Page 58 of To Defy a Sheikh

She would stay here. Because her home was with him. She felt as if her heart might even be with him. And that meant it was worth pushing for what she wanted, didn’t it?

Yes, it did. She would not question herself. She adjusted the tape on her fists and strode into the gym, where she knew Ferran would be. He was probably hoping for a quiet workout. But she wasn’t going to allow it.

Because she wasn’t simply going to accept what he gave. She was going to break through the brick wall.

“Hello, hayati,” she said. My life. Because that was what he was. He’d changed her life, given her new purpose. New hope. And she would do her best to give him the same.

Ferran turned, his broad chest glistening with sweat. Samarah licked her lips. She loved him like this. It made her think of pleasure. Of being in bed with him, because he often looked like this there. Out of breath, physically exhausted.

They were an athletic couple, and they were not only athletic in the gym. The thought made her face hot, even now.

“What are you doing here, Samarah?” he asked.

“I’m sorry, were you looking for an exclusive workout time?” she asked, approaching the punching bag and treating it to a crescent kick, sending it swinging.

Ferran caught it, holding it steady, a dark brow arched. “And if I were.”

“Too bad. I’m not leaving.” She crossed her arms beneath her breasts and cocked her head to the side. “I want to spar.”

“Do you?” he asked.

“Yes. I feel like we’re both getting complacent. But when I win, I expect something in return.”

“Do you?”

“Yes. I’m going to ask a question, and you will answer truthfully.”

He tilted his head back, his nostrils flaring. “You think so?”

“Are you afraid I’ll win, Ferran? You know my moves. I have no size advantage. But I will make a rule about biting.”

“What are we playing to?”

“First to five?” she asked.

“And what do I get if I win?” he asked. “You have not offered me incentive.”

“What do you want?”

“If I win, you ask me no more questions.”

His expression was hard, uncompromising.

“That is imbalanced,” she said. “I’m only asking for one question, and you’re asking for none, ever?”

“It is not my fault if you set your sights too low.”

“I do not…”

“I do not have to answer any,” he said. “So I suggest you fight if you have a hope of getting even one answer. I do not live on anyone else’s terms.”

“All right,” she said, moving into position. “We have a deal.”

He took his stance, his dark eyes meeting hers. “Ready?”

Yes. She was ready to fight for her life. For this new life she wanted, with this man.

“Ready,” she said. And then without waiting, she advanced on him, landing a kick that was a more of a tap, to the side of his neck. “One!” she shouted.

He narrowed his eyes and sidestepped her next move, then grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him, tapping her cheek with his fist. “One,” he said.

“Bastard,” she hissed, rolling out of his hold and stepping away, backhanding him gently before turning and landing an uppercut to his chin. “Two, three.”

He reached for her arm again and she hopped back, sidestepping and moving to his side, flicking a snap kick into his side. “Four,” she said.

He turned and countered, but she blocked. He grabbed her around the waist and tugged her against him, her feet off the ground. She wiggled, pushing herself up higher into his arms and over his shoulder. Then she shouted and felt his arms loosen, the jolt from the noise offering her just enough give to use her weight to flip herself over his shoulder, land on her feet and plant her foot between his shoulder blades “Five,” she said.

He turned, his chest heaving with the effort of breathing. She knew she looked the same, sweat running down her neck, her back. But she was fighting for her relationship with him. She was fighting for a break in his facade.

She bowed, a sign of respect for him, even in his defeat. He squared up to her and did the same.

“You owe me,” she said. “One question. We’re getting married in two days and I require this.”

He said nothing, he just faced her, his dark eyes blank. “You have earned your question. Ask.”

He looked more like a man facing the justice she’d promised just a month ago.

“What are you afraid of?”

“You think I am afraid, Samarah?”

“I know you are.”

“Not of anything outside myself.”

“What does that mean?”

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