“A MISTAKE? HOW is this possible?”
King Rashid bin Zaid al-Hassan glared daggers at the stuttering secretary who stood in front of him. The man swallowed visibly.
“The clinic says they have made a mistake, Your Majesty. A woman...” Mostafa looked down at the note in his hand. “A woman in America was supposed to receive her brother-in-law’s sperm. She received yours instead.”
Rashid’s blood ran hot and then cold. He felt...violated. Rage coursed through him like a flame from a blast furnace, melting the ice around his heart for only a moment before it hardened again. He knew from experience that nothing could thaw that ice for long. In five years, nothing had penetrated the darkness surrounding him.
His hands clenched into fists on his desk. This was too much. Too outrageous.
How dare they? How dare anyone take that choice away from him? He wasn’t ready for a child in his life. He didn’t know if he would ever be ready, though eventually he had to provide Kyr with an heir. It was his duty, but he wasn’t prepared to do it quite yet.
The prospect of marrying and producing children brought up too many memories, too much pain. He preferred the ice to the sharpness of loss and despair that would envelop him if he let the ice thaw.
He’d obeyed the law that required him to deposit sperm in two banks
for the preservation of his line, but he’d never dreamed it could go so horribly wrong. A random woman had been impregnated with his sperm. He could even now be an expectant father, his seed growing into a tiny life that could break him anew.
An icy wash of terror crested inside him, left him reeling in its wake. He would be physically ill in another moment.
Rashid pushed himself up from his chair and turned away so Mostafa wouldn’t see the utter desolation that he knew was on his face. This was not an auspicious beginning to his reign as Kyr’s king.
Hell, as if this was the only thing that had gone wrong. His stomach churned with fresh fury.
Since his father died two months ago and his brother abdicated before he’d ever been crowned, it was now Rashid’s duty to rule this nation. But nothing was the way it was supposed to be. As the eldest, he should have been the crown prince, but he’d been the despised son, a pawn in his father’s game of cat and mouse. In Kyr, the king could name his successor from amongst his sons. There was no law that said it had to be the eldest, though tradition usually dictated that it was.
But not for King Zaid al-Hassan. He’d been a cruel and manipulative man, the kind who ruled his sons—and his wives—with fear and harsh punishments. He’d dangled the possibility of the throne over his sons’ heads for far too
long. Kadir had never wanted to rule, but it hadn’t mattered to their father. It was simply a way to control his eldest son. But Rashid had refused to play, instead leaving Kyr when he was twenty-five and vowing never to come back again.
He had come back, however. And now he wore a crown he’d never expected to have. His father, the old snake, was probably spinning in his grave right this minute. King Zaid had not wanted Rashid to rule. He had only wanted to hold out the hope of it before snatching the crown away in a final act of spite. That he’d died without naming his successor didn’t fill Rashid with the kind of peace that Kadir felt. Kadir wanted to believe their father had desired a reconciliation, and Rashid would not take that away from him.
But Rashid knew better. He’d had a lifetime of his father’s scorn and disapproval and he just simply knew better.
Yet here he was. Rashid’s gaze scanned the desert landscape, rolling over the sandstone hills in the distance, the red sand dunes, the palms and fountains that lined the ornate gardens of the palace. The sun was high and most people were inside at this hour. The horizon shimmered with heat. A primitive satisfaction rolled through him at the sight of all he loved.