“Malik?”

“Over here,” he said. “Do you want something to eat?”


She pushed herself up in the bed and yawned. “No thanks. What time is it?”

Malik shrugged. “I’m not sure. I haven’t checked. It’s probably earlier than it should be.”

“What do you expect? We did sleep part of the day away.”

“Is that what we did?” he asked, making his way back to the big bed and the warm woman waiting for him.

She laughed. “Sometimes.”

“How are you feeling?”

She lifted her arms in a sensual stretch. “Tired. Sore.”

He’d hoped she would say happy. He told himself not to care that she did not.

“Perhaps we should have taken it slower,” he said instead.

“I’m not sure that was possible.”

No, probably not. He’d never been very good at maintaining his control with her. “Nevertheless, you almost succumbed to heat stroke. I should have been more careful.”

She shook her head. “And yet here I am, remarkably alive and unaffected by your callous treatment of me.”

He tried not to laugh. It didn’t work. “I should love to treat you callously more often.”

She sighed. He didn’t like the wistfulness he heard in the sound. Something was coming that he’d prefer to leave alone for the time being. He was not, however, going to get his wish.

“It was beautiful, Malik. Wonderful and amazing, as always. But how does sleeping together help the situation?”

Her words pricked him. He had no idea what happened next, how making love to her fit into his life beyond this very moment, and he didn’t want to think of it. They’d had an extraordinary day together, getting to know each other’s bodies again, feeling the emotion that burned between them as they did so.

Being inside Sydney wasn’t just about sex. He knew that, but he didn’t know what else to call it. How to say it. He knew she was determined to move forward with the divorce, determined they could not build a life together, and he couldn’t think of one good reason why she was wrong.

Except that it seemed wrong somehow. Why couldn’t they figure it out? Why couldn’t they take it a day at a time and try to build something more lasting?

“It helps me feel calm,” he said lightly, because he wasn’t prepared to take the conversation any deeper.

She blew out a breath. “Does it make you feel anything else?” she asked, her voice smaller than it had been.

He pulled her to him then, stretched out over top of her, his mouth finding the sweet skin of her throat. “You know it does, Sydney.”

Her fingers slipped over his shoulders, a small moan issuing from her as he licked the flesh of her neck and then blew softly on the wet spot. “But I don’t know it,” she said. “I have no idea what you feel. All I know is we have this amazing chemistry in bed together. But that’s not enough, is it?”

“It’s a start.” He didn’t want to talk about feelings, not right now. The idea of it created a hard knot of tension deep in his belly. “Why question our good fortune?”

He palmed her breast, tweaked a nipple as she gasped. “Malik,” she breathed. “This is serious.”

“I know. Very serious.” He claimed her lips, delved inside with his tongue. She kissed him ardently, her hands threading into his hair as her body arched.

He was growing hard again. He knew the moment she realized it, because she gave a little moan. And then she tilted her hips up and ground them against him.

“Temptress,” he said, and then he bent his head and took the hard bud of her nipple into his mouth.

“Oh—I can’t think when you do that.”

“Then don’t think. Feel.”

“But Malik,” she said on a half groan. “I want to talk to you. I want to know you. I want more than just this.”

He lifted his head. Irritation was growing inside him. Frustration. And a sense of panic that was completely foreign to him. “I ache for you, Sydney. I’ve ached for a year. Is this not enough for you?”

She didn’t say anything for a long moment. “No,” she said. “It’s not enough.”

Malik rolled away from her with a groan. He put his arm over his face, covering his eyes. His body throbbed, but that was nothing compared to the piercing throb of his heart.

“We’ve been down this path before,” she said. “And look where it got us.”

Malik sat up and began to hunt for his trousers. “If you will remember, habibti, you ran away.” He knew he sounded cold, but he had to. It was that or cave in to the hot emotion in the air—and he wasn’t ready for that. He would never be ready for that.

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