Charlotte went over and touched it reverently. ‘What is this?’
Assa’s voice was awed. ‘It’s a traditional Jandori kaftan, supplied by the queen as a gift to you. It was designed by one of their most famous designers. She has left a note saying that you don’t have to feel obliged to wear it tonight, but that it’s yours in any case.’
It looked too beautiful to be worn...the fabric as delicate as a butterfly’s wing. The queen’s generosity was humbling.
Charlotte looked at Assa. ‘What do you think I should do?’
Assa was incredulous. ‘You have to wear it, Miss McQuillan, you can’t insult the queen.’
Charlotte smiled, glad to feel some lightness again.
Assa was backing away. ‘I’ve unpacked all your things, and you should rest now. I’ll be back to help you dress in a couple of hours.’
Charlotte was about to protest that she didn’t need help, but she didn’t have the heart to curtail Assa’s obvious excitement. ‘Thank you, Assa.’
Alone again, Charlotte took in the luxurious yet understated surroundings of her room. This was how Tabat palace could be some day, with some loving care.
And then Salim’s sneering words came back to her, when he’d accused her of wanting to be a queen. Humiliation flooded her again at the thought that he might have seen something of her feelings on her face, like Kat had, and had seen all the way into her deepest secret yearnings for unconditional love and a family.
But did she secretly fantasise about being a queen?
Charlotte walked to the window and looked out over Jahor. The thought made her feel panicky, and yet she appreciated what Kat had said about feeling capable of anything with Zafir by her side.
Charlotte didn’t want to be a queen, but to be Salim’s queen... That was a different and far more dangerous dream.
She turned from the window in disgust at her mind’s wanderings. Salim wasn’t even going to be king for long...and she could appreciate fully now just why he’d resisted so forcibly. Even if she still didn’t agree with him.
Charlotte had to remind herself that she was a temporary lover. Someone who had piqued his interest for a while because she was nothing like his usual women.
He was so proud. She knew he wouldn’t relish having spilled his guts to her just now. But no doubt he felt that it was excusable, because soon she would be relegated to his past while he got on with his future. With or without Tabat.
And if he did decide to stay on as king then he would have to choose a suitable queen. Maybe someone from one of the tribes—a high-born tribal leader’s daughter. Like the young woman who’d married that man. With her gorgeous kohled eyes and elaborate headdress. They would say I marry you three times to each other and then they would be married...
Charlotte cursed herself when she realised where her mind was going. She decided to take a refreshing shower and stripped off, pulling on a silk robe that was hanging behind the bathroom door.
She heard a noise in the bedroom and, thinking it would be Assa, went back out, stumbling to a halt when she saw that a door she hadn’t even noticed was open between her room and another. And it was dominated by the man standing there, looking a little wild and feral.
Charlotte was glad to see there were no obvious signs of a fight on his face. She wondered how the exchange had gone with his brother.
‘I didn’t want to intrude.’
He made a sound at that—something between a laugh and a growl. He held out a hand. ‘Come here. I need you.’
His voice resonated like a sensual command, deep inside her. She walked forward, very aware of the flimsiness of the silk robe against her naked body and of Salim’s blue gaze on her.
She stopped in front of him. The air crackled between them, alive and electric.
‘What do you need?’ she asked, slightly breathlessly.
He looked even wilder up close, and it sent a shiver of awareness over Charlotte’s skin. He put his hands on her hips and pulled her right into him. She gasped when she felt the thrust of his arousal against her belly.
‘I need you,’ he said thickly, ‘and this.’
And then his mouth slammed down on hers and she was sucked into an immediate vortex of white heat and lust, making her legs turn to jelly.