He felt Malik move behind him. Did he really think that his slip of a wife was enough of a threat to justify her removal? He raised his arm to ward Malik off, even as almost laughably light blows rained down on his chest.
‘In all the time I have known you I have never known you to lie,’ she hurled at him.
‘No, that was your department.’
‘Well, the world will be bitterly disappointed when instead of news of the next heir for Farrehed they’ll be receiving news of the Prince’s divorce.’
* * *
Eloise gave no heed to the fact that she was shouting. And that was something she never did.
‘Never raise your voice, never cause a scene.’
Her father’s directives were lost on her now, in the sheer fury of what had been done to her in the last ten hours.
She saw Malik shift on his feet behind Odir and it brought her back to the present immediately. Instantly she stepped away from her husband.
‘Leave us, Malik,’ her husband ordered with a familiar ruthlessness.
‘Stop right there, Malik. I’ve told you. Leave.’
‘It doesn’t change a thing, you know. What you just said,’ Eloise claimed desperately. ‘I’ll still leave.’
‘I think you underestimate the sheer power of social media. Right now there are over a hundred of society’s best-placed individuals drinking to our health and that of our unborn child. The news will spread quickly, and before the sun rises over the palace walls in Farrehed there will be a celebration the like of which has never been seen by my countrymen.’
With each word he stepped closer and closer to her, pushing her back further towards the rail of the balcony, building a wall around her from which she couldn’t escape.
‘And what happens when I fail to produce this immaculately conceived child? What happens in a few months’ time when I’m not showing any signs of pregnancy? Are you going to tell another lie to cover it up? Will you expect me and your whole country to mourn the death of a lie?’
The horror of it was all too much for Eloise.
‘You’re an utter bastard, Odir.’
And that, it seemed, was what it took to push her husband over the edge.
‘You think I wanted this?’
Now it was he who was shouting—and she had never heard her husband shout. Not even that fateful night when he’d ordered her from his sight and his palace.
‘Do you think that I enjoyed telling that lie?’
‘It doesn’t really matter to me whether or not you got some perverse enjoyment out of it. I will not agree to this. It’s the twenty-first century, Odir. You can’t expect to lie, bribe and cheat me back to your side.’
‘You really think that after this you’d be able to leave and live some kind of normal life? Go back to whatever man you have holed up in Switzerland?’
‘What man? Seriously? You think I’ve been living with someone in Zurich? Tell me, Odir, is there anyone that I haven’t slept with other than yourself?’
He glared at her in the light of the moon.
‘And when this immaculately conceived child does make an appearance will you be asking for a DNA test?’
His response cut through her like a knife.
‘You will, of course, undergo medical assessment before any child of mine is conceived.’
The horror, the invasion of her privacy that he so carelessly described was sickening. So much so that she couldn’t help the bitter laugh that dropped from her lips.
‘And just how, exactly, were you planning on having this child with a woman you can barely look at, let alone touch?’
But even as the words left her lips the memory of his lips against hers earlier that evening sprang to life. Eloise relived every second of it—the way his tongue had stroked against hers, the way he had brought to life a passion she’d only imagined she was capable of. And she hated herself for that. How she hated the way her lips had clung to him as if she were dying of thirst and only he could quench it.
‘Were you hoping that you could do this, too, without being present? Will you call in the doctors to help you with the problem? You couldn’t even give me a wedding night!’
‘I didn’t have a choice! What would you have had me do? Turn my back on my country? Let it descend into war with Terhren?’