The Sheik and the Princess Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 8)(53) by Susan Mallery
Billie had never believed in biological clocks or pressure to start a family but at that second, she felt a distinct emptiness low in her belly.
Muffin scampered through the room, stopping long enough to sniff Emma’s ankles before darting out the other door.
“She’s doing well with all the cats,” Emma said. “When I first heard you had a small dog, I’ll admit I was worried.”
“Me, too. But she gets along great with them. Sometimes she’s gone for hours and I have no idea where she’s been.”
“Ah. A dog with a secret life. So you’re enjoying your time here, too?”
Billie nodded. “Even without having a secret life. I love my work and the pilots in the air force are very talented.”
“I’ve heard you regularly beat them. Is that true?”
“Oh, yeah. They love it.”
Emma chuckled. “Why do I doubt that? How does Jefri take it?”
Billie tried not to react to his name. “With a lot of class. He was shocked at first, but he’s gotten over it. Most guys simply can’t handle it.”
Emma looked at her. “Let me guess. Pilots are the only men you meet.”
“It makes sense. If nothing else, life has a sense of humor. So you’re stuck with men who can’t accept you’re better than they are.”
“Much of the time.” Although not with Jefri.
Don’t think about that, she told herself. Don’t think about him.
“What happens when you want to settle down?” Emma asked.
“I don’t know. For a while I thought I would have to give up my career and settle for something more traditional. But then I realized I can’t stop being who I am simply to get married. I’ll just have to keep looking until I find someone extraordinary enough to handle it.”
“He’ll be lucky to have you.”
Emma opened her mouth, then closed it. “Okay, my thimble-sized bladder just started complaining. Excuse me while I waddle off in search of a bathroom. But before I go, Cleo and I are getting together for tea in a couple of hours.
Please join us.”
“I’d like that.”
“Good. All right. This is me waddling.”
Emma waved as she walked out of the nursery. Billie moved in the other direction, toward the girl nursery. As promised, it was a paradise of pink and lace.
Billie closed her eyes and let the pain wash over her. If only…
If only Jefri had never spoken to his father. If only Tahira had never arrived.
What would have happened? She would have fallen in love with him because that seemed to be her destiny. What about him? She wanted to believe what she read in his eyes. She wanted to know that they could have been together, always. Happy, in love.
While she was living in her fantasy, she would imagine herself as pregnant as Emma, standing in this nursery, preparing it for her daughter. A daughter with her style and Jefri’s eyes. She imagined him standing behind her, pulling her against him, whispering he loved her.
A single tear trickled down her cheek.
She called for her dog and when Muffin appeared, she picked her up and gathered her close.
“We have to go get pretty,” she said. “We’re having tea with a couple of princesses.”
She brushed away the tear and vowed to stay strong. Wishing for the moon would only give her a cramp in her neck.
“You do not understand,” Jefri said, both angry and frustrated with his brother.
Murat lounged on the sofa and sipped his scotch. “I understand perfectly. You’re engaged to Tahira but are in love with Billie.”
“Stating the problem again does not solve it.”
“Agreed. You already know the solution. Dump Tahira.”
“I agree there will be some small scandal and she may be hurt, but if you love the other woman…”
Jefri glared at Murat. “Tahira would be ruined.”
“She would recover.”
“When did you get to be such a bastard about women?”
“I am not. I’m suggesting you be.”
Jefri saw the amusement in his brother’s eyes and wanted to throw his glass across the room. “You are not helping.”
“I know, but in truth, you do not want help. You want a magical solution. There isn’t one. You will have to choose. A moment of unkindness to Tahira or a lifetime of unhappiness with her. Although I have to admit, should you choose honor and duty, as you have been raised to, then you will turn your back on Billie. I, for one, would be most interested in helping her get over you.”
Jefri didn’t remember moving. One second he was pacing the length of his brother’s luxurious suite, the next he had his brother by the shirtfront.
“She is mine,” he growled.
Murat raised one eyebrow. “As bad as all that? Then I do not envy your choice.”
Jefri released him and straightened. “I should not have done that.”
“Probably not, but as I am not yet king, I won’t have you beheaded. You might want to fix yourself another drink.”
Jefri looked down at the glass he’d dropped on the carpet. “She makes me insane.”
“Both. I don’t suppose…”
Murat smoothed the front of his shirt and shook his head. “Thank you, no. I have no interest in a child like Tahira. Although she seems nice enough, she is far too young and inexperienced.”
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