Stupid, stupid, stupid! Alexander inwardly berated himself. I should just tell Zahra that I was engaged to her and be done with it! Without thinking, he uttered a rather vile word, then grimaced. "I'm sorry," he said, shaking his head. "I should know better than to swear in front of a lady."
"You ought to know better than to swear at all," Zahra muttered. "I'm quite picky about the words I use."
"I'm sorry, Zahra."
Zahra's head shot up, and she raised her eyebrows. "Last time I told a man not to swear, he proceeded to let out a string of colorful words," she said, a question in her tone. "But then, I shouldn't compare you to other men."
Alexander's hopes rose, and he tried not to show the fact that he so desperately wanted Zahra to explain herself. But his hopes crashed at her next words.
"Most men wouldn't ask a woman they hardly know to be their mistress."
"You won't let that go, will you?" Alexander was slightly frustrated.
"Most women wouldn't," Zahra replied, and she stood. "I'm sorry about getting sick all over your robe. I truly am. But I think it's best if I leave now." She lifted the cup to her lips and drained the water from it.
"Wait, Zahra, hold on," Alexander said, catching Zahra by the elbow and holding on tightly. He wasn't finished speaking to her. "You know, if I didn't know better, I'd almost think you were afraid of me."
"I am. You're dangerous. And I'm not going to say anything else." Zahra tried to wrench her arm from Alexander's grasp, but Alexander wasn't going to give up without a fight.
"Why am I dangerous?" Alexander asked, rather intrigued but trying not to appear so.
"Why don't you ask Xanthe and all the other women that?"
"How do you know about 'all the other women'?" Alexander asked, still holding onto Zahra. The prisoner wasn't struggling as much as she had been before. Still, he didn't allow himself to look Zahra directly in the eyes. Looking the doctor in the eyes several minutes before had almost been too much for him to take.
"Do you really think it's not obvious? Everything about you spells your lifestyle," Zahra retorted.
The words were like a knife to Alexander's heart. He cleared his throat and looked away.
"Would it really be that hard to live a different kind of lifestyle? Would it really be that hard?" Zahra implored.
There was a long silence, during which the attraction Alexander felt for Zahra was nearly unbearable. He swallowed heavily and tried to meet Zahra's eyes, but found himself unable to. He let go of Zahra's arm.
Zahra didn't leave.
There was no mistaking it now; Zahra felt the attraction, too. Alexander didn't know how he could tell...he just did. And it was too much for him to handle. He leaned closer to Zahra. "What do you mean?"
Zahra didn't move. "Just that...don't you think your life could be much better if you changed? Aren't you dissatisfied living this way?"
"Not if it gets me what I want," Alexander whispered before closing the gap between his lips and Zahra's.