The servants shrieked in shock when the door of the carav opened wide, spilling bright sun into the carriage. Sabine turned, only to stare directly into the face of the Viper. He stared right back, unrepentant, and clearly, mad as hell.
He didn't say a word. He jumped into the carriage, and with three long strides, he was in front of her, taking the wooden spoon out of her hand. No one moved; no one dared. Sabine was willing to bet the prince had never set foot in the kitchen. The reason why he was in here now was obvious to anyone with half a brain.
Sabine's knees actually shook. She'd never seen him so determined, so out of control, and it frightened her. Not because she was afraid of him, but because she was sure he was damaging his reputation by caring too much about her well-being.
A muscle ticked in his jaw and his eyes narrowed. She wanted to look away, but those amber eyes held her captive, accusing her of defying him. And she had, she couldn't deny it. She'd deliberately fled to the kitchen, looking for work in order to keep herself from his arms.
Now, it looked as if she was going to pay the price for that folly.
The Viper bent low and grabbed her around the waist. Sabine cried out, obviously shocked that he'd throw her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. She smacked him a few times while the audible gasps of the servants reached her ears.
"Put me down. Put me down right now!"
"Ladies," he said ominously, turning to take his leave.
No. This wasn't happening. This wasn't bloody happening!
He jumped out the carav, hitting the sand with a cat-like grace. Striding with confidence, he made his way to his carriage, easily walking faster than the beasts pulling their burden.
"Viper, please, put me down."
He wasn't listening.
Or he didn't care.
A few folks walking alongside the caravs watched their prince with curiosity. She had no choice but to hold on and wait until he came to his senses.
By the time he'd reached his private carav, her temper had worked up steam. Jumping on the steps, he opened the door and easily waltzed right in. It was dark, but the sun streaming through slats in the wall gave the room a soft glow. She had to blink a few times before she was used to the low light.
With a heave, he pushed her off his shoulder and she thumped to the floor, finding herself lying at his feet, surrounded with colorful pillows. His chest rose and fell with his exertion, but his eyes never left her, shooting sparks.
"Don't say a word."
She sat there, struck by his stormy demeanor before she found her courage. "No." Planting her feet, she stood and glared at him. "How dare you make a fool out of me?"
"How dare I?" He put his hand on his chest. "You did not obey me."
"That doesn't give you the right to toss me over your shoulder!"
"Does it not?" He shook his head and scoffed. That's when he advanced.
Having all that man coming right for her made Sabine take a few tentative steps back.
"I am the prince of this caravan. Everything and everyone are under my command. It must be this way, for the protection of my people."
"And I don't dispute that. But do you know what you just did?"
"Of course I know. I searched high and low for you. When you didn't come at first light, I thought perhaps you were getting ready. When you didn't come at breakfast, I thought maybe you wanted to make sure you've eaten. It wasn't until later I realized you had no intention of coming to me."
She bumped into his pedestal throne and fell onto her butt. But he kept on coming. Planting his hands on either side of her hips, he leaned in close. She had nowhere to go. The far wall of his carav was on the other side.
"You...you just confirmed in everyone's mind exactly what they suspect! I can't believe you carried me out of the kitchen like a...a caveman. The whole caravan will know by sundown."
He shook his head. "Likely the whole caravan knows already. Jalil is very talented in conveying her thoughts to others."
"Great. Just friggin' great! Why don't we open your door and invite them all in here to watch?"
His mouth twitched into the slightest grin before he hid it, replaced by a scowl. "You have told me, on more than one occasion, you belong to me. You have also told me I am your prince, just as much as I am the prince of my people."
She closed her eyes and groaned. She knew where his argument was going.
"Am I not to conclude that you willingly defied a direct order?"
Her eyes snapped open. He cocked a brow and gave her a predatory grin.
"I am not a slave." Her voice was barely above a whisper.
"No, you are not," he agreed, giving her that much. "But when a servant is being punished for a crime, they are expected to jump when their prince says jump. You, my flower, did not jump."
Her mouth went dry when he eased onto his knees before her.
"Perhaps I must change your punishment. Perhaps you do not yet understand you must bow to my will."