He had a sudden urge to reach over and pull the elastic from her hair, to see it fall down over her shoulders in a silky cloud of rich chocolate. He blinked and stiffened. Really, that was not in the least bit like him. He liked a certain type of woman, and Emily Bryant was not it. She wasn’t beautiful. She didn’t have blade-thin cheekbones or the kind of face a camera loved. She was ordinary.

And yet his blood hummed at her nearness. He told himself it was everything to do with his plan and nothing to do with her. Once this was done, his father would choose the correct son for the throne. That was certainly enough to make his blood buzz with excitement.


He should feel guilty for dragging Emily into this, knowing what it would be like for her in Kyr, but he was desperate. And he would compensate her handsomely for the trouble.

Kadir reached for the documents and slid them toward her. “It is all fairly straightforward. Here is the paper you required, which spells out the task you are performing and your payment.” He lifted a paper. “And here is the prenuptial agreement. It states that you will get nothing of my estate or business beyond what we’ve agreed to in the contract.”

She took them both and read them over. They were both very plain documents, as he had only had them drawn up because she’d insisted, and did not consist of pages and pages of legalese.

She picked up the pen lying near her right hand and quickly signed first one and then the other. Kadir did the same and one of the lawyers took the documents and slid them into a briefcase. The other lawyer handed the next set of documents to Kadir and he set them on the table between him and Emily.

“This is the marriage contract. We have only to sign it, and we are legally wed under the laws of Kyr.”

She let out a small sigh and he slanted a look her way. She was chewing the end of the pen and she slipped it out of her mouth almost guiltily.

“It seems so sterile,” she said. “Almost unreal.”

“I assure you it is very real. The moment we both sign and Daoud here affixes the seal, we are married.”

“It’s not very romantic, is it?”

He frowned at her. “I was not aware you wanted romantic.”

Her head snapped up, her green gaze colliding with his. “Oh, no, of course not. That’s not what I mean. I just think of the couples who get married this way and how disappointing it must be.”

“Most of them hold a ceremony after, if they are doing it for romantic reasons. When you are raised this way, it is not a disappointment. You’re thinking of American girls and their white weddings, with all the flowers and pomp.” He frowned. “Which seem to go disastrously wrong fairly often, if the television is to be believed.”

Her lips fell open as she stared at him, and he found himself wanting to slide his fingers across them, to see if they were as soft as they looked. But then she laughed. And she kept laughing, until a tear slid from one eye and she clutched her stomach.

Kadir couldn’t help but laugh with her, though he wasn’t quite sure why. She wasn’t taking this seriously, and he should be stern with her.

But he couldn’t be. He liked the sound of her laugh. He didn’t know that he’d ever heard it before. It was light and soft and yet so very, very infectious at the same time. Even the lawyers were laughing, though not as much. And none of them, save Emily, knew what they were laughing at.

“Emily,” he finally said, trying to be stern. She looked at him and then dissolved into another fit of giggles. Her mascara was ruined, but he didn’t think she’d like him to point that out.

Instead, he jerked his chin at the man nearest the box of tissues. A second later, he thrust the box at Emily. She took several.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, gulping between giggles. “Really. I’ll be fine in a minute. Honestly.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what is so funny. Do you care to share it with us?”

She sucked in several deep breaths and wiped her eyes with the tissues. Finally, she seemed to have it under control. “I’m so sorry. But, well, it’s you.” She clutched her arm around her belly, as if willing herself not to laugh again. But the corners of her mouth lifted in a smile she couldn’t quite control. A smile that quavered at the corners.

Kadir thought that he ought to be insulted, but he was having a hard time figuring out precisely why. Not to mention seeing her this way—lit up from the inside instead of calm and controlled and professional—was somehow addictive in a way he hadn’t expected.

“And what have I done to amuse you so much, habibti?”

She sucked in another breath, let out a giggle, swallowed hard. “You. Bridezillas.” She waved the tissue back and forth, as if fanning herself. It was a very inadequate fan. “I never knew that a prince such as you would—” She took a deep breath, let it out again. Closed her eyes. He could tell she was biting her lip. When she spoke again, her voice shook. With laughter, he realized. “Watch a show about insane brides wreaking havoc on their grooms and everyone connected with their wedding. It’s just so, so...”

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