“Sydney.” The word was muffled behind the black fabric wrapped over his face. But the eyes …

“Hello, Malik,” she said. “I was taking a walk.”

Malik swore. And then he swept her into his arms and strode toward the tent. She expected he would set her down on the couch, get cool water for her, but he carried her through the tent and into the small bathing area. Once there, he turned on the water and pushed her under it fully clothed.

Sydney gasped as cold water rushed over her, soaking her to the bone. “What are you doing?”

He ripped away his face covering. “The heat is too dangerous. You should never have gone out in it.”

“For heaven’s sake, Malik, I was barely outside five minutes! I’m not dying!”

Though she might if he kept the cold water running on her like that—except that it sort of felt good sluicing over her. Perhaps she’d been hotter than she’d thought.

“You were overcome.” One hand held her firmly under the water. His sleeve was soaked, but the rest of him remained dry as he refused to let her go.

“It was only a moment! I needed to sit.”

“Where did you think you were going? This is the Maktal Desert! You could have been killed, if not by the heat, then by a scorpion or a viper.”

A viper? Sydney shivered, and not from the water.

“I just wanted to go somewhere other than this tent! I was bored, and you weren’t here….” She trailed off, realizing how ridiculous she sounded. Exactly like the child he’d accused her of being only last night.

“A very good reason to risk your life,” he growled.

Sydney closed her eyes, fury and frustration welling within her. She had to do something or burst with it. Without thinking about the possible consequences, she cupped a hand and slung water at Malik. It hit him in the face, dripped down over his tanned features. One drop clung to his lower lip, and a dull ache began in her core.


She would not want him. She lashed out again, slinging more water at him, soaking the front of his dishdasha.

“This is how you wish to play?” he asked dangerously. Then he shoved the dark covering from his hair, let it fall as he pushed her all the way under the spray, water rolling over her face for the first time.

Sydney came up sputtering. And furious.

She reached for him, wrapped her hands in the fabric of his clothes. She didn’t expect she could move him, but she threw all her weight backward—and he stumbled into the shower. Water plastered his dark clothes to his body, and Sydney burst into a fit of giggles at the look of surprise on his face.

“How do you like it?” she asked.

His face was thunderous—but then he shoved his wet hair back and grinned at her. Her heart lurched. “I like it just fine,” he said, his gaze dropping over her. Sydney glanced down—and squeaked in surprise. Her white garments were transparent. It wasn’t quite like being naked, but close enough. The fabric clung to her, outlining her breasts, the dark nipples, the shadowed cleft between her legs.

She looked up again, met his hot gaze. The raw lust she saw there threatened to double her over with need. Everything was happening so fast, the atmosphere between them changing, becoming more charged, more desperate.

“Malik,” she choked out as he closed the distance between them. She wanted him—and she didn’t. It terrified her to think of making love with him again—and it terrified her to think of never doing so.

She didn’t know what he would do—but she realized his hand was shaking as he reached out. Shaking as he palmed her breast, his thumb brushing over the jutting peak of her nipple. Sensation streaked through her. Flames licked at her belly.

The water did nothing to cool this fire eating her up inside. Because nothing could cool her now. The fire needed to burn out, and the only way it would burn out …

“You’ve done it now, habibti,” Malik said, smiling roguishly.

Her heart thrummed. “D-done what?”

He took her hand in his, pressed his lips to her upturned palm.

And then he placed her hand against his chest before sliding it oh, so slowly down his body.


THE wet fabric molded to his perfect frame, delineating muscle and sinew—but Sydney didn’t need to see how the fabric clung to know he was hard.

The evidence—powerful, impressive, mouth-watering—thrust against her palm.

She couldn’t take her eyes off his beautiful face. His eyes were bright, his jaw set in stone as if he were enduring a great torment. Sydney’s body was aching, melting, throbbing with need. Touching him like this.

She swallowed. She knew that she had only to drop her hand away and he would turn and go.

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