He tipped her chin up with a finger. Beyond him, she could see the people milling about almost impatiently. But Kadir didn’t seem to care as he focused the power of his gaze upon her. He still looked fierce, and her heart swelled with feeling.

“You are my wife. A princess. You are beautiful and valuable. Don’t forget it.”


Emily throat was tight. “I won’t.”

But as Kadir led her into the crowd, his hand tight on hers, all she could think was that this was an act between them. A performance. That was what she couldn’t forget. He did not mean to make her heart pound or her emotions roil with his intensity. He simply did it because that’s what he always did to women. He conquered with words, with looks, with touches.

She could not allow herself to be conquered.

Emily decided to throw herself into her role as Kadir began to speak with different people. She would not fail him. She stayed by his side, smiling at people and chatting to those who spoke to her in English. Some people seemed uncertain what to think of her, but some of the women were openly curious and made no efforts to hide it.

Emily was relieved she was not the only woman in Western clothing or the only one wearing jewels. Some of the Kyrian women dressed in jeweled abayas; some covered their hair, and some did not. They were friendly and polite and she found herself interested in them and they in her. She did not sense that they disapproved of her or despised her. In fact, many of them seemed to enjoy talking with her.

Eventually, however, as the afternoon wore on, she and Kadir were surrounded by several older, serious-looking men who seemed content to pretend she did not exist. Emily frowned and tried not to concentrate on how much her feet were starting to hurt or how much she missed her low heels.

All she wanted was to sit down, but Kadir showed no signs of slowing. The men ignored her completely. After the warmth of the women, it made her feel unwelcome—and uncharitable. When she could take it no more, she put her hand in Kadir’s to get his attention.

He stopped speaking instantly and turned to gaze down at her, a question in his eyes. If she were Lenore, she would have pouted and stuck out her lip, but Emily couldn’t bring herself to behave that way. She was a good girl, not a self-centered drama queen.

Still, he expected her to be unsuitable. So she would do her best, especially as this small audience seemed tailor-made for such a performance.

“I’m bored, Kadir.”

She could feel the men’s gazes hardening and she knew they understood English perfectly well. Kadir’s dark brows drew down. She wasn’t sure if he was amused or irritated at her little outburst.

“And what would you prefer to do, my love?”

Emily’s heart throbbed as she stepped closer to him and trailed a finger up his arm. “I think you know, darling.”

This time an eyebrow arched. “Do I? Perhaps you should tell me what you want.”

She stood on tiptoe and put her lips against his cheek. It was naughty and exhilarating and she liked it far too much. “I suppose I should say I want you desperately, but those awful men can’t hear me now so I’ll just say that my feet hurt and I’m tired of feeling shut out of this conversation.”

He caught her around the waist and dipped his head to her ear. A shiver ran down her spine when his breath caressed the shell of her ear. “I wish you really did want me desperately. Because I’d love to strip you, Emily. Strip you and lick you from head to toe.”

She almost backed away from him. Except that would give away the game and she couldn’t do it. Not only that, but she didn’t want to do it. She liked the way it felt to have him so close. Her sex flooded with wetness as a thrill shot through her, filling her with heat.

“You’re a bad man, Kadir.”

His voice came out as a growl. “You have no idea, Emily. No idea.”

“Oh, I think I do. Just not from inside information, so to speak.”

He nipped her ear and she gasped. Her body throbbed.

“The moment you want that inside information, I’m yours. Now go, before I do something the likes of which will scandalize Kyr for the next fifty years.”

Emily backed away slowly as his hands slid from her body. She stood there for a long moment looking at him, and he at her, her body aching in ways she’d forgotten. His eyes blazed and part of her, the part that sparked and burned, suddenly wanted to catch his hand and lead him away with her.

“Emily?”

His voice was filled with promise—and with just enough of a question to break the spell. What was she doing standing here and staring at him as though he was the last glass of water in the desert?

Emily turned and fled. When she reached their room, she went into the bathroom to lean over the sink and splash her face with cold water. If she didn’t cool this fire raging inside her, there was no telling what she might do when Kadir turned up again.

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