The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(1) by Susan Mallery
“His Royal Highness, King Hassan of Bahania, requests the pleasure of your presence at the marriage of his most precious daughter, Princess Zara.”
Rather than read any further, Cleo Wilson fingered the thick paper and rubbed the raised lettering of the royal family’s crest. How often did a woman like her get an invitation to a royal wedding? Attending would be the social event of a lifetime. She should be wildly excited. Thrilled even. And she would be—just as soon as she stopped having a pressing need to throw up several times a day.
Cleo slumped down in a kitchen chair and thought seriously about banging her head against the table. At least a concussion would be a distraction. Then she reminded herself that she had to stay healthy for the sake of her baby. She rested a hand on her slightly rounded stomach, as if offering comfort and an apology.
“No head banging,” she murmured. “I promise to be sensible.”
Unfortunately, being sensible meant she had to fly to Bahania for her foster sister’s wedding. It meant getting fitted for her maid of honor dress, smiling in such a way that Zara didn’t guess there was anything wrong. It also meant keeping her pregnancy from everyone she ran into, most especially the father of her child.
Somehow she didn’t think that all the deep breathing in the world was going to help her stress level.
It wasn’t supposed to have turned out this way, she reminded herself. At twenty-four she was supposed to have her life together. Or at least maintain an illusion of competence and goal setting. She’d even sworn to herself that she wouldn’t make the mistake of getting involved with an incredibly inappropriate man ever again. So much for that promise.
Four months ago she’d done the unthinkably stupid. Really. It was so dumb she should win an award. She pictured a nameless master of ceremonies opening a red-lacquered envelope: “The Golden Burro for most inappropriate and really dumb sexual relationship on the planet goes to Cleo Wilson, night manager of a local copy shop who not only slept with a royal prince. She accidentally got pregnant by him.”
Two weeks later Cleo flew out of the Spokane airport, en route to Bahania. This trip was very different from the one she’d made nearly six months before with Zara. Then she and her foster sister had been looking into the unbelievable possibility that Zara might be the illegitimate daughter of King Hassan. While Cleo had been the one encouraging Zara to find out the truth, she’d never thought that her sister might actually be a princess. A relative, yes. Royalty, no.
It had taken a few days in the royal palace, followed by someone actually saying the words Princess Zara for Cleo to grasp that the girl she’d once shared a bathroom with was now a member of the Bahanian royal family. While Cleo had been happy for Zara’s good fortune, she’d been left feeling as though she was once again on the outside looking in.
They had begun that trip with high hopes, great expectations and cheap, economy-class seats. Now Cleo found herself heading east on a private jet. And not just any private jet. This wasn’t some eight-seater, executive-class transportation. Nope, she had an honest-to-goodness Boeing 737 all to herself.
Instead of a couple hundred other passengers, there was her, two flight attendants, a pilot, copilot and enough food to feed Rhode Island. She knew because she’d checked out the galley on her exploration of the plane before they’d taken off.
In addition to enough supplies to satisfy all her culinary wants, there were two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a workout room, three bathrooms—real bathrooms with showers and space to turn around—along with an office area. Cleo settled in the living room and gazed out the window. Later, when her body clock told her it was her bedtime, she would retire to a real bed and, in theory, arrive in Bahania rested and refreshed.
In reality she would toss and turn all night. The lack of sleep would create charming dark circles under her eyes and the on-going morning sickness would make it impossible to enjoy all the desserts the flight attendants had promised to prepare.
Nearly seventeen hours later, after one quick pit stop for gas, they arrived at the Bahanian International Airport. Cleo collected her overnight case and headed for the ramp. Zara and her fiancé, Rafe, stood waiting at the other end.
Zara threw herself at Cleo and hugged her close. “I’ve missed you.”
Cleo didn’t dare say any more. Unfortunately, her hormones were doing their darnedest to turn her into a babbling, sobbing idiot every time she saw a sappy commercial on television. Who knew what they would do in this circumstance.
Zara hugged her again, then released her and held her at arm’s length. “You look great,” her sister said.
Cleo laughed. “No. I look like something the cat gacked up. You look great.”
And of course she did. Zara had been blessed with the finest the gene pool had to offer. As if being tall and model slender wasn’t enough, she also had long, dark hair and beautiful brown eyes. Then there was the whole smart-funny-nice thing going on with her. If Cleo didn’t adore her sister, she would have backed the car over her years ago.
As they were technically only foster sisters, Cleo found herself about as far from tall, slender and dark-haired as physically possible. She was short, curvy—okay, plump—with short blond hair that she generally wore sort of spiky.
Her lone claim to beauty was her big blue eyes. Zara would say that her big boobs were an asset, too, but Zara would be wrong.
“Hey, little sister,” Rafe said, moving in for his greeting.
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