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He looked scandalized. “I have never bought anyone fake stones.”

“But these must be a fortune.”

“I can afford a fortune.” He took one out of the box and loosened the back. “And you deserve a fortune.”

“I don’t.”

“Let’s see what they look like on you,” he said as though she hadn’t spoken. “You’re not wearing anything tonight.”

“The silver earrings Izba had for me last night wouldn’t have looked right with this gown.”

“I know. I told her to make sure you couldn’t wear the silver earrings tonight.”

“You’re awfully bossy.”

“That shouldn’t be news to you,” he said, stepping closer so that he put the diamond chandelier on her. His fingertips felt deliciously warm and her ear felt deliciously sensitive. She suppressed a shudder of pleasure as he twisted the back to keep the heavy earring from falling out.

“Now the other ear,” he said.

More tingling sensations as he attached the second earring and then gave her head a little shake, hearing the stones click, and feeling the earrings move. “How do they look?”

“You look beautiful.”

“I’m afraid this is far too extravagant. I’ll wear them tonight, but I can’t keep them.”

“Don’t say things like that. It’s not polite.”

“You can’t give me gifts that cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

“You’re supposed to love them, not argue with me.”

“Maybe Florrie and Seraphina like presents like this—”

“Oh, they most definitely do. They wouldn’t dream of refusing a token of my affection.”

“I’d rather have your real affection.”

“You do. You had proof of that last night.”

“You’re making me very angry,” she said.

“Don’t be angry. It’s a lovely night. Just look at the sunset.”

She turned to look out over the valley. The setting sun had painted the red mountains rose, lavender and gold. “It is beyond breathtaking,” she said after a moment.

“It is quite spectacular,” he agreed. “I wish I hadn’t waited so long to return. It’s good to be back.”

She glanced up at him. “Did you think it wouldn’t?”

In the elegant black evening shirt, his skin looked more olive and his eyes appeared an even lighter gold. It was funny how she’d always thought of him as so very English, and yet here in Mehkar, he exuded heat and mystery, as well as an overwhelming sensuality.

“I was worried,” he admitted after a moment. “I was worried about what it’d be like here without Andrew and my mother. I’d never been here without them, but you’ve made it easy for me.”

“Are you going to see your grandfather while we’re here?”

“I should, but haven’t made any plans to do so yet.”

“Tell me about your relationship with him.”

“There’s not much to understand. I live in England. He lives in Mehkar.”

“And yet you’re here in Mehkar, and we were in Gila, albeit briefly.”

“It’s complicated,” he said brusquely.

“That’s your code for you don’t want to discuss it.”

“It really is complicated. I don’t even know how to talk about it. One day this place was my home. It was my favorite place in the world. And then suddenly it wasn’t part of my life anymore, and the people here were cut off, too. It was bad enough losing my mum and brother, but to lose your grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles? It hurt more than I can say. It’s still not easy to talk about.”

“Who cut them off? Your father or your grandfather?”

He shoved a hand through his black hair, rifling it. “Does it matter?”

She looked down into the shimmering pink of her cocktail, the color so very similar to the walls of the Kasbah. “I guess I have this crazy idea that if I understand your past, then maybe I’ll understand you.”

He gave her a look she couldn’t decipher. “I’ve spent all these years burying the memories. I don’t know that it’s wise to dig them all up.”

“Buried memories mean buried emotions—”

“My favorite kind,” he said darkly.

“Don’t you want to feel anything?”

“No. But apparently, you do.” He finished his drink and set the glass down on the wall next to his hip. “It was June eleventh. We’d just finished the school term and were out on holiday. Mum came to pick us up, as she always did. We were on our way to the airport to come here when the accident happened.” He paused before saying slowly, clearly. “The accident that killed my mother and Andrew.”

It took her a moment to piece it together. “You were on your way here? To Jolie?”

“We always flew here straightaway on our last day of school. It was our tradition. We couldn’t wait to come. At least I couldn’t wait. Andrew had wanted to stay home that summer with Father but Mother insisted. Grandfather wanted to see Andrew.” He frowned, brows flattening. “Andrew was the oldest of my grandfather’s grandchildren, important to both sides of the family.”

He looked up right into her eyes, expression still intense. “Until that day, I’d had a very different childhood from Andrew. He was the heir. I was just a boy...a free-spirited, rather sensitive, second son.”

She didn’t know what to say, so she didn’t try to speak.

Dal added after a moment, “It wasn’t ever the same after that. Not in Winchester. Not here.”

“It wouldn’t be, would it?” she said sympathetically before adding, “So you chose not to come back?”

“It was my father’s decision to cut contact with my mother’s family. After the funerals, I didn’t see or hear from anyone from Mehkar for ten years.”


“My father blamed my mother for the accident, and so by extension, he blamed her family.”

“Was she at fault?”

“No. The other driver was distracted. They said he was on the phone, ran a red light and smashed into our car head-on.”

“Mother died immediately. Andrew died at the hospital. And I survived with just cuts and bruises.”

“Your poor grandfather,” she sighed. “It must have been devastating to lose his daughter and his eldest grandson on the very day they were to return home.”

“I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him. My grandmother, his wife, had died just months before in an accident. He’d been eager to have my mother return for the summer.”

“So your grandfather has never reached out to you since your mother’s funeral. If you were eleven that has been nearly twenty-four years!”

“No. He reached out. I was rude. I rebuffed him, and even though I was at fault, I have chosen not to apologize or make amends.”


“I don’t know.”

“I don’t believe that. I think you do know. And I’d like to know.”

“So you can have additional proof of what a cool, unfeeling ass I am?”

She gave him a reproving look. “I already know who you are, and what you are, which is why I want to know why you—someone I know does have feelings, only you keep them very deeply buried—would rebuff someone you apparently once loved very much?”

His shoulders shifted impatiently. “Because I did love him. And I didn’t understand why he left me there, in England. I hated England. I hated my father—” He broke off, jaw grinding, shadows darkening his eyes. “It doesn’t matter, and I shouldn’t admit that I hated my father. My father had problems. He couldn’t help himself.”

“But you can help yourself. Reach out to your grandfather. See him. Apologize. Make amends.”

“I can’t.”

“You can. Don’t be stupid and proud. Tell him you’re sorr

y, because one day he won’t be here and then it’ll be too late.”

Dal didn’t say anything for the longest time. He finished his drink and she finished hers and they watched the shadows swaddle the mountains, the rose and gold light fading to lavender and gray.

After a long silence Dal glanced at her, lips curving. “You’re the only person that ever tries to tell me what to do.”

“You could be a really, truly lovely man if you tried.”

“That sounds terribly dull.”

“I like dull men. I’m looking for a dull man, someone who will cuddle with me on the sofa while we watch our favorite program on the telly.”

“You would hate that after a while.”

“Not if it was a good program.”

“You almost make watching television sound fun.”

Fun. In all her years of working for him, she’d never once heard him the use the word fun. Discipline, duty, responsibility, yes. But fun? Never. “You have changed,” she said. “You’re already very different from just a few days ago.”

“It seems I had to. Randall Grant was an arse.”

“Is Dal better?”

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