And then he drowned out the myriad voices in his head by losing himself in her all over again.
* * *
When Charlotte woke the following morning she was relieved to find herself alone in Salim’s bed. She couldn’t have handled being under the scrutiny of that searing blue gaze when she felt so turned inside out.
Last night was almost too much to process. The mind-melting sex...and the revelations that had preceded it.
Salim didn’t believe he was worthy of his kingdom.
He’d led her to believe that he didn’t want to be king because he didn’t want to give up his successful independent lifestyle. But it was so much more than that. Not to mention the fact that he believed he’d driven someone to his death.
Charlotte didn’t for a second believe that was true. But he did.
She heard a noise and sat up in the bed in a panic, pulling the sheet up to her neck, not remotely ready to face Salim.
But it was Assa, and relief vied with embarrassment as the young girl came in, seemingly totally unfazed to find Charlotte in her king’s bed.
‘Miss McQuillan, the king will be leaving for Jandor soon. I’ve packed your bags and laid out some clothes in your room.’
Assa handed her a robe and Charlotte squeaked out, ‘Jandor?’
The girl nodded. ‘Yes, for the banquet dinner King Zafir is holding in Jahor palace, in honour of our king’s upcoming coronation.’ Assa’s eyes shone with excitement as she said, ‘I can’t wait to see Queen Kat—they say she’s even more beautiful than in her pictures.’
Charlotte smiled weakly and pulled the robe on. Of course. She’d completely forgotten about the scheduled trip to Jandor in the tumult of the past few days.
She followed Assa back to her rooms through a warren of back corridors—presumably to protect Charlotte’s sullied reputation.
She tried to stop herself wondering where Salim was, or if he was even marginally as affected as she was by the previous night.
* * *
Salim was already on his private jet when she stepped on board a few hours later. He looked up and there was no discernible expression on his face. Charlotte tried not to let that intimidate her, or to feel out of her depth. She had so little experience with this kind of thing.
When she took a seat on the other side of the aisle, directed there by a steward, she realised that Salim was listening to Rafa, who was sitting opposite him and had been hidden by the seat.
Salim stared at her, and his gaze drifted down over her silk shirt and plain trousers. When he met her eyes again he arched a brow.
She’d found herself choosing from her own clothes again, even though Assa had left out a traditional tunic, because at the last minute she’d felt as if she needed some fortification. Except now all she could think was that she’d dressed like this subconsciously to provoke a reaction, and she cringed inwardly.
Rafa stood up then, collecting a sheaf of papers, and bowed to Salim before smiling at Charlotte and taking his leave.
She asked, ‘Isn’t he travelling with us?’
The staff were busy closing the door as Salim said, ‘He’s travelling separately.’
He came out of his seat then, and was buckling her belt across her lap before she could move. His hands were big against her belly as he tightened it.
He looked at her and said, sotto voce, ‘Did you dress like that on purpose, Charlotte?’
A wave of heat scorched her insides, all the way to between her legs. She felt a spurt of something giddy and reckless. ‘Maybe I did.’
His eyes flashed and his hands lingered for a moment before the plane started moving on the runway and he took his seat again.
When they were airborne, and the staff had checked if they needed anything, Salim undid his belt and held out a hand to Charlotte across the aisle.
‘Come here,’ he instructed.
Charlotte glanced up the plane to where the steward was keeping himself discreetly busy. She looked back at Salim and melted inside. The look on his face was one of such innate imperiousness that she couldn’t understand how he didn’t see it in himself.