With his hand on her pulsing nub, he spread her legs open with his knee, grabbed her hips, and thrust into her.
‘Husband,’ he corrected.
He pumped into her and she couldn’t catch her breath. She moaned too loudly, too fiercely. She was his. All his.
‘Husband!’she roared, and she tightened her core, clenching around him. He was so deep. So completely a part of her...
They were here—despite everything and because of it.
They were married.
But did he want her? His wife? Could he love her? Not only her body, but her?
Could the King love his Queen?
Could she love them both, the man and the King? Love him enough to keep them together—their new family—if he didn’t? If he couldn’t love her back?
Her love hadn’t been enough for her dad. Not enough to keep that family together. But this was her new family. Theirs.
She shut down the voice in her head. Let herself fall into the panting of their breath, the sealing of their mouths and bodies.
She broke free of his lips. ‘Love me harder!’ she begged. ‘Love me!’ she cried. Because that was all she wanted.
He did not deny her. He loved her. Hard. And she met every thrust of his hips, backed herself into every entry of his hardness into her heat.
She shattered, falling against the wall, as wave after wave pulsed over her.
‘Charlotte!’ he roared. ‘Wife...’ he said. And with one last thrust he filled her with himself. Hot streams of love. And she came again. Shuddering against him as he leaned into her. She screamed loud as her orgasm, harder than the last, made her legs shake and her knees give way beneath her.
Breathless, he held her against the powerful wall of his chest, holding her up so she didn’t fall. Just as he’d held her up in London, when she would have fallen into a wall of grief and despair. Just as he’d held her up on the plane. And now he was holding her up as his wife.
A firework of rainbow colours burst above them. Simultaneously, they craned their necks to watch the grand finale of their wedding day. An explosion of colour littering the night sky.
She couldn’t help herself. She spoke.
‘I love you.’
What had he done?
He eased out of her, steadying her on her feet, and with quick precision pulled her knickers back into place and rolled her dress down her thighs.
‘Love?’he repeated and tugged up his fly.
For four days he’d resisted her. Resisted the need to bury himself inside her after that day in the studio—in his bed.
He was everything his father had accused him of being. A simple man with basic needs—and basic emotions. A man never in control, who lashed out with his tongue and didn’t think of the consequences.
Your father showed you the consequences, didn’t he?
‘Love,’ she agreed, turning to face him. Her beautiful face was flushed. Her lips swollen. ‘You asked why I was helping you and I told you a half-truth.’
He wanted to ask about the other half, but he could not speak. His throat was too tight. His jaw was locked and his tongue was a dead weight in his mouth. She made him everything he didn’t want to be—a man who followed his needs before his head. A man who consummated his marriage against a wall.
And she loved him? This weakness in him?
She was lying.
‘The other half of the truth is love,’ she continued. ‘Not debts of gratitude or kindness. Love,’ she emphasised. ‘That will never change. I will always love you, Akeem. And I think a part of you will always love me. Because this marriage—’
‘Is in the name of duty,’ he reminded her.
‘Is it?’ she questioned gently. ‘I think you already had everything in your possession to establish yourself as King.’
You didn’t have her.
He clamped his lips together as she continued. ‘The crowds cheered for you—not me. This marriage...you asked for it—demanded it—because somewhere inside you, you recognise the girl in me—inside this woman—who sees the boy in you.’
Her words made his skin itch. He wanted to claw at it. And at her version of what had happened. He wanted to rip it off his skin, pull it out of his ears, because it sat too neatly. Wrapped around him like something old and worn-in.
Something he already knew.
But he did not love her. He couldn’t.