The horizon was indistinguishable from the inky black, which fell upon the desert like a sorcerer’s mantle shot through with diamonds. The stars were so tiny, so far away, and yet, at the moment, with her fingers curled around his, he almost felt as though he could reach up and snag one by the tail.
La mu’axsa, but I think I’ll just keep sliding down this greased pole to hell?
She was a little thing, too, inciting that basic compulsion in him as a man to protect her in so hectic a place as post-war Israel. Even so, his actions were borne out of an entirely different instinct, altogether: to fool her and anyone within a dart’s range… to protect himself.
I stole you, among others, from the streets of God’s birthplace. I forced you to work as a slave. Imprisoned, mistreated and starved you and your companion. To top it off, I am in the process of selling your life to the highest bidder. Why would you trust me?
By now, she was far from the scorch of these sands. After the ransom deal, she would be safely married in England. To Ashton. And Caine, who had hurt her far more than anything Abdullah had planned for her with that long, curved dagger, deserved no better than this torment of knowing it.
Caine usually woke from the recurring dream mid-air, having yet to be dashed upon the rocks, whimpering and panting like a child crying for his mother. Now he lifted his eyes to a dark, empty room in Jizan and the unusual, lingering scent of roses, and wept in his hands for his Father.
I know I am flaky, I accept that—and I know, as well, that I can mangle the good king’s English like no one else in my or the next ten governesses’ acquaintances, but that will not prevent me from speaking! I may not be as wise as you in the ways of the world, I...
The blood dried on his good hand, he passed his palm over her hair. It curled about his wrist and sprung back into displace as the breeze fluttered by. In the firelight, it was golden like the dandelions of which she’d spoken. The ones that had grown along the Franklin riverbank in late summer. The...
What she knew was sand and wind and innumerable stars. The rumble in a camel’s throat as it swayed over shifting dunes, its trappings jingling in time with its steps beneath her. She knew the sting of thirst and the taste of dried fruit, the glare of sun and the frigid, bone-numbing cold of the...
He’d thought it would be the right thing to say, but she scoffed a little… and that, more than anything—more than the prospect of having his ribs crushed in or his face pulled off or his neck stretched on a rope—scared him out of his wits.
She was an extension of his dreams. A sprinkling of magic dust, of unfeasible wishes, on his stable existence. The one thing-the one bright, marvelous thing-he wanted more than the world, but didn’t deserve. However much he was tortured for her sake, however much blood he had spilled to protect her, the bruises to his...
And what was to become of what he had taken from her? He had dashed her heart to the ground and danced on it with combat boots. Did he sit in that seditious palace day after day and not even bother to scrape it off of his soles with a passing thought of her?
Do you know why? Because there will always be bigots and cowards and power-mad devils in positions of omnipotence. Look around you. There has been war here since time began. It’s nature. Animals kill each other for survival, for territory… and for the taste of blood in their mouths. Man is no different.
Fate had a cruel sense of humor. It had been all his fault, anyway, whatever Mick or Gillia told him. Careless preoccupation and utter stupidity. Boyhood ignorance and negligence. He was only getting what he deserved, over and over again, for the rest of his life. If only in his dreams.
Now, look what you’ve done!” she accused tearfully and bolted from the room.
It was a question of insurmountable proportions. A single word that held every fear he had ever had-and every wish he had ever made on those cursed stars. She needn’t say more. In a single syllable, she had said more than he wanted to hear in an entire lifetime.
Better this way, what remained of his battered sensibilities told him. He was no good for her, anyway. She didn’t understand him. She didn’t understand that he was cursed. And, selfish as he was, he’d rather she hate him than he hate himself any more than he was already going to. Any more than he...
He watched her for her reaction, or possibly watched her just to watch, his eyes hooded by his lashes and his mouth impassive. A faceless man—such as the one she had dreamed of since she was a child—his identity not obscured by mist or flying sand or swirling dust, but by a mask he readily...
He wanted to die. He prayed for it. Through the roar in his ears, he begged for it.
She wondered how a man could look into a woman’s eyes and lie so completely, so convincingly. She wondered how he could have looked and not seen the love that had glowed there, the blind faith, the unconditional devotion. She wondered how he would sleep at night, knowing he had betrayed her so effortlessly.