“You stand there and blush when I talk about being inside of you. It would have been a crime for me to do that there. In that manner.”
It wouldn’t have been. And part of her wanted to tell him that. That she was blushing because she was inexperienced. Because she was embarrassed by her response to him. Confused by the fact that she felt desire when she’d expected to endure his touch. Not because she found the idea of being with him in that way appalling.
“I don’t…I don’t think I would have stopped you. And if you say I couldn’t have, I’m going to do my best to remind you that I, in fact, could have. Don’t ever forget what I can do, Ferran. Who I am. I am not delicate. I am not a wilting flower that you’ve brought out to the desert. I survived that day. I survived every day after. You don’t need to protect me, and I refuse to fear you.”
“I killed your father,” he said, his dark eyes boring into hers.
“I know,” she said.
“No, Samarah, you don’t. I did not have your father arrested. I did not send him to trial. I was hiding. In a closet. I heard everything happening out in the corridor and I hid. That is when your father burst into the family quarters. And he attacked my father with a knife. I stayed hidden. I did nothing. I was afraid. I watched through the partly open door as he ended my father’s life. My mother was in the corner. A woman, unarmed, uninvolved in any of it. And then he went for her and…I didn’t hide anymore. She begged, Samarah. For her life. She begged him to spare her. For me. For my sake and the sake of our people. For the sake of his soul. But he didn’t. I opened the closet door and I took a vase off of one of the sideboards and I hit him in the back of the head with it. I was too late to save my mother. She was already gone. And I…disarmed him.”
“Like you did me,” she said, feeling dizzy. Feeling sick.
“Yes. Exactly like I did you. But unlike you…he ran. And I went after him.”
She tried not to picture it, but it was far too easy. Because she’d been there that day. Because she’d heard the screams. Because she knew just how violent and horrible a day it had been. It was so easy to add visual to the sounds that already echoed in her head.
“I was faster than he was. Because of age or adrenaline, I’m not sure. But I want you to know that I didn’t even give him the chance to beg for his life. Because he never knew I had caught him. I ended him the moment I overtook him. I stabbed him in the back.”
Samarah took a step back from him, her eyes filling with tears before she could even process what he was saying. She shook her head. “No…Ferran don’t…don’t…” She didn’t know what she wanted to say. Don’t say it. Don’t let it be true. Don’t tell me.
“It is the truth, Samarah. You should know what kind of man you’re going to marry. You should know that I am capable of acting with no honor. There was no trial. He was not given a chance. I acted out of emotion. Out of rage. And it is one thing I refuse to regret. You need to know that before you agree to bind yourself to me. I killed your father and I will not regret it.”
She growled and ran forward, shoving his chest with both hands. “Why must you do this now?” she asked, her voice breaking. “Why did you make me care and then try and rip it away?”
“I’m being honest,” he said, gripping her arms and holding her so that she couldn’t hit him again. “You have to know. Am I the man you want in your bed? Then you must know the man I am.”
She fought against him, not to break free, but just because it felt good to fight against something. Because it was easier than standing there passively while all these emotions coursed through her. Grief, rage, anguish, panic. All of it was boiling in her, threatening to overflow. And she didn’t know how to handle it. She didn’t know how to feel all of this.
This wasn’t simply breathe in, breathe out. This wasn’t a calculated plan for revenge and satisfaction of honor. This wasn’t even the low hum of sixteen years of anger. This was all new, and shocking and fresh.
Because she hurt. For what she’d lost. For her father. For the man he truly was. A man who killed an innocent woman because he was scorned. A man who was not the one she’d loved so much as a child.
And she hurt for Ferran. As horrible as it was to imagine him being involved as he had been, she hurt for him. The boy whose mother had died before his eyes. The boy who had avenged her.
As she would have done.
Oh, as she would have done to him if he’d allowed it. And then what? Would she be the one standing there with nothing but a scorched soul? With haunted eyes and the feeling that she had no honor left because in her rage she’d allowed herself to justify taking the life of someone else?