“I should have had him go to trial, Samarah. That would have been the right thing to do in the black-and-white world. In the one I aspire to live in.”
“I think of that day like being in the middle of a war zone. It’s how I remember it. I was just a child, and I saw very little. I was so lucky to be protected. My mother ensured that I was protected though…have you ever considered my father would have come for us next? For her? Would he have come for me too, Ferran, ultimate vengeance on my mother, if you hadn’t acted as you did?
“Samarah…you’re assigning heroism to me, and that is one thing you should never do. It’s conjecture. Who knows what would have happened?”
“Yes, who knows? I only know what did. But now I know it from more angles. I miss my blinding conviction. The less I knew, the easier it all was. I could just…focus on one thing in particular.”
“Your rage for me.”
“Yes. And I could move forward, using that as my target. And now? Now everything has expanded and there are so many more possibilities. For what my life could be. For what I could do with myself and my purpose. But it’s scarier, too.”
“Scarier than gaining access to my palace? Being thrown in a dungeon? Facing possible trial?”
“Yes. Because when I was in that state I didn’t want anything. I had accepted that I would probably die carrying out my mission, and that meant an end to… Life has been so hard. I’ve had no great love for it. But you came in and you offered me more, and the moment you did…things started to change. Now…now I don’t want to turn away. I don’t want to go back to how it was. And yet…and yet in some ways I do. It makes no sense to me, either.”
He laughed. It was an absurd thing to do under the circumstances. Neither he nor Samarah had anything to laugh about. And yet, he couldn’t help it. It was as if she was discovering emotions for the first time. Discovering how contrary it could be to be human.
“Is this your first experience with such confusion?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said. “Emotions are wobbly. Conviction isn’t.”
“I’m very sorry to have caused you…feelings.”
“Thank you,” she said. “I’m…sorry in many ways to be experiencing them. Though not in others. Really, is it always like this?”
“Not for me,” he said. “I’m not overly given to emotion.”
“I suppose you aren’t. Though, passion seems to be a strong suit of yours.”
“No, it’s a weakness.”
She let out a long breath. “You’re getting off topic. I have my list.” She reached into the pocket of her athletic shorts and pulled out a folded piece of paper. “Now that I’m not merely surviving, there are some things I would like. I would like to be comfortable,” she said, unfolding the paper and looking at it. “I would like to be part of something. Something constructive. Something that isn’t all about breaking a legacy, but building a new one.”
“Lofty,” he said, standing, his stomach tightening as he looked at her, his beautiful, brave fiancée, who didn’t seem to be afraid of anything, least of all him. She should be. She should have run. He’d given her the chance and she had not.
Why had she not run? Any normal woman would have turned away from him. From the blood on his hands.
She should be afraid.
He moved nearer to her, fire burning through his blood. A flame to alcohol, impossibly hot and bright. She should be afraid. He wanted to make her afraid. Almost as badly as he wanted her to turn to him and lean in, press her lush body against his chest.
“Is that your entire list?” he asked.
“No,” she said, her voice steady. “I want to feel like I have a life. Like I have…”
“Sex,” he said, leaning in, running his thumb over the ridge of her high cheekbone. “Is sex on your list?”
He let his hand drift down the elegant line of her neck, resting his palm at the base of her throat. He knew that she wouldn’t fear his wrath. She would fight him to the death if need be. Here was where he had the undisputed upper hand. Here was where his experience trumped hers.
He felt her pulse quicken beneath his thumb. “I don’t know.”
“If you stay, there is no option, do you understand?” He slid his thumb along her tender skin. “You are my prisoner in many ways.”
And it was true. A hard truth that settled poorly.
“It is better than the streets,” she said, arching a brow.
“A high compliment,” he said.
“It is,” she said. “For in the beginning, I would have said death was better than this.”