‘I’m going to go home now and talk with Leila,’ James said.
‘I thought you wanted to work on this,’ Manu said. ‘I have to go back to Dubai tonight.’
‘I know that,’ James said, ‘and while I do appreciate all your help, I need to discuss things with Leila.’
‘You need my help, James. How is your Arabic going?’
‘Absolutely terrible.’ James told her a few of the phrases that he had learned and Manu laughed at his attempts to speak from the back of his throat, just as James expected her to, just as his father would too.
‘Well, I’m glad it amuses you so much,’ James said.
‘You’ve got a very long way to go.’ Manu could not stop laughing but James did not feel smacked upside the head this time. He was sick of the lot of them. ‘Oh, James, thank you for the laugh. I needed it.’
Leila wouldn’t laugh.
He knew that now.
What he didn’t know though was that at this very moment he was breaking the heart of the woman he loved.
* * *
Leila had walked into the reception unseen by James and Manu. She had watched them walk over to the elevators and had hoped upon hope that this was not what it looked like.
Leila tried to trust him, tried to tell herself that he wouldn’t take another woman to a bed that they had shared.
She watched the light on the elevator stop at the seventeenth floor instead of the top one and she pressed it and watched in dismay as the elevator came straight down and opened empty.
Even now she still wanted to trust him.
Even now, as she stepped in and pressed the button and took the elevator up to the seventeenth floor, she tried to tell herself that she was wrong.
She had to be wrong, for the man who had made love to her the night before last would not do this. The man who had brought her to his home could not do this to her.
Or had he brought her to his home so that he could free himself to carry on with his ways here?
As she walked along the plush corridor Leila thought of the nights he had returned smelling of perfume.
Leila walked, wondering what one he was behind, and then she heard the one thing she was dreading—the sound of James’s voice and a woman laughing behind a hotel door.
She wanted to kick the door, she wanted to burst in on them and scratch his face, but what was the point?
What would it change?
From the start he had told her he was a playboy. She had fallen in love with a man who had, as it turned out, wanted nothing more than a one-night stand.
Circumstance had forced them together.
Tears would not come, anger would not come—all she felt was weary from a world that denied her love over and over.
She asked his driver to take her home.
‘You are loved though,’ Leila said to the small life inside her. ‘You are so loved and you are so wanted and I am going to do everything I can to ensure that you know it every day that I am with you.’
And she would do it alone.
Leila refused to be with a man who did not truly love her, refused to be like James’s parents. Her daughter would have a mother who was a strong woman instead of a martyr. Her daughter would have a mother who refused to turn the other cheek.
Anger was coming now and Leila threw a few clothes into the small case she had brought with her from home.
She wanted nothing from him.
Leila tore off the robe he had made for her and put on the one she owned and decided that she would send for her things later. She simply couldn’t bear to be here anymore, amongst his things, his scent, close to the man who had stolen her heart.
She took her cash she had saved from working and her passport and put them in her bag and then Leila removed the ring that James had given her at that appalling showy proposal where he had attempted to trap her.
He never would.
I hope she was worth it... Leila texted, and sent it, and then she threw the phone he had given her onto the bed and left the building.
James received the text just as he was getting into his car after leaving The Chatsfield and he immediately called her but it went straight to messages.
‘Was Leila okay when you took her home?’ James asked his driver.
‘She didn’t say much,’ he answered, ‘although she never does.’ Then he told James he had taken her to The Chatsfield earlier, and James felt his stomach clench. ‘Then I brought her home again.’