The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(4) by Susan Mallery
A muscle twitched in his jaw. It was a small betrayal of his tension, but it gave Cleo courage. At least she wasn’t the only one hanging on by a thread.
He nodded at Zara, then turned on his heel and returned the way he had come.
Cleo was left with the feeling that he’d wanted to check her out—maybe to see if their passion was alive and well, which it was. She wasn’t sure if he’d found that good or bad news.
“Well?” Zara asked when they resumed their stroll to the guest quarters. “Any sparks left between you two?”
“Not really,” Cleo lied. “I mean, dating a prince was interesting the first time around, but it’s so not me.” She forced herself to smile. “I’m hardly princess material.”
“You could be.”
“On what planet?”
Zara smiled. “Okay, I get your point. Fitting in here isn’t that easy, and believe me, I’ve been trying for the past four months. I guess the rich and powerful really are different.”
Cleo couldn’t help laughing. “Zara, you’re the college professor in the family and you just now figured that out? There’s something wrong with you.”
Zara grinned. “Hey, I’m a princess. You can’t talk to me like that.”
“Excuse me, but I’m your sister. I can do whatever I want.”
Zara sighed and linked arms with Cleo. “I’ve missed you so much. It’s so great to have you here. I finally feel as if I have someone on my side in this crazy place. It’s taken a whole lot longer to adjust than I would have thought.”
“Why are you surprised? You went from being a small-town girl to living in a royal palace, halfway around the world. Oh, and you happened to find your long-lost father and fall in love. That’s hardly a situation designed to make you feel normal.”
“Agreed. While it’s nice to finally find roots, I have to admit I spend most of my time with my head spinning.”
Cleo didn’t doubt it. Just walking the corridors of the royal palace was enough to upset anyone’s equilibrium. They moved past bubbling marble fountains and priceless tapestries. There were statues, paintings, open courtyards, alcoves, anterooms and servants. There were also King Hassan’s cats who were allowed to go anywhere in the palace by royal order of the king. It was not a world designed to make one feel grounded.
“At first I envied you this,” Cleo admitted. “But now I’m not so sure I’d want to be a member of the royal family.”
“You’d get used to it.”
Cleo knew that it didn’t matter one way or the other. If all went well, she would be out of here in a couple of weeks. As for her own personal fantasy of home, hearth and family…that wasn’t going to happen.
She shook off her sad feelings before they could blossom into a full-fledged pity party. No time for that, she reminded herself. This was Zara’s special time, and she was determined to do everything she could to make it wonderful.
She glanced at her sister and raised her eyebrows. “Don’t forget your promise. I want first chance at all your jewelry castoffs. Anytime you get tired of your diamonds or sapphires, pass them my way.”
Zara laughed. “I promise. And if I find an old tiara lying around somewhere, I’ll send it over.”
Cleo fingered her short, spiky hair. “I’d look good in a tiara. Maybe it would make me look taller.” She had a sudden image of herself at her job in Spokane.
There she would be, manning the copy machine, dressed in jeans, a sweatshirt and a tiara. It would certainly get the customers talking.
The image was both comical and tragic. Fortunately, they reached their room before hormones could overwhelm her. She might be able to explain her slight weight gain, but sudden bouts of sobbing would definitely get Zara’s attention.
Zara opened the door to the suite and stepped inside. Cleo walked into the open space.
“It’s just like I remember,” she said, taking in the cream-colored walls and the floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors with a view of the Arabian Sea. The water was as beautiful as she remembered.
“Not bad,” she said, glancing at the deep-blue-and-rose tapestries decorating the walls, and the comfortable sofas and chairs that made up a large seating area in the center of the room.
“Everything is as you left it,” Zara said, pointing to the right.
Cleo walked toward the room she’d called home for a couple of weeks. This time she was prepared for the luxury of the four-poster bed in the center of the room. She had double French doors that led out onto the balcony that circled the entire palace. An oversize armoire held a television and DVD unit. If she remembered correctly, the bathroom was stocked with enough shampoo, lotions and soaps to fill a boutique.
“Nice work if you can get it,” she murmured under her breath.
She recalled the last time she’d been here. Everything had overwhelmed her. Zara had been the prodigal daughter, while she had been out of place. Now she was the not-quite-sister of the bride. Four months ago she’d been on the adventure of a lifetime. Now she was in dangerous territory with a whole lot more to lose.
Zara leaned against the door frame. “You’re looking serious. Should I be worried?”
Cleo forced herself to smile. “No. Everything is great. I hope Rafe is prepared to give you surroundings this nice after you’re married.”
Zara’s eyes sparkled with humor. “I’ve told him that my father has set very high standards. He’s going to have to scramble to keep up.” Her expression softened.
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