Page 37 of To Defy a Sheikh

Normally, she wouldn’t go walking outside in it. And she wouldn’t go walking out with her hair down, simply because there was too much of it, and letting it free was much more trouble than it was worth.

But right now she didn’t care.

She stepped down onto the wet sand; it stuck to her feet while the raindrops poured down over her body, making her nightgown stick to her skin. She looked up and let the rain drop onto her face, sliding down her cheeks and her neck.

How different it was to stand in the rain when it was your choice. When you knew you could go back inside and get dry.

She spun in a circle, her arms held out wide. She felt like the child she had been. As if she was free. As if rain was just rain, and she didn’t have to worry about the cold, or the discomfort, the mold or the damp. All of the cares she normally carried were washed away.

She walked along the path they’d taken last night, to the ashes of the fire from the night before, and to the edge of the water. She looked out across the surface, continually being shattered by heavy drops of rain and tilted her face upward again.

“You’ll catch your death.”

She turned and saw Ferran, and immediately the childlike joy, the simplicity of it, faded. And she realized she was standing there with nothing but a thin nightshirt clinging to her body, and her hair wet and stringy down her back.

“You’re out here, too,” she said.

And in nothing but a pair of jeans. He was wearing jeans. And no shirt. But he hadn’t worn jeans to bed so that must have meant he’d been…well, he’d likely slipped the jeans on before coming outside.

“Yes, but you’re…you’re beautiful,” he said.

“I’m wet.”

“Yes.” He took a step toward her and she looked behind herself, her heel at the edge of the water. There was no backing away from him. And she didn’t feel very inclined toward punching him in the face, either. Which was new. He extended his hand and took a strand of her hair between his thumb and forefinger, twisting it lightly. “I wondered what your hair looked like down.”

“It is also wet. Therefore not the most flattering representation.”

“I disagree,” he said, leaning in closer. “Do you know how much of your body I can see through that nightshirt?”

She looked down at the fabric, which had shaped itself to her figure. She could clearly see her nipples, hardened from the cold. The nightgown provided no coverage there.

“I have an idea,” she said, looking back up.

“And do you know what it does to me?”

She started to speak, then closed her mouth. Then she blinked and shook her head. “No.”

“I have not touched a woman in sixteen years. I… Right now I feel like the ground here. Like I’ve been too long without water, and it’s finally here in front of me.”

“Oh…Ferran…I don’t…I…” She didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t sure what he wanted. She wasn’t sure she could give it.

He hadn’t touched a woman in sixteen years, and now he was here, his hands on her hair. Touching her. So much pressure on her, when she had no idea what might happen next.

“I’m going to ask you again, Samarah.” His dark eyes were level with hers. “Have you ever been kissed?”

She felt as if the breath had been pulled from her lungs. “Not exactly,” she said.

“And by that you mean?”

Samarah hesitated, her heart fluttering in her chest. She knew this admission would change things. That in a few moments, the answer to the question have you ever been kissed, would not be the same. Even with no experience, she knew it. In her bones. In her blood. And she wanted it. “Not by anyone other than my family. Never by a man. Never in the way you mean.”

He put his hands on her cheeks and brushed the water drops away. Was she really going to let him kiss her?

He’s going to be your husband.

He was your enemy.

He’ll be your lover.

Her brain was fighting with itself. And she had no idea which voice to listen to. But she felt her lips parting, her eyes slipping closed as she tilted her face upward.

To know what was right, so deeply, that it would be an instinct to act upon what’s right when the time comes…

“I have waited for this,” he said, his voice a growl, “for longer than you can imagine.”

And then his lips met with hers. They were hot beneath the sheen of rain that covered them. Slick from the water. And firm. But more so than she’d imagined they might be. He held her face steady, then tilted his head, opening his mouth and touching the center of her upper lip with the tip of his tongue.

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