“Perhaps I shall.”
“Consider it at least.” The corner of her mouth twitched again. “We will retire to bed soon.”
Her eyes flew wide. “We?”
“I have brought my own tent, and it was graciously set up for us. Don’t worry, it has rooms. And you will get your own.”
“I had better.”
“You will have to get over your aversion to sleeping with me.” His pulse quickened. He was quickly discovering he had no aversions to sleeping with her. And why should he? Marriage made sex expected. It justified the desire.
As long as desire didn’t rule in him, as long as he kept control over his weaknesses, there was no harm in being with his wife.
Her eyebrows lowered. “I am not having this conversation with you,” she said, her voice a furious whisper, “sitting next to all these men.”
“Your point is taken,” he said. “But I come back to the issue of smiling.”
She looked hesitant for a moment. As if she was trying to decide if she should say something else to him or bolt off into the desert. “What about it?”
“I should like the chance to try and make you smile tomorrow.” Because he wanted to give her something. To give her more than he’d taken away.
“How will you do that?”
“There is an oasis not far from here. It is a place I frequent. I would like to show you.”
“I…” He could tell she was considering telling him where to put his offer. But she swallowed her initial response. “All right,” she said.
“We will have to ride horses, though, as you cannot drive in with a car.”
“Horses?” she asked.
“Yes, horses. Can you ride?”
“I…I don’t know.”
“Well, you can share mine. I intend to ask for the use of one here.”
She shook her head. “No. I think…perhaps I might make an attempt to smile.”
SAMARAH HESITATED NEXT to the big black horse that was saddled and ready for their ride to the oasis. Ferran was already seated and she was meant to…get on there with him somehow. There was no way to avoid physical contact.
And frankly, physical contact with him was disturbing.
Though, the fact that it was disturbing…disturbed her. Because there was no reason for it to be quite so unsettling.
Sure there is. He ordered your father to his death. He’s partly responsible for much of the misery in your life. Of course it’s uncomfortable.
Yes, but it wasn’t only that.
She wasn’t used to touching men. And he was very much a man. So very different from the way she was built. So hard. So…so warm. She always came back to how damn warm he was. Perhaps he had a fever.
He lowered his hand and she stared at it.
“You’re meant to take it,” he said.
“Take it where?” she asked, crossing her arms beneath her breasts and turning her shoulders in.
“Grasp my hand, Samarah.”
She reached out and curled her fingers around his, heat exploding against her palm and streaking up her arm. She didn’t even have time to process it before she found herself getting hauled up onto the horse, behind Ferran.
Reflexively, she wrapped her arms around his waist and leaned into him. Then she started to ponder which was more frightening. The idea of falling onto the sand, or continuing to cling to Ferran and his unnaturally warm back.
His back won. For now.
She should have asked to sit in front. It might have been a bit less disturbing.
But then…then she could have been between his thighs. Though, for the moment, he was between hers. There really was no winning in this situation. At least the current seating arrangement gave her an upper hand of sorts. If she wanted to jump off and run, she could. That was a comforting thought.
“It is not a long ride,” he said, “an hour perhaps.”
“I’m not concerned,” she said, holding her head away from the hollow between his shoulder blades that looked like a very nice place to rest her cheek.
But she would not. She didn’t need to use him as a headrest.
“You seem stiff,” he said, spurring the horse into a trot.
“I am on a horse. How would you like me to behave?”
“Rest against me.”
“I hardly think that’s necessary.”
“Nothing about this suits me,” she said.
“That’s not good. Because I’m attempting to make you smile, and if nothing suits you, I won’t be able to accomplish that.”
“You’re making me sound difficult.”