Wounded Read online

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Rania seems overwhelmed. “Why do I need all these things? I have never had any of this. A little makeup, some clothes to wear. All this…it is so much. ”

  I laugh. “You don’t need it. But I want you to have it. It’s just stuff. ”

  “More stuff than I have ever owned in all my life. You should not waste so much money on me. ”

  I lean across the cab and kiss her. “It’s not wasted, Rania. ”

  “If you say so. ”

  I growl. That’s her fall-back phrase when she disagrees but won’t say anything else. “Rania. Seriously. Disagree with me sometimes. Don’t just accept whatever I say. I want you to tell me your opinion and stick with it. If you don’t like what I’m saying, tell me. If you think I’m wrong, tell me. ”

  “You are my husband. It is my duty to support you. ”

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  “Bullshit. You’re my wife, and it’s your duty to tell me when I’m being a stubborn jackass. Don’t just roll over and accept everything. ”

  She stares out the window without answering for a long time. “I have never had the luxury of opinions,” she says in Arabic. “Like so much, I will have to learn. ”

  “You will learn. I will help you,” I tell her in Arabic. “I want to you become the person you want to be. Who is Rania? What does she want? What does she like? What are her dreams?”

  The cab pulls up and lets us out, and I carry the bags into our condo. Rania crosses the room to stand at the window, arms akimbo under her br**sts.

  “I do not know the answers to those questions. They are the questions of someone who is living, not only just surviving. I do not know how to live. How to be…a person. ”

  I stand behind her and wrap my arms around her waist. “I’m not sure what you mean, ‘how to be a person. ’ You are a person. ”

  She shakes her head, her hair tickling my nose. “No. Well, perhaps now I am becoming one. Before, I was only a whore. A whore is a thing. Like a refrigerator, or a cow used for milk. I was meant for use. A whore does not have dreams or desires for the future. There is only the next client. ”

  “That’s not who you are anymore. You’re a person, now. A wonderful person. ”

  She spins in my arms to face me. “You think I am a wonderful person?”

  I smile and kiss her lips. “Yes. ”

  She lays her head on my chest. “Then that is who I am. Your wonderful person. ”

  The first night we were back, we were so tired from travel that we could only fall asleep, collapsed side by side but not touching. Tonight, I hope for different.

  And then I realize that her whole life has changed, her entire reason for existence has been stripped away, and she’s faced with the task of reinventing herself in a new country, married to a man she’s known for maybe a month.

  Maybe I should just give her space. Let her adjust rather than pushing her into things.

  I want her so f**king bad, but again…I can’t rush her.

  I show her the shower when we finish eating our dinner. I ordered pizza, and Rania was in awe of it. She only ate a little, which was probably smart. I ate most of it myself. Pizza is one of the things I always miss the most in the desert.

  She strips unselfconsciously, stands at the open door of the shower, one arm across her br**sts, the other hand beneath the spray, testing the temperature. Her shower in Iraq was almost always cold. She sets the water hot, scalding hot. I can’t help but watch her, long legs flashing in the steam, wet skin glistening, tempting, tantalizing. Her long blonde hair drapes wet across her back, hanging down between her shoulder blades.

  I want so badly to strip and step in there with her.

  I see her glance at me out of the corner of her eye, and I wonder if she’s expecting me to go in with her. If she wants me to.

  I’m afraid of pushing her too fast. Of making her think I expect it. I want her to want me on her terms, in her time. I want her to want me in her own way. It will take time. I might explode before that happens, but I don’t see much choice.

  I turn away, and as I do so I see a flash of something almost like disappointment in her eyes, but she doesn’t call me back. I undress to my boxers and lie on the bed, waiting. She comes out in a towel, stops, facing me on the bed. Her eyes are wide.

  My throat is dry, my pulse pounding. I can feel myself hardening.

  I watch a bead of water run down her neck and between her br**sts, beneath the towel.

  We’re both breathing deep, neither of us speaking. I make a vow to always let her make the first move, to wait for her.

  It’s testing my control right now. She’s wet and clean and sexy as hell, and all I want to do is crawl across the bed, rip the towel off her, and kiss every inch of her lithe, lush body.

  I don’t dare, and I have to fist my hands into the sheet to stop myself.

  RANIA

  He does nothing, just watches me. I know him well enough now that I see the desire raging in his eyes. His manhood is hard, and his hands are bunching into the sheets. But he does nothing.

  Does he not want me? I am clean, and the shower was glorious. So hot. No end to the hot water, soaking me, warming me. Cleaning me. I feel cleaner than I have ever been. But he does not move. Just watches me. I do not know what he waits for.

  I want him. I want to feel his arms around me, holding me. I am still nervous at the idea of true sex with him, but still I want it, and even the desire itself is a strange, foreign feeling.

  Everything about my life now is strange and foreign. I am in this huge, fast, busy, wealthy place. He bought me so much, more than I need or thought existed. Makeup I do not know how to use. Things for my hair, six different kinds of shoes. Enough clothes that I could go for a month and never wear the same thing twice. The amount of money he spent, the number I saw on the computer in the store, it was more than I could comprehend, and he did not even blink as he gave them his card.

  And none of that matters, not now. My heart pounds like a drum in my chest. I want to let the towel fall, I want to tell him to show me how to make love to him.

  My hands shake as I grip the towel where it is rolled tight around my chest. My thighs tremble, and I remember how I shook and moaned when he touched me there, kissed me there between them. I want him to do that again. I want to beg him, please touch me, please kiss me. When he kisses and touches me I am not so afraid, and I can forget the horrible darkness that was my life…my existence.

  I need it. Need it. Need the forgetting that exists only when I am in his strong arms.

  My tongue is frozen and my words are stuck. I cannot speak. I try, move my lips, but nothing comes out. Actions are the only way I can ask him to give me what I need.

  I make my feet move, and suddenly I am standing next to him. He is on the left side of the bed, wearing only a pair of loose red and black underwear like shorts, but not. Boxings, I think he called them. I can see his hardness making a tent of the fabric, and there is a gap in the material, showing me glimpses of his manhood. I want to touch it again.

  My br**sts rise and fall in short, sharp breaths, making the towel tighten and loosen. I am not afraid of him seeing me naked; he has before. I am afraid of truly giving in to my desires, because then I will need him completely. Being able to resist how much I want to feel him and touch him is the last of my independence. It is a small thing, a foolish thing. I want him, and he is my husband, so it natural that we should share this thing we both so badly want. But I need him.

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  I have never needed anything but money for food and somewhere to sleep.

  Now, I need this man.

  “I need you,” I whisper in Arabic. “That is why I am afraid. ”

  He does not answer. He sits up, swings his long, thick legs off the bed, and frames my knees with his. He puts his hand on my thigh just beneath the edge of the towel.

  “I need you, too,” he s