Bound to the Warrior King

By: Maisey Yates
CHAPTER ONE

SHE WAS FRAIL. And pale. Her blond hair pulled back into a tight and elegant bun, the long sleeves of her dress and the hem that brushed the floor were likely an attempt at sparing her European skin from the full brunt of the Taharan sun.

It would not do. A few moments out in the environment he’d spent his past decade in and she would perish.

Nothing more than a white lily drying on the sand until she returned back to the dust, sent away on the next dry, hot breeze.

Whatever advisor had imagined she would make a suitable wife for the Sheikh of Tahar was clearly yet another man he needed to have removed from his position.

When it came to his staff, Tarek’s needs were not Malik’s. As was becoming clearer and clearer every day.

A political alliance. That was what this potential marriage had been called. As Tarek knew nothing of politics he’d been more than willing to investigate the possibilities of the union   .

But no. Seeing her now... It would not stand.

“Take her away from my sight,” Tarek said.

She looked up, her expression smooth yet shot through with steel. “No.”

He arched a brow. “No?”

“I cannot leave here.”

“Certainly you can. The same way you came in.” It was he who could not leave. He who could not go back and seek the solace of the desert.

He, who had been kept in isolation for most of his life, who now had to find a way to rule a population of millions.

She tilted her chin upward and he could see her regal bearing, the aristocratic lines of her profile. And he realized he had not bothered to hold on to her name.

He was certain he had been told when, two weeks previously, he’d been informed a princess from a European kingdom would be coming to offer herself in marriage. And yet, his brain had sifted through and retained some things, but not others.

Her name was not essential, and therefore it had been dropped.

“You do not understand, my sheikh,” she continued, her voice steady, echoing in the vast throne room.

He rather liked this room. It was very like a cave.

“Do I not?” he asked, still unaccustomed to the title.

“No. I cannot return to Alansund without this union   secured. In fact, it would be best if I did not return at all.”

“And why is that?”

“There is no place for me. I am not born of royalty. I am not even native to the country.”

“Are you not?”

“I’m American,” she said. “I met my husband...my late husband, the king, when he was at school. Now he is dead. His brother is in his place, and is set on taking a wife. One who isn’t me, thank God. But he has determined my value is in a dynastic marriage abroad. And so...here I am.”

“Your name,” he said, because he was tired of not knowing it.

She blinked. “You do not know my name?”

“I have no time for trivialities, and as I am not keeping you, your name did not seem important. However, now I will have it.”

She tilted her chin upward, her expression haughty. “Forgive me, your highness, but my name is not considered a triviality in most settings. I’m Dowager Queen Olivia of Alansund. And I had thought we were going to discuss the merits of marriage.”

Tarek shifted in his seat, lifting his hand and smoothing his beard. “I am not entirely certain there is any merit to marriage.”

She blinked her large luminous blue eyes. “Then, why am I here?”

“My advisors felt that it would be beneficial for me to speak to you. I am not certain.”

“Is there another woman you prefer?”

He wasn’t certain how to answer the question. Because it was a foreign thought. Women had never been a part of his life. Of his exile. “No. Why do you ask?”

“You do require an heir, I would assume.”

She was not wrong in that. He was the last of the al-Khalij family. All that remained of a once-mighty bloodline. Curse his brother for not taking a bride. For not procreating when he had the chance. Now it would fall to Tarek, and nothing in his life had prepared him for the task. Quite the contrary, he had been told that family would be nothing more than a weakness to one such as him. He had been trained to cast off the lusts of the flesh. In order to protect his country he’d had to become something more than a man. He’d had to become a part of the rock that grew out of the dry, impassable desert. Asking him to become blood and bone again was a tall order.

But now he was all that stood between Tahar and her enemies. All that stood between his nation and ruin. He had long been the sword for his people, but now he was the head. A duty he could no more shirk than the previous assignation.

“Eventually.”

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