She bit her lip. “Speaking of rulers…there’ll soon be another who’ll rule both our lives. I suspected it, did a test in that bungalow before you arrived, and…and I…I’m pregnant.”

He froze. Her words stumbled over each other in alarm. “W-we never used protection, and it was reckless of me, but I always thought I’d end up adopting or having a child without a father, since I wasn’t going to have a man in my life. But I-I loved you, knew I’d never love again, and I thought i-if I got pregnant with your baby I’d have a part of you forever…”

He crushed his mouth over hers, then withdrew to give her one shake. “You…you…” He had no words. For the first time in his life. But he had to find them.

He sat up, reeling, raking his hands in his hair. “You had better watch what keeps spilling from these lips, from this mind, or you may end up married to a madman with a very short life expectancy.” He turned, snatched her onto his lap, hiding her in his embrace as if afraid she’d disappear. “You would have walked away carrying my child, sacrificing yourself? What did I tell you about sacrifices? You will give me your pledge never to sacrifice anything again.”

“Having your child alone would have been no sacrifice but my very own miracle. Now she or he remains so, besides having you. And I certainly won’t pledge such a thing. I’d sacrifice anything for you, so you’d better learn to live with that. Just like I have to learn to live with the huge sacrifice you made for me.” He started to rumble that it had been no sacrifice, that he was only waiting for the chance to give to her as much as she’d given him, but she silenced him with her next words. “And I want to have at least one more baby. Uh…if everything goes OK with this one…and, uh…if it’s OK with you…that is…”


He swung her around, above him, overcome. “There’s nothing I want or hope for more than to fill my world with outspoken, enslaving replicas of you. Every time we made love, I did wish for a child made of our love and pleasure. But know that I’d be happy with one, or with none. I’m happy just having you…”

It wasn’t until they were landing in Judar that emotion relinquished its hold enough for him to speak again.

“Welcome to your new home, ya ameerati…my princess.”

She smiled in expectation, sat up, twisted to look outside the window. Wonder crept over her features. “This looks like another planet.”

He chuckled, trailed kisses up her back. “And I’ll give you a wedding from another time, another realm. A One Thousand and One Nights reproduction the likes of which the kingdom has never seen.”

She turned, alarm firing her eyes. “But you saw how I handled attending a sophisticated party and wearing an elaborate gown. I’d die if I embarrassed you in front of the whole world.”

“Uh, about that…” And he confessed his setup.

After he’d borne her punishment in delight, she looked up from her revenge, flushed and excited, before her face fell again. “Still…those events can take endless planning and we’d probably see nothing of each other for weeks. Didn’t you pledge every minute to me?” Her flush deepened as she hastened to add, “Not that I want you tied to my side or anything, but think of all the minutes we’d waste chasing our tails during the hectic preparations.”

“We’re both in luck, since Farooq’s wife, Carmen, is apparently an event-planner fairy. I bet she’ll wave her magic wand and free all those precious minutes for us. I promised you everything, ya mashoogati. And you’ll have it all.”

“I already have it all…uh, how do you say habibati and mashoogati, for a man?”

He kissed one hand. “Habibi.” Then the other. “Mashoogi.”

And she kissed both of his, tears of joy filling her eyes. “I already have it all, ya habibi. I have you, ya mashoogi.”

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He squeezed his eyes shut. “And how you do.”

She feathered them open, attempting a teasing smile. “How?”

“I’ll show you how. You have fifty years?”

She sighed, kissed his neck. “For starters.”

“You’re too generous, ya farah rohi. And you’re too lenient. You should have drawn out my torment.”

She gave his jaw a sharp nip, giggled at his indrawn breath of pained pleasure. “You’re into S and M?”

“I want you to get satisfaction.”

“Oh, I did. I do. How I do.”

“Show me.”

She showed him. And as he drowned in her love and pleasure and magnanimity, in her, he knew beyond a doubt. She would always show him. She was the reason he’d been made how he was, so he’d love her, be hers.

He thanked God again for the crisis that had brought them together. For all the things that had conspired to give them the gift of each other.

And now, the miracle of their love had been given new life…

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