THE DESERT BRIDE OF AL ZAYED EXCERPT
She decided her turbulent marriage to the sheikh must end...just as he declared the time has come to produce his heir.
"I want a divorce."
The moment she'd blurted the words out, Jayne felt her pulse quicken. She squeezed her eyes shut...and waited. The silence on the other end of the line was absolute.
The answer rang with finality over the vast distance that separated Zayed from New Zealand. Tariq's voice was smooth and deep and very, very cool. Like ice. Tingling shivers of apprehension started to dance along Jayne's spine. She recognised that sensation. It meant trouble.
Jayne gripped the handset until her fingers hurt. "But we've been separated for over five years. I thought you'd be jumping for joy at the prospect of a divorce." And your father, too. She refrained from adding the dig. Mention of his father, the Emir of Zayed, tended to result in argumentsshe'd learned that a long time ago. And she didn't want a battle with no ceasefire in sight, she simply wanted a divorce.
But this was not going quite as she'd planned. From the outset Jayne had intended avoiding any direct contact with Tariqor his father. She'd phoned the Emir's chief aide, Hadi al Ebrahim, and had bluntly stated that more than five years had passed since Tariq had banished her from Zayed. Tariq was a citizen of Zayed and their marriage had been conducted in accordance with the laws of his country. According to the laws of Zayed, parties had to be separated for five years before a divorce could be petitioned.
The legal waiting time was over. She wanted to set divorce proceedings in motion. The excruciatingly polite aide had taken her number and promised to call her back.
But the aide's promised call hadn't come. Instead Sheikh Tariq bin Rashid al Zayed, her husbandno, her hopefully soon-to-be-ex-husbandhad called.
Only to refuse her request.
No. No explanation. No softening the blow. Just a very blunt, very final "No."
Jayne resisted the urge to stamp her foot. Instead she tried for her most reasonable teacher's voice, and said, "You haven't seen me for years, Tariq. Don't you think it's time for us both to move on?" From a past that had brought her more pain and anguish than she'd ever anticipated.
"It's not yet time."
Jayne's heart skipped a beat. She sensed all her well-laid plans to start a new degree with the new year, to start dating again, to come out of hibernation and start living a life, unravelling. "Not time? What do you mean it's not yet time? Of course it's time. All you need to do is sign"
"Come to Zayed and we'll talk about it, Jayne." Even over the distance between them the husky sound of her very ordinary name on his tongue sounded sensual and intimate and had the power to make her shiver. It was madness.
"I don't want to talk. I just want a divorce." Jayne heard the touch of shrillness in her voice. She could see her brand-new life, her well-laid plans going up in smoke. Damn Tariq.
"Why?" His voice changed, became harsh and abrupt.
"Why are you suddenly so desperate for a divorce, my faithless woman? Is there finally a man who objects to having a woman with a husband?"
A brief hesitation. She thought about Neil, the nice accountant her brother-in-law had introduced her to three months ago. He'd asked her out, but she hadn't accepted. Yet. "No! You've got it all"
"We will meet in Zayed," her husband decreed. "There will be no divorce. Not yet. But it is possible that the time will come soon. Very soon. We will talk."
But he was already firing information about dates and flights and visas at her. Belatedly Jayne realised that she no longer held her Zayedi passport, she'd left it behind in the bedroom she'd shared with Tariq on that terrible last day. She'd had no intention of ever returning. She'd have to apply for a visa to go to Zayed, which meant at least a week of delay.
"Tariq." It was a desperate call.
He paused and the sudden silence that stretched between them was shattering.
Jayne swallowed, her mouth dry. Then, more quietly, she said, "Can't we meet somewhere" neutral "else?" Tariq would not come to New Zealand; it was too far. He was a busy man. And she didn't want him here, destroying her safe haven.
But there had to be other options. Somewhere where she wouldn't need to revisit those traumatic weeks before the end of their marriage, somewhere she wouldn't have to walk through the corridors of the lavish palace that had stifled her dreams, or confront the two men who had killed her soul. "What about London?"
"There are...problems...in Zayed. I cannot leave."
She thought about that for a long moment. "I can't come to Zayed," she said at last.
"Can't or won't?"
She didn't answer.
"Then let me make it easy for you. If you don't come to Zayed, Jayne, I will oppose any application you make for a divorce."
The words were chilling, even though the tone that delivered them was rich and lingering. The laws of Zayed stated that no divorce could be granted unless the husband consented. As much as it riled her, she needed Tariq's consent.
Unless she went to Zayed, Tariq would deny her the one thing she wanted above all else: her freedom.
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THE DESERT BRIDE OF AL ZAYED