She shook her head. “I can’t deal with this just now. Not when everyone is in there and we’re on show. I’ve probably already ruined things by storming out.”
“It’s okay. I might have been a little bit inappropriate. But I’m out of practice when it comes to civilized behavior.”
“You make me...you do make me want things, Xander. Things that I thought I’d let go of. And it scares me. Because in my experience, wanting things is just a long road paved with pain.”
“That’s emotion you’re thinking of. Sex can be a lot more simple. And a lot more fun.”
She laughed, a shaky, watery sound. “Well, I wouldn’t know.”
His gut tightened, blood rushing to his arousal. “I could show you.”
“I don’t understand this. I don’t remember being this tempted by you back when I thought you were a decent human being, so how can I be so drawn to you now?”
“Lust doesn’t have to make sense, Layna.”
“I guess not,” she said, looking at him with a weary expression. “Perhaps that’s why the church has such a firm stance on it. It could potentially get someone into a lot of trouble. Particularly since our bodies seem to be indiscriminate.”
“Is your body being indiscriminate for me?” he asked. So strange how badly he just wanted her to say it. How much he wanted to her to admit, from her prim little mouth, that she wanted him. That she was picturing sweaty, tangled limbs and screams of pleasure.
Yes, screams. He wanted it loud. And he wanted it dirty. He wanted it with a ferocity that shook him to his core.
With a woman who’s most likely a virgin. You truly are a rare breed of ass.
Maybe. Did it matter? He was so past the point of redemption anyway. And she was going to be his wife, surely that made it at least partly okay.
And if not, why should he start caring now?
It was too late for him anyway.
“We should go back inside,” she said.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“And I’m not going to. Here I’ve stormed out of the ballroom and I’m supposed to be making you look stable. So I think it’s time to go back and show solidarity, don’t you?”
He nodded slowly. She really was good at this. He’d all but forgotten the ball happening inside. If she’d let him he probably would have just lifted her dress and taken her here on the balcony with the ocean as the backdrop. And people just inside.
He did a much better job of thinking of his own appetites than he did of thinking of his people.
“Can I do it?” he asked, not sure why the words came out just then.
“Can you do what?”
“This,” he said. Too late to take them back now.
“Will I really be a good king? For some reason, you seem very confident in me when it comes to that part of things. You have no respect for me on a personal level, but you seem very sure that I’ll rule well, why?”
“Because you don’t want it,” she said. “Because there’s nothing easy about it, and the power itself doesn’t seem to appeal to you at all. What better man to rule?”
“Because I don’t want it?”
“Yes. From that I have to assume that your motives are pure.”
“My motives are a lot of things. But I doubt they’re pure. I doubt anything in me is.”
“Are you ready to go back?” she asked.
He was humbled in that moment, by her strength. By the cost of this to her. It was costing him, but what really? His total waste of a life? His meaningless flings with random women? His chance to continue living in different penthouse suites?
It was costing her every shred of pride she had.
He would not let them take it. She was too strong. Standing there with her focus fixed on the ballroom, determined to go back in even though he knew it was difficult for her.
“Yes, agape, let’s go and show them what the future of their country looks like.”
SHE HONESTLY HAD no idea what her problem was. Why she’d melted down with Xander, why she’d had to run out of the ballroom.
Well, no, she did know why. It was because she had no idea what she was doing. She didn’t know how to handle men. Didn’t know how to deal with this desire that was starting to wrap itself around her like a creeping vine.
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
She was supposed to be...at the very least she was supposed to feel nothing for him. And at most, she’d been willing to allow herself to be angry.
And she was angry. She was angry at him for leaving her. She was angry at life for making her the way that she was.