Traded to the Desert Sheikh(6)

By: Caitlin Crews

It was the perfect oval of her face and that lush, carnal mouth of hers as she’d talked back to Rihad in a manner that could only have been described as challenging. Defiant. Not in the least bit docile, and Kavian found he liked it far too much.

It was the thick, lustrously dark hair she’d plaited to one side and thrown over one of her smooth shoulders, covered only by the faintest thin straps of the pale white tank top she wore that drew attention to her olive skin even as it was perfectly clear that she’d given her appearance little to no thought. It was the crackling energy and bright, gleaming light in her faintly Eurasian eyes, the color of bittersweet chocolates ringed in fancifully dark lashes, that inspired a man to look again, to look closer, to do what he could to never look away.

And it was what she was saying, in that slightly husky voice with an unplaceable accent, neither North American nor European, not quite. She’d used her hands for emphasis, and animated facial expressions besides, instead of the studied, elegant placidity of the women he knew. She’d talked so quickly, so passionately, that he’d been interested despite himself. And when she finished, she’d laughed, and it had been like clear, cool water. Sparkling and bright, washing him clean, and making him thirsty—so very, very thirsty—for more.

“Let me guess,” she’d said, her voice dry and faintly teasing in a way that had shot straight to the hardest part of him—forcing Kavian to remind himself that she hadn’t been speaking to him. That what he’d been watching was a taped video call between this woman and her brother. “The mighty King of Bakri is not a Harry Potter fan.”

She had been a hard blow to his temple, making his head spin. The effect of such an unexpected hit had coursed through his body like some kind of ferocious virus, burning away everything in its path and leaving only one word behind:


But he’d only smiled blandly at Rihad when the video finished.

“I am not at all certain I require a wife at present,” he’d said languidly, and the negotiation had begun.

He’d never imagined it would lead him here, to this inhospitable land of snow and ice, pine trees and heavy fog, so far north he could feel the chill of winter like a dull metal deep in his bones. He admired her defiance. He craved it. It would make her the perfect queen to reign at his side. But he also needed a wife who would obey him.

Men like his own father had handled these competing needs by taking more than one wife—one for each required role. But Kavian would not make his father’s mistakes. He was certain he could find everything he needed in one woman. In this woman.

“Listen to me,” Amaya was saying, her hands still on her hips, her defiant chin high, as if this were another negotiation instead of a foregone conclusion. “If you’d listened to me in the first place, none of this would have happened.”

“I have listened to you.” He had listened to her back in Bakri, or he’d intended to listen to her anyway, and then she’d run. What benefit was there in listening any further? Her actions had spoken for her, clear and unmistakable. “The next time I listen to you, it will be in the old city, where you can run your heart out for miles in all directions and find nothing but the desert and my men. I will listen and listen, if I must. And it will all end the same way. You will be beneath me and all of this will have been a pointless exercise in the inevitable.”


KAVIAN TURNED THEN and started for the door, aware that all the exits were blocked by his men on the off chance she was foolish enough to try to escape him one last time.

He still hoped she would. He truly did. The beast in him yearned for that chase.

“We are leaving, Amaya. One way or the other. If you wish me to force you, I am happy to oblige. I am not from your world. The only rules I follow are the ones I make.”

He yanked open the door and let the sharp weather in, nodding to the guards who waited for him on the other side. Then he looked back at this woman who did not seem to realize that she’d been his all along.

That all she was doing was delaying what had always been coming, as surely as the stars followed the setting sun. As surely as he had assumed the mantle of his enemy to defeat the murderous interloper and reclaim his throne, no matter the personal cost or the dark stain it left behind.

Her hands had dropped from her hips and were balled into fists at her sides, and even in the face of her pointless stubbornness he found her beautiful. Shockingly so. He could still feel that resounding blow to the side of his skull, making the world ring and whirl all around him.