This raw need that scorched her from the inside out. That branded her as a sexual being who craved the kind of release that only this man could give.

She came again in a hot, hard rush, collapsing against him while he held her steady and pumped into her body. This time, he followed her, his body stiffening as he moaned her name.

She loved the sounds he made when he was stripped of his control, the way his body jerked and shuddered. She did that to him. It made her feel powerful, needed.

His fingers stroked along the column of her spine, his touch reverent. He collapsed onto his back, and she turned so that she could face him. He reached up to push away a hank of her hair that had fallen across her face, and then cupped the back of her head and pulled her down for a lingering kiss.

“You’ve destroyed me,” he murmured.

But what she was thinking was that he’d destroyed her. It didn’t matter what happened, how many days they spent together, whether they made love or studiously avoided touching one another—she felt something for this man that was never going to dissolve. Time and distance hadn’t managed it so far, though she’d convinced herself that it had.

Tears pricked the backs of her eyes. One afternoon in his arms, and the truth was too blinding to ignore.


WHEN Malik awoke, the tent was dark. He moved his foot, grateful that he’d at least managed to get out of the riding boots at some point. Beside him, Sydney was curled into a small ball. He lifted onto an elbow, smiled as he gently drew her curtain of hair from her face. He’d always loved the way she slept.

She lay on her side, her body curled as tight as it could be, as if she were trying to make herself smaller. He frowned for a moment. It was very much like Sydney to try and make herself disappear. He’d known, when they were together, that she often tried to go unnoticed.

She truly believed that she was without any remarkable qualities, which he found both interesting and baffling. He’d never known a woman who was more remarkable, or more certain she was not.

He stretched and climbed from the bed naked, in search of the food they’d left on a table nearby. It was cold in the desert at night, but he was still too hot to bother covering up. He found flat bread and olives, a bit of cheese. He didn’t need much, but he needed something if the way his stomach was growling was any indication.

Sydney didn’t stir. And no wonder. It was a mystery that he could.

His body was sated, content—his mind was not. He thought back to that moment in the shower when she’d taken him in her mouth. He’d nearly come apart then and there, but somehow he’d managed to keep it together long enough to regain control of himself.

He felt a moment’s guilt for the way he’d taken her once they’d made it to the bed. But he’d been so on edge, so unsure of himself and so raw with the wounded feelings he’d buried down deep that he couldn’t lie in her arms and spill himself into her body with her soft limbs wrapped around him and her cries in his ear.

He’d needed to take her like an animal, needed that slight disconnect that turning her away from him would give.

Except that he’d failed rather spectacularly. Because it didn’t matter how he made love to Sydney, she still managed to crack him wide open until his feelings were so raw that he wasn’t sure how to deal with them.

When he’d recovered sufficiently, he’d dealt with them by taking her again, this time as they entwined their bodies together, limbs tangling, hands clasping, tongues dueling for supremacy. Her cries of ecstasy fueled some hidden fire in his gut that only made him want to push her further and further over the edge.

Malik pushed a tired hand over his eyes, rubbed his arm against his face. It had been a very long afternoon, punctuated by bouts of sleeping combined with the sort of lovemaking that turned him inside out each and every time. He didn’t care to examine why, though he knew he would have to at some point.

All he knew was that Sydney was a fire in his body like no other woman had ever been. He was addicted to the rush he felt whenever he was inside her, addicted to the way she made him feel better than he’d ever felt in his life. With her, he felt … right.

Somewhere during it all, they’d managed to eat.

He’d told her last night she would be his wife again. He didn’t know precisely why he’d done it, except that he’d been angry with her for being so determined to push him away again. She’d walked out on him once, and he’d been too proud to go after her. He should have done.

He should have chased her all the way to L.A. and reminded her why they were so good together.

But she was here now, and he wasn’t going to let her go again without making very sure she understood precisely what she would be giving up.