“Did you need me to draft a letter for you? Make a call to the States? It’s still early there, and—”

“No.”


Emily shifted from foot to foot. The papers scattered across the floor irritated her sense of order. And Kadir, a prince, standing before her in trousers and a custom-fit shirt while she was a disheveled mess in her pajamas, did not bear thinking about.

His pewter gaze slipped over her and his expression grew tight. “I have disturbed you.”

“I fell asleep on the couch.” God, could she be any more inane?

He moved closer to her, and she felt his presence like a wave. A giant, engulfing wave of heat and sharp masculinity. This was not her urbane, sophisticated boss standing before her. This man was a prince of the desert, a man who stood on the edge of a precipice between civilization and the wild, untamed dunes.

She gave herself a mental shake. She knew better than that. He might be an Arab male, but that didn’t make him uncivilized. That was as ridiculous as saying all Americans wore cowboy hats and said yee-haw.

Kadir was a man. Just a man.

Her pulse raced even while she had the oddest sensation of her blood beating heavily in her veins. And her brain whispered back to her that Kadir al-Hassan was not just a man by anyone’s definition.

“You are...rumpled, Miss Bryant.” He said it almost wonderingly, and a flash of irritation rolled through her.

“Well, I was asleep. And you usually phone if you want something.”

He shoved a hand through his hair then, and she saw that he was not quite himself. Not the cool thinker she was accustomed to dealing with.

“We are going to Kyr.”

She felt the force of those words deep in her gut. In four years, he had never once gone to Kyr. If she hadn’t looked it up on a map, she’d have almost thought it didn’t exist. But it was there, a slice of sand on the Persian Gulf. It was oil rich, as were so many of the countries in that region, and ruled by a king. By Kadir’s father.

She had never spoken to the king until today. Until he’d phoned his son while they’d been riding across Paris and Kadir had handed her his phone, as he so often did when he didn’t want to deal with anyone. She could still hear that raspy voice, the note of command as he’d told her he wished to speak to his son. He had been imperious and polite all at once, though she had not fooled herself that politeness would win out should she attempt to take a message.

Kyr. My God.

It was perhaps the most foreign of any location he had ever taken her to, with the exception of Singapore and Hong Kong.

“When?”

Kadir blinked, and she wished she had her notebook. She felt professional with her notebook and pen. She also had a tablet computer, of course, but she liked the feel of the pen scratching over the paper as she made quick notes—and then she transferred them later so that she could access everything on the tablet. His calendar was there, too, but not until she’d jotted it out on paper first.

“In the morning.”

Emily bit her lip. Kadir didn’t take his eyes off her and she started to worry that he’d had a shock of some sort. He was not behaving like himself, that was certain.

“I will be sure to have everything ready. What time would you like me to request wheels up?”

“I have done this already.” He shoved his hands into his pockets and looked around her room as if he’d never seen it before. Which, she supposed, he hadn’t. “Do you perhaps have a bottle of wine? Some scotch?”

“I—um, there might be wine. Just a moment.”

She went to the small refrigerator tucked beneath the cabinets on one side of the room and pulled out a bottle of white she’d been nursing. Then she took down a glass and poured some in it. But when she turned, he was behind her. He’d moved so silently she’d not heard a thing.

Or perhaps it was the way her blood beat in her ears that prevented her from hearing something so basic as a person walking across the floor. He loomed over her, so tall and vital and surprising. It jarred her to realize that without her heels, she really was much shorter than he.

She thrust the glass at him without a word.

“Please have a drink with me.”

Emily turned and poured wine into another glass, thankful to have something to do that did not involve looking at Kadir. But when she pivoted again, he was still there. Still in her space, still big and dark and intense.

She thought he might move, might go over and sit on her couch, but he didn’t. He simply stood there, staring at the liquid in his glass. And then he raised his gaze to hers, and she felt the blow of those eyes like a twist in her heart.

She recognized pain when she saw it. His seemed to swallow him whole, turning those clear gray eyes to the darkest slate. She had an urge to lift her palm to his cheek, to tell him it would be okay.

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