His lips were as soft as they had promised to be, gentle and undemanding. It wasn’t her first kiss, but it had been so long ago and so wrapped up in the horror of her boyfriend’s death that Tamara had forgotten what it felt like. She responded shyly. The kiss deepened and changed tone. His breath came hard. He shifted, joining her on the couch. He pressed against her, the robes offering no protection from the feel of his body against hers. She hesitated a moment, overwhelmed with desire and terror. 

He felt her hesitation, and it called him back to himself. She protested, but he took a shaky breath and shook his head. “No, I am not doing this.” He dropped back off the couch and sat on the floor, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. “But by the aarya, I want to.” He stared up at the ceiling. “Do you believe me now?”

Her tears gone, Tamara stared at the top of his head. “Yes,” she managed to whisper. She coughed.

Merran turned to look at her. “I’ve managed to never have a woman for longer than a few nights of enjoyment. My staff knows that and expects it. But you? You aren’t simply a few nights of enjoyment, Tamara, and I really do think it would be a mistake to start up a relationship when you are going to be working so closely with me. Besides, you know the hours I work. I’m not an easy person to have a relationship with … no ambassador is.” He gave her a warm smile, quite spoiling the effect of his words and making Tamara wonder how strongly he really objected.