20 Spirit vs. Fire

"You're saying they'd kill me just for questioning you?"

"You're shocked by that?"

"Just for questioning you? Yes! What the hell, David—"

He sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Do you ever just talk about something, I wonder? Without the… exclamations?"

I bristled, fisting my skirts on my thighs, wanting to jump all over him for that, but also deeply uncomfortable. It was something that my mother used to say—and the thing that most of my boyfriends over the years, but especially Nicholas, had expressed that they didn't like about me.

Nicholas said he loved my passion. But that it turned everything into a fight.

David had never met Nicholas, so couldn't know… but then I remembered. He was just in my head. This was a dream! Why was I getting squirmy because a guy that I dreamed up had pinpointed one of my flaws? Of course he did—I knew it about myself. So he would too.

I felt a little better then. But maybe this was God's way of getting me to work on this thing I'd always kind of wanted to change about myself?

I took a deep breath and relaxed, shaking my head a little. "I'll try not to… exclaim so much," I said flatly. "But you've managed to get me off track again, and I don't appreciate it. The truth is, I can't move forward with you if you're going to sleep with multiple women. It's just sick. And… I can't imagine marrying a man who'd do that. It's my least favorite thing about men."

His jaw flexed. "That they wish to find compatibility in the physical?"

I snapped him a heated glare. "No. That they can't keep their dick in their pants and will come up with any excuse to justify sticking it wherever they want."

His eyebrows flew high and even though the rest of his face didn't move, as he blinked I gathered I'd actually shocked him.

So the prude was alive and well here after all.

Then suddenly his brow pinched and he tipped his head. "You have experienced this before?"

"More than once."

"Men in your life—"

"Men who claimed to love me have slept with other people when they were supposed to be in a relationship with me. The details aren't important," I said when he looked like he was about to ask. "The point is, King or not, you're still a man and we are all women. People. Just as valuable as you, whether you see that or not. The other women either don't care, or are too scared to say anything about it, which goes back to your traditions, I suppose. But I can't. I just can't be a part of that, David. It would… break something in me. And frankly, I'm sad and disgusted that you can. If you insist on doing this, I'll leave. At least then you won't have to deal with my exclamations anymore, right?"

His face went oddly blank for a second, then he got to his feet, raking a hand through his hair, and began to pace on the other side of the table, frowning deeply.

"I hadn't… it's the first day, Zara. We barely know each other. You cannot expect me to simply abandon every established practice and plan because it offends your sensibilities—"

"I'm not asking you to abandon every one, I'm telling you that I won't be a part of this one," I snapped. "And I'm not asking for the sake of my sensibilities—I think it's inherently wrong and you shouldn't do it whether I'm here or not! It's selfish!"

He turned to face me, his expression serious. "I cannot agree with you that establishing compatibility with my future wife is selfish! There is no other way for me to know—"

"And how do they know?!"

His head jerked back. "Know what?"

I rolled my eyes. Men could be so dense sometimes! "You say you have to make a choice, have to know if you're compatible… will you give the women the same choice? Will they have other men to play with? Do they get to try before they buy in case their compatibility with someone else is better?"

David looked stunned. "I… no, of course not."

"Of course not?!"

He tore his eyes away from me and began to pace again, his expression disturbed. "Women don't have the same drives as men—it's far more important whether a man is capable of helping her find her pleasure than—"

"That is the biggest pile of bullshit I've ever heard. I can't believe these thoughts enter your mind and you just put them out there." I pushed to my feet in disgust, hands fisted at my sides. "I really hoped you were going to be better than this—"

"Better than what?" he hissed, coming for me, stopping only when he reached my toes, looming over me, his eyes flaring with anger. "Better than wishing to be a husband who can make his wife feel pleasure?"

"No! Better than living blindly in a double-standard and telling himself if a woman has a problem with it, it's her issue!"

"Perhaps it is her issue—how many of those women have a clue about intimacy? I can tell you, likely none! They are either innocent completely, or the victims of pawing, uneducated boys who truly are selfish. They wouldn't know where to start to find their own pleasure, let alone mine!"

"Which is really what this is about," I scoffed.

"No, Zara, this really is about two people finding their lives together in a way that can remain satisfying and rich despite the pressures of ruling."

I rolled my eyes. "Of course it is. And since you're the King, there's no chance at all that you'd just be one more set of unsatisfying paws."

He bristled and his eyes narrowed.


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