I would sooner die.
And I would sooner kill you.
Oh, how she had fallen.
You did not fall. You jumped.
“You don’t know what you want,” he said. “You’re an innocent.” He tugged his pants on and turned away from her.
Even as she battled with the shame inside of her, his words ignited her anger. “Hardly. I was a virgin, but that does not equate to innocence.”
“Well, I am a murderer.” He pulled his shirt over his head, concealing his body from her view. “Compared to me, everyone is an innocent. Good night, Samarah. In the morning, if you are still here, and if I am still here, we will speak.”
“Are you afraid I’ll kill you?”
He lifted a shoulder. “I trust you to act in an honorable manner.”
He walked out of her bedroom and closed the door behind him. Leaving her naked. And very, very confused.
She had slept with her father’s murderer. She had wanted him.
She had laid herself bare to her enemy and joined herself to him. The man she had sworn to kill. The man she had agreed to marry. The man who heated her blood and showed her desire she’d never known possible.
Why could things never be simple? This future he had offered had seemed such a miraculous thing in many ways, but the strings attached were different, unexpected. The war, the one she had sought to wage in a physical manner, had moved inside of her body.
What she wanted, right now, was to forget everything. To process what it meant to be intimate with another person for the first time. But her lover was gone. And even if he were here, it wouldn’t be that simple.
He would still be Ferran. She would still be Samarah.
She had never felt more alone than she did in that moment. She had spent years in near isolation, with no friends and no family, and here, with the imprint of his fingertips still burning on her skin, she felt completely abandoned.
She rolled over onto her stomach and curled up into a ball.
She felt utterly changed. By Ferran. By his confession. By his touch. And she would have to figure out what to do about both.
One thing she knew for certain, she would not allow his touch to transform her into a quivering mass. She had survived all manner of things; she would not allow herself to implode now.
She repeated the words she’d said to Ferran, just before he had touched her. Before he’d altered her entirely.
“I am still a warrior.”
FERRAN SUPPOSED HE shouldn’t be too surprised by Samarah storming into the dining room early the next morning in her workout gear, her long dark hair restrained in a braid.
He also supposed he shouldn’t be too surprised by the feral, tearing lust that gripped him the moment he saw her. Sixteen years of celibacy, burned away by this fearsome, beautiful creature.
“You’re not exactly dressed for our meeting with the event planner,” he said, gritting his teeth, trying to get a handle on himself.
“And you’re not exactly dead, so perhaps you should just be grateful.”
“It’s true,” he said, lifting his mug to his lips, “I suppose after last night, I should be happy that you allowed that.”
“Again, I find myself merciful.”
“I have no doubt. And are you here to tell me you’re leaving, Sheikha? Though, I must warn you, I will not allow it.”
“A change in tune from last night.”
“After what happened, there is no way you can go.”
She held up her hand and showed him the ring on her finger. “As it is, I’ve decided to stay.”
“How is this possible?”
“I have nowhere else to go. I get thrown in your dungeon, I get sent back to the streets of Jahar, and neither option is entirely palatable to me. So I’m staying here. I find sheikhahood much preferred to street urchinhood. Imagine that.”
“I would ensure you were cared for.”
“And I would live on your terms. This way I have my own source of power and visibility in the public eye. I have my rightful position. It is the only way.”
“Why are you not angry with me?”
“Perhaps I am,” she said, her expression cool, impassive. “Perhaps this is simply me lying in wait.”
There was something about the way she said it that sent a slug of heat through him, hitting him hard in the gut. Because it made him think of last night. Of her soft hair sifting through his fingers, of her softer skin beneath his palms.
It made him think of what it had been like to be inside her. A storm of rage and fire, of all the passion she’d asked for.
And in that passion, he had dishonored her. At least, he had not done what his mother would have expected from him with the daughter of their neighboring country. A virgin princess. He would have been expected to honor her. To never touch her until marriage vows had been spoken, until she was protected.