“I am well aware of this, Emily.”
“Our agreement was no touching in private.”
Anger flared inside him. “And yet there is the danger you will call me something other than Kadir, or that you will flinch when I dare to caress your cheek. If you do this in Kyr, we will fail.”
“I won’t, Your—Kadir.” He didn’t miss the way she ground her jaw at her near miss. Determination shone from her pretty eyes as she lifted her chin and met his gaze almost defiantly. “You can count on me. Like always.”
He stood and ranged toward her, watched the glide of her throat as she swallowed. But she didn’t move again, didn’t try to escape, and he felt a hot burst of admiration for her. There was his fearless PA. That was the woman he could count on, with his very life if necessary.
She tilted her head back to meet his gaze when he stopped in front of her. Close enough to feel her heat, to smell her perfume. Closer than he would have done had she still been merely his PA.
She did not flinch as he let his gaze wander over her face, did not speak as she waited. Finally, he met her eyes again. His voice, when he spoke, was soft and contemplative.
“I hope so, habibti. For both our sakes.”
“ARE YOU READY for this?”
Emily swung her head toward Kadir. They were in the back of a limousine that had taken them from the airport in Milan to the fashion district in the city’s center. She was still reeling over the short plane ride when, for the first time ever, she’d been the object of countless bows and Your Highnesses. It was a far cry from how she usually traveled with Kadir. Then, she would sit in her own section of the plane and work on whatever needed working on. Sometimes, if he needed her for something, she joined him.
This time, she’d sat down right next to him and been served by the same people she used to joke with on their usual flights. Everyone had looked at her as though she’d forgotten to put on clothes or something. It had been far more uncomfortable than she’d expected it to be and she was still processing it.
“I doubt it,” she said. She’d argued at first, when Kadir had told her they were stopping over in Milan in order to buy her a wardrobe, but she’d lost. Spectacularly.
She could still see his handsome face creased in a frown as he’d told her that her clothing was simply not suitable for a princess. Her shoes, he’d informed her, were the ugliest things he’d ever seen.
She’d been angry more than anything, but also a little embarrassed. So she’d informed him that walking around behind him on job sites and in the various offices he traveled to was not conducive to wearing six-inch heels.
“Yes, but my wife will wear them,” he’d told her imperiously.
And now they were here, in Milan, for a shopping trip that she dreaded. It wasn’t that she didn’t like pretty clothes. She did. But she’d put away that side of herself a long time ago. And she’d never been tempted to bring it out again. She’d seen the damage that kind of life did.
She’d been a magpie like her mother, seeking beautiful things, beautiful experiences. She’d never realized how selfish she’d become until her father got sick and she’d wanted to run away, too. It had horrified her so much that she’d vowed to change her ways.
Her mother had run away, but Emily had not. She would not. She’d put away the glitz and glam and gotten serious. And now here she was, working for Kadir and dressing like a professional. She was happier. Calmer. Settled.
Kadir was frowning at her. “It’s important that you look the part, Emily.”
It wasn’t the first time he’d told her this. “I know.”
“I need you to be more like Lenore.”
A hot wave of anger flooded her. She would never look like Lenore Bradford in a million years. “Perhaps you should have asked Lenore then,” she snapped.
His eyes widened only marginally. And then they narrowed again while her heart beat hotly. Well, dammit, she was tired of hearing about Lenore and how gorgeous she was and how Emily needed to be more like her.
“I did not ask Lenore.” His voice was icy. “I asked you. And you agreed, I might add. So stop pouting and start doing your part.”
“I’m not pouting, Kadir.” At least it was getting easier to say his name, probably because she was so furious with him half the time. “I know what you want and I’ll do my best to make it happen. Though I still don’t understand why you don’t just tell your father you don’t want to be king. Surely he would understand that. It’s not like you’re his only choice.”