The Sheik and the Princess in Waiting(Desert Rogues, Book 7)(12) by Susan Mallery
Cleo drew her feet up and leaned back against the sofa. “Well, I already told you I’m from Spokane. I grew up dirt-poor and without much family. Eventually I went into the foster care system, which turned out to be a good thing because I got to meet Zara. She was the daughter of the woman who took me in. Anyway, we became good friends, then practically sisters. Years after her mother had died, Zara went through her things and found these letters to her mother from the king of Bahania.”
Emma stared at her. “You’re kidding.”
“Nope. He’d met her when she’d been a dancer and he’d fallen for her big-time.
Apparently theirs was a great love, but Zara’s mom knew it would never last so she bailed without telling him.”
“How sad,” Emma said.
“I agree. I mean she could have tried to make it work. Anyway, Zara found the letters and the two of us headed over here to see if the king really was her father. And he was.”
“That must have been a shock for both of them.”
“It was. I mean viola`, instant princess. She also met Rafe, who is American but also a sheik, and she married him—but that is a more complicated story.”
Emma laughed. “Oh, right. Because this one isn’t. So you stayed with Zara and then married Prince Sadik?”
“Not exactly. He and I—well, it was sort of spontaneous combustion. But he was a prince and I worked at a copy store. I mean until I’d come to Bahania I’d never been anywhere. I knew I wasn’t princess material. So I went home. But I had to come back for Zara’s wedding to Rafe, and I was pregnant and I didn’t want anyone to know. The king found out, then Sadik, then we got married, but he wouldn’t admit he loved me and it was horrible, but he came to his senses and now we’re blissfully happy.”
Emma didn’t know what to say. “That’s an amazing story.”
Cleo grinned. “I know. I can’t wait until Calah is old enough to hear the romantic bits. I won’t tell her about getting pregnant or anything.” Her eyes widened. “Oh, I should warn you. Both Zara and Sabrina are pregnant. I think there’s something in the water, so don’t drink anything but bottled.” She glanced at her daughter. “Unless you want one of your own.”
Emma was dealing with enough changes right now, although a child…She shook off the thought. No point in going there. Not now.
“I don’t think this is a good time for me,” she said. “Plus there’s the whole needing-a-man thing.”
“Is this where I point out that you have a husband?”
One who had made it plain he’d found her anything but interesting in bed? “No, thanks.”
Cleo nodded. “I understand. But that doesn’t mean I won’t think it. So how did you and Reyhan meet?”
“It was at college. My first semester.” Those days felt like a lifetime ago. “I was a brand-new freshman—technically an adult, but not emotionally. Not even close.” She shrugged. “I’m the only child of older parents. They’d given up on ever having children when I came along. I was a surprise, but a happy one. My parents were so thrilled, they were determined to keep me safe no matter what.
Which meant keeping me sheltered. It took my entire senior year of high school to convince them to let me go to a college that required me living a couple hundred miles away.”
“Reyhan’s older, right?” Cleo asked. “You couldn’t have had a class together.”
“We didn’t. I was socially backward, and I would never have had the courage to talk to an actual man. I was walking home from the library when a couple of drunk guys started hassling me. I’m sure it was harmless, but I was too inexperienced to know what to do. I panicked and started pleading with them, which they found pretty funny. I was terrified and took off running. I ran smack into Reyhan. My books went flying, I’m sure I screamed and it was a mess. By the time it was sorted out, the guys were long gone and I was convinced Reyhan had rescued me from certain death.”
Cleo sighed. “That sounds romantic.”
Emma hadn’t thought of it in that way. “I thought he was handsome and mysterious. Very attractive, of course. I was stunned when he asked me out.” She shifted the baby, taking more of her weight on her lap.
“But you said yes.”
“Would you have said anything else?”
“Probably not. The rescue would be really tough to ignore. It’s very princely.”
She laughed. “I say that so calmly, but I’m used to Sadik being royal now. At the beginning it was a big deal to me.”
“Do you miss your old life?”
“Not even for a minute. Not just because this is so much nicer—which it is. But because of Sadik. I love him.” Her dark blue eyes glowed with affection. “He makes me insane, but that’s okay. I drive him crazy, too. Besides, being different keeps things interesting. And he loves me.” She glanced at Emma.
“Handsome, arrogant prince types may be hard to tame, but when they love, it’s with every part of themselves.”
Emma fought against a surge of envy. She had always wanted to be loved like that by a man. It wasn’t that her parents hadn’t cared for her, they had. But their love had been about protecting her from a difficult and frightening world. She’d always wanted just to be loved for herself.
Cleo shrugged. “Okay, I get carried away. That’s part of my charm. So enough about me and my past. Are you excited about living in the palace?”
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