Page 22 of To Defy a Sheikh

She’d been in the palace for nearly a week, and their contact had been minimal since that day in the gym. Partly because he’d found the physical contact a temptation he did not need.

It had put a fire in his blood that he didn’t like to remember existed. When he’d been a boy, he’d been all about himself. All about pleasure. Lust, and satisfying that lust.

But then he’d seen the devastation such things could bring. So he’d stopped acting that way. He’d stopped indulging his flesh.

Now Samarah was unearthing feelings, desires, best left buried.

Her father wasn’t the only man he’d killed that day. He’d destroyed everything he’d been, everything he’d imagined he could be, in that moment too.

His rage had been regrettable but no matter how things played out, the end would have meant death for her father. But he had never been able to forgive himself for the deaths of Samarah and their mother.

Finding out she was still alive gave him a chance to soothe parts of him he’d thought would never heal.

But attraction, like the kind he’d felt in the gym, sparring with her, biting her…that had no place in this arrangement. They had no place in him.

They would have to consummate, and they would have to have children, but beyond that, Samarah would be free to live as she chose, and to be the symbol he needed.

He hardly needed her in his bed. He ignored the kick of heat that went through his body at the thought. When they’d fought, she’d been passion personified. And it had been beautiful and terrifying in equal measures. Because there was more conviction in her movements than existed in his entire body.

But then, he didn’t need conviction. He just needed to do right. He needed to do better than his father. He needed to do better than he’d done at fifteen.

He’d lied to Samarah when he’d spoken of her father’s fate. When he’d spoken of simple justice and black and white. So much of that reasoning had come from rage.

Ferran curled his hands into a fist, a spike of anger sending adrenaline through his veins. When he thought of his mother…cold and lifeless… Innocent in every way.

And then he thought of the spare moments before that. When Samarah’s father had wrapped his fingers around her throat and Ferran had acted. For his mother. And for him.

But he had been too late. His violent rage utterly useless. In the end, none of his life was the same. Nothing of those whom he loved remained. Not even the good pieces of himself.

That day had destroyed so many things. And it was why he had to guard his emotions, why he must never allow his demons free rein. Ever again.

He rapped on Samarah’s door and it opened slowly. Lydia, the maid, peered out. “Sheikh,” she said, inclining her head.

“Is the lady ready?” he asked.

“Yes, Sheikh.”

“I can speak for myself.” Samarah’s voice came from beyond the door.

“Leave us please, Lydia,” he said.

The other woman nodded and scurried out of Samarah’s chamber and down the hall. He walked in, and she looked at him with an expression reminiscent of someone who’d been stunned.

“What?”

“You’re in a suit.”

“So I am,” he said, looking down at his black tie and jacket. “This shocks you?”

“I didn’t expect Western attire.”

She was elegant, in a long-sleeved black dress with a swath of white silk draped across the skirt and a gold belt around her waist. Matching gold decorated the cuffs of her sleeves, and there was gold chain woven through her hair. Which was still back in a braid.

He felt like making it a personal mission to see her hair loose.

Though, he shouldn’t care about her hair. It had nothing at all to do with honor.

“You look perfect in Eastern attire,” he said.

She pursed her lips. “I would think you might have liked us to look united.”

“Perhaps you wanted it to look as though we got dressed together?”

Her cheeks turned a burnished rose. “That is not what I meant.”

“Perhaps one day we will dress together.” Though there would be no purpose behind that in their marriage, either. He would go to her at night when it was necessary. They wouldn’t share a life. Not in those ways.

“This is not…an appropriate…I don’t…”

“Do I fluster you, Samarah?” He did, he could see it. And he had no idea why he enjoyed it. Only that he did. And he enjoyed so few things, he felt driven to chase it. If only for the moment.

“No,” she said, dark eyes locking with his, her expression fierce. “It would take much more than you to fluster me, Ferran Bashar. I remember you as a naughty boy, not simply the man you are now.”

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