The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(31) by Susan Mallery
Cleo wanted to believe that was true. Would Sadik eventually come to care about her? Was that hope enough to build a marriage upon?
“I just don’t think I can marry him.”
Sabrina’s expression turned serious. “Cleo, my brother asked me to help you plan your wedding. I’m happy to do that. In fact, I’ll do anything I can to help. But if you don’t want to marry him, you don’t have many options. We’re talking about the child of the royal family.”
“I’m familiar with Bahanian law,” Cleo said stiffly. “I also know that exceptions can be made.”
Sabrina’s good humor returned. “I know. I’m walking, breathing proof of that.
But while my father was willing to allow me to be raised outside of the country, there’s no guarantee that he’ll let you take his first grandchild away. I wouldn’t count on making that your backup plan.”
“I know.” Everywhere she turned Cleo felt trapped. “I just can’t deal with this now. In the end I may have to marry Sadik against my will, but I’m going to fight it as long as I can.”
Sabrina gave her a brief hug, then rose. “Fair enough. I’m going to head back home. When you’re ready to plan the wedding, give me a call. I’ll drop everything and come here.”
Sabrina headed for the door. When she reached it, she glanced over her shoulder.
“I know I’m not Zara, but if you need someone to talk to, I’m happy to be available.”
“I appreciate that. Thank you.”
Sabrina left. Cleo flopped back on the sofa. She supposed one of the perks of marrying Sadik was that both Zara and Sabrina would become legal relatives. They would be her sisters-in-law.
Like that was enough to get her to change her mind.
Shortly after three that afternoon, Cleo received a phone call telling her she had a visitor from the American Embassy waiting for her.
She didn’t understand what that could mean, but instead of arguing with the secretary on the phone, she quickly changed and made her way to the front of the palace. There she was shown into a spacious anteroom that held several leather sofas positioned around a low coffee table.
A tall man was waiting. He wore a navy suit and carried an expensive-looking briefcase. When he heard her enter, he turned and smiled, holding out his hand.
“Ms. Wilson, I’m Franklin Kudrow, attaché to the American Embassy.”
Cleo was tired from her night of tears. She offered her most cheerful smile, then spoke the truth. “While that’s a really impressive title, I have no idea who you are or why you’re here.”
“Yes. Of course.” He motioned to the sofas.
Cleo settled down into one, while Mr. Kudrow settled opposite her. Manners, she thought suddenly.
“Ah, would you like something to drink?” she asked the fifty-something career diplomat.
“No, thank you.” He smiled and set his briefcase on the floor. “Ms. Wilson—”
“Cleo,” she said. “Just call me Cleo.”
He nodded. “Cleo, we’ve been notified by the palace of your upcoming marriage to Prince Sadik.”
Old Frank kept talking, but Cleo was having trouble listening. Marriage to Sadik? Word sure had traveled fast.
Anger filled her. If Sadik couldn’t get her to agree the old-fashioned way, he was going to do his darnedest to manipulate her from all sides. He was a master at maneuvering his way through tricky financial markets. No doubt he thought she would be just as easy to get around.
She noticed that Mr. Kudrow was careful not to look at her stomach. His discretion was probably one of the reasons he’d risen in the State Department.
Then she focused back in on what he was saying.
“Who told you I was marrying Sadik?”
Mr. Kudrow looked startled by the interruption. He bent down and retrieved his briefcase, which he set on the coffee table. After opening it, he drew out a piece of paper.
“We received a press release.”
She took the paper and scanned it. Sure enough, there on official royal Bahania letterhead was the announcement of Prince Sadik’s marriage to Cleo Wilson, an American citizen.
She couldn’t believe it. That he would go behind her back like this. Did he really think he could force her hand by going public?
“We’re all very excited,” Mr. Kudrow was saying. “When we found out that Zara Paxton was actually a member of the royal family, we saw an opportunity to continue to cement our relations with King Hassan. Now with you marrying into the royal family, we will have even better relations. I’m sure you’re aware of the proposed air force. The official position of the United States is that of neutrality, but I can tell you that privately the government is very supportive.
Our government has long been an ally of the Bahanian government.”
He paused expectantly. Cleo had no clue as to what he expected her to say. She went with a noncommittal grunt.
“Of course, there is hope in the private sector that many of the military planes required will be purchased from American companies. There are already several dozen orders in. Perhaps, if you have the chance to mention the quality of the American fighter jets…”
His voice trailed off, but Cleo got the message. “Maybe I could ask for an F-14 for a wedding present,” she said sweetly, when all she wanted to do was throw something. Instead she clutched the press release tightly in her hand.
“May I keep this?” she asked.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online