And now he was chasing her down the street, angry with himself, and wondering how in the hell such a simple idea had gotten so complicated. She was supposed to be his wife, the woman he couldn’t live without, the woman he would not give up for a throne. It was supposed to be simple.
But it wasn’t.
He thought he might have lost her, but then he saw her as the crowd parted in front of him. She was walking now, her body hunched over as she hugged herself. Her ponytail bounced as she hurried along. She was moving fast, but he was faster. He closed the distance between them until he was right behind her.
She kept walking—and then she seemed to stiffen, as if she sensed a change in the air, before she halted abruptly. He took a step back as she swung around to face him. Her brows were drawn down in a furious expression. Her mascara had run again, and tears streaked her cheeks.
Something twisted inside him.
“Forgive me,” he said simply. It was odd to be apologizing, and yet here he was, doing just that. It wasn’t something he did often and the words were rusty.
She drew in a deep breath and straightened even more. Then she moved into his space. Poked him in the chest. It was not what he expected and he stepped back in surprise.
She closed the distance, poked him again. “Listen to me, you Neanderthal, and listen good. I do not want you. I have never wanted you. You’re a handsome man, and you damn well know it. And you’re used to being irresistible to women. Well, not to me.” She sucked in a breath, her voice quavering as she continued. “I will not be talked to like I’m some kind of whore you pay to grace your bed. I’m your business partner, you hear me? Nothing more, nothing less. You might frighten a CEO into doing things your way, but you would never cross a personal line to do it.”
He felt as if she’d slapped him across the face. Several times. Which, no doubt, he deserved.
“No, I would not. You are correct.”
Her face scrunched up even more. She was, for some reason, attractive as hell when she was angry. He’d never seen Miss Emily Bryant in a fit of temper before. Well, not before today. And not like this.
He was oddly stimulated by her anger. He could feel the air crackle between them and he wondered how it had never happened before. How he’d never felt that subtle shift of electricity, that hum and buzz of ozone. Had she really kept all this under wraps for four years? Or had he never paid attention before?
“I want the money, Kadir. Nothing more. I agreed because of that. Not because of you.”
It was always the money, with any woman in his life. That was a language he understood. Still, he felt a prick of anger in his gut. “The money. Of course.”
She stood there, trembling—and then her hands dropped to her sides and her expression, while still angry, softened into something a notch below cyclone level.
“You really are too full of yourself,” she said. “Not every woman wants a ride on your magic mattress.”
He felt his eyebrows climb his forehead. “Magic mattress?”
She shrugged. A soft flush stained her cheeks. “Whatever you call your love nest, Kadir. Not every woman on this planet wants a turn. It would be healthier for you if you’d stop thinking so.”
He suddenly wanted to laugh. And tug her into his arms so he could feel that bright fire radiating from her as it sizzled into his pores. It was a shock to realize that he wanted her. That he actually wanted to see what her mouth felt like beneath his. To peel away her staid suit and bare her lithe body for his eyes only. He wanted to run his fingers over her skin, wanted to see if she was as soft as he thought. As responsive.
He stood there in the hot sunshine and stared down at his former PA, now his wife, and felt the shift of his axis.
In the space of a few hours, he’d become utterly intrigued. For four years, he’d never noticed her as a woman—well, not often, anyway—but now he couldn’t seem to shove her back into the box she belonged in. It didn’t matter that she was wearing her conservative suit and ugly shoes, that her hair was pulled back or that tiny black rivulets stained her cheeks.
There was a commotion in the crowd and Kadir turned. His bodyguards were making their way toward him. Irritation flashed into him, not because they were doing their jobs, but because they were drawing attention to him and Emily.
People stopped to look—and then someone whipped out a cell phone and began to snap photos.
“We need to go,” he told Emily. “We are being noticed.”
She started to turn, but he grabbed her hand and tugged her into the curve of his body. She didn’t pull away when he put his arm around her and started down the sidewalk in the direction they had come. She was so small in his grip, so warm. It was a shock to feel so much of her against him. Heat surged into him.