The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(30) by Susan Mallery
What on earth had she been thinking? She stopped in midpace and drew in a deep breath. She hadn’t been thinking. She’d been feeling and dreaming and hoping, and she’d been darned stupid.
Now she was trapped by circumstances she couldn’t control. She would fight the wedding for as long as possible, but what if she didn’t win? What if she really had to marry Sadik? She would spend her life in love with someone who wouldn’t love her back. It was her worst nightmare come to life.
She crossed to the sofa and sat. The pain she’d felt when Ian had told her that she was the kind of woman men had affairs with but didn’t marry was a pinprick when compared with the ache of living with and loving Sadik, all the while knowing he was in love with the one woman he could never have.
She wrapped her arms across her chest, as if to hold in the bleeding. The only bright spot on her otherwise bleak horizon was that Sadik was too self-centered to guess what her declaration had meant. He would probably think that she was demanding love in the way of selfish women. He wouldn’t think that she was actually already in love with him herself.
Small comfort, she thought glumly, but she would cling to it, as it was all she had.
There was a knock on the door of her suite. Cleo straightened, then braced herself for another altercation.
“Come in,” she called.
The door opened, but it wasn’t her prospective bridegroom who entered. Instead a very confused Sabrina walked inside.
The king’s youngest daughter looked elegant as always in a black pantsuit with a teal shell. She wore her hair piled up on her head.
Cleo rose. “I thought you and Kardal were heading home today,” she said.
Like many of those attending the wedding, Sabrina and Kardal had spent the night in the palace.
Sabrina nodded slowly. “Kardal already left for the city, but I stayed behind.
Sadik came to see me while I was packing.” Her gaze dropped to Cleo’s midsection.
Cleo wanted to cover herself. In the past week she seemed to have doubled in size, as if the baby developing inside of her had had a growth spurt. The dress she wore had been loose at one time, but now it stretched tight over her belly, making her condition more than obvious. She would never have worn the garment out of the suite, but as she hadn’t been expecting visitors, she’d pulled it on that morning after her shower.
She put one hand on her belly. “I guess this sort of says it all.”
Sabrina nodded. “When Sadik told me about the wedding, I’ll admit I was surprised. I knew there was something between the two of you but I didn’t know it was serious. Then when he mentioned the baby, I realized—”
“He what?” Cleo knew she was interrupting a princess and that it was probably considered bad form, but she couldn’t stop herself. “He said we were getting married?”
“That’s why I’m here,” Sabrina admitted. “To help with the wedding. He said we would have to move quickly.” She eyed Cleo’s stomach. “How far along are you?”
“I’m a week into my fifth month.” She circled the sofa and walked over to Sabrina. “Look, I appreciate you coming here, but I have to tell you, there’s not going to be a wedding. Not now, not ever. So if you want to head back home with your husband, I suggest you do so.”
Sabrina shook her head. “This is worse than I thought.” She took Cleo’s arm and led her back to the sofa. “Let’s sit down and we’ll start from the beginning.
Obviously, there’s more going on than Sadik let on.”
“I’ll just bet,” Cleo muttered.
As she plopped onto the seat cushion, she realized that Sabrina’s surprise meant the king hadn’t told everyone about her pregnancy. Only a select few. Zara and…
She swallowed. Sadik, she thought, suddenly breathless. And if the king told Sadik, he had to have a reason. Which meant he already knew who was the father of her baby. Which meant the situation had just gotten a little more complicated.
“Okay,” Sabrina said, angling toward her. “Obviously, you and Sadik got involved when you were here five months ago. If you’re pregnant, there must have been a spark.”
“There was plenty of that,” Cleo agreed. “There still is, but that’s not the point.” She opened her arms, her palms up. “Look at me. I’m not even close to princess material. I don’t know anything about your country or your customs. I’m a protocol disaster. Zara might have been ignorant about a lot of things, but she turned out to be an honest-to-goodness princess. I’m some kid from the streets who barely scraped through high school. Trust me, this is not someone you want in the palace.”
Sabrina smiled. “You’re being a little hard on yourself. You’re a beautiful, articulate woman. Zara and I have spent dozens of hours hating you for your curves. You’re also a good friend and from what I hear a great sister. Why wouldn’t you fit in here?”
Cleo tried a different approach. “Sadik and I would be miserable together. We have nothing in common.”
“You have enough to make a baby.”
“What about love? That endures.”
“He doesn’t love me,” Cleo said flatly.
She was grateful when Sabrina didn’t ask the obvious question as in, Did she love Sadik? Instead she said, “I’m guessing my brother doesn’t know what he feels right now. Things change over time.”
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