She let out a shaky breath. “I did not know. I thought...” She shook her head. “Never mind. Are you hungry? One of the women has just brought food.”

“Yes, most definitely.”


“Sit, then. I’ll get it for you.”

He took a seat on the cushions and she brought the tray with meat and cheese and fruit over to the low table in the center. Then she poured cool water into glasses and handed him one.

He took a long drink and set the glass on the table. She refilled it.

“I apologize for not explaining the ritual to you,” he said.

She shrugged and studied the food. What could she say to him? That she’d missed him? That she’d been worried about him? That she’d spent the last several hours filled with regret that she’d pushed him away? “It’s fine. I’m just glad you’re well.”

He reached out and touched her hand and her nerve endings tingled in response, flooding her senses with too much heat, too much emotion. She was such a mess, and all because of him.

“I left rather abruptly. I’m sorry.”

“I don’t know that I gave you any choice.”

“I would never want to cause you pain, Emily.”

“I appreciate that.”

But she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the things he’d said to her earlier. He’d said he wanted her, that he’d been thinking about her for far longer than she realized. She wanted it to be true, and yet she doubted. But did it honestly matter? Once this was over, once they went back to the palace and he took his place as king, it was the end. She would leave Kyr and probably never see him again.

And that thought nearly doubled her over as fresh pain streaked through her body, curling and writhing in her belly, her limbs. It had been this way each time the thought crossed her mind today. Never see Kadir again? Never hear his voice stroke across the syllables of her name?

It was unbearable. Except that she had to learn to bear it. Somehow.

Emily picked up a handful of grapes. When she plucked one and held it up to Kadir’s mouth, she thought she might melt at the heat flaring in his eyes.

“Emily,” he said softly. “What is this?”

She looked at her hand. “I believe it’s a grape. But don’t quote me on that.”

He snorted softly. But then he leaned forward and took the grape from her fingers with his mouth, his eyes never leaving hers. She plucked another grape and fed it to him, and then another, her heart skipping wildly in her chest.

The next time she fed him, he gripped her hand and sucked her index finger. Emily gasped as her body became a lightning rod. Sweet sensation streaked from her finger down to her sex and her feminine core grew wet as his tongue swirled and licked.

It was perhaps the most innocuously erotic thing anyone had ever done to her.

“You play with fire, habibti,” Kadir murmured when he finally let her go. “My control is not so strong right now.”

Her heart raced a little bit faster than before. She could admit the truth, or she could push him away again. “I’m not sure mine is either.”

Insane to divulge such a thing. Dangerous. But if she left this oasis without ever knowing what it was like to be Kadir’s lover, just for one night, she would never forgive herself.

His eyes glittered in his devastatingly handsome face. “What has changed your mind?”

She dropped her gaze, her pulse throbbing hard. “Regret. I don’t want any.”

He put a finger under her chin and brought her head up to meet his gaze. “And what if you regret giving yourself to me?”

“I’ll find that out in the morning, won’t I?” She put her hand on his chest, smoothed his robes against the hard muscles beneath. “Besides, I rather thought we could give ourselves to each other. I didn’t exactly intend to be passive.”

With a growl, he pushed her back on the cushions until her body was beneath his, until the delicious weight of him pressed her down and made her shiver because she knew what was coming next. He spanned her rib cage with his broad hands. “Emily, I ache for you.”

How thrilling it was to hear those words from his mouth. For her. “And I for you,” she said breathlessly.

His mouth claimed hers in a hot, wet, deep kiss that made her back arch up off the cushions. “There’s nothing here I want more than you,” he said urgently, kissing her again and again while she moaned and writhed beneath him.

There was nothing—nothing!—better than having the full power of Kadir al-Hassan focused on her. Oh, no wonder all those women had lost their minds....

No, she told herself. You will not think of that, of them. You will think of nothing but him.

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