‘So just because what you want is for someone else—something else—it justifies any action you will take?’
‘I will not allow you to use either myself or Jarhan to meet such insane ends. It’s a sacrifice too far.’
He wheeled round to her and closed the gap between them with two impossibly large strides.
‘What the hell would you know about sacrifice?’ His words were a harsh whisper, full of anger and accusation.
‘What would I...?’ she asked into the night, and all the words, all the hurt, all the pain and loneliness crept up her throat and got stuck there.
Before she realised, she’d raised her hand and slapped him. The noise echoed in the silent suite.
‘Of all the things I’ve said to you tonight, Eloise, that is perhaps the one that least warrants such a dramatic reaction.’
‘Really? What do I know about sacrifice? I married you, didn’t I?’
August 2nd, 03.00-04.00, Heron Tower
SHE HAD STRUCK her husband. She had struck the Sheikh of Farrehed. She abhorred violence—abhorred abuse of any kind. Never in her life had she ever raised a hand in anger to anyone. Not until tonight.
She didn’t count the pathetic punches she had peppered his chest with earlier that evening. They had been born of frustration. But what she had just done... That had been born of a fury that she had not been able to contain. The disdain, the sneer that had painted Odir’s tone when he had accused her of knowing nothing of sacrifice...it had been too much to bear.
She rushed from the suite, falling into the corridor, and pushed through a heavy fire door, her feet slapping on concrete stairs until she came to the floor that had housed the charity gala and the balcony. She pulled herself up suddenly, sure that she would look like a deer caught in the headlights were anyone there to witness her.
She had forgotten the guests—forgotten the party that had been in full swing when they had left it earlier that evening. Holding her breath, and hoping to high heaven that the last of the guests had gone, she listened for any sounds to let her know one way or the other.
After the longest held breath she exhaled into the silence, finally sure that no guests had lingered.
She felt a presence behind her and knew that it wasn’t her husband. She turned to find Malik standing in the shadows, in front of the fire door she had just emerged through.
‘Please, Malik. I need...’ She groped for a word that would convey even a fraction of what she needed at that moment, but she saw him nod.
She had never known why he had helped her all that time ago, but he had. Why he had been willing to whisk the errant Princess away from his Prince she would never know. But here he was once more, allowing her what she needed.
She left her soft thank you in the corridor behind her and pushed through the glass doorway, stepping out on to the balcony.
It was darker than before. The twinkling lights of London had dimmed, as if they too were hiding in shame. Once again she was struck by the sight. She had been so long away from England that she could see the beauty in it as if she was merely a visitor and hadn’t been born and raised there.
She thought of all the time she had spent being dragged along on her father’s diplomatic postings throughout the Arabic states. Countries where she and her mother had been installed and requested to perform. Her heart ached at the memory of those years. Her skin ached at the memory of all those false smiles.
In spite of those years Farrehed had seemed like an exotic faraway place—a desert kingdom after the three years she had spent at university in England. But instead of finding freedom in her studies, like the freedom she had tentatively come to believe that she’d found in Zurich, she had felt only a sense of postponement. A last-minute reprieve before her father’s final act of dominance fell upon her.
It was there on the balcony, her mind straddling two worlds, the past and the present, that Odir found her.
‘You can’t keep running.’
It was testament to the hold of her memories that she had not noticed the presence of her husband before then.
She let a bitter laugh escape her lips and be carried away on the wind into the night sky. She felt a thick heavy blanket about her shoulders and sank into its warmth, not having realised how cold she was.