The Sheikh and the Virgin Secretary(Desert Rogues, Book 10)(56) by Susan Mallery
understand how much you love your baby. You would do anything to keep him or her close. I wanted you to know this was an option.”
Kiley wasn’t sure she could have been more surprised if Phoebe had sprouted wings. “That’s not possible.”
“It is. It will take time, but it can be done.”
Go away? Leave Rafiq?
“I would have liked your offer a lot better if you’d come to me with a way to make Rafiq fall in love with me.” She sighed. “Actually, I don’t think I need help with that. I think he does love me, but he won’t admit it. Maybe he doesn’t know what love feels like and he can’t recognize it. A remote possibility but one I hold out hope for. I think it’s more likely that he’s simply not willing to trust me.”
Kiley petted Fari. “I wish I knew how to let him know I’m not going to abandon him. Not ever.”
“That requires a step of faith.”
“I don’t think Rafiq is very interested in faith right now.” Kiley looked at Phoebe. “Thanks for the offer, but no.”
“Don’t you want to think about it?” Phoebe asked.
“I don’t need to. I love Rafiq and I love his baby. I’m not turning my back on either one. I have no idea how I’m going to make this all work out, but I’ll come up with a plan.”
“I would be most interested to hear it,” Rafiq said as he stepped onto the balcony.
His timely arrival and Phoebe’s look of guilt was all Kiley needed. She grabbed Fari, stood and faced her former fiancé.
“You set me up,” she said, her voice shaking with fury. She wanted to scream and hit and punish him for doing this to her. “How dare you?”
“I am Prince Rafiq of—”
“No one here gives a crap,” she told him, glaring at him and wishing she was big enough to beat some sense into him. “It’s not enough that you tricked me into an engagement you didn’t mean, but now you’re using people I like and trust to set me up?”
“I’m sorry,” Phoebe murmured.
“I know,” Kiley said, aware that it would be a while before she could forgive the other woman. “That’s not the point.” She turned back to Rafiq. “What was the
purpose? What were you looking for?”
“What? Did you want to know if I was like your mother? You already have that answer. What other information do you need? Tell me and I’ll give it to you.”
She squared her shoulders. “Which would have made you feel more like a man? Having me choose you or our child? I’m sorry, but you’re not going to get that question answered. I refuse to choose and you can’t make me.”
She started toward him, then pushed past him and walked into the living room.
Once there, she faced him again.
“This was a big mistake, Rafiq, because now I think less of you. You hurt me and you have no right to do that.”
“I need to know.”
“What? What is missing? You can keep trying to trip me up, but it’s not going to work. I love you. There are no strings, no games, and only one expectation, which is that you’ll love me back. Why is that so hard for you to understand?”
Rafiq watched her walk away. Phoebe came up beside him.
“That was a mistake,” she said. “I warned you. I didn’t want to do it and I feel horrible for being a part of your ridiculous plan. Don’t ask me to do something like that again.”
He felt her anger, but it was nothing when compared with Kiley’s. He felt uncomfortable and didn’t know why. He had the right to do as he pleased.
“I must be sure,” he said, as much to himself as to Phoebe.
“Of what? That her love is real? Let me give you a word of advice. Love stretched too far can break. And then what will you have?” Phoebe shook her head. “Is that what this is all about? Are you trying to make her leave so you are once again right? Who wins then?”
She left and he was alone. Below, on the beach, several children played in the surf. There were teenagers and couples, families and an old man reading the newspaper. Life continued and yet he felt trapped in silence. As if he was out of step with all of it.
He wanted to believe. He wanted to trust. But how?
He sank onto the chair Kiley had vacated and closed his eyes. Her sentences replayed in his mind. Her question asking which would make him feel more like a man—her choosing him or their child.
He didn’t want to feel more like a man, he told himself. He wanted…
“I wish Rafiq could get along with his father. He needs that connection.”
Kiley’s words were as real as if she’d just spoken them again. She worried about him. She wanted him to be happy. She wanted him to have a family beyond just her.
He knew why. He knew what her parents meant to her, and she wanted the same thing for him. She wanted him to have more. To be more. He knew in his head that she was all he could want, but in his heart…
Fari walked onto the deck. She trotted to the edge and looked over at two boys playing with a Frisbee. Her entire body quivered with excitement as she silently pleaded to be included.
Rafiq stood and walked toward the puppy. She was enthusiastic and foolish. If she didn’t pay attention—
It happened so quickly. The Frisbee sailed too close to the deck and Fari grabbed for it. She slipped easily through the railing and nearly caught the toy, just as gravity caught her. Rafiq lunged for her and barely snagged the scruff of her neck.
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