* * *
‘So, with your birthday tomorrow, on the brink of inheriting what I have been told is your grandfather’s considerable trust fund, you’re finally ready to ask for a divorce?’
The accusation heavy in his words was bad enough, but the fact that he knew about her grandfather’s trust fund was a shock.
‘How do you know about that?’
‘It’s amazing what investigators can find out in only the briefest of hours.’
How she wished she could make him understand about her trust fund—wished she could tell him what she wanted to do with the money. How she wanted to use it to help Natalia get the treatment she so desperately needed—the only way to treat the painful medical condition that would one day end her life before it had really ever begun.
But before she could create a response his furious words continued.
‘Tell me honestly, were you only waiting until your trust fund was released before you came to me asking for a divorce?’
She couldn’t deny it. Couldn’t deny that she’d had no other option. Her father’s machinations meant that until she had access to her trust fund she couldn’t leave this marriage. And she couldn’t explain to her husband why.
‘Were you always such a gold-digger? Or did a taste of royal life—even as brief as it was—ignite such an obscene fire for wealth in you?’
* * *
He hated the words that had exploded into the room, called forth from his deeply held anger. They burnt his tongue and scoured his throat, as if punishing him for the cruel taunt.
‘If that’s what you think of me then we really need a divorce, Odir. It’s impossible to have two people bound together with such...hatred.’
‘You made vows before God—before my country’s King and before its people. We don’t have a choice.’
‘There’s always a choice. I’ve seen the changes you’ve made in your country in the last six months. You’ve done incredible things. Things that have done so much to restore global respect for Farrehed.’
Could he hear admiration in her voice? It surprised him that she had kept up with the changes he’d had to make in the last months. The gruelling hours he’d spent undoing the destruction his father had caused. Or was it just carefully designed research in order to bolster her argument and get what she wanted?
He wondered what it would take for her to realise that what she wanted didn’t matter. That what he wanted didn’t matter. Not now. Not after...
He shut down the direction of his thoughts before they could take hold. He couldn’t afford to think about it. Not now. After he had her agreement, maybe. And maybe, even then, not until after the press conference.
He forced his mind back to their conversation.
‘And what would come of those changes—all that hard work—if I were to allow my wife to divorce me? Now that I have dragged Farrehed kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century? Now that I have ploughed money, time and energy into investments that will make Farrehed a global economy? One that survives—no, flourishes—in spite of the current climate? I’ll tell you what would come of those changes, Eloise,’ he said, just for once allowing free rein to his seething mass of emotions. ‘All of them would turn to dust should their King divorce his Queen.’
‘You are not King yet, Odir. Although it would be difficult, you can still obtain a divorce before you take the throne.’
Her words were little daggers, finding their way into his heart, and Odir cursed the slip of his tongue that might have revealed the extent of the power she held at this very moment.
He fought with the feelings in his chest...all the anger, grief and exhaustion from the last twelve hours. He wielded them like weapons and went on the attack. If her trust fund was the only thing that Eloise was holding out for, he could match that easily.
‘Let me go, Odir. Just let me go and you will never have to hear from me again.’
From a dark corner of the room a bitter laugh emerged, and he stepped from the shadows into a shaft of moonlight.
‘I wish I could. I really do. But sadly I can’t. So, if money is your only motivating factor, then I have a deal for you—one that will exceed your grandfather’s trust fund. Return to my side and I will give you two million pounds. Have my child and I will give you five more.’