He looked at the elegant line of her neck, her smooth, golden skin, dark glossy hair. And her lips. Red or plain, they were incredible. Lush and perfectly shaped. He had not looked at a woman in this way in so long. He hadn’t allowed himself to remember what desire was. What it was to want.
So dangerous. So very tempting.
If he married her, it would be his duty. His heart rate quickened, breathing becoming more difficult.
Yes, he would make her his wife. In every sense. He was decided.
She would be perfect. Because of who she was. Because she knew. She knew about the danger of passion. She would be the kind of wife he needed. The kind of wife that Khadra needed.
“Have I suitably impressed you?” he asked.
She nodded slowly. “In some ways. It cannot be denied. But I find I’m in need of…something.”
“What is that?”
“I’ve been idle for too many days. You promised me a sparring match. I think I will have it now.”
He looked at the lovely, immaculate creature sitting across from him, her elegant fingers clasped in her lap as she asked him to spar with her in much the same tone she might have used to ask him to afternoon tea.
He thought of what she would look like if they sparred. Her hair in disarray, sweat beading on her brow. He gritted his teeth and fought to suppress the rising tide of need that threatened to wash him away.
“If you think you’re ready, Sheikha.”
“Only if you think you are, Sheikh.”
* * *
Samarah was surprised to discover that Ferran had provided her with clothes. Well, he’d already been providing her with clothes, so she didn’t mean it that way. But the fact that he’d provided her with clothes for the gym was surprising.
A pair of simple black shorts and a matching tank top. After all the layers she was used to—for protection on the streets, for her disguise in the palace, and then…with all of her beaded gowns now she was in position as Ferran’s…whatever—she felt nearly naked in the brief clothing.
She opened the door to her chambers and saw Lydia just outside. “How do I get to the gym?”
“The general facility or Sheikh Ferran’s private facility?”
“I…assume the sheikh’s private facility.”
“Near his quarters. Down this hall, and down the staircase, all the way at the far end. It’s the last set of doors.”
Dear Lord, he’d put her a league away from him. Probably because he feared for his safety. The thought made her smile as she started the trek down to his quarters. That she had succeeded in unsettling him would do for now. It wasn’t revenge, but it was in the right vein.
She moved to the red double doors and pushed them open slowly. And stopped cold when she saw Ferran, his back to her as he punched the large bag hanging from the ceiling.
He wasn’t wearing a shirt. The only clothing on his body was a pair of black shorts that looked a lot like hers. Though, they covered more of his legs.
His back was broad. Shockingly so, tapering down to a slim waist. Everything on him was solid. Ridges of muscle shifting beneath skin as gold as desert sand.
She’d known he was strong. She’d come up against him already and seen just what a worthy opponent he was, but seeing him now…she could see why her hesitation had meant the end of her plan.
She could see it in every line of his body as his fist hit the bag and sent it swinging. He was powerful. A weapon. That was the basis upon which she admired him. What warrior, what martial artist, would not appreciate such a finely honed instrument? That was why she stared. It could be the only reason.
Samarah took a breath and assumed her stance, raising her leg high, bringing it down softly between his shoulder blades. A muted outside crescent kick.
He whirled around, reaching out and grabbing her wrist, tugging her forward, her free arm pinned against his solid chest.
“You’re here,” he said, cocking his head to the side, his eyes glittering.
“You had your back to the door.”
“So I did. I suppose I deserved that.”
“I could have hurt you,” she said. “I didn’t skim you on accident.”
“I understand that,” he said, his breath coming in hard bursts from the exertion, fanning hot across her cheek.
“Are you ready?”
“Just quickly.” He released his hold on her and ran his hands over her curves, light and fast. Her heart slammed against her breastbone when his fingertips grazed the sides of her breasts. “I had to check,” he said.
Her breath escaped her throat in a rush. “Check what?”
“To see if you had a weapon.”
“I have honor,” she said. “If I was going to kill you, it wouldn’t be during a planned sparring match.”