It was more. She was more.
He slid his palm over her curves, to the indent of her waist, over the rounded flare of her hip. He gathered up the material of her dress, curling his fingers around the heavy, beaded fabric.
“No,” she said. “But we’re in the garden and…”
“And you said you wanted me. You do not get to dictate all the terms. If you want me, you will have me now.”
He moved his hand between her thighs, felt the thin silk that separated the heart of her from his touch. He pushed it aside and growled when his fingertips made contact with slick flesh. “You do want me,” he said, moving his thumb over the source of her pleasure.
She arched against him, her breathing coming in short, sharp bursts. More evidence of her need for him. He suddenly felt that he might require her more than air.
“Samarah,” he said, sliding his fingers through her folds.
She pushed her knees together, forcing his hand more tightly against her body, her head falling back against the wall, her lips parted, an expression of ecstasy.
If he took her now, it would be over quickly. It would be so easy to undo his pants and thrust deep inside her, take them both to release.
But then he couldn’t see her body. He couldn’t touch her as he wanted, taste her as he wanted.
“I want to take you to bed,” he said.
“I thought you wanted me here?”
“I do,” he said. “Here and now, but I also want to be able to see you.” He moved his hand from between her thighs. “I want to touch you. I want to take my time.”
He tugged her dress back into place.
“You can’t expect me to walk back through there. We look…well, we must look like we’ve been doing exactly what we’ve been doing.”
“I am certain we do. But I have no issue with it.”
“I cannot figure you out.”
“I’ve made the decision,” he said, looking at her eyes, which were glittering in the dim lighting. And he could feel the desperation within himself. Could sense his own biting need to justify his actions.
But he’d decided he would do this. So surely that made it okay. Surely that meant he had reasoned it out. She was to be his wife. He repeated that fact in his mind. She was to be his wife, and that meant that he could be with her. That meant he had to be. It was duty and honor, and it had nothing to do with the heat in his blood.
And making sure he took his time and enjoyed it was for her. For his wife.
“Come with me,” he said, holding out his hand.
She took it, delicate fingers curling around his. He flashed back to the moment in his bedroom, when those hands had struck at him. When she’d looked at him with fear and loathing. It was gone now. All of it. Replaced by a desire he wasn’t certain he deserved from her.
But he needed it. Because they were getting married.
That was the only reason. For his people.
Not for himself.
But either way, he needed it.
He led her back through the garden, and into the brightly lit, glittering ballroom. She was flushed, her eyes bright. She looked very much like a woman who was on the brink of release, and suddenly, he was afraid that everyone in the room would know.
Not for himself, but for her. He didn’t want to humiliate Samarah. He didn’t want to expose her or hurt her. And yet, he feared that was what he’d done. All he would ever do.
Not tonight. Tonight she would be his, and he would worry about the rest later.
He gritted his teeth and battled with himself. With his reasoning, his justifications.
Spare me. Spare us.
No. There was no place for that memory. Not in this. This wasn’t the same. He could keep control, and have this.
He could keep her.
He led her out into the hall, then down the corridor, toward his chambers. Halfway through, he swept her up in his arms. “I have no patience,” he said, striding onward.
“I doubt this is faster,” she said, her arms looped around his neck.
“But you are near me,” he said.
Why had he said that? Why was he feeling this. Why was he feeling anything? Why did it matter?
He kicked the door to his bedchamber open and Samarah jumped in his arms. “I found that arousing,” she said, her eyes locked with his.
“Did you?” he asked.
“I like your intensity,” she said. “I like that you want me. No one has wanted me in so long.”
He set her down and she leaned into him, curling her fingers into the lapels of his shirt. “No one has wanted me in longer than I can remember. Until you. You want me. And that matters, Ferran…”
He bent and kissed her, slamming the bedroom door as he did, the sound echoing in the cavernous space. “My wanting you is not necessarily something to rejoice in,” he said, dragging the edge of his thumb along her cheek. “I am broken, Samarah, in every way that counts.”