The Sheikh's Secret Babies(2)

By: Lynne Graham

It took a lot to silence Jaul, whose stubborn, passionate and outspoken nature was well known within palace circles, but that little speech seriously shook him. ‘But there was no actual marriage,’ Jaul countered tautly. ‘I was informed that the ceremony was illegal because I did not obtain my father’s permission beforehand.’

‘I’m afraid that was a case of wishful thinking on your father’s part. He wished the marriage to be illegal and Yusuf did not have the courage to tell him that it was legal...’

Jaul had lost colour beneath his healthy olive-tinted complexion, his very dark, long-lashed eyes telegraphing his astonishment at that revelation. ‘It was a legal marriage?’ he repeated in disbelief.

‘There is nothing in our constitutional law which prohibits a Marwani Crown Prince from marrying his own choice of bride. You were twenty-six years old, scarcely a teenager and that marriage still stands because you have done nothing since to sever that tie.’

Wide, strong shoulders now rigid beneath the long cream linen thobe he wore, Jaul frowned, trying to calculate the sheer immensity of the wrecking ball that had suddenly crashed into his marital plans. He was already a married man. Indeed he was still a married man. As he had only lived with his bride for a few weeks before parting from her, what Bandar was now telling him naturally came as a severe shock. ‘I did nothing to sever the tie because I was informed that the marriage itself was illegal and, therefore, void. Like a bad contract,’ he admitted.

‘Unhappily that is not the case.’ Bandar sighed. ‘To be free of the marriage you require a divorce under UK law and Marwani law.’

Jaul stalked over to the window beyond which Zaliha could still be seen entertaining her niece and nephew, but he was no longer remotely conscious of that view. ‘I had no suspicion of this. I should have been informed of this situation months ago—’

‘As I mentioned, Yusuf was my superior and he refused to allow me to raise the subject—’

‘It is three months since my father passed away,’ Jaul reminded him stiffly.

‘I had to ensure my facts were correct before I could raise this matter with you. I have now discovered that in spite of your separation your wife has not sought a divorce either—’

Jaul froze, his lean, darkly handsome features clenching hard. ‘Please do not refer to her as my wife,’ he murmured flatly.

‘Should I refer to the lady concerned as your queen?’ Bandar pressed with even less tact. ‘Because that is what Chrissie Whitaker is, whether she knows it or not. The wife of the King of Marwan is always granted the status of Queen.’

Jaul snatched in a ragged breath of restraint, lean brown hands closing slowly into fists of innate aggression. He had made one serious mistake in his life and it had come back to haunt him in the worst possible way at the worst possible time. He had married a gold-digger who had deserted him the first chance she got in return for cold, hard cash.

‘Naturally I respect the fact that your father did not approve of the young woman but perhaps now—’

‘No, my father was correct in his assessment of her character. She was unsuitable to be either my wife or my queen,’ Jaul acknowledged grittily, a faint flare of colour accentuating the line of his spectacular high cheekbones as he forced out the lowering admission that stung his pride. ‘I was a rebellious son, Bandar...but I learnt my lesson.’

‘The lessons of youth are often hard,’ Bandar commented quietly, relieved that the current king was unlike his late parent, who had raged and taken umbrage at anyone who told him anything he did not want to hear.

Jaul was barely listening. In fact he was being bombarded by unwelcome memories that had escaped from the burial ground at the back of his mind where he kept such unsettling reminders firmly repressed. In his mind’s eye he was seeing Chrissie walk away from him, her glorious silver-blonde hair blowing back in the breeze, her long, shapely legs fluid and graceful as a gazelle’s.

But she had always been walking away from him, he recalled with cool cynicism. Right from the start, Chrissie had played a cool, clever, long-term game of seduction. Hot-blooded as he was and never before refused by a woman as he had been, she had challenged his ego with her much-vaunted indifference. It had taken a two-year-plus campaign for him to win her and she had only truly become his when he had surrendered and given her a wedding ring. Unsurprisingly during that long period of celibacy and frustration, Chrissie Whitaker had become a sexual obsession whose allure Jaul had not been able to withstand.

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