She tried to make sense of everything while her husband watched her, his expression wary. Hakim had known her father before meeting her at the library.
“My father set us up.”
Something flickered in his eyes and she had the strangest sense he was going to lie to her.
“If you won’t tell me the truth, then don’t say anything at all.”
He jolted, his black eyes widening fractionally before the emotional mask once again fell into place. “Not all truth desirable.”
“I don’t care. I won’t be lied to by my husband.”
“Your father arranged for us to meet, yes.” The words came out grimly and gave no satisfaction at all.
He was right, some truth was unpalatable.
As unpalatable as having her virginity discussed between her husband and his uncle. Almost as if she were watching a movie screen, the scene in the reception room played over in her mind.
His uncle, looking pompous with a bearded face and white robes of state. Her fair skin reveals her blushes and innocence I think.
Hakim’s expression sardonic. Can you doubt it?
Herself standing there, blushing painfully.
The King taking a deep breath and letting it out with an expression of supreme complacency. No, I do not doubt it. Assurances were made.
And suddenly she understood what assurances had been made and by who. “You asked my father if I was a virgin before you asked me to marry you!”
In a very peripheral way, she realized she was yelling. She never yelled. She was the quiet one, the one who stayed in the shadows and was content to do so, but she didn’t feel like being quiet. She felt like screaming the place down.
“He volunteered the information.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Why in the world would her dad have felt the need to tell Hakim she’d never had a serious boyfriend? “It’s to like you couldn’t have made an educated guess on your own.”
Her lack of experience around men had to have been obvious.
“I did not know you then.”
“Are you telling me you discussed my virginity with my father before we ever met?” Dread was curling its ugly tentacles around her heart even as she hoped against hope that he would deny the charge.
Hakim’s eyes closed as if he was seeking an answer and then he opened them and jet black glittered at her with hard purpose. “This is not something you truly wish to know. It will only upset you to discuss this further and it will serve no good purpose. We are married. That is all that matters now.”
No way. “My being able to trust my husband matters.”
He drew himself up, his expression going grim. “You have no reason to mistrust me.”
“If you’ve lied to me, I do.”
“There is a proverb among my people. Lying in its proper place is equal to worship.”
She felt the words like a slap. Was he admitting to lying to her? “Well, there is a proverb among my people. A lying tongue hides a lying heart.”
“Your father and my uncle discussed your innocence prior to our meeting for the first time.” He bit the words out. “Does that please you to know?” the sarcasm hurt.
“You know it doesn’t.” She wasn’t yelling anymore. In fact, she could barely get more than a whisper past the tears now aching for release. “I was just a pity date.”
And not even a pity date arranged between her father and Hakim, but one arranged between two old men. Had she not been a virgin, she had the awful feeling even a pity date would not have occurred. It was medieval and felt like the worst kind of betrayal.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
He reached out, following her when she backed up and took both her shoulders in a gentle but firm grip. His thumbs rubbed against her collarbones. “You are my wife. Does the reason we met mean so much?”
Of course it mattered, her mind screamed. “He fixed us up. He even told you I was a virgin! You don’t think that matters?” she asked, trying not to choke on the words.
“Are you saying you would have been content to give your innocence to another?”
How dare he sound offended?
“Stop trying to sidetrack the issue! You lied to me. My father lied to me. I feel manipulated and it hurts, Hakim. It hurts more than you can imagine.”
“It was a lie of omission only.” His hands moved to cup her face. “Was this so terrible? If I had told you the truth, you would have rejected me like you rejected all the others. We would not be married now. Is that what you want?”
He wasn’t putting it back on her like that. She yanked her face from his grasp. “I love you. I wouldn’t have rejected you because of the truth.”
“Like you are rejecting me now?”