KADIR THREW THE phone down in disgust. He’d called Rashid again, and again Rashid had not answered. It was five days since they’d arrived in Kyr, and there was no sign of his brother. What was Rashid doing? Had he changed his mind about coming? Was he just going to let the throne go without a fight, or was he making a statement by taking his time?

If Rashid did not arrive soon, it would be too late. Their father was growing weaker by the hour. And more insistent that Kadir divorce Emily and take the throne. Kadir was furious and frustrated. But he had to acknowledge that perhaps he was well and truly trapped. If Rashid no longer wanted to be king, if he’d decided he was finished with their father, with Kyr and even with Kadir himself, there was nothing Kadir could do but accept the responsibility.

His deception had only been meant to steer his father toward Rashid as the logical choice, but if Rashid did not come, there was no choice. Kyr could not go ungoverned by an al-Hassan. They had been this nation’s leaders for centuries. And Kadir would not allow it to change, though his life would transform so drastically. To walk away now would plunge Kyr into chaos because there was no one else who could lead. No one but the council, and it would fracture as each member tried to put forth his own candidate for the throne.

No, Kadir would not allow that, though it would mean the end of everything he’d worked for. And the end of his time with Emily.

Emily. Just thinking of her made him as restless as a caged leopard.

Quite simply, Kadir was going mad with desire for his fake wife. He’d spent the last few days getting hard at the sight of her. And many nights going to bed frustrated. After that first night, he’d stuck to his side of the pillow wall and she to hers, but it was sheer torture. He lay there willing her to come across the barrier since he’d sworn he wouldn’t do so, but she never did.

His days were so busy now that he hardly saw her, except at functions they attended together. He was beginning to regret the impulse to dress her in beautiful, fitted clothing. It not only made him physically uncomfortable, but it also made him angry as hell when he caught some other man staring at her.

Her clothes were fashionable, not at all trashy or—what had she said?—something a hoochie mama would wear. It shamed him that she had thought he wanted such a thing for even a moment.

The clothing Guido chose for her showcased her figure in ways that had Kadir imagining his hands on her. On the high swells of her breasts, the delicate curve of her waist, the arch of her hips. Hell, even her bare calves, accentuated by the high heels he’d insisted she wear, inflamed him.

What had he been thinking? He shoved a hand through his hair in frustration. Clearly, he had not. Or he’d thought he was made of sterner stuff where she was concerned. Idiot.

Though it had been only a few minutes since he’d tried to call Rashid, Kadir snatched up his phone and checked his messages, the same as he’d been doing all day.

Of course there was nothing. If Rashid wanted to punish him, he’d picked the perfect way to do it.


He turned at the sound of Emily’s voice. She stood in the door to the private courtyard off their suite of rooms, where he had retreated to call Rashid. His blood beat at the sight of her. She was wearing a body-hugging black dress, her breasts wedged firm and high in the bodice, her dark hair loose, his diamonds sparkling at her throat and ears. He glanced at her hand, felt a current of possessiveness wash through him at the sight of his ring on her finger.

It wasn’t real, he reminded himself. And yet it was the most real thing in his life right now. Emily was the most real thing in his life.

He tamped down on his wayward desire and leveled her with an even look so she would not sense his turmoil. “Yes, habibti?”

She twisted her fingers together in front of her. He was learning that Emily contained depths of emotion he’d never suspected. And part of how she kept it in check was with her nervous fidgeting.

“I was just wondering how you are.”

He sat and leaned his head back against the soft cushions of the couch that perched on one side of the courtyard. “Well enough. You?”

She came over and stood nearby, though she did not sit. “I’m all right. The tea with the governing council wives was somewhat awkward.”

He felt as if he should apologize. But what would be the point? They both knew why she was here. If only Rashid would come, the plan would work perfectly. “I am certain you managed it with aplomb.”

She blew out a breath. “It wasn’t that bad, truly. A couple of them don’t seem to care for me, but the others...well, some of them are quite nice. They seem to understand how strange this must be for me as an outsider.”