The Prince and the Pregnant Princess(Desert Rogues, Book 6)(55) by Susan Mallery
She was like a boat cut adrift on a slow-moving river. At first she seemed to simply hang there, but eventually she would slip away. He wanted to reach out and grasp the rope, pulling her in. He knew the problem and he knew the solution. She wanted him to love her. Love.
Why did she seek the one thing he could not provide?
And then, because he could not resist her any longer, he reached for her. She responded instantly, kissing him with a fervor that took his breath away. As he pulled her into his arms and carried her into their bedroom, he told himself that the boat hadn’t drifted out so very far that day. Perhaps the tide would turn and she would come to rest in a place she would never want to leave.
“Our holiday celebrations are unique,” King Hassan said as he and Cleo strolled through his garden. “We celebrate many faiths in our country, and each is given its due. You will find much of the old city decorated as if for a large party.”
He motioned to a bench in the shade of several palms. It was a frequent stopping place for them on their twice-weekly walks.
Cleo settled on the stone bench and rested her hand on her belly. Based on her growing girth, she found it difficult to believe she still had over two months left.
“As long as I can have a Christmas tree for the suite,” she said, smiling at her father-in-law. “I love the smell of pine.”
“Something we do not have here in our world.” He nodded. “I have already arranged for the palace to be a winter wonderland, specifically for your pleasure.”
His kindness made her feel all weepy inside. “You’re spoiling me.”
“I enjoy the process. Besides, you are the honored mother of my firstborn grandson.”
Cleo had thought that Hassan’s attention to her might drop off once he found out that Sabrina was pregnant, but so far that had not happened. Perhaps he actually liked her for herself. Since returning to Bahania, she’d spent much time with the king. While he still had the power to make her incredibly nervous, she enjoyed his company and their times together.
“Tell me of your studies,” he said as he leaned down to pet one of the palace cats that strolled along the path.
Cleo shifted to get comfortable. “They’re going really well. I figure that realistically I won’t actually be taking classes at the university until next fall. When the baby comes, I want to be free to get used to being a mother. But until then, I’m working hard. I actually have three tutors now.”
Hassan raised his eyebrows. “How many subjects are you…” He frowned. “What is the phrase?”
“Brushing up on.”
“Ah. That is it.”
Cleo shrugged, feeling vaguely guilty. “Well, it’s gotten a little more complicated than that. Alice was my first tutor. She helps me with my general knowledge and study habits. I’m learning how to read a textbook and understand the central points and how to take notes. She started talking to me about Bahanian history. I found it really interesting, but she doesn’t consider herself an expert, so one day a week I see Luja. She’s lived in the old part of the city all her life. She’s got to be close to a hundred. Anyway, she knows practically everything about Bahania, so we talk about history and politics.”
Hassan touched her hand. “I am most proud of you, child.”
Cleo ducked her head. “Yeah, well, I’m doing it because it’s interesting.”
“Learning about your new homeland is most wise. And who is your third tutor?”
“That’s the funny part. Alice was going over some basic math stuff with me and I found I really liked it.” Cleo shook her head, still amazed by what she was discovering about herself. “The thing is, I’m also really good at it. So she’s brought in a math tutor. Shereen is taking me through basic algebra and next up is geometry. I can’t wait.”
“So Zara isn’t the only smart one in your family.”
“I guess not.” Hard to believe but true, she thought happily. All those years ago she’d never given school a chance. How would her life have been different if she’d found even one thing to be good at? Maybe she wouldn’t have made so many stupid choices in her personal life.
“And my grandson’s room is ready for his arrival?”
Cleo didn’t even bother correcting Hassan’s assumption about the baby’s gender.
She’d grown tired of fighting that particular battle. She just hoped she was focused enough to enjoy the moment should her baby turn out to be a girl.
“We’re nearly done,” she said, then laughed. “Technically the room is completely empty, but we’ve ordered what we need, and I’ve chosen several pieces from the palace warehouse. Those things are being cleaned.”
She and Sadik had spent a fabulous day strolling through a massive building stuffed with Bahanian treasures. She had been careful to avoid anything from Sadik’s past as she didn’t want to spark painful memories. Even now, when she recalled what he’d told her about his mother, she felt a knot form in her stomach. How could a woman just turn her back on her child? Not that her mother hadn’t done the same sort of thing.
Maybe that was why she found it so easy to love Sadik. On the surface they were nothing alike, but underneath they were very much the same.
Hassan touched her face. “I see a trace of sadness in your eyes. You are thinking about my son.”
His announcement should have startled her, but she’d grown used to the fact that her father-in-law could be very perceptive.
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