From halfway across the room she could see Odir’s personal guard beginning to gather around a small doorway that led off to the side of the room.
‘Where are you taking me, Odir?’
‘What? No darling for me this time?’
She tried to pull her arm free, but he only tightened his hold.
‘Stop it or you’ll make a scene. And, as bad a job as you’ve already been doing as my wife for the last six months, believe me, you don’t want to make it worse.’
His response confused her momentarily. What did he care if she wasn’t being the perfect wife? He certainly hadn’t in the two months following their wedding day, having disappeared for weeks on end, leaving her to haunt the halls of the palace alone and lost. Surely the only reason he’d called her to London this evening was because he wanted to sever all ties with her?
Eloise couldn’t imagine for one moment that it would be anything else after the last words he’d said to her in Farrehed. After what he believed her to have done.
‘I’m not the one causing the scene, Odir. You are. I’ll ask again. Where are you taking me?’
He seemed to flinch as her voice had become almost loud enough for those closest to them to hear.
‘Somewhere we can talk. That is what you want, no? To talk?’
‘What I want is a—’
He wheeled her around so that she stood in front of him, impossibly close. He leaned in with what would look to the world like the satisfied smile of a loving husband. His lips were just beneath her ear, tantalisingly close.
‘Do. Not. Say. That. Again.’
Each whispered word pressed a puff of air against her heated skin, causing her pulse to jump erratically in response—her body seemingly ignorant of the threat his words implied.
He brought her back round to his side and pushed her through the crowd towards a private elevator. The doors slid open without a sound and Eloise stepped into a mirror-lined lift. If he wanted to talk, so be it—as long as it brought about her freedom.
It took her a moment to realise that she was alone with her husband for the first time since their wedding night. Since he had left her by herself, unable to get out of that ridiculous white dress. Standing by his side now, she looked at their reflection, multiplied over and over again until it was all she could see.
She took in the changes that six months had brought to his handsome features. The fine dusting of grey at his temples, shining bright against his thick dark hair. The lines that framed his eyes—closed now—and the hollows beneath his cheekbones, serving only to make him seem even more powerful and commanding. His cologne infused the air about them until it was all she could smell, overwhelming her completely.
She had expected anger from him. Fury, even. Not this cold carelessness that seemed to vibrate from his being. But she was astute enough to recognise the anticipation of anger as a learning from her childhood. From the powerful men she had encountered. Like her father. Like his.
‘Not yet,’ he said, without even bothering to open his eyes.
And all the anger she’d held at bay since the moment his lips had touched hers raised its ugly head and forced its way out.
‘No, you’ll listen to—’
But before she could finish her sentence the lift arrived at its destination and Odir stalked out into a corridor and through a door being held open by the guard already stationed there.
Eloise followed, feelings of uncertainty and a hatred of being ignored filling her, propelling her forward as she stepped over the threshold of a room she hadn’t expected.
Floor-to-ceiling windows launched her gaze out to the London she had glimpsed earlier from the lift. Spread out before them like a blanket made of black silk and sequins, its tiny lights shifted and flashed, outlining the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament. And strangely she felt an ache of homesickness pulse within her, even though she had not lived in London since she’d left university and made her way to Farrehed.
Not even three years later here she was, surveying it as if she were its lord and master.
And then she realised how foolish that thought was. She had never been lord and master of anything. That had been the role of her father and then her husband. The women in her family had never had the privilege of holding such power. Not until she had left her husband’s side.