The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(42) by Susan Mallery
“Very well. What about the cleaning?”
“Can we pass on that today? I’ll decide on the best time and get back to you in the morning.”
“As you wish. Please feel free to call on me for any request. It is our pleasure to serve you, Princess Cleo.”
She hung up the phone, feeling as disconcerted as if she’d just had a long chat with aliens. This couldn’t possibly be her world. It was insane. It was royalty.
Obviously, the palace was a well-oiled machine. She would have to stay out of the ever-moving cogs so she didn’t get caught in the mechanism.
Cleo tossed down the catalog and crossed to the window. The sky and water were gray in the rain. She pressed her fingers against the pristine glass and wondered what on earth she was doing here. Did she really think she could fit in as if she belonged? Her? She was absolutely the last person on the planet who should have married into a royal family.
She turned and stared at the cardboard boxes stacked in the corner. She knew what she would find when she opened them. Old tattered stuffed animals and books bought at a secondhand store. There would be clothes she would never wear again and a few pictures. Minor remnants of a very small life.
She had always thought it would be more. That somehow she could make herself matter. But that didn’t seem to have happened. Now she was Sadik’s wife and soon to be her child’s mother. She seemed to have lost herself along the way.
A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts. This time her heartbeat remained calm. Sadik would never request permission to enter his own rooms.
She rose and opened the front door. A young woman stood holding a vase of flowers. She handed them to Cleo, gave a half curtsy, then left.
Cleo stared after her, more bemused by the curtsy than curious about the flowers. Were people really going to do that to her now? It would make life unbearable. She made a mental note to call Marie and discuss it with her, then carried the flowers into the living room and set them in the center of the table. After admiring the fragrant blossoms, she reached for the small card tucked among the leaves.
“You are welcome to join me for a late-morning tea.”
The note was signed by King Hassan. Cleo glanced at the clock. It was nearly eleven. She figured she’d better hustle her butt over to the business section of the palace—it was unlikely the king of Bahania had issued the invitation on a whim.
Five minutes later the king’s male secretary escorted her into Hassan’s private office. A tea cart stood at the ready, and the king sat on one of the sofas. He glanced up when she entered and set his report next to him. Then he rose and walked toward her, both arms extended.
“Welcome, my daughter,” he said as he embraced her and kissed her on both cheeks. “This is your first day as a member of the royal family. What do you think so far?”
“I’m still numb,” she admitted as he motioned for her to take a seat by the cart. She assumed that was a not-so-subtle hint that she was expected to pour.
She had to nudge a dozing calico out of the way before she could plop down.
“Soon you’ll be bustling around the palace as if you have lived here all your life.”
She patted her round stomach. “I’m getting too big to be bustling anytime soon.
Maybe after the baby is born.” She reached for the teapot and poured the tea into two delicate cups. The china had an oriental pattern and she didn’t doubt that they were from an antique set with a long history.
“Now that I live here, I guess I’m going to have to learn something about the country,” she said, then shook her head. “Sorry. I didn’t mean it to come out that way. I’m actually very interested in Bahania.”
“There are many wonderful books in the palace library,” the king said helpfully as she passed him his tea. “Or I could have one of our national historians come by and give you lessons.”
She held up both her hands. “I think I’ll pass on the private tutoring. Anything I need to learn, I can find out myself, either by reading or even visiting a museum.”
“As you wish,” the king said. “I would suggest you begin by touring the city.
There are many beautiful and historic sites.” He frowned. “While a Bahanian driver’s license will be obtained for you, I would ask that you not venture out on your own until you are familiar with our roads. I will have a driver assigned to you.”
Cleo wasn’t sure she wanted to be escorted, but the king’s comments about getting to know the city made sense. The last thing she needed was to get lost.
“I appreciate that,” she told him.
He smiled. “We all wish for your happiness.” Hassan hesitated. “I know that the circumstances of your marriage were not what you had hoped they would be, however I am convinced that you and Sadik can be happy together.”
Cleo took a sip of tea rather than answer. She didn’t think her royal father-in-law would like her response.
“You would find the transition easier if you made a life for yourself,” he continued. “Sadik thinks you will be content to be a mother, but I sense you will need more. What are your interests, Cleo? Bahania has much to recommend itself.”
She appreciated the show of support and interest, although she found the question a challenge. “I don’t have any specific interests. I’ve never been a hobby and craft person and I don’t play a musical instrument.”
“What is the one thing you have always wanted to do and has so far eluded you?”
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