The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(32) by Susan Mallery
She rose, forcing the diplomat to do the same. “I understand what you’re trying to say,” she told the man. “I appreciate that my impending marriage could greatly benefit a lot of people. But here’s a news flash, Mr. Kudrow. I haven’t accepted the prince’s proposal. So I wouldn’t start counting your jet orders just yet. Thank you so much for visiting.”
She nodded once, then turned and left the room. She was furious. No. Furious didn’t begin to describe how she felt. She was enraged. Now she really wanted to take the king up on his offer of a flogging, but only if she would be the one wielding the whip. If she had a car handy, she would back it over Sadik. How dare he try to manipulate her this way?
She stalked toward the center of the palace, determined to hunt him down and tell him exactly what she thought of him. Unfortunately, he was in the business section of the palace and she’d never been there.
After a couple of false starts, she found herself amidst dozens of fax machines and computers. Figuring she had to be close, she found a male secretary and asked directions to Prince Sadik’s office.
Less than two minutes later she barged in on him.
He sat at his desk, staring at his computer screen. When she stalked into his office, he didn’t even have the grace to look surprised. Instead he rose, smiled pleasantly and spoke.
“Cleo! How nice of you to come see me.”
She narrowed her gaze as she slapped the press release on his desk. “Don’t you dare try polite conversation on me. You might be some high-and-mighty finance person for the royal family, but to me you’re nothing but a lying weasel dog.
What is the meaning of this?”
He ignored her insult and glanced at the paper. “I would think it was obvious.”
“That’s right. It is. If you can’t get me to agree another way, you’re going to bully me into marrying you. Well, it’s not going to work. I won’t be manipulated. I don’t care that you’re Prince Sadik. I’m a person and I have rights.”
He motioned for her to take a chair. She didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of agreeing, but she was so mad, she was shaking. Her legs felt as if they were about to give way, and falling wouldn’t make her look very determined.
She sank into the leather chair. He followed suit, then placed his hands on his desk. “You’re making too much of this,” he said calmly. “Why deny the inevitable? We will be married.”
“No, we won’t. I don’t want to marry you. I have no interest in—”
He cut her off with a shake of his head. “You may protest all you like, but you cannot escape the truth. You carry my child, Cleo. You carry a royal prince.
Your choices are to marry me or to have the baby and then leave Bahania.”
He spoke the words in a flat tone of voice. She heard them, absorbed them, then clutched the arms of her chair as the room began to spin. There it was. The bald truth at last.
Marry Sadik or lose her baby.
“You couldn’t do that,” she said between suddenly dry lips. “You’re not a monster. Why would you take my child away from me?”
He rose and came around the desk. He took the chair next to hers and pulled it close. “I have no wish for you to be apart from our child. I have told you, I want us to be married and live together as a family. You are the one who insists on making things difficult.”
Her chest tightened, and it became impossible to breathe. This couldn’t be happening.
She had to reason with him, make him see that what he was doing was crazy. Panic welled up inside of her, but she ignored it. Now was the time to keep a clear head.
“Why do you want to marry someone who is so determined not to be with you?” she asked, staring at him intently. “There are many other women who would be thrilled to be your wife. Can’t you marry one of them instead?”
“You are the mother of my son.”
“But don’t you want a wife who cares about you?”
He smiled. As she watched, his mouth turned up and he gazed at her as one would gaze at a precious child. She wanted to slap him.
“You care about me.” He took her hands in his. Her fingers felt like ice, while his were warm. The contrast burned her skin. “You would not have come to my bed if you didn’t care.”
He shook his head when she started to interrupt. “I understand what you said about your past. That time is finished. You are a different person now.”
She knew she was, but she hated that he knew it, too. It fed his argument rather than her own.
“We like each other,” he continued. “We have passion, we’ll have the baby. In time there will be more children. I believe we will have a long and happy marriage.”
Her heart died a little as he spoke. “You want convenience,” she said before she could stop herself. “You want to be sensible and do the right thing. But you don’t want to love me.”
The words hovered in the room like a mist. Sadik stiffened, then released her hands and leaned back in the chair.
“Is love so very necessary?”
He asked the question casually, but she would swear she heard pain in his voice.
Her chest tightened.
“Yes. I don’t want an empty union.”
“Is it not enough I offer you the world?”
She didn’t want the world; she wanted him. Only him. She loved him, and it was clear he didn’t love her back.
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