lip and glanced up at him. “Really—no peeking?”
He sat down, his back to a palm tree. “You have my word as an Adjalane that you may undress in utter privacy.” He heard the rustle of her boots coming off and then of clothing. It took a great deal not to look—he wanted to see her skin, her body, but he had given his word.
Water splashed and then Michelle let out a deep sigh. “Okay, maybe there is something to this legend.”
He glanced over at her. Water shadowed her figure, but he could see hints of curving white skin. She floated on her back, staring up at the sky. He was entranced. She looked an enchanted houri, or a woman from fable with her hair darkened by water and spread out around her.
Dena gave a low bellow, and Adilan turned to watch the camel lope up the sand dunes, heading back to the city. Frowning, he stood. Dena would not have run, unless…
He turned and strode from the grove. He felt the wind first—sharp and stinging—then heard the low howl that Dena must have sensed. A storm was whipping up.
Heading back to the springs, he picked up Michelle’s shirt. “Come. You must get out. We need to return to the tent.”
She turned onto her front and eyed him. “Is this some ploy to see me naked?”
Closing his eyes, he held out her shirt. “This is some ploy to get you moving—a sandstorm is coming.”
He heard the splash of water, and her shirt was tugged from his hands. Opening his eyes, he saw a flash of pale breast—and the sight of her legs robbed him of thought for a moment. She grabbed her boots and pants. “How bad is it? Can we make it back to the city?”
He shook his head and grabbed her wrist, pulling her with him. “We will stay. The tent will be better shelter, and if the sand is bad, it will only clog the engine, leaving us stranded. That is how people die.”
“A tent? Seriously?”
Pulling her with him, he stepped into the tent. His people had done well, putting it up in the old style, with the edges buried. Letting go of Michelle, he pulled fabric over the opening, layering the material so nothing would get inside. “We are at the center of the Zia oasis, and as far as memory goes back, these springs have never been covered by the sand. The desert tries to take it back, but the way the dunes are situated, they act as natural wind breaks.”
Michelle shivered and rubbed her arms. Outside the wind began to howl. She stepped closer to him. “Are you sure we’re safe? Buried by sand…” She let the words trail and shivered again.
Coming over to her, Adilan draped an arm over her shoulders. “Come and sit. I will make us tea.”
He led her back to the cushions. A stone circle with coals in the center waited only for a match. While the wind howled and the tent shivered, he lit the fire and began to brew water for a calming rose tea.
Michelle pulled her shirt tighter. She’d left off her pants and now she wondered if she ought to stand up and get dressed. Instead, she curled up in the cushions. She wanted to pile them over her until she couldn’t hear that howling noise. She glanced over at Adilan. “You’ve been through storms before here?” She was hoping he had.
He glanced at her and smiled. “Here? No. But other places, yes.” Getting up, he moved to light the lanterns overhead. The day seemed to have become suddenly dark, and Michelle could imagine the sand so think that it blotted out the sun.
He strode back to her. The flickering light gave the tent a romantic feel—if not for the wind poking at the tent, Michelle might have enjoyed the moment. Adilan finished making tea and handed her a steaming cup. She took it, her hands shaking.
With a frown, he took the cup from her and put his arms around her, pulling her close. She put a hand on his chest to stop him, but he whispered, “Shush. You feel the pull too. I know you do. This is no shame.”
She leaned her head against his chest. “I do. But…I’m not in the habit