Her hands moved to the back of his neck and she toyed with the hair at his nape. ‘Are you scared?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ he said.
‘It’s okay to be afraid when everything is changing.’
‘Is it, qalbi?’
‘Yes—because what you’re feeling is growing pains.’
‘Do you feel them too?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ she smiled weakly. ‘And it hurts. But I want to hurt with you. Change with you. Grow with you. Love you.’
‘I’m not afraid of my feelings any more,’ he told her. ‘I’m not afraid of this. Of us. Of what we are.’
‘And what are we?’
‘Husband and wife.’
‘King and Queen?’
‘We are both and we are more.’ He tugged her into his arms. ‘We are family.’
‘Family,’ she agreed, and let the tears fall.
‘Qalbi...’ Big, solid hands came about her waist and pulled her into him. ‘My heart,’ he said.
Akeem tilted her face to search her eyes. And he saw himself in them. The man and the King, on the floor in her arms.
‘Call me by my name, my heart,’ he demanded, with everything he had been, with everything he was, and with everything he would become. ‘Tell me I am yours.’
‘Akeem. The boy of my dreams, the man of my heart,’ she whispered. ‘Husband. King. Mine.’
He kissed her, and she kissed him.
It was a promise.
A promise of today, tomorrow and for ever.