The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(21) by Susan Mallery
Yet compromise seemed hopeless. How were she and Sadik supposed to come to terms? Obviously, she would have to live in Bahania, but how? She refused to be supported, assuming that was what he had in mind. Yet who was going to give the former mistress of a royal prince any kind of job?
Sadik watched the light fade from Cleo’s blue eyes. She had begun the morning bursting with happiness for her sister, but somehow over the past few hours it had slowly disappeared until she looked wounded.
He did not like to think of her so, and tried to shake off the image. Still, there was no energy in her speech, and she only picked at her food.
Rafe and Zara waved to their guests and ducked out the far door. Sadik took advantage of the distraction and quickly ushered Cleo toward a side exit that led to the private wing of the palace.
“Where are we going?” she demanded, showing spirit for the first time that afternoon.
“I think we have things to discuss.”
“Oh, sure. Now you want to talk. Isn’t that just like a man. Before, when I had things to say, you weren’t interested. You were all caught up in finding out about the baby. Well maybe I don’t want to talk to you.”
Sadik ignored her outburst, just as he ignored the way she tugged on his hand as if trying to escape.
“There is no point,” he said calmly, continuing to lead the way. “I have no plans to release you.”
“That’s my big fear.”
When they reached the double doors leading into his private quarters, he slowed to study her. Cleo stared at the doors as if they led to a prison.
He smiled. “I promise I will not have you tortured once you step inside.”
“It’s not the torture I’m afraid of.”
Was she remembering, as he was, what had happened the last time they had been in these rooms together? Passion had exploded between them until they’d had no choice but to give in. They’d made love endlessly, every chance they had, clinging to each other, touching, taking, offering. He’d never known such desire.
He opened the door, then stepped back to allow her to go first. Cleo entered cautiously, glancing around as if checking to see all was as she remembered.
“Nothing has changed,” he told her.
“If you’re talking about the furniture, I guess you’re right. If you mean everything else, you couldn’t be more wrong.”
She crossed the large living room to the French doors that led to the common balcony. From there it was a relatively short walk back to her own suite. But she didn’t try to escape. Instead she simply pressed her fingers against the glass.
“This is how birds must feel,” she said quietly. “They can see to the other side, but something invisible prevents them from flying away.”
He frowned. “Of what do you speak?”
She sighed. “Nothing. Everything. The wedding went very well.”
The change of topic confused him. “I’m sure Zara and Rafe will be very happy.”
She nodded but didn’t say more. Drawn by a certainty that something was very wrong, he crossed to stand behind her. “What troubles you?”
She shook her head. He saw a single tear slide down her cheek.
Had she defied him, he could have fought her on equal terms and been confident in his victory. But fragility baffled him—especially in Cleo. She was the most tempting woman he’d ever met, and while her beauty kept him enthralled, he found her willingness to fearlessly clash with him one of her most intriguing features.
“What pains you so?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“I am an intelligent, successful man who knows much of the world. I am sure I could follow along.”
She looked at him. Tears glittered in her large, blue eyes. She swallowed. “All those months, you never tried to get in touch with me. I doubt you even thought of me. Then the second you found out I’m pregnant, you suddenly act as if you own me. I’m trapped like a bird in a cage. I can’t leave and take my child, and I won’t abandon my baby. So here I am. No choices, no life, save that of being the vessel for your child. It’s not exactly the future I had envisioned for myself.”
He didn’t know which comment to address first, then went with the one he most understood.
“You left my bed.”
She stared at him. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“I did not ask you to leave—you simply chose to go away.”
“We’ve been over this material before. Yes, I left before you asked me to. I’m sure you were heartbroken for a nanosecond. So what?”
“Why would I reward such inappropriate behavior by contacting you?”
“I am not your wayward teenager. You have no right to find my behavior wanting and then punish me for it.” She glared at him as if he were the most stupid man on earth. “Well?”
Sadik would not have admitted it, even under torture, but he didn’t know what to say to her. Of course he hadn’t gotten in touch with her. For one thing he’d known that she was returning for her sister’s wedding. For another, she had left him. No matter how much he explained the gravity of her disobedience, she refused to understand. He had wanted her in his bed. It was a great honor to be desired by him. He had lavished her with attention and had tried to do the same with gifts, and she had walked out. He resented her ability to simply turn her back on him.
Not that he’d missed her, he reminded himself, refusing to acknowledge the emptiness he’d felt when she disappeared from his life. He had barely thought of her at all.
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