Page 34 of To Defy a Sheikh



“I could have sent you a text.”

She blinked slowly. “I don’t have a phone.”

“That will change.”

“Will it?”

“Of course,” he said, still standing there. Casually naked. She didn’t feel casual at all. There was so much skin on display it made her want to slip out of her own and run away.

“There’s no of course about any of this. Not to me and I—I can’t just stand here and talk to you while you’re naked.”

“That will change, too.”

“I do not think,” she said, turning around and heading back up the path, sweeping her stick through the grass and quickly following behind.

She had no desire to run away from a naked man, only to step on a snake. Out of the frying pan and all that.

And it wasn’t as if Ferran’s nakedness put her in any danger.

The heat in her cheeks, the pounding of her heart, said otherwise. It felt a lot like fear. She knew fear well. Much more intimately than most.

Though, there were subtle differences to this feeling.

Such as the not entirely unpleasant feeling between her thighs.

She wasn’t that innocent. She knew what that was. Why was this happening to her now? With him?

You are marrying him….

Yes, but she’d intended to deny sex as part of the equation for as long as possible and then submit to it when she had no other option. Her plan, thus far, hazy as it was, had been to just lie there and think of Jahar, so to speak. As far ahead as she’d thought in the past hour, when she’d finally decided that yes, she would be his wife. Really. Not just as a reprieve to a sentence or until she could kill him.

Even so, she wasn’t ready to contend with the idea that she might…desire him.

No. This was just garden variety, biologically inspired arousal that had nothing to do with desire. It was the first time she’d been exposed to a man, an attractive man, and not been worried about him being something of a threat in the back of her mind.

So that was all it was.

She frowned as she shut the door to the dwelling. When had she stopped perceiving Ferran as a threat? She was certain he wouldn’t harm her. Certain he would never force himself on her. And she wasn’t sure what he’d done to earn that measure of trust, when only two weeks ago she’d cowered in the middle of his bed, her own weapon in his hands, fearing he would kill her or use her body.

She didn’t now. Not in the least.

Strange how things had changed. How they were changing.

Now, that made her feel afraid. Because without all the anger at Ferran, she wasn’t sure what she had left. It had insulated her, consumed her, for so long, she felt almost bereft without it.

“I apologize that my body offended you.”

She turned and saw Ferran in the doorway, tugging his shirt over his head. His pants were already on, riding low on his lean hips. Not that any of it helped now, since she could so clearly visualize how he looked without the clothes on. Problematic.

“It was not…offensive,” she said. “I just am not accustomed to having conversations with nude men. Out in the open.”

“You only have conversations with them in the enclosed?”

“Well, where else would I have them?” she asked.

“Outside, it turns out.”

“No. That’s why I came in.”

“Stubborn creature. Since you’re in an enclosed space now, I could always take my clothes off again as I know you find this preferable.”

She held up her hands, her heart scurrying into her throat. “No!”

“Then perhaps you might like to come outside and have dinner.”

“Clothed?”

“Only if you want. I have no such rules about women and nudity.”

She narrowed her eyes. “But you aren’t naked with women at all, if what you say is true.”

“Come back outside, Samarah.”

“I will require we both remain clothed.” She walked out the door and followed the rising smoke, back down to the pond where he’d been swimming only a few moments earlier. The ground was damp here, but there were blankets and pillows spread out already. There was a pan over the fire, resting on a grate.

“You’ve cooked?”

“I come here alone often, as I said. I could cook inside, but I quite like to eat out here.” He took the pan from the grate and moved it to a small, low table that was next to his seat.

“Obviously.”

There was rice and meat in the pan, and he handed her a bowl filled to the top. It was much simpler than the way they ate at the palace. She liked it. It reminded her of who she was apart from all the comforts. Of the way she’d grown up.

But this was a piece of that memory with the absence of that wary feeling. The fear. The anger. This was different. This felt like they were totally set apart from the world. From reality.

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