The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(12) by Susan Mallery
She had allowed herself to believe that she’d gotten past the arrogant shell to the actual man beneath. She’d told herself that she mattered to him. She’d been wrong on both counts.
“Come to me tonight,” he breathed in her ear. “We can rediscover paradise together.”
Cleo was so tempted she nearly fainted. Knowing that he wanted her made her long to give in. Apparently being around Sadik still made her forget all that was important. She took a half second to try to convince herself that it was okay to be weak and spineless, then she remembered what was at stake.
She did her best to look bored as she raised her gaze to his. “I’m seriously flattered, but I’d rather not. You’re a great guy, Sadik, really. But the thing is, I’ve met someone else. We hooked up shortly after I returned to Spokane.”
Sadik raised dark eyebrows. “You have another man in your life? What is his name?”
Her mind went completely blank. Ah…a name. Any name. “Rick. He’s in plumbing.”
Internally she winced. “He’s fabulous. We met and it was love at first sight.
Really. Right there in front of my kitchen sink.” She widened her eyes, hoping for a look of sincerity.
Sadik did not look convinced. “Your sister hasn’t mentioned this Rick person.”
“I didn’t say anything to her. Zara is so caught up in the wedding and everything. I didn’t want to distract her.” Cleo swallowed. She’d never been a very good liar. Maybe she should have practiced more.
“So it’s serious with you and this Rick?”
“Uh-huh. We’re practically engaged.”
Sadik threw back his head and began to laugh. Cleo wanted to stomp her foot…preferably grinding her heel into his instep.
“I don’t see what’s so funny,” she hissed. “You wanted me. The possibility exists that one other man on the planet might feel the same way.”
He stopped laughing and pulled her hard against him. “I do not doubt your charms, Cleo, merely your story. While you are desirable and could have many suitors, you could not be with another man after being with me.”
He spoke with a confidence that made her want to box his ears.
“You make me crazy,” she told him as she pulled free of his embrace. “You also have a very high opinion of yourself. Frankly this conversation bores me.”
At least they were on the edge of the dance floor, she thought gratefully as she stalked away. Sadik didn’t follow her, but then he hardly had to worry about where she was going to go. The single choice was back to her room. For the forty-seventh time that day, tears filled her eyes. As if throwing up wasn’t enough, she’d turned into a faucet. Nothing about this situation was fair.
What made it worse was Sadik had been correct. There was no way she could be with another man after being with him. Somehow she’d bonded herself with him until no other man could possibly matter.
But he only cared about her attentions as some sort of game. He wanted her in his bed, yet not in his life. Cleo hated that. She also didn’t want to explore what she wanted, because she had a bad felling that the truth would terrify her.
Wishing for the moon was a steep, slick road to heartache. The problem was, she could already feel herself starting to slip.
Cleo eyed the long tables laden with wrapped presents. Each gift looked beautiful enough to be in a display window, and accompanying each was a letter, a blank form and pages of documentation.
“I’m going to bet there’s not a blender in the bunch,” she murmured.
Zara carried the first package over to the only empty table. Several chairs had been pulled up around it, along with a stack of file folders.
“If you think this is bad, you should go check out the other gift room. It has the official gifts offered by various governments and heads of state. I’m not even allowed to open those. Apparently, there’s an entire protocol staff to see to them. However, after a series of lectures, they finally trusted me to open and log in the private gifts.” She smiled at Cleo. “Still want to help?”
“Sure. But first I want to know the difference between ‘official’ and ‘private’ gifts.”
Zara handed her the blank form. “You need to be filling this out while I open.
When you get bored, we’ll trade. As to the difference, I’m not sure. It’s how they’re sent or something. I’m just hoping no one gives us a pair of elephants.”
Cleo started to laugh. “You’re not talking about matching statuary, are you?”
“Nope. The king keeps swearing it’s a time-honored gift to a marrying couple.
Something about fertility or long life, or maybe both. I could handle a small dog or a bird, but I don’t want to be responsible for any elephants.”
Cleo reached for the paperwork. “This one is from a former U.S. president.” She started writing on the form, filling in the spaces for who the gift was from and the date opened.
Zara wrestled with the box. “It’s heavy,” she said, tearing off wrapping paper.
Cleo watched her, again thinking how different their lives had become. Although while she might envy Zara her relationship with Rafe, she couldn’t envy her her princess status. Cleo didn’t think she could handle being a part of the royal family.
Don’t think about that, she told herself. Just one more on a long list of things she couldn’t think about. Like the fact that last night she’d nearly given in to Sadik, and that while he still wanted her in his bed, he had no interest in her as a person.
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