“Oh, my little viper.” He moved his hand upward and cupped her jaw. “You are so honest.”
“I am not,” she said.
“Your eyes. They tell me too much.” Liquid, beautiful and dark as night, they shone with emotion. Deep. Unfathomable. But the presence of that emotion twisted at his gut. Convicted him.
“Do not trust me, Samarah,” he said, his voice rough. “I don’t trust me.”
“I don’t trust anyone.”
“See that you don’t. You may be a warrior. You may be a strong fighter. You may not hesitate to cut my throat…now. But in the bedroom, I have the experience.”
“Sixteen years celibate,” she said.
He wrapped one arm around her waist and drew her to him, holding her chin tight, pressing her breasts tight to his chest. “And yet,” he said. “I had the power over your body. Do you deny it?”
Dark eyes shimmered, her cheeks turning pink. She caught her breath, pressing her breasts more firmly against him. “No,” she said, her voice choked.
Oh, Samarah. She revealed too much to him.
He wanted to press her back against the wall, wanted to take her. To show her that he was not a man to toy with. To prove he wasn’t a man to trust.
He released her, moved away from her. The distance easing his breath. “Now, unless you’re planning on wearing workout clothes to meet with the event coordinator, you may want to go change.”
“Yes, I may. Thank you. How thoughtful.” She turned away from him, head down, and walked out of the room.
The twisting sensation in his gut intensified. He was her jailer. Not her fiancé. Being with her…it was akin to force.
He gritted his teeth as pain lashed through his chest. No. He would not force her. He had not. What had happened last night could not be changed, but the future could. At the very least, he would begin showing her the respect a sheikha was due.
SAMARAH HUNG OUT in the corridor, listening to the sounds of people inside the grand ballroom of the palace. She was still a little bit nervous in large gatherings like this. More so now that she was a focal point for attention. And she felt as if there was nowhere to hide.
As palace staff, no one had noticed her. As the sheikh’s fiancée? Yes, she was certainly going to be noticed. Especially in the green-and-gold gown that had been sent for her. It had yards of fabric, the skirt all layered, billowing folds. The sleeves went to her elbows, sheer and beaded, with matching details on the bodice, disappearing beneath the wide, gold belt that made her waist look impossibly small. It also kept her posture unreasonably straight, since it was metal.
A matching chain had been sent for her hair, an emerald in the centerpiece that rested on her forehead. She did like the clothes, but less now when she felt so conspicuous. And without Ferran.
She relied on his presence much more than she’d realized until this moment. Of course, after she’d gone and read him her list she felt more than a little embarrassed to see him again.
Though, really, she’d been naked with him, so nothing should embarrass her with him now. It did, though, because he’d run afterward. Because, when they’d spoken earlier, his intensity had unsettled her.
He was right. In this, this need, he was the master. And he could easily use it against her.
How sobering to realize that if the sheikh of Khadra were to defeat her, it wouldn’t end in screams of terror, but in pleasure.
Just then, she saw him. Striding down the hall. He was wearing white linen pants and a tunic, his concession to traditional dress. She’d noticed that he never seemed to bother with robes.
She didn’t feel so conspicuous now. Because surely everyone’s eyes would be on Ferran. He was taller than most men, so he always stood out for that reason. But he was also arrestingly handsome. She’d kissed his lips, touched his face, his body. And she was still struck to the point of speechlessness by his beauty.
Or maybe it was even more intense now. Because she’d been with him. Because she knew what wicked pleasure his perfect lips could provide. Because she knew what a heaven it was to be in his strong arms, to be held against his muscular chest.
“You’re late,” she said, clasping her hands in front of her.
He paused, his dark eyes assessing. “You’re beautiful.”
She blinked hard. He’d said that to her before. But for some reason it hit her now, how rarely she’d heard that in her life. Not when it was said in a nonthreatening tone. Men on the streets had called out to her, but they had frightened her. Her father and mother had called her beautiful, but when she was a child.