‘Arrange for the limo to meet us downstairs in twenty minutes.’

Malik’s silent nod poked again at his conscience—as did his wife’s bowed head, reflected over and over and over again in the mirror-lined lift. He fought against the urge to lift her chin and see into the azure depths of her eyes—eyes that would tell him what was going on in her mind. There was a secret, cowardly part of him that didn’t want to know.

They entered the suite and Eloise pulled up short.

‘What is it?’

‘Your bags. They’ve been packed.’

‘Of course.’

‘You knew I would agree?’

The hurt and the accusation in the eyes he’d wanted to see only moments before cut through him now like a knife.

‘Yes,’ he said simply.

Because he couldn’t deny it. There had been no other acceptable outcome from this evening.

He watched her gaze run over the room, taking in the fact that all the signs of their lovemaking, all the signs of the chaos they had lost themselves to, had been erased. A delicate blush came to her cheeks and he watched her realise that some unseen hand had wiped away the traces of their passion and returned the room to its previous state.

‘When will I be able to see Natalia? There are things I need to finish up in Zurich.’

Her question surprised him. The intrusion of the life that she had left him for was strangely unwelcome to him.

‘Soon. I will look into having Natalia brought to Farrehed for the best medical treatment available.’

He watched a crease appear between her delicate brows.

‘Habibti?’

‘Natalia needs a kidney transplant. And I’m not sure that taking her away from possible matches would be for the best right now... I don’t suppose you’d let me return to Switzerland before coming to Farrehed?’

‘I need you, Eloise.’

* * *

The timbre of his voice sent shivers into her heart, made her tremble with hope—until he finished his sentence.

‘You will need to be by my side as much as possible, especially in these first few months.’

‘Then Natalia should stay in Switzerland until after a transplant can be done. Odir, I’m telling you now that when that happens I will be by her side.’

He clearly saw the determination she channelled into her gaze, her voice, and nodded his acceptance.

‘No matter what political or royal appointment it might interrupt?’

‘No matter what. Eloise, your friend is important to you—I understand that.’

Just not enough for her to be allowed to say goodbye Eloise thought sadly.

But Natalia would understand. While they had been in Switzerland she and Natalia had spoken often of Odir. After two months Natalia had stopped urging her to speak to the husband that Natalia had never met.

Once again Eloise found herself wondering how—in spite of the awful treatment from her own fiancé and the painful abandonment of her family—Natalia had retained such an optimistic hope that everything would be all right in the end.

‘I’m going to have a shower,’ Odir said, his words cutting through her thoughts. ‘Is there anything you need to do to prepare for your return?’

‘My boss knew that I would be away for at least a week. I arranged for one of the other PAs to cover in my absence. I can get in touch with him later and let him know. But I should call my mother. Even if she doesn’t see the press conference, word will reach her soon enough.’

A decisive nod of his proud dark head was Odir’s only reaction as he padded through to the bedroom.

It would be around seven in the morning in Kuwait, so hopefully she wouldn’t have to wake her mother. She dialled the number at her parents’ current posting, knowing that her father wouldn’t answer the phone. Her parents still slept in separate rooms, and Eloise felt safe in the knowledge that she could have a conversation with her mother unhindered by his presence. She just hoped that her mother would be sober enough to listen...

The sound of the ringing through the phone line felt uncomfortably loud in her head.

‘Hello?’

Her mother’s voice sounded uniquely absent of sleep and drugs, and Eloise’s heart clenched at the thought that her mother might have somehow been expecting her call.

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