August 1st, 22.00-23.00, Heron Tower
ELOISE COULDN’T QUITE believe she’d heard him correctly, only just resisting the urge to shake her head and dislodge the imaginary blocking of her ears.
He wanted her to do...what?
Was this some kind of sick joke?
But the grim look of determination painted across Odir’s features spoke volumes.
Her mind raced, working through each of the different possibilities at lightning speed, and the quicker it went the sicker she felt with each passing second. The amount of money was obscene, and certainly more than her grandfather’s trust fund. It wouldn’t only pay for Natalia’s medical bills far into the future, it would allow the medical centre on the brink of closure to move forward and help so many more people.
But she would have to return to Odir’s side. She would have to return to Farrehed under the microscope of the world’s press. She would never go back to her little Swiss flat, would never see Natalia’s happy smile and enjoy her easy companionship. She would never have the freedom of walking alone through the clean, beautiful streets of Zurich. She would have to give up her position as PA to the medical centre’s CFO.
Hurt opened up a chasm within her. She loved her job—she liked working. Like feeling that she was paying her own way for once in her life and doing something good. And now, just like that, all the possible futures she was considering burnt to ash.
If she were to accept the money—for the centre—she would never be free. She would be required to provide heirs in a marriage built on nothing but lies and distrust. She had grown up the product of such a marriage, and the one vow she’d ever made to herself was that she would never do to a child what had once been done to her.
She looked at Odir and was surprised to find him smiling.
‘I can see that you’re thinking about it,’ he said.
He stalked over to the drinks cabinet and poured himself the whisky he’d wanted earlier that evening. He grimly wondered why he wasn’t happier with her consideration of his proposal—why there wasn’t a feeling of victory spreading through him. Then he forced his mind ahead a few hours to the international press conference arranged for eight the following morning.
To be standing alone when he made his announcement would make him look weak—would make his country look weak—and that was simply untenable.
He felt suddenly as if he were standing on a precipice the size of the Grand Canyon. Farrehed was about to be plunged into a time of great turmoil, and as he looked over at the slip of a woman standing before him, staring at him in horror as if he were the devil, he knew that she alone could ensure its security.
* * *
‘You can’t make such an obscene offer and then stand in silence waiting for a response,’ Eloise declared.
She had been watching him closely. She had seen the emotions pass over his distinguished features. Her father had never liked Odir. He’d said it was because he could never tell what the young royal was thinking. But Eloise had never had that problem. Although she couldn’t explain why, she had always known what he was thinking. She had before, and she did now.
Despite the obvious distaste he felt about the offer he was making, the belief that he had her agreement had relaxed his frame. She knew that look well. It was the same look her father would get when he knew he was going to get what he wanted.
And she hated it.
Summoning up all her strength, she knew that there was no way she could return to the marriage she had left—no matter what she had once felt for Odir. She was tired of people thinking the worst of her, tired of the sacrifices she had made for people who cared nothing for her, tired of being alone and unwanted.
‘I will not take one penny of your money, Odir. I want a divorce and I’ll do whatever—whatever—it takes to get it.’
‘I’ll double it,’ he replied, as if a total of fourteen million pounds were nothing to him.
She bit back the curse that threatened to fall from her lips. With that much money she could move Natalia and the whole medical facility to Farrehed. She might even be able to convince her mother to come too. The people she loved the most in the world would never want for anything ever again.