But that wasn’t what had sent a ripple of discord through his body. It was the black and white picture of the woman he had married and vowed before God to honour above all else. And he had, he thought with an arrow of anger. But she hadn’t.
After six months of seemingly fruitless investigations trying to track down his errant wife, the fact that Malik had seen sense—only in the direst of circumstances—to reveal the name on her fake passport had briefly made Odir wonder whether Eloise had put Malik under some kind of wicked spell too. But he’d discarded the thought as quickly as it had come. Malik would never have touched his wife. Only one other had, and no matter how angry, how furious he was, he couldn’t and wouldn’t harm a hair on that body.
Another glance at the black and white photocopy, lying on the depressingly thin file of information his security team had dug up on her, creased and limp already from heavy fingers and angry hands, spiked his frustration once again.
His wife had always been beautiful. A beauty that had once threatened to undo him. But that wasn’t what he was looking for. Odir wanted to know if she had been blushing with shame when that photograph was taken. But the soft white planes of her face set against the grey shadow of her hair told him nothing.
Odir ruthlessly forced away the frustration welling in his chest. He didn’t have time to give in to such base things. He never had.
Tonight he had but one goal.
‘You have confirmation of her arrival?’ he threw at Malik.
‘She landed at Gatwick five hours ago.’
A curl of tension loosened its grip on him. Everything was falling into place.
‘She was followed to a hotel in London where she spent two hours, made a few phone calls,’ Malik continued. ‘She left in a cab and should arrive here in twenty minutes.’
Odir wondered why Eloise hadn’t fled to her family’s posting in Kuwait. He knew that she didn’t get on with her father. There had always been a strange, unsettling and silent bond between the young woman who had followed her ambassador father to Farrehed after finishing her university studies. A father who hadn’t noticed his daughter had been missing for six months. Hell, he hadn’t even noticed for three whole days.
But his lack of knowledge about her family was just another sign that he should have known more about the woman he’d bound himself to. He’d believed his father when he’d said their marriage would be good for his country. Would cement much-needed ties between their desert kingdom and Britain. And, although Odir had been brought up to expect an arranged marriage, what he’d found when he’d met Eloise two years ago had given him hope. Hope that he’d have a chance at finding something true—something more. Instead he’d been blinded by lust and what he now considered an award-worthy performance.
Not that it mattered at all. For his wife was going to return to his side no matter what he had to do to ensure it. She had no choice, he had no choice, and nothing angered him more than having his hand forced.
‘Take your men and meet her in Reception.’
* * *
‘Could you pull up around the corner?’
The last thing Eloise wanted was for the Princess of Farrehed to be seen getting out of a local cab right outside the Heron Tower, where her husband’s glamorous charity event was being held.
She hadn’t seen the tower since it had been built, and the tall glass structure, reaching into the night sky, struck her as an appropriate symbol to represent the power of the husband she hadn’t seen in half a year.
A finger of fear trailed its icy tip down the length of her spine and she straightened her shoulders to try and dislodge its hold. Eloise didn’t need to know how Odir had found her. In reality, she was actually a little surprised that Malik hadn’t told him earlier.
In those first few months the only thing that had distracted her from the belief that Odir would arrive in Zurich and drag her back to Farrehed had been Natalia. Her university friend who, within a matter of days, had thrown Eloise’s problems into stark relief.
One day she might look back kindly on the girl who had arrived in Zurich looking over her shoulder, broken by misunderstandings and deeper hurts. But in contrast to Natalia’s situation, the Eloise that first came to Switzerland simply looked foolish and spoilt.