The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(17) by Susan Mallery
Think fast, she told herself. She had to come up with a plausible story. She’d tell him what she told Zara—that she’d met someone. After all, she’d already hinted there was another man in her past. She needed to buy herself time. If she told him it was his baby, he would take over her life and she would lose the ability to make decisions. It’s not that she wanted to keep Sadik from his child; she wanted to make sure he didn’t ace her out of the picture.
He led her into a small alcove, then positioned her so her back was to the main room, but he faced that direction. Probably so he could make sure they weren’t interrupted or overheard.
“Is it true?” he asked by way of a greeting. “Are you pregnant?”
She reminded herself that the king had not only called the father of her child a jackal of the desert but had offered to have him flogged. She wondered if Hassan would be willing to go through with the latter if he found out the father in question was his own son.
Once again the idea of Sadik in chains gave her comfort, however small. She laced her fingers together in front of her waist and squeezed her palms together.
“I am pregnant,” she said slowly, “but before you get all hot and possessive, I want to make it clear that it’s not your baby. I’ve already told you, there’s someone else in my life now. The child is his.”
Dark eyes narrowed slightly. Sadik seemed to see into her soul. Then he shook his head in a dismissal that made her heart sink.
“The child is mine. You could not be with another man after being with me.”
His flat statement made her want to scream. Worse, it was true, and if she tried to deny it too hard, he was going to see right through her. Panic threatened.
Sadik took hold of her upper arms and pulled her close. As much as she wanted to look away, he compelled her to meet his gaze. His expression turned cold and more than a little scary.
“Make no mistake,” he said softly, menace in every syllable. “Bahanian law will not allow a royal child to be taken out of the country without the king’s permission. However much my father might claim you as his daughter, he will not turn his back on his first grandson. If you do not admit the truth to me now, I will go to my father and tell him of our relationship. I will explain that I believe the child to be mine and insist you be examined by a doctor. If you are more than four months along…”
He stopped talking, but there was no point in finishing the threat. Cleo wasn’t an idiot. She knew that the king’s favor couldn’t be stretched very far. Hassan wouldn’t let her take away his grandchild, and Sadik would do everything he promised.
He continued to stare at her face. “Tell me again, Cleo. Tell me the child is not mine.”
She waited as long as she could, then exhaled the truth. “I can’t.”
His self-satisfied smile tore at her heart. Her first thought was to run. If she went fast enough and far enough they could never find her. But before she could even take a step, Sadik was shaking his head. His smile faded.
“Do not think you can escape me. We are talking about my son. My heir.”
“So if I have a girl, I’m free to go,” she said bitterly, hating that his words had ripped her apart. She didn’t simply fear his threats, she felt as if he’d destroyed every hint of a dream. Sadik didn’t care about her—he never had. As far as he was concerned, she was little more than a vessel. She was the carrier of his offspring, and not a person in her own right.
“I am Prince Sadik of Bahania. I will have a son.”
That almost made her smile. “As long as you had that conversation with your sperm, Sadik. You did realize those little guys might have a mind of their own, right?”
He frowned, as if mothers of royal babies didn’t discuss such things.
She jerked free of his hold and walked to the far end of the alcove. Even as she placed her hands against the cool walls, she knew there was no escape. Not from him and not from her circumstances.
Her eyes burned, and her throat tightened, but her pain was too deep for tears.
Sadness tugged at her, making it difficult to stay standing.
“What happens now?” she asked, barely able to form the words, then changed her mind. “Don’t bother. I know what happens. You keep a close watch on me until the child is born, but then what?” She swallowed, not wanting to hear the truth but desperate to know. “How long until you throw me out of the palace?”
He was at her side in an instant. He grabbed her and turned her toward him. Rage tightened his face. She hadn’t known he was capable of such emotion and it should have frightened her, but she had other things to worry about. Once she knew his plans, she could come up with her own ideas of how to escape, either before or after the child was born. Because no matter how he threatened her, she would never abandon her child.
“Is that what you think?” he demanded. “That I would cast you into the streets?”
“You don’t care about me. Until now you only wanted me to warm your bed. Now that you know I’m pregnant, you’ll want me to carry the baby to term, but after that I’ll be of no use to you.”
He released her as if she’d burned him. Sadik stalked to the entrance of the alcove and turned back to face her.
“You think so little of me,” he said.
“I’m a realist. All I want to know are your plans.”
“You will be the mother of my son. As such, you are to be honored.”
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