The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(11) by Susan Mallery
Everything glittered, especially the well-dressed people. How happy they must be that the king agreed to keep his cats out of the room on evenings such as these.
“What’s so funny?” Jonathan asked.
He was an attractive man in his late forties. Cleo picked up her water glass. “I was thinking that a couple of loose cats could do a lot of damage with their shedding in this group.”
Jonathan grinned. “I’m still picking off hairs from my last visit here. Black suit, white cat. I swear I heard her laughing as she rubbed against me.”
Cleo chuckled at the image. As she did so, she felt something intense, as if…
She raised her head. Sadik might not be next to her, but he was across from her.
The table was wide enough to keep them from talking easily, but that didn’t matter. It was enough to know he was there. There and watching her. She deliberately turned back to her seatmate.
“What business brings you to Bahania?” she asked.
Jonathan looked faintly surprised at the question. “I’m the American ambassador.”
Heat instantly flared on her cheeks. She wanted to crawl under the table.
“Sorry, I didn’t know. I don’t actually live in Bahania and, well…” Her voice trailed off. Did it matter that she didn’t live here? Her circle of friends had never included an ambassador.
“I should have done a better job of introducing myself,” he said easily. “As your sister is Princess Zara, I assumed you would have been told about me.”
So he knew who she was. Figures. Life could be annoyingly unfair. “So far Zara and I have pretty much talked about the wedding. You know—girl stuff.”
“I have three daughters so I know exactly what you’re talking about.”
The fact that he had children made her able to put aside her faux pas. As dinner was served, she found herself chatting easily with Jonathan. He explained that his wife had returned home to the States to get their oldest settled at college and visit family.
All through the various courses Cleo did her best to ignore Sadik’s watchful gaze. He was polite enough to converse with the women on either side of him, but she would have bet he barely heard what they were saying. He was too busy glaring at her.
When the dessert plates had been cleared away, the waiters brought out trays of open champagne bottles. The bubbly liquid was served, and King Hassan rose to toast his daughter.
Cleo joined in the applause and, at the appropriate time, raised her glass to her lips but was careful not to swallow. Conflicting emotions swelled up inside of her. She was deeply happy for her sister. Zara deserved all her joy. But the knowledge that things would never be the same between them made Cleo feel hollow inside.
The king ended the meal by inviting everyone to dance in the main ballroom. As Cleo pushed back her seat, she could already hear the strains of music. But with her heavy heart and suddenly unsettled stomach, what she wanted more than anything was to hurry back to her room for a quiet pity party and a good movie.
She nearly made it to the far door before she was caught.
“The American ambassador is happily married.”
Cleo spun toward Sadik. “Number one, stop sneaking up on me. It’s annoying.
Number two, I know all about Jonathan’s wife and his daughters. We had a lovely time chatting together and don’t you dare turn it into something sleazy.”
His dark eyes were unreadable. A muscle twitched in his jaw. She half expected him to throw her over his shoulder and spirit her away. A part of her would have welcomed being in his bed, regardless of the price. Fortunately, all he did was lead her toward the ballroom, then pull her into his arms for a dance.
They moved without speaking. Cleo let herself relax to the rhythm of the music.
Maybe it was madness, but being with Sadik felt like coming home.
Despite the height difference, they danced well together. She easily anticipated his moves. The heat from his body made her feel safe.
Safe, she thought sadly. There was a unique concept. She might be many things with the prince, but the least of them was safe.
“You should go bother a skinny, tall brunette and leave me alone,” she grumbled.
“You should stop talking. You’re spoiling our moment together.”
“Is that what we’re having?”
“Yes. And you’re enjoying it. Besides, I want no other woman but you.”
His words sank down to her heart, ripping away protective layers of common sense. She knew he was only talking about sex, but she couldn’t help wishing…wanting…something more. Sadik held her close enough that she could feel the call of his body. She took the half step closer, nestling herself against him. His only response was to sigh softly.
For a time, with her pregnancy, her br**sts had been extremely tender. That symptom had faded so she could now enjoy the sensation of pressing close to his hard chest. Against her will, memories flooded her as she remembered what it had been like to be with him. She recalled the way he’d touched her everywhere.
Slowly, almost worshiping her body. He’d made her feel physically perfect.
Cleo closed her eyes in an attempt to ignore the past and the pain it brought.
If it was only sex, she could find the will to resist. But she and Sadik had shared so much more. When they had satiated themselves after an hour or two, they had talked. First of inconsequential matters, but eventually they had shared the details of their past. She’d heard about the lonely child growing up in a world of wealth and privilege, ignored by his parents and raised by a nanny, then a tutor. She’d glossed over the first ten years of her life but had told him about going to live with Zara and her mother.
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