Intimacies she was woefully uneducated about.
She’d heard sex spoken of in vile, crude terms. Had heard men make threats that were disgusting. Had heard prostitutes make allusions to things she hadn’t fully understood.
She hoped there was more to marital activities than all of that. Really, she knew there had to be, because it was the thing that had driven their families to destruction.
That was the part that scared her. The part of her that feared she would become a slave to it…the part that feared there was a part of herself that was undiscovered that would change completely when she finally found it.
“Being naked with someone does not really make you all that vulnerable to them. And I never slept with any of my lovers.”
“You didn’t? I was under the impression that…” She trailed off, not liking how innocent she was revealing herself to be.
In so many ways she had no innocence. She’d been in the palace during all that horrible destruction. And then, back at home she’d survived the siege. There had been so much violence on both of those days. She’d survived homelessness, hunger, cold, heat, fear. Grief. So much more grief than one person could be expected to bear.
But she didn’t understand the kind of connection that drove two people to pursue a romantic relationship. She didn’t understand sexual desire. Not in a specific way that existed between two lovers.
It was her only piece of innocence really. Her physical innocence. Her emotions were jaded, her mind inundated with the cold ugliness of the world. It was only her body that remained untouched and she had fought fiercely for that. For her body was the one thing she had left that hadn’t been violated by the world.
Still, she didn’t especially want him to know all of that.
Have you ever been kissed, Samarah?
She had a feeling he might know already. But she didn’t need to go revealing herself.
“You do not have to sleep with someone just because you have sex with them. Though, perhaps in your case, since you lacked a steady bed it was easier to stay.”
She didn’t know what to say to that. She wasn’t sure if he was digging for information or not. And she wasn’t sure if she wanted to give him any.
“We aren’t talking abut me,” she said.
“No. We are not. But that should answer your questions.”
“It doesn’t really.”
“Then perhaps you should speak more plainly so I can answer them. I am not playing guessing games with you, Samarah.”
“When you say you do not conduct affairs…you are not…I mean, you have been with…”
“I am not a virgin,” he said, the word dripping with incredulity. “I slept with enough women that they blurred together during my teenage years, but there was an inciting incident that put me off passion. I had a job to do, and I have not had the time to lose myself in pleasure since I overtook the throne.” His expression was hard, a dark, frightening rage filling his eyes. “Do you now feel suitably informed, Samarah?”
No. Now she wanted to ask about the pleasure. The pleasure he was afraid to lose himself in. Wanted to ask what that meant to a man like him. Sixteen years of celibacy. What it would mean when he broke it. And if he really intended to break it with her. For them to… Now she wanted to ask a whole lot of questions, but she was stuck because if she did then she really would give herself away. And then she would be standing in a remote location talking about sex with the man who was caught in a fog in her brain. Somewhere between enemy and ally. Somewhere between monster and fiancé.
It was all too weird.
“I feel more informed. Yes. Are you going to start a fire?”
“Yes,” he said. “I’ll bring you your things. Why don’t you get settled.”
“Where is my room?” She wondered for a moment if he would suggest they share. And that terrified her. And made her feel something else that she couldn’t quite place.
“Whichever one you choose, I will take the other. Does that suit?”
“As much as anything in this arrangement does.”
“You flatter me,” he said, his voice clipped.
Now he sounded annoyed with her, and she couldn’t for the life of her figure out what she’d done. And she shouldn’t care. So she wouldn’t.
“All right, I will arrange my things. Enjoy building your fire.”
“I’ll see you again for dinner,” he said. “If it rains, I will cook indoors.”
“Do you expect it to rain?”
“I always prepare for a potential catastrophe. Rain, flooding.”
“All right,” she said, waving her hand, already going off to explore other rooms of the house. She badly needed a reprieve from his presence. He was making her say—and think—crazy things.