The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(54) by Susan Mallery
He placed one foot on the ground and reached for her other leg. “I would prefer our son not be forced to use my old castoffs.”
“They’re not castoffs. They have sentimental value.”
“Not to me.”
“You were a baby. You can’t remember.”
“I recall enough. You may use any antiques you wish but not things I had as a child.”
Sadik could be difficult and arrogant and stubborn, but except for the topic of their baby’s gender, he was almost never unreasonable.
She pulled her foot free of his touch and leaned toward him. “I don’t understand.”
She reached toward him, but before she could touch him, he rose to his feet and stalked to the far side of the room.
“I ask that you not argue with me on this matter.”
“If it means so much, I promise I won’t look for anything that belonged to you.
But I don’t understand why you’re being so insistent.”
He stood by the French doors leading out to the balcony that encircled that level of the palace. The sun had long since set and they hadn’t pulled the drapes, so as he gazed at the glass all he could see was a reflection of the room. Cleo stared at that same reflection, trying to read her husband’s expression.
“Are you angry?” she asked.
“No.” He shoved his hands into his trouser pockets. After what felt like several minutes, he turned to her and drew in a deep breath. “Some time ago you told me of your past. How you had grown up in poverty, with a mother who was rarely around.”
“You were surprised that I did not judge you or find you wanting. You were surprised when I admired your strength for overcoming the conditions under which you had been born.”
“I am Prince Sadik of Bahania, second-born son to King Hassan. I am the master of my fate.”
She smiled gently. “I’ve actually heard that speech before.”
“I know. Sometimes I say it to make myself believe it is so.”
What was he talking about? “There’s no question of you being the king’s son.”
“Agreed. I do not fear being branded illegitimate. My parents were married.” He returned to the sofa and sat down next to her but not touching. He didn’t look at her. “My father had two great loves in his life. Zara’s mother, and Reyhan and Jefri’s mother. His first arranged marriage produced my older brother, Murat, and his second produced me. There was no love lost in either case.
Murat’s mother died in childbirth, and my mother killed herself rather than be with him. Or me.”
All the blood rushed from Cleo’s head, leaving her feeling as if the room had begun to spin. Her heartbeat sounded loud in the silence. She struggled to find words.
“She took pills. I was still very young and did not realize the significance of what she had done for some time. It does not matter.”
But of course it mattered. Cleo knew it mattered very much, although she couldn’t say exactly how.
“So you were left alone?”
He shrugged. “My father was king. He had affairs of state. There were nannies for a time, then I was sent off to school when I was seven.”
Cleo might not have a drop of royal blood in her veins, but she knew what it was like to grow up lonely. She couldn’t fix Sadik’s past, but she could promise him that history would not repeat itself.
“When I was very young, I swore that no matter what, I would never abandon my child the way I’d been abandoned,” she told him. “No matter what, Sadik, I will be there for our child.”
“As will I.”
Sadik stared into Cleo’s beautiful face and saw the conviction blazing in her eyes. At that moment, as they shared their vows, he felt closer to her than he had ever felt to anyone. He had never shared the horrors of his past before. His brothers knew, of course, but they did not speak of such things. He had never talked of it with his father. Yet the information was all there, in the back of his mind. The knowledge that his mother could not have been bothered to stay alive to be with him for the first few years of his life.
He told himself he was a grown man and such events from his past had no meaning.
Most of the time he believed the words.
He shifted on the sofa and held out his arms. Cleo came to him instantly. She snuggled close, her growing belly pressing into his side. He accepted her comfort, enjoying the heat of her body and the way her small hands clung to him.
Her nearness made the ghosts of the past fade as his body responded to her curves and her fragrance. Desire filled the empty places inside of him. But he did not reach for her. Not yet. Instead he waited, wanting her to be the one to reach for him.
Over the past few weeks he had seen a change in Cleo. She no longer demanded that he love her. The word never passed her lips. He had seen her trying to make their marriage a success and he did his best to improve things between them. Yet despite her smiles and easy laughter, he sensed there was something missing.
When he touched her in bed, she was always willing, yet she never touched him first.
He did not mind seducing her each time. Seducing Cleo was the stuff of dreams.
But he knew there was still a wall between them. Sometimes he thought even she did not realize there was something wrong. Because he knew her so well—the sound of her breathing, the beat of her heart—he could not likewise be fooled.
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