He pivoted back toward the door. Then he strode out of the room without so much as a backward glance, leaving her to stare after him, half-dressed, fuming, and determined to avoid the infuriating ass for the duration of her confinement with him.

CHAPTER 8

For the next two days, he hardly saw Seraphina.

She spent her evenings behind the closed door of the massive bedroom suite, pointedly ignoring his existence. During the daytime, she slipped outside to the villa’s sunbaked patio for hours on end, safely out of his reach and about as far away from his company as she could get.

She was pissed off, punishing him with frosty silence and deliberate avoidance.

Exactly as he’d intended when he’d left her high and dry—and as sexually frustrated as he was—that first night.

Better to earn her contempt than test his control under the desire-drenched heat of her gaze again. Her absence was a reprieve he welcomed. Better that than trying to withstand the temptation of her enticing curves and infinitely soft skin, now that he knew the pleasure of both.

Fuck. He’d only touched her for a few moments and the feel of her was branded into his fingertips. Her warmth and cinnamon-sugar scent was seared into his senses.

Even though she was out of sight now—rummaging quietly in the kitchen, by the sound of it—all he had to do was close his eyes and there she was in his mind. Standing in front of him in nothing but a few scraps of scarlet silk, her parted lips and heavy-lidded eyes inviting him to touch her. To take her.

No, pleading for him to do so.

But he’d shown her, right?

Pretending he was the one in control, denying both of them the pleasure they both wanted because he’d been too swamped with need to trust he could control himself. Now she was going to great lengths to ignore him, no doubt cursing him as a cold bastard. Meanwhile, he was walking around the villa like a caged animal with a semipermanent case of blue balls.

Damn.

He wasn’t only a bastard. He was an idiot.

On a curse, he raked a hand through his hair and got up from the large floor cushion where he’d been unsuccessfully attempting to doze. It was just about sundown and he was twitchy with the need to be moving, to be doing something useful. Hell, he’d settle for doing anything at all.

He’d never been good at inactivity and the boredom of his exile was driving him insane.

More than once, he’d thought about slipping out in the middle of the night to run off some of his tension. Or say fuck the handfast and hoof it all the way to Casablanca and take the earliest flight to Rome.

With his Breed genetics, he could make it to the city in about as many hours as it would take to drive it. Maybe sooner.

Tempting.

But he couldn’t leave Seraphina by herself out here. And as much as he wanted to get back to work going after Opus with his teammates at the Order, he wasn’t about to abandon his honor or his family’s by violating the terms of the pact.

If she could endure the week together and adhere to the ridiculous restrictions imposed on them by the ancient agreement—in addition to their own set of rules—then so could he.

And he supposed he really owed her an apology for the way he acted the other night.

Padding silently on his bare feet, Jehan strode toward the kitchen where he’d heard her a minute ago. She had her back to him, seated on an overstuffed sofa in the adjacent dining nook.

With her knees drawn up and her head bent down to study whatever she held in her hands, she didn’t even notice him stealing up behind her from the kitchen. At first, he thought she’d taken one of the many books from the villa’s library. But then he realized the small object was something else.

A phone.

In direct violation of the “no communication with the outside world” terms of the handfast.

The sneaky little rebel.

He opened his mouth to call her out on the breach, but then his acute sight caught the last few lines of a text message thread filling the display. Some guy named Karsten was asking her where she was and why she’d left him without saying where she’d gone. He was worried, he said. He needed her. Said he wasn’t any good without her.

For reasons he didn’t want to examine, the idea that Seraphina had another man waiting for her somewhere—that she wouldn’t even mention that fact to him at any point when they talked—sent a streak of anger through Jehan’s veins.

That she would look at him so wantonly the other night when this other male—what the fuck kind of name was Karsten, anyway?—obviously cared about her, needed her, made Jehan wonder if he’d read her wrong from the start.

Of course, she’d already confessed to him that she only agreed to participate in the handfast to collect a handsome payout at the end. So, why should it surprise him to realize she was already spoken for?

“You’re breaking the rules.” His voice was low and even, betraying none of the heat that was running through his veins.

She startled so sharply, the phone practically leapt out of her fingers. She scrambled to keep it and whirled around on the sofa to gape at him in horror.

“Jehan! I didn’t hear you come in the room.”

“You don’t say.” He gestured to the phone now clutched tight to her breast. “How’d you get that in here?”

She had the decency to look at least a little contrite. “I made Leila smuggle it in with the clothing she packed for me. She didn’t want to, but I insisted. How was I supposed to go an entire week completely cut off from everything?”

“And everyone?” Jehan prompted. “Who’s Karsten?”

Her face blanched. No need for her to ask him if he saw her texts. Her guilty look said it all. “He’s my partner.”

“Partner?” He practically snarled the word.

“My coworker. Karsten volunteers with me at the border camps.”

Some of Jehan’s irritation cooled at the explanation. “For a coworker, he sounds very eager to have you back. He’s no good without you?”

Her expression relaxed into one of mild dismissal. “Karsten is...a bit dramatic. Right now, he’s concerned about a food and medical supply shipment that’s being held up at a checkpoint near Marrakesh. Normally I make sure things clear without delays, but unfortunately this shipment didn’t come in until after my parents called me home.”

“What happens if the shipment doesn’t get cleared?”

She crossed her arms over her breasts. “The food will rot and the medicine will spoil. It happens all too often.”

“And this Karsten is unable to retrieve the supplies without you?” Jehan couldn’t mask his judgment of the other man. If necessary food and medicine were sitting somewhere waiting to be delivered, he’d make damn sure it got where it needed to go.

Seraphina slipped off the sofa and walked to the marble-topped island where Jehan stood. “A lot of times, when things are delayed like this, my father’s name helps loosen them up. Sometimes, it’s a matter of finding the right palm to grease.”

Jehan nodded. Corruption in local governments was nothing new. That Seraphina seemed comfortable navigating those tangled webs was impressive. She kept impressing him, and he wasn’t sure he should like it as much as he did. “What do you think will free up this shipment of supplies?”

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