The only thing these stupid heels had achieved was break my ankles, and I couldn’t help breathing a sigh of relief as I heard the huge ballroom doors swing shut behind me. I slowed down, and after glancing left and right to ensure that I was alone, I took off my heels one by one.
The thick, warm carpet felt heavenly against my aching feet.
The palace still felt like a maze to me, but if I remembered correctly, this particular hallway was just for viewing, with a balcony every few feet that overlooked different parts of the palace.
Hovering on the curtained glass doors that led to one of the balconies, I heard the doors swing open behind me.
Frowning, I turned around…and froze.
He was alone now, and there was a hard look on his too-beautiful face as he strode towards me.
My heart began to race uncontrollably again. You’re just nervous, Ella, I told myself. Nervous. Not excited. Definitely not excited.
The sheikh had finally reached me. This close, he was so much taller, so much more gorgeous and intimidating. I had seen his photos before meeting him, of course, but even so, it hadn’t prepared me for how the sheikh looked in real life.
No photo – not even when taken by the best photographers – would ever perfectly capture his powerful presence, no photo able to show the way he wore his royal authority like second skin.
The sheikh was a man, a real man.
Someone who conquered, dominated, possessed.
It made him so, so much…sexier.
When he reached my side, I had to crane my neck to meet his gaze. His blue eyes were bright and intense, and I wondered dizzily why just looking into them made me feel so weak.
“You won’t curtsy, Lady Ella?” His English was fluent but strongly accented, and it was just one of the gazillion of languages he – and now I – had to learn as part of the royal family.
What he was asking for wasn’t unreasonable. We were in his kingdom, after all, and their traditions took precedence. But even so, something about the idea of kneeling before him was galling, and instead I found myself lifting my chin as I asked, “Why should I?”
His blue eyes darkened with anger, and my heart beat faster than ever. I knew I should take the words back…but I couldn’t.
I just couldn’t.
And I didn’t understand why it was so.
I had always been a good girl. The kind who still had her V-card, the kind who toiled countless hours after school to help Ruth make ends meet. I had never been the kind to flout authority, so why then couldn’t I help acting out where the sheikh was concerned?
Before me, the sheikh appeared rigid with rage, and when he spoke again, his voice had become dangerously soft and feral. “You truly will not show me respect?”
“Why should I?” I challenged. “You didn’t show me any respect either, did you? You didn’t say one darn word to me in the wedding, didn’t even glance—-”
“Forgive me,” the sheikh said mockingly. “I didn’t know you yearn for my attention that much.”
The sheikh whitened.
I might have…I might have gone overboard with that one.
And I was right.
Everything that happened after it was a blur, and the next thing I knew, I was bent over his arm, my bottom up in the air.
A shriek escaped me, more out of shock than pain. Had the sheikh just spanked my bottom?
“That’s for disobeying me.”
“That’s for disrespecting our kingdom’s traditions.”
“That’s for calling me an asshole.”
I regained my senses, and I tried to struggle out of his hold. “Let me go or I’ll scream!”
The sheikh’s handsome face, however, remained stoic. “Scream all you want, ukhayyah. It is your mother’s marriage you will ruin on its very first day.”
The truth of his words hit me, and when he spanked my bottom again, and my skin started to sting, I simply bit my lip hard to keep myself from crying out. It hurt, but no way was I going to let him know that.
Instead, I glared up at him, fighting back tears as I demanded bitterly, “And that last one? What was that slap for? Or do you just like hurting me because I’m a nobody who’s dared to dirty your royal presence?”
The sheikh’s hand moved, and I tensed when I felt his hand shape one stinging cheek over the layers of crushed silk. “That was simply because I liked spanking you.”
His words rendered me speechless, and it took me a moment to recover myself and spat out at the sheikh, “Bastard!”
The sheikh’s hand moved again, and I tensed, expecting him to spank my bottom again.
But instead, his hand moved towards my waist, tightening. And then he was spinning me around as he pulled me back to my feet.
Our gazes clashed.
The sheikh was breathing hard as he looked down at me with his still-bright blue eyes, a dark flush on his high-boned cheeks.