“That’s not my intent. You are much less difficult than when we first met and you attempted to stab me. That considered, I would hate to get on your bad side again.”
“Who said you were off of it?”
Their conversation faded out and she settled into the horse’s gait. And eventually, she settled into him. Her neck got stiff, a kink forming in the side, and she looked at the perfect pocket, just there, between his shoulder blades.
It would alleviate the pain. If she could just rest against him for a second.
She lowered her head. He was solid, but it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. The fabric of his shirt was damp with sweat, and she didn’t find it at all disagreeable.
That only increased her discomfort.
She could hear his heart, thundering in his chest. Could feel the shift of his muscles as he moved with the horse over the desert sand.
She turned her face slightly and caught the scent of his skin. Of the sweat. Really, none of it was disagreeable at all. Which…made it disagreeable in its way.
Samarah shifted and tightened her hold on him, her palms flat against his stomach. He was hard there, too. And she could feel his muscles, the definition of them, even with the fabric of his shirt separating her hands from his flesh.
She’d seen his muscles, so she knew just how very defined they looked. And she also knew about the body hair. Which she found much more fascinating than she should.
She stared at the horizon line after that, trying her best not to think too hard about Ferran’s body, and the way it felt beneath her hands. Or the way it looked without his shirt.
It was only because she was trapped against him that she was thinking this way.
The ride stretched on forever. She got hotter, and she got more restless. And her thoughts weren’t calming down. Her body wasn’t, either. She would have thought you just got used to being pressed against someone eventually, but apparently you didn’t.
At least not when that someone was Ferran.
“We’re here,” Ferran said, his tone hard, tugging back on the horse’s reins, bringing his behind pressing hard between her thighs and sending a jolt through her body.
She curled her fingers into his shirt, desperate to hold on to him. And desperate to jump off and run screaming into the desert until she could figure out what the hell was wrong with her.
She looked around his shoulder, and her body slowly released the tension it was holding fast to. The oasis was beautiful. A lush green blot of ink against a dry, pristine background of bone-white sky and pale sand.
“Hang on to the saddle,” he said.
She obeyed and he slid down off the horse, then held his hands out.
“Seriously?” she asked.
She swung her leg over the side of the horse and slid down onto the sand, landing deftly on her feet. “I’m not a delicate flower, Ferran. Do not treat me like one.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“You just tried. Now, where is it we’re staying?”
“Are you wilting?”
“Be careful, or I will bite you. I believe I owe you on that score.”
His expression sharpened, the look in his eyes intensifying. “I can’t say I’m entirely opposed to you biting me.”
“That makes no sense.”
“Perhaps not to you, habibti. But if I conduct our marriage in the proper manner, it will make sense to you soon.”
“I don’t see how it could.”
He just looked at her, and he appeared to be amused. And she felt heat—both anger and other sorts of heat, sorts she didn’t want to contemplate—rising in her.
“Your imagination is sadly lacking.”
“You bit me once already,” she said. “I felt nothing.”
Her stomach pitched, both because she was lying, and because she was reliving the scrape of his teeth over her skin. It was such an intimate thing. And right then, she started connecting all the dots.
“Surely people don’t bite each other when they…” She snapped her mouth shut.
“Not always. And I meant no more than I said.”
“I don’t believe that,” she said. “About there being no hidden meaning, not…not about the biting. I believe that, I just… Where are you going?” He’d taken the horse by the reins and started leading him away.
“I thought you wanted to see where we were sleeping tonight?”
“Fine. Lead the way.”
They walked farther into the oasis, shielded by a rock formation, and by a thick growth of trees that grew taller as they edged closer to the waterline.
The water was like a sheet of glass. Reflecting the trees, the sky and sun from the still surface.
“This is incredible,” she said. “Are there…don’t a lot of animals come here?”