Love is not love, which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove.

Shakespeare had been a wise, wise man.

Sydney snatched up her phone and found Malik’s number. Her finger trembled as it hovered over the call button. But then she punched it and waited as the connection was made, her heart hammering in her chest, her throat, her temples.

Please be there. Please.

But he wasn’t. The phone rang several times before going to voice mail. Sydney hesitated, not knowing what to say. In the end, she clicked off the line without saying >a word. Disappointment gnawed at her. She would call back. She would leave a message. But first she tried to compose what she should say, what sort of message she should leave for him.

The words wouldn’t come.

Words mean nothing.

Sydney groaned. Just when they meant everything, at least to her, she couldn’t find the right ones to save her life. Maybe Malik was right. Actions were more important.

The next few days were a blur. Sydney tried Malik a few more times, when she had a spare moment, but he never answered. Panic began to coil inside her. What if he was finished with her forever? What if his silence was deliberate?

Fortunately, her sister was doing better. Alicia had gone to their parents’ home, more because they’d insisted than because she’d wanted to, and she’d gotten a restraining order against Jeffrey. Work was crazy without Alicia and their mother, who had stayed at home to dote on her daughter twenty-four hours a day.

Sydney’s father was handling it well, but he’d been shell-shocked by the news. He still came to the office, but he seemed to need her to handle many more things than she ever had before. It was both surprising and frustrating. Surprising because she’d never realized how much he trusted her, and frustrating because she’d bought a ticket to Jahfar.

A ticket she was never going to use at this rate.

But within a week, Alicia and their mother were both back at work. Alicia’s eye was covered with heavy makeup, but she moved as briskly and efficiently through her tasks as always. No one said anything about Jeffrey.

Sydney sat at her desk and clicked on an email from her mother. A potential new listing in Malibu. Her heart skipped a beat, but the address wasn’t the same one as the home she’d sold to Malik. It was two doors down. She thought about going to her mother’s office and asking if someone else could take the appointment, but she decided against it. She would get through today, and then she would catch the late flight to Jahfar.

She simply couldn’t put it off another minute. The Reed Team was a well-oiled machine, even if they’d had a hiccup recently. Her father had relied on her, and she was grateful, but it hadn’t been necessary. The other agents and lawyers took up the slack and made everything run efficiently. She could escape for a few days at least.

When she told Alicia what she was planning, her sister merely hugged her and wished her good luck.

“You don’t mind if I go?” Sydney asked.

“Of course not.” Alicia squeezed her hand. “I’m fine, and I want you to go. Go get that prince of yours before some other woman snaps him up.”

Sydney shuddered at the thought.

“But you are going out to Malibu later, right?” Alicia asked from the door of Sydney’s office. “I don’t think anyone else is available, and Mom says it’s an important listing.”

“I’m going,” Sydney said. “There’s enough time.”

Alicia seemed relieved. “Good.”

Once Alicia was gone, Sydney’s mind began to race with everything she needed to do before she boarded the plane tonight. She had a meeting with a client at three, and then she would drive to Malibu. Once she toured the home and took the listing details, she’d have just enough time to dash home and throw some things together before heading to the airport.

Her stomach churned. What if Malik wasn’t in Jahfar? She had no idea whether or not he was, but she knew where he lived and she knew that when she arrived he would be alerted. And then he would return, and she would tell him she was a fool.

And she would pray it wasn’t too late.

Around five-thirty, Sydney parked her car in the driveway of the Malibu home. The house Malik had bought was just up the street. She’d passed it coming in. There’d been no activity, no cars in the drive. Not that she’d expected there would be. She fully expected Malik would sell the home in the next few months.

But it did have a gorgeous view. It was the kind of home she’d have bought if she’d had Malik’s money. A dream home. She could almost picture the two of them enjoying the sunset… and then enjoying each other. A flash of heat rocketed through her at the thought. Right now, the possibility of being with Malik again seemed remote and unreal.