Malik pushed her damp hair from her face. “That was amazing,” he said. “Thank you.”

“Is that all?” she asked, her heart flipping in her chest, her throat aching from the giant knot forming inside.


His brows drew down. “What do you wish me to say, habibti?”

That was the moment, she thought, when her heart shattered into a million pieces. They were caught in a deadly storm, possibly permanently, and Malik felt nothing beyond supreme sexual satisfaction.

“Did you hear what I said to you?”

He swallowed, the only visible reaction. “I did. And I am happy for it.” He stroked the underside of her breast. “But they are only words. Actions mean much more than words, don’t you think?”

Sydney reared back. “The words are nice, too, Malik. Sometimes, the words are necessary.”

“Anyone can say those words,” he said. “It does not make them true.”

“They are true for me.”

He closed his eyes. “Sydney. Please, not now.”

She climbed off him and gathered her clothes, hurriedly slipping into them again. “When? When is the right time? Or are you hoping we don’t live through the night and then we never have to talk?”

His expression grew chilly. “Don’t be dramatic.”

“Dramatic? I said I love you and that’s dramatic?” Her eyes stung with emotion. With pain. He wanted to marginalize her feelings for him and she hated it.

He jerked his trousers closed. “Do you want me to say I love you, Sydney?” His eyes flashed, his chest heaving as he stared at her. “Would that make you happy?”

He leaned forward and caught her chin, forced her to look at him. “I love you,” he said, though it came out as a growl. “Is that what you want to hear?”

She pushed his hand away and huddled near the door as the sand pelted the SUV. “No,” she said to the glass. “Because you don’t mean it.”

His laugh was hollow. “And you said the words were important.”

The storm howled for several hours, and the temperature dropped so that it was no longer so hot inside the Land Rover. A battery-powered lantern burned softly in the dark. Sydney stole a glance at Malik. He lay back against the seat, his eyes closed. His chest was still bare. But then so was hers, with the exception of her bra. It had been too hot to remain wrapped in her clothes, so she’d slipped the garment off again.

It was growing more comfortable now. Almost chilly.

Sydney reached for the fabric she’d discarded and slipped into it. Malik stirred then, his dark eyes snapping open as if he’d not been sleeping. He took in her form, and then peered out the window. She tried to pretend the lack of emotion in his gaze didn’t bother her.

“The storm is nearly over,” he said, his voice rough with sleep. “Soon, we may open the windows again.”

“That’s good,” Sydney replied crisply, though she wouldn’t feel any true relief until the air cleared and they could see the sky.

“You are okay?” Malik asked.

“I’m fine,” she said, her voice a bit sharp.

He blew out a breath. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I did not mean to hurt you.”

Sydney shrugged. “It doesn’t matter, Malik.”

He subsided into silence again, and she felt hot and prickly all over. Not from heat, but from frustration and embarrassment. She’d confessed her stupid, naive feelings for him—and he’d thrown them back in her face. It mattered more than she would ever admit.

Sydney turned toward the window, pillowing her head on her hands, and closed her eyes. She hadn’t been able to sleep yet, but maybe she would if she kept trying. She didn’t feel like she had them closed for long before Malik spoke her name.

“Yes?” She blinked at him, yawning. Maybe she had slept after all.

“The storm has passed. I need to try your door, Sydney.”

“My door?”

“Mine will not open. The sand is holding it closed.” Her anxiety spiked. What if they were trapped? Oh, God …

“Let me,” she said firmly, needing to do something. “I’m right here.”

He hesitated only a moment before nodding. “You must be careful. First, let the window down very slowly, just a fraction.” He turned the key in the Land Rover, and she pressed the button. Thankfully, there was enough power to do the job. Sand flooded into the window the moment she had it open and she automatically pressed it back up again.

“No, let it down once more. If the sand lessens, that is a good sign.”

“And if it keeps pouring in?”

“Then we have a problem,” he told her. She liked that he didn’t lie, but at the same time, she’d almost rather not know.

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