Emily’s heart went out to him and she berated herself for being so insensitive. Of course he was troubled. His father was dying and she’d been going on about the sleeping arrangements like a timid virgin.

She walked over and perched on a chair nearby. She didn’t know what to say, or if he’d even welcome her presence, but she had a need to be near him. His eyes opened again, a question in them.


“I didn’t ask about your father,” she blurted.

He shrugged, but she didn’t miss the tension vibrating from him. “He is dying. He’s frail, weak and shockingly wasted away from the man he was the last time I saw him.”

“I’m sorry, Kadir.”

“This is the way life is, habibti.”

Yes, she certainly knew that. She thought of her father and the tense months while they’d waited for a donor heart. “Still, it cannot be easy for you.”

His eyes glittered hotly. Angrily. “No, it isn’t.”

She licked her lips and ran her palms over her thighs. She was out of her depth here, trying to be friendly with the boss she’d only ever been professional with. Trying to be his wife and his companion and an understanding ear all at the same time.

All while worrying about her own problems. What was the matter with her? She did not need to burden Kadir with her own fears. He’d hired her for a job, she’d agreed, and she had no right to question the sanity of the arrangement now.

“If you want to talk—”

“I don’t.” His voice was firm, final.

Emily swallowed. She knew when he was dismissing her. She’d heard it a thousand times before, though it had never seemed so personal as it did right now. She got to her feet because it seemed the only thing she could do. “Well, then, I think I’ll get ready for bed.”

“Fine.”

She started toward the bathroom, her ears burning hot. How could she let him think she was such a selfish creature? How could she be so insensitive to his plight? She stopped and spun around again, her pulse beating a hot rhythm in her veins. “I’m sorry for complaining about the sleeping arrangements. I was just surprised by it.”

He shrugged. “It is understandable. We did not discuss it prior to arriving.”

He was too polite about it.

“But it’s hardly something you should be thinking about right now. I should have been more sensitive.”

His gaze was so intense she wanted to drop her eyes. She did not. “If you really want to give me something else to think about, invite me into the shower with you.”

Emily swallowed hard. And then a thread of anger unwound inside her belly. She tried to be nice and he taunted her. Dismissed her apology as if it were nothing.

Which was his right, she decided. So she bit her tongue and gave him a regretful smile.

“I’m sorry, but I always shower alone. It’s a rule of mine.”

“Pity,” he drawled.

* * *

Kadir went outside onto the balcony while Emily was in the shower and stood in the darkness for a long while. He’d gone to see his father, and he could still feel the shock of that moment when he’d beheld the once-strong king reduced to little more than a gaunt skeleton in an oversize bed.

His father had not smiled when he spoke, but then Kadir had not expected him to. King Zaid had never made it a secret that both his sons had become disappointments to him. Kadir less so than Rashid, but a disappointment nevertheless.

“I hear you have brought a woman with you,” King Zaid had said, his voice stronger than Kadir would have thought possible.

“I brought my wife.”

His father made a dismissive noise. “You have defied me, Kadir.”

“I am in love, Father. I cannot live without her.” A lie, but a necessary one.

“I see.” King Zaid closed his eyes and swallowed. “I never thought you would disrespect my wishes as your brother has so often done. I thought you were the good son.”

Kadir wanted to lash out, wanted to tell the old king that both his sons were good sons—but that he was too hard and proud and blind to realize it.

“A man will do things for love that he would not otherwise do.” He should feel guilty for lying, but strangely he did not. “Besides, I’ve told you many times before that I often blamed Rashid for things I had done.”

His father waved a weak hand as if annoyed. What Zaid did not want to hear, he did not hear. One of the reasons why his sons had left Kyr long ago.

“The succession is not decided,” King Zaid rasped. “There is time for you to renounce this woman and take your place as king.”

Kadir felt the chill of that pronouncement like a dip into an arctic pool. “I am not prepared to do so.”

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