The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(19) by Susan Mallery
He requested the club soda and lime, then headed back to where he’d left Cleo.
He could see her sitting on a chair by the wall. She looked stunned—as if their encounter had drained her. She needed her rest, he decided. He would make sure she was in bed early that evening. She needed her strength so that his son would grow and develop inside of her.
They were bound now, he thought. Cleo would always be the mother of his son. The concept should have discomfited him, yet it did not. She had many fine qualities to pass on to their child. She continued to challenge and defy him, even now. He would very much enjoy the process of taming her.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Zara said as the carriage moved forward.
She perched uneasily on the edge of the cushioned seat in the open conveyance, her flowers gripped tightly in her hand.
Cleo sat opposite and tried not to mind that she was facing the wrong direction.
As the bride, it was right that Zara should face forward. Under normal circumstances, she wouldn’t mind. However, while her morning sickness seemed to have disappeared, her stomach often felt faintly unsettled, leaving Cleo concerned that the tossing-her-cookies portion of her pregnancy might make an unexpected return.
“Just smile and wave,” Cleo said, glancing at the crowd lining either side of the road.
Their open, horse-drawn carriage moved slowly, accompanied by cheers and whistles from those who had come out to watch. Mounted guards rode next to them, as much to be part of the spectacle as to offer protection. Cleo figured it was unlikely that anyone was about to kidnap the king’s daughter.
“I don’t think I can do this,” Zara said softly, her face pale, her eyes wide.
“You’ll be fine.” Cleo motioned to her dress. “I don’t think you can return that.”
Zara laughed, then smoothed the front of her designer creation. The long-sleeved wedding gown looked like something out of a fairy tale. Hand-sewn beads caught the sunlight. Yards and yards of silk and lace cascaded to the ground. With her hair upswept and anchored by an antique tiara, Zara was truly a royal princess.
Cleo figured even she didn’t look half-bad. Her rose-colored gown had been cut low and fell straight from below her bodice. The empire style concealed her stomach, which seemed to have suddenly puffed out in the past couple of days.
Zara wore diamonds at her ears and around her throat, while Cleo had been accessorized with pearls. Diamond and pearl earrings glittered on her lobes. A stunning circle of pearls, decorated with a diamond enhancer, draped down to the curve of her br**sts.
“I’m going to throw up,” Zara announced.
“You’re going to be fine. Keep smiling and waving. It’s not a big job, especially for someone with all your education.”
Zara laughed again. “Okay. You’re distracting me. I like that.”
Cleo switched her cascade of flowers to her other hand. “I’m having second thoughts about refusing the tiara. Do you think I should have worn it?”
Zara glanced at her spiky hair. “Could we have anchored it?”
They had a detailed conversation about the pros and cons of hair accessories, then Cleo switched the conversation to shoes. They pulled up in front of the church before Zara had a chance to realize where they were.
A uniformed guard approached their carriage. King Hassan had ridden with the groom in a carriage in front of theirs. The princes shared the one behind Zara’s, with Sabrina and her husband bringing up the rear.
The small door was opened and Cleo rose to exit first assisted by the waiting footmen. She managed to get down the two steps without falling. Although she didn’t actually look for Sadik, she was aware of him. The man watched her constantly. She tried to take comfort in his attention, but knew that it had nothing to do with her and everything to do with the baby.
Don’t go there now, she told herself. This day was about Zara.
Her sister managed to get out of the carriage without a mishap. Sabrina joined them, urging them into the church. At the top of the stairs leading into the building, they turned and waved to the waiting crowd. A cheer rose.
“Keep breathing,” Sabrina said as they stepped into the cool darkness of the foyer.
Sabrina’s husband had already escorted the groom and the princes up the aisle.
The organ music changed, cueing the women that it was time.
Sabrina stood in front, with Cleo to follow. Hassan stopped and kissed his daughter, then stepped next to Cleo.
“You are beauty personified,” he murmured, touching his lips to her cheek. “I am most proud.”
Cleo wondered if he was talking about the baby. As far as she could tell, the king still didn’t know that Sadik was the father, but maybe his son had told him the truth. Either way, this wasn’t the time for a lengthy conversation.
She gave Hassan a smile. He squeezed her hand, then moved behind her to stand next to Zara.
The twenty-foot double wooden doors opened, revealing the crowded church and the long center aisle. Cleo’s stomach clenched.
Sabrina turned around and winked. “Show time,” she said in a stage whisper. “If you get nervous, picture everyone naked.”
Cleo hadn’t thought the actual wedding through. She’d seen the stacks and stacks of replies from every corner of the globe. She’d seen the gift rooms and had attended the rehearsal in the massive church. But nothing had prepared her for the vast space to be crammed full of members of the extended royal family, visiting dignitaries, family friends and a couple of thousand guests.
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