And certainly not when she was in the captivity of her enemy. An enemy who intended to marry her and…beget his heirs on her. In that naked, entwined fashion. It was far too much to bear.
She leaned her head back against the pillow that had been provided for her and closed her eyes. This was, indeed, preferable to the dungeon. Furthermore, it was preferable to every living situation she’d had since leaving her family’s palace.
And of course he’d planned it that way. Of course he would know how to appeal to certain weaknesses.
She couldn’t forget what he was.
When she was finished, she got out and wrapped herself in a plush robe, wandering back into her room.
“My lady,” Lydia said. “I would have helped you.”
“I don’t need help, Lydia. In fact, and this is no offense meant to you, I would like some time alone before I go and see the sheikh.”
Lydia blinked. “Of course, Sheikha.” Samarah could tell Lydia was trying to decide whom she should obey.
Ultimately, the other woman inclined her head and walked out of the chamber.
Samarah felt slightly guilty dismissing her, but honestly, the idea of being dressed seemed ridiculous. Palatial surroundings or not. She picked up the dark blue dress that had been laid out on her bed. It was a heavy fabric, with a runner of silver beads down the front, and a scattering of them across. Stars in a night sky. Along with that were some silken under things. A light bra with little padding, and, she imagined, little support, and a pair of panties to match.
She doubted anyone dressed Ferran. He didn’t seem the type.
She pondered that while she put the underwear and dress on. He had not turned out the way she might have imagined. First, he hadn’t transformed into a monster. She’d imagined that he might have. Since, in her mind, he was the man who killed her father.
He also hadn’t become the man she’d imagined he might, based on what she remembered of him when he’d been a teenage boy.
He’d been mouthy, sullen when forced to attend palace dinners and behave. And he’d often pulled practical jokes on palace staff.
He didn’t seem like a man who would joke about much now.
Well, except for his ‘when the sun sinks beneath the dune’ humor. She snorted. As if she would be amused.
She considered the light veil that had been included with the dress. She’d chosen to wear one while on staff, but in general she did not. Unless she was headed into the heart of the Jahari capital. Then she often opted to wear one simply to avoid notice.
She would not wear one tonight. Instead, she wandered to the ornate jewelry box that was situated on the vanity and opened it. Inside, she found bangles, earrings and an elaborate head chain with a bright center gem designed to rest against her forehead.
She braided her long dark hair and fastened the chain in place, then put on the rest of the jewelry. Beauty to disguise herself. A metaphor that seemed to be carrying through today.
She found that there was makeup, as well, and she applied it quickly, the foundation doing something to hide the cut on her cheek. It enraged her to see it. Better it was covered. She painted dark liner around her eyes, stained her lips red.
She looked at herself and scarcely knew the woman she saw. Everything she was wearing was heavy, and of a fine quality she could never have afforded in her life on the street. She blinked, then looked away, turning her focus to the window, where she could see the sun sinking below the dunes.
It was time.
She lifted the front of her dress, her bangles clinking together, all of her other jewels moving with each step, giving her a theme song composed in precious metals as she made her way from the room and down the long corridor.
She rounded a corner and went down a sweeping staircase into a sitting area of the palace. There were men there, dressed in crisp, white tunics nearly as ornate as her dress.
“Sheikha,” one said, “this way to dinner.”
She inclined her head. “Thank you.”
She followed him into the next room. The dining area was immaculate, a tall table with a white tablecloth and chairs placed around. It was large enough to seat fifty, but currently only seated Ferran. There were windows behind him that looked out into the gardens, lush, green. A sign of immeasurable wealth. So much water in the desert being given to plants.
“You came,” he said, not bothering to stand when she entered.
“Of course. The sun has sunken. Behind the dunes.”
“So it has.”
“I should not like to disobey a direct order,” she said.
“No,” he responded, “clearly not. You are so very biddable.”
“I find that I am.” She walked down the edge of the table, her fingertips brushing the backs of the chairs as she made her way toward him. “Merciful even.”