“Prison,” she said.
Anger fired through him, stark and hot. Was she a fool? He was offering her a chance to fix some of this, a chance at freedom. And she was opting for jail.
She was not allowing him to make this right. And he found he didn’t like it.
“So be it,” he growled, throwing the knife to the side and stalking to the bed, throwing her over his shoulder in one fluid moment.
She shrieked. Then twisted, hissed and spit like a cat. He locked his arms over hers, and her legs, but she still did her best to kick his chest.
“I think, perhaps, habibti, a night in the dungeon will cool your temper.”
He stalked to the far wall of his room and moved a painting, then keyed in a code. The bookshelf swung open. “We’ve modernized a bit here in Khadra, as you can see,” he bit out, walking through the open doorway and into a narrow passageway. “Though these tunnels are quite new.”
“Get your hands off of me!”
“And give you a chance to cut my throat? I highly doubt it. You were given another option and you chose not to take it. No one will hear you scream, by the way. But even if they did…I am the sheikh. And you are an intruder.”
He knew every passage that ran through the palace. Knew every secret. A boy up to no good would have to know them, of course, and a sheikh with a well-earned bit of paranoia would, naturally, ensure the passages were always kept up. That he knew the layout of the castle better than anyone, so that the upper hand would always be his in the event of an attack.
He had lived through one, and he was the only member of his family who had. He felt he had earned his feelings on the matter.
In any case, he was well versed on where every dark, nondescript tunnel in the palace led. And he knew how to get down to the dungeon. It wasn’t used. Hadn’t been in ages, generations. But he would be using it tonight.
Because if he left her free, she would no doubt kill him in his sleep. And that he could not have. Either she formed an alliance with him, or he put her under lock and key. It was very simple. Black-and-white, as the world, when all was in working order, should be.
“I will kill you the moment I get the chance!” she spat, kicking against his chest.
“I know,” he said. “I am confident in that fact.”
He shifted his hold on her, his hand skimming the rounded curve of her bottom as he tried to get a better grip on her. The contact shot through him like lightning. This was the closest he’d been to a woman in…much too long. He wouldn’t count how long.
You know just how long. And if you marry her…
He shut off the thought. He was not a slave to his body. He was not a slave to desire. He was a slave to nothing. He was ice. All the way down.
He took them both down a flight of stone steps that led beneath the palace, and down into the dungeon. Unused and medieval, but still in working order.
“Let me go.”
“You just threatened to kill me. I strongly doubt I’m letting you go anytime soon.”
He grabbed a key ring from the hooks on the back wall, then kicked the wrought iron door to the nearest cell open. Then he reached down and picked up a leg iron and clamped it around her ankle.
She swore, a violent, loud string of profanity that echoed off the walls.
He ignored her, slung her down onto the bench and moved quickly away from her range of movement before shutting the door behind him.
“You bastard!” she said.
He wrapped his fingers around the bars, his knuckles aching from the tight grip. “No, I am pure royal blood, Sheikha, and you of all people should know it.”
“Is the leg shackle necessary?”
“I didn’t especially want to find myself overpowered and put in the cell myself.”
She closed her mouth, a dark brow raised, her lips pursed. A haughty, mutinous expression that did indeed remind him of Samarah the child.
“You do not deny you would have.” He walked to the side of the cell so that he could stand nearer to her. “Do you?”
“Of course not,” she said.
“Come to the bars and I will undo the leg shackle. It is unnecessary now that you’re secured.”
“Do you think so?” she asked.
He stared at her, at those glittering eyes, black as midnight in the dim lighting of the dungeon. “Perhaps I do not now. You truly need to work on your self-preservation. I would have made you more comfortable.”
Her lip curled, baring her white teeth, a little growl rumbling in her chest. “I will never be comfortable in your prison.”
“Suit yourself. Prison is in your future, but you may choose the cell. A room in the palace, a position as sheikha, or you may rot in here. It is no concern of mine. But you will decide by sunset tomorrow.”