Now, he could not send her away. It was impossible. A bigger sin than the one he’d already committed.
More weakness. How he despised it. How he despised himself. A jailer now, by necessity, because he had ensured now that they must marry.
“If so, then I suppose it’s no less than I deserve,” he said. “Although, marriage is a life sentence, and some might argue a life sentence is more of a punishment.”
“Glad to be your punishment,” she said. “I always knew I would be your reckoning. Why did you leave me alone last night?”
“You heard me. Why did you leave me alone last night?”
“Because, it was a shameless loss of control on my part.”
“You made me feel ashamed,” she said.
“That was not my intention.”
“Regardless,” she said, her voice trembling. “You did. We have a history thick with death and hatred. But in that moment, I was just a woman. And seeing your disgust—”
“At myself. One moment I confessed to stabbing your father in the back, the next you begged me to have sex with you. It was, without a doubt, the strangest encounter I’ve ever had with a woman.”
She frowned, her cheeks turning a dark rose. “I’m not sure how I feel about my only experience with a man being called strange.”
“Do you think it’s common to go from death threats to making love?”
“Does it matter what’s common?”
“I handled you too roughly.”
“You handled me in exactly the right way,” she said. “During sex. Not after. After…I find you in much fault on the way you behaved after.”
“How would you know I treated you in the right way?”
“Because. I know what feels good to me. I know what creates…release.”
“Orgasms,” he said, not feeling in the mood to be considerate of her inexperience. If she thought she could handle it, then she’d have to be able to handle the discussion of it in frank terms.
“Yes,” she said, the color in her cheeks deepening. “Obviously I know what gives me orgasms, and clearly, it is something you know how to accomplish. So you handled me correctly. I think we can both agree on that.”
“Do you know what virgins deserve?”
“Do you even remember being one? How would you know?”
“This isn’t about me,” he said.
“Like hell it’s not,” she grumbled.
“Virgins deserve candles, and lovemaking and marriage vows.”
“Do they? Did your first time come complete with those things? If so, I feel I should tell you, I’ve no interest in sharing you with another wife. And I find candlelight overrated.”
“I’m a man. It’s different.”
“Oh? Really? Because I’m a woman and therefore must be coddled? Because for some reason my body is your responsibility and not mine?” Her face wasn’t smooth now, not unreadable. She was angry. Finally. “If that’s the case, where were you when I shivered in the cold? Where were you when I was alone and starving? Where the hell were you when men approached me and offered me shelter for sex? Or just demanded that I lie down and submit to them? Or perhaps, I should have taken them up on it? Since I clearly don’t know what I need, perhaps they did?”
“That is not what I’m saying, Samarah,” he said. “Hell. I didn’t know…. I didn’t…”
“Because in so many ways, you are the innocent here, Ferran. I have lived in the dark. You only played in it for the afternoon.”
“The thing about something like that is that it never leaves you,” he said. “On that you can trust me. You know, even if you’ve cleaned blood it shows beneath fluorescent lights. That’s how I feel. That no matter how many years pass, no matter how clean I think I am, how far removed…it doesn’t ever really go away. The evidence is there. And all I can do is make sure I never become the man I was in that moment ever again.”
“This is one of the many things about my association with you that troubles me, Ferran,” she said, grabbing her braid and twisting it over her shoulder.
“Only one? Do you have a list?”
She lifted her brows. “It’s quite long. I made it last night. About what I want. About what all this means for me. And about what I find problematic about you.”
“Is it a physical list?”
She nodded. “But this is just one of the things. Before you, everything was black-and-white to me. I hated you for what you did. I didn’t have to know your side. I didn’t have to see multiple angles. I just had to know you were responsible for the death of my father. But now I know you. Now I’ve heard your side. I should hate you more, knowing you ended my father’s life, and yet I find it only makes me feel worse for you. Because coupled with it, comes the revelation that my father killed your mother. That you saw it. That…in your position, I would have acted the same, and that in many ways, had you not made him pay for what he’d done, I would have judged you a coward.”