The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(8) by Susan Mallery
She was grateful for the change in subject. “I’ll make it a point to go look at them,” she said. “I enjoyed the gardens before.”
“They’re even more beautiful now. Many things bloom here in Bahania.”
She glanced at him, but despite his cryptic words, he seemed to speak only of the wildlife. There was no way he could have guessed, she told herself as a shiver of unease rippled through her. She was overreacting.
Hassan spoke of his precious cats for a few minutes, then rose to his feet.
“Unfortunately, duty calls,” he said. “Otherwise I would like to spend more time with you.” He touched her shoulder. “Welcome, Cleo. We are all happy to have you with us. Stay as long as you would like. I know that you have a life back in America, but should you wish to make your home here in Bahania, we would be most honored.”
He nodded slightly, then left.
Cleo stared after him. It was only when she sniffed that she realized tears rolled down her face. She wiped her cheeks with her napkin. There was no point in blaming this outburst on her hormones. Hassan’s acceptance had opened an old wound—that of wanting to belong to a person, a family, even a place.
Despite his kindness, it wasn’t going to happen here, she reminded herself. That particular fantasy was going to have to be fulfilled somewhere else.
Maybe it was time to make a change in her life, she thought as she headed back to her room. When she went home after Zara’s wedding, she would evaluate her situation and find a way to feel, if not happiness, then at least contentment.
Sadik listened as the financial minister from El Bahar outlined the financing proposal for the proposed air force the two countries were developing. The representative from the City of Thieves was also in attendance. The two countries, along with the City of Thieves, worked together to protect the oil fields deep in the desert. The air force was a large part of their plans to modernize security arrangements.
Each reconnaissance plane cost many millions of dollars, while the fighters’ price tag could top a hundred million dollars. Under normal circumstances, Sadik would be crunching the numbers in his head faster than any calculator and asking dozens of questions.
These were not normal circumstances.
He couldn’t stop thinking about Cleo. She haunted his mind like a ghost haunting a castle. Ever moving, never appearing in the same place twice, disappearing for a time, then reappearing when he least expected to see her.
He ached for her. Their time apart had not seemed to dull his passion, nor had it allowed him to forget her. She was more beautiful than he remembered…and more tempting. Her lush body, her blond hair and blue eyes—there wasn’t a part of her he didn’t want. Kissing her had been a mistake. It had given him a taste of the paradise he’d had before, and he desperately wanted to go there again.
He wanted to make love with her. He wanted to explore every curve, every hollow.
He wanted to taste her and touch her, drive her mad, force her to surrender so that he could take her again and again.
“Your Highness, do you agree?”
Sadik stared at the minister sitting across from him. He had no idea what they were discussing. Anger surged. How dare Cleo invade his mind and keep him from his duties? He loved his work with a passion he had never felt for a mere woman.
There was no reason for him to be so distracted. In time he would have Cleo again. Until then he would forget about her.
But the simple words did nothing to ease the pounding need inside of him, nor did they improve his memory or his attention span.
“I apologize, Minister,” he said curtly. “Would you repeat the question?”
“We were discussing the options for providing training. There are several companies making bids. In addition both the British and the Americans have offered to send pilots to train our troops.”
“First we must agree on the aircraft,” Sadik said. He allowed himself one last image of Cleo, then pushed her from his mind. Now was the time to work.
“I’m glad this isn’t going to be a formal dinner,” Zara said, flopping down on the sofa and sighing. “I hate those state functions that go on for hours. They can be incredibly boring.”
“How many people will be attending tonight?” Cleo asked. The more the merrier, she thought glumly. Each person in the room was a potential buffer between her and Sadik. As much as she tried to forget it, his kiss from the previous night still haunted her. She found herself alternating between the need to run for cover and the desire to seek him out and finish what they’d started.
“I’m not sure. A couple hundred.” Zara shrugged. “As far as the inner circle of the royal family, it will be us, of course, and the king. Sadik is the only prince in the palace right now. Prince Reyhan is off at an oil conference somewhere. The crown prince is doing crown princely duties in central Africa.
Don’t ask me what. And Prince Jefri is in El Bahar talking with the king there about the joint air force.”
Cleo stared at her sister in amazement. “Listen to yourself,” she said.
Cleo reached to her right and pulled loose a small pillow. She threw it at Zara.
“You’re casually discussing the whereabouts of several members of the royal family. Doesn’t that strike you as the least bit odd? You’re a member of a ruling family. You’re an honest-to-goodness princess, Zara. How can you be so calm about this?”
Zara angled toward her. She wore a stylish short-sleeved dress that screamed designer. A large diamond glittered on her left hand. Her always beautiful hair was sleek and shiny—the result of expensive hair treatments and an even more expensive stylist on call.
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