“I…” She felt her cheeks get hotter, and she wanted to shrink away. To tell him nothing. To tell him something quick, and unexplicit. Something dishonest that had nothing to do with what she’d actually been thinking about doing with him.
But then she remembered her own words.
I do not run.
She tilted her head up and leaned in so that her lips were near his ear, her heart hammering hard.
“I want to take this dress off for you,” she said. “While you sit and watch. I want to watch your face as your need for me takes you over.” She swallowed hard. “Then…then I want to…I want to get onto the bed, on your lap, and kiss your lips.”
“You want to do all of that?” he asked.
“I’m not finished.”
“I may need to be,” he said. “This doesn’t sound very much like you’re planning to let me lead.”
“You were the one who said I should let you lead in the bedroom. I never agreed to it.”
“We were not taking a vote,” he said, his tone hard.
“I deserve to get what I want from this marriage, too.”
“You aren’t talking about marriage. You’re talking about now.”
She lifted a shoulder. “Don’t I deserve to be certain of the manner of man I’m binding myself to? You said that yourself.”
“And you think seducing me will reveal me to you more than my confessions already have?”
“It’s the one thing you’ve held back for the past sixteen years. That makes me feel like it’s important.”
Ferran wanted to turn away from her, and yet, he found it impossible. She was too beautiful. Too powerful. It wasn’t simply beauty. It never had been. She was a glittering flash of temptation that could easily be his undoing.
But she was also to be his wife. And that meant he had to get a handle on himself with her, didn’t it? That meant that he had to be able to sleep with her, to make love with her, without losing himself.
Here before him was the challenge. If he turned her away now, then he proved that she held the power to take him back to where he’d been before.
She didn’t. No matter how strongly she called to him. No matter how much he wanted her, he could control it. He could have her tonight, and feel nothing beyond release.
It didn’t matter what she wore, what she did. He would prove to himself he had the control.
“All right, Samarah. You want me? You want my body? Tonight?”
“Now?” he asked.
“Now…we’re…Ferran, not now.”
He pulled her closer, staring down into her wide, dark eyes. “If you want me, habibti, you will have me on my terms.”
He released her from the close hold they were in, then laced his fingers through hers, drawing her through the crowd of people, out into the gardens. The night was cool, the grounds insulated from view by palm trees and flowering plants.
And no doubt his security detail had seen him exit with Samarah. If for no other reason, no one would be following them out here.
He tugged her to him and kissed her, hard and deep. If this was what she wanted, it was what she would have. But he wouldn’t be at her mercy. He wouldn’t be taking orders from her. If she wanted him, she could have him.
And he would make her understand what that meant.
He cupped her chin, his thumb drifting along the line of her jaw as he continued to kiss her. To taste her. He could drown in it. He very nearly had before. Both when they’d kissed in the rain, and last night.
There were things about kissing a woman he hadn’t remembered. How soft feminine lips were, the sounds they made. How it felt to be so close to someone living. To feel their heartbeat against your own.
Or maybe he hadn’t forgotten. Maybe he’d just never noticed before.
But he did now. It was like slowly having feeling return to frozen limbs. To places that had been numb for years. So much so, he’d forgotten they were even there.
In his quest to be the best sheikh, to choke out all of his weaknesses, he’d forgotten he was a man. And the touch of Samarah’s lips in his brought it all back with blinding clarity.
And with the clarity came a host of other things he’d spent years trying to deny. Fear. Anger.
He backed her against one of the walls that enclosed the garden from the rest of the world, taking her mouth with all the ferocity he possessed.
“You want this?” he asked again, kissing her cheek, her neck, moving his hand to her breast. His whole body was shaking. He could hardly breathe. He could barely stand. Touching her like this…
It had nothing to do with how long it had been since he’d touched a woman. If he was honest, he had to confess that.