The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(29) by Susan Mallery
“I seduced you,” he said easily.
She jerked her hand free. “Dammit, Sadik, listen to me. You did not seduce me.
There have been other men. I didn’t come to you some whimpering virgin. I had a very active sexual past when I was a teenager. I confused sex with love and I was a lonely kid. I went looking for connection and meaning, and what I found was a ticket to nowhere. I figured out reality a few years ago and I vowed to keep away from a sexual relationship until I knew I really cared about the guy.”
Which meant she’d cared about him. He had suspected as much, but having confirmation pleased him. As for her past…”I know you were not a virgin. Nor was I. I have a past, as well. In an effort to show you that ours will be a successful marriage, I will not judge you in any way for your past. Now that we are together, you will be faithful only to me.”
She flopped on her side, her back to him, and covered her face with her hands.
“You are so infuriating,” she mumbled. “I can’t stand this.”
He walked around the bed and pulled her hands from her face. “I have told you I will not judge you for your past. I have listened to the story of your childhood and found only that which I admire. I have discovered you are carrying my child and I propose marriage. Tell me what I am doing that is so wrong.”
Her mouth worked, but she didn’t speak. Sadik watched her, pleased that he had finally stunned her into silence. She could not possibly have an argument to refute his; therefore, they would marry.
In truth he was a little annoyed that she had resisted so far. Did she not realize that he could have chosen to marry anyone? Women around the world would be honored to be his chosen bride. Yet Cleo acted as if he had asked her to cut off her arm.
“Life in the palace is not a hardship,” he reminded her. “You will never want for anything. Your sister will be close, and I will allow you to visit her as much as you would like.”
He hesitated, not sure he wanted to give away so much. He reasoned that once the baby arrived, however, Cleo would not be eager to make the journey to the City of Thieves.
“You may shop in the finest stores in the world. You will have dazzling jewels to wear and parties to attend.”
She raised her head and glared at him. “Do you really think you can buy me off?”
Many women could be controlled by the privileges of wealth, but Sadik suspected Cleo was not one of them. “You will be a princess,” he reminded her. “A member of the royal family of Bahania.”
Her temper eased slightly. “I always wanted to be part of a family,” she murmured. Then she sat up. “But you’re missing the point.”
“The fantasy of being rich doesn’t make up for the realty of being married to a man who doesn’t care about me. You’re only doing this because of the baby.
That’s not how I plan to start my marriage.”
He genuinely did not understand. “What do you want from me?”
“I want you to say it’s about more than the baby.”
“Of course it is more. If I found you repugnant, I would still suggest marriage so my son would not be a bastard, but it would be with the understanding that it was a short, temporary arrangement. In a year or two, we would divorce.” He straightened. Now it was his turn to be annoyed. “I am not suggesting that. I am offering a genuine marriage, with all the commitment that entails.”
Her blue eyes flashed with scorn. “I don’t believe you for a second.”
The challenge delighted him. He moved close and bent low to kiss her mouth. “I can prove it,” he murmured, instantly aroused and ready to make love with her.
It was always like this when they were together, he thought contentedly.
Instead of responding passionately, she pushed hard on his shoulder, momentarily forcing him to step back. Cleo then slipped off the bed and headed for the bathroom.
“I won’t marry someone who doesn’t love me,” she announced loudly, stepped into the bathroom and slammed the door shut behind her. Sadik heard the distinct click of a lock being turned.
He glanced from the door to the bed and back. What had gone wrong? Why did she speak of love? Then he shook his head and walked out of her bedroom.
“Women,” he growled. “They are not worth the trouble.”
Cleo spent the morning pacing the length of the living room in her suite. She figured if nothing else, she was at least getting a workout. That had to be good for the baby, even if the worrying wasn’t.
Every time she thought about what she’d told Sadik, she wanted to die from embarrassment. Just thinking about her final words was enough to make her cheeks heat and her palms grow sweaty. Worse, she hadn’t known what was in her heart until she’d spoken the words.
She was an idiot. Unfortunately, she was also doomed to a life of unhappiness.
I won’t marry someone who doesn’t love me.
The statement echoed in her head, repeating itself over and over again. She hadn’t meant to say that, hadn’t meant to even think it. She also hadn’t meant it to be true.
There was only one reason that Sadik’s affections mattered so much. This wasn’t about pride or station or being happy or even what was right. It was about her heart.
She loved him.
Cleo didn’t know when or where she’d been foolish enough to fall in love with an emotionally inaccessible royal prince who, by the way, was still in love with his dead fiancée.
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