The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(26) by Susan Mallery
Secretly she’d hoped he would come after her. She’d waited for the phone call that never came. Gradually she’d realized that he’d forgotten her.
But she’d been unable to forget him. Because she’d allowed herself to care and because she’d given herself to him.
A combination of parental abandonment and a big chip on her shoulder had sent Cleo into the world with something to prove. When she’d made the transition from girl to woman, her body had matured years before her emotions. All the attention she’d received in high school had been a balm to her wounded heart. She’d thought her curves were far from the ideal of thin and thinner, but the boys had adored her.
So she’d given in, because at sixteen the line between sex and love often blurred. By the time she’d turned twenty, she’d figured out that there was a line, but being sexually available was a hard habit to break.
When she turned twenty-one, she vowed she would never give her body unless she also handed over her heart.
Then she’d met Ian. He managed a pet supply store and they’d bonded over a particularly complex printing order. He’d invited her for coffee.
As he’d been the first man she’d met after her vow, she’d promised herself to go slow. It hadn’t been difficult. Ian was sensitive and kind, about as opposite from the guys she usually dated as it was possible to be.
She shifted on the bed as the uncomfortable memories returned. She remembered laughing with Ian. Talking late into the night. She remembered sharing hopes and dreams. He’d talked about wanting to get married and have a family. For the first time ever she’d allowed herself to believe that a normal life was possible, even for someone like her.
When their relationship had moved to the next level, she’d found herself eager to make love with him. While he hadn’t been all that exciting in bed, he’d been caring and attentive, if a little clumsy. She’d known she could be with him for the rest of her life.
Her bubble burst when a friend mentioned seeing Ian with another woman. At first Cleo had been too content to worry much, but eventually she’d asked him about her. Ian had told her the other woman was his fiancée.
Cleo rolled back on her side and covered her face. That moment was forever frozen in her mind. The disbelief at first. How she’d thought he was kidding, even though it was a pretty awful joke.
“I’m marrying Sandy,” Ian had repeated.
“What about us?” Cleo couldn’t remember being more stunned as his words sunk in.
He wasn’t kidding. This wasn’t a joke.
“There’s no us.”
She’d been stunned by the contempt in his voice and the lack of caring in his eyes. Then he did the unthinkable. He laughed at her.
“Did you really think any of this mattered?” he asked, still chuckling. “Come on, Cleo. This was my last fling before settling down. I told you I wanted to get married and have kids.” He looked at her as if she were the most stupid person on the planet. “You didn’t really think I was serious about you? You’re the kind of woman guys sleep with, but you’re sure as hell not the kind we marry.”
Even now the words burned down to her soul. Somehow he’d found out about her past, she’d thought at the time. Or maybe the truth had been there for him to see. Maybe he didn’t need to know her past. Maybe just by looking at her he could tell that she was worthless.
Broken and bleeding, Cleo had gone home. She hadn’t told anyone what Ian had said, but she’d been unable to forget. That night, sometime between midnight and dawn, she’d vowed to never care about a man again. No matter who he was or what he said, she wouldn’t give in.
Two years after her self-imposed ban on relationships, she’d flown with her sister to Bahania, where she’d met a handsome prince. He’d charmed her and made her feel special. When he’d held her in his arms, she could tell that he thought she was amazing. It had been a temptation she’d been unable to resist.
And now that man wanted to marry her. But not for herself. Not because he loved her and couldn’t imagine a world without her, but because she was pregnant with his child. Without the baby she was nothing.
Cleo forced herself to breathe slowly. She didn’t want to cry again. She didn’t want to feel anymore. Certainly she didn’t want her feelings for Sadik to continue to grow.
Why had she given in? Why had she allowed herself to turn her back on her vow? She would pay the price for the rest of her life.
Then the truth settled on her—heavy, thick and inescapable. Her anger came from the death of her fantasy. Deep in her heart she’d wanted him to fall in love with her. Obviously, he hadn’t. Instead he’d gotten on with his life. Now he was going to do the right thing and propose, but that didn’t mean she mattered at all. All her hopes and dreams dried into dust. When they blew away, she would have only an ugly reality made up of two inescapable elements: a man who had married her out of duty and a heart hungry for so much more.
Cleo stirred, recognized Sadik’s voice and groaned. After a sleepless night she’d finally fallen into a light doze shortly after dawn, only to awaken a half hour ago with unexpected and unwelcome morning sickness.
Having thrown up and brushed her teeth, all she wanted was a chance to sleep for the rest of the morning.
“Go away,” she called, knowing he would be able to tell she’d cried long into the night. Unfortunately, despite the size of the suite, there wasn’t anywhere for her to hide.
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