhaps he was the darkness itself—but those were questions for a restless soul, a long, dark night. Kavian had never been a good man, only a determined one.

He would not only chase her to ground; he would enjoy it.

Something of that must have showed on his face because she paled, his runaway princess who had evaded him all this time and in so doing, proved herself the very queen she claimed she didn’t want to become. The very queen he needed.