The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(35) by Susan Mallery
“There are things in my past that make me unsuitable for all this. I’m afraid I would be an embarrassment to the royal family.”
“We will stand together against any adversity,” Hassan promised. “We will protect you.”
“I don’t want protection,” she announced. “I want to go home. Your Highness, please. Don’t make me do this. I won’t keep Sadik from seeing his child, but I don’t want to marry him, and I don’t want to stay here.”
Hassan straightened. His dark eyes seemed just a little less kind. Her stomach sank slightly. She wasn’t completely stupid—she already knew that she’d lost.
“Cleo, Bahanian law is very clear. A royal child cannot leave the country. He must be raised here.”
“But you could give special permission. You let Sabrina be raised elsewhere.”
The king winced. “I did that in a moment of great anger, and I have had cause to regret it these many years. Those were different times and different circumstances. I will not deprive Sadik of his child. Selfishly, I will not deprive myself, either. Besides, I would miss you if you were to leave.”
Cleo wasn’t surprised. In her heart she’d always known that it would come to this. She tried to find comfort in the fact that she’d done her best. But as she thanked the king and started to leave his office, she couldn’t help shuddering.
Maybe it was crazy, but she would swear that she could hear a cage door slamming shut. Her days of freedom were over.
Sadik took several phone calls after Cleo left, but when he was finished he found himself unable to concentrate on his market predictions. Once again she’d invaded his brain and made him think of things he did not want to consider.
How could she speak of love? That was not to be part of their agreement. They would have passion and respect. They would raise their children together, although he knew that Cleo would resist his ideas, and instead expect him to bend to her will. They would argue, she would defy him, and in the night they would make up with sweet lovemaking.
Why did she insist on bringing love into the mix? He had loved once. Kamra had been all he’d ever wanted in a wife—gentle, silent, deferential. She had honored his wishes, understood the ways of Bahania and had never questioned him. Her quiet beauty had soothed him. With her he had been able to concentrate when required. He could easily put her out of his mind. And when she was gone, he had been stunned to find himself feeling empty and alone.
Yes, he had loved once and it had taught him to never be that vulnerable again.
If he had felt such grief over losing Kamra, what would happen if Cleo ever—
He pushed the thought away, refusing to consider it. Better to work, he told himself, returning his attention to his computer screen.
But before he could lose himself in his work, his secretary buzzed him to say that his father was here. Hassan walked into his office and took the chair opposite his.
Sadik nodded, then waited for the king to speak. His father obviously had something on his mind.
He was not kept waiting long.
“Cleo has been to see me,” Hassan said without preamble. “She begged me to let her return home.”
Something cold stirred in Sadik’s belly. “Her home is here. We are to be married and our son will be raised as my heir.”
His father waved a hand. “I do not need convincing. I have no desire to see my grandchild living half a world away. He will be the first of a new generation.
He must know our ways.”
“I’m glad we are in agreement,” Sadik said, relaxing a little. If the king had refused Cleo’s request, then she had no choice. She would marry him and they could get on with their lives. He found himself anticipating living with her.
Sharing quarters with the sharp-tongued beauty would never be dull.
“There is more,” his father said. “While I have not allowed her to leave, I have been left to wonder why she is so convinced she will be unhappy here.” His gaze narrowed. “I know your relationship began out of passion, Sadik, but there is more to that woman than what you will find in bed. Cleo is very special and I expect you to treat her as such.”
“I agree,” Sadik said easily. “I have told Cleo that our union will be very successful. I will be loyal to her and our children. She will want for nothing.
While she had indicated there are some difficulties with her past, I am not concerned. Once she is my wife, no one can hurt her.”
“All that is well and good,” Hassan said, “but is it enough?”
“What more could there be?”
“You have to make her happy.”
Sadik stared at his father. “She will be my wife and the mother of my children.
That is happiness enough.”
Hassan didn’t speak at first. He rose and walked to the window overlooking the garden. “I have found joy with many women in my life,” he said slowly. “But there are only two I have loved. Loving a woman makes things different, for both parties.” He shrugged. “There is a lesson to be learned, Sadik, but you must discover it on your own. I will warn you not to let arrogance stand in the way of your heart’s desire.”
“Of course not,” Sadik said, even as he dismissed his father’s words. He was not being arrogant with Cleo. His plan was logical, containing much sense for both of them. They would marry and she would be happy. It was the natural order of things.
“I wish you both the best,” Hassan said, turning to look at his son. “Cleo is a treasure worthy of a prince. I pray you do not lose her along the way.”
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