And that was what it was. The excitement thrumming through her veins. The thought that after all this time, all the secrets, all the truths of that night, it was possible to fall in love in only ten hours.

But it wasn’t just ten hours. She had known Odir for two years. She had watched him bear the weight of his country, watched him care for his brother, struggle with his father, confront the past and transform into an intensely passionate lover.


Any lingering tiredness she felt was pushed away with the tingling buzz of optimism and hope. After all this time could she actually find happiness with Odir? Could she find someone who would love her?

Next door, the tenor of the conversation had changed, and with a small squeak she leapt out of bed and hurried through to the bathroom, closing the door behind her and trapping herself in the heat and steam of Odir’s recent shower.

She wiped the mist that had gathered over the large mirror. Her reflection showed a woman truly ravished, bright-eyed and admittedly looking a little crazy. She took a deep breath. It would be fine. They would find a way to make it through the next few hours, and then the next few days. They would make it work.

Her mother was seeking support for her addiction, Natalia would also have the help she needed. Farrehed would have the ruler it deserved and she would have the husband she had always wanted. It was possible—and it was all within her reach.

She gave her reflection a small victorious smile and then stepped beneath the hot spray of the shower.

* * *

‘It is impossible. I cannot do it,’ Odir said, trying to keep the fury from his voice. Even in front of his aide he must keep his controlled façade.

He thought back to minutes earlier, when he had let it slip. For his wife, and—God help him—for himself.

‘My King, they need this reassurance.’

‘I appreciate that, Lamir, but it is not going to happen. My first priority upon returning to Farrehed will be to address my people. Not to meet the ruler of Kalaran. Our allies will have time with me, but it won’t be until after the funeral.’

‘But—’

‘There are no buts.’

Odir looked around the suite that had been blissfully empty only moments before. Now he felt as if he had been invaded by soldiers—suited and booted individuals armed with laptops, stacks of paper and pens, shooting demands at him left, right and centre.

Another aide thrust a piece of paper into his hand and he marvelled at how he was supposed to feel regal and all-powerful when he seemed to be at the mercy of his staff. The document was the approval for the opening of talks with Farrehed’s desert tribal leaders in an attempt to begin the healing process.

Why did he feel as if he’d just ripped open a wound? All night he’d felt driven to the point in time when, in one hour, he would announce his father’s death. All night he’d ensured that what needed to be done had been done. That all the players who were needed were in place.

He’d felt capable, driven, motivated. And yet suddenly now he was feeling helpless, unsure, a little bit lost. And it had nothing to do with the chaos surrounding him. It was to do with the woman one room away, standing in the centre of the storm with him.

It was already beginning. He should be focusing on all the things that must be done, but he was completely distracted by his wife.

‘Sir, I need you to sign the release form on the press briefing.’

‘I appreciate that...’ He searched for the bespectacled kid’s name—the man couldn’t be more than twenty-two—but it eluded him. ‘But I’m sure that you wouldn’t want news to get out that the first official communication dealt with by the new Sheikh of Farrehed was approved when he was wearing a dressing gown and nothing else.’

He was sure that it was only a will almost as strong as his own that prevented the fresh-faced aide from casting him a full-length appraisal.

‘Five minutes.’

‘But, Sir—’

In lieu of a response Odir glared at the boy for a full ten seconds before he left the room.

Odir could do nothing to prevent the curse falling from his lips as he slammed the bedroom door behind him, startling Eloise as she came out of the bathroom wrapped in nothing but a fluffy white towel.

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