The Sheikh's Secret Bride(Desert Rogues, Book 3)(67) by Susan Mallery
Truth slammed into him. She was taking birth control pills.
Without bothering to dress, he stalked into the bedroom. “I thought we were going to discuss starting a family.”
She swallowed her pill then looked at him. No humor or desire lurked in her eyes. Instead she looked incredibly sad. “Be realistic, Malik. There aren’t going to be any children.”
Her words were enough of a blow to send him nearly to his knees. Only by supreme force of will did he remain standing. “We talked about them,” he said, his voice low and strained. “You agreed.”
“I agreed to a lot of things I shouldn’t have.” Tears filled her eyes, but she didn’t give in to them. Instead she raised her chin and blinked them away. “I was wrong to say I would stay with you, because I can’t. Bethany and I are leaving.”
He couldn’t speak, he couldn’t breathe. The darkness approached like a judgment from God, and he could only endure the chilling emptiness and know that it would last forever.
She set her glass back on the nightstand. “I was too young when Chuck and I married. Actually we both were. We grew up and learned hard lessons. One of the most important for me was that I have to feel as if I’m an equal partner in my marriage. I was never that with Chuck. He didn’t want a partner—he wanted to do things his way and have sex available. He wasn’t interested in responsibilities or any future past next weekend’s big race.”
“I’m nothing like that,” Malik told her, although he knew it wasn’t going to do any good. She was leaving and he didn’t know how to make her stay.
“You’re right,” she admitted. “You’re not Chuck. Instead you’re a prince and one day you’ll be a king. Because of that, you and I will never be on an equal footing as far as making decisions on how we should live our lives. But that makes it even more important that there is give and take in our personal relationship. It can’t be one-sided.”
Frantic need filled him. He had to find a way to make her understand. “Do you want to return to teaching? I’d let you do that. Or you can go to college or work in the palace. You’re not trapped here.”
She brushed away a single tear. “You still don’t get it. Malik, I don’t need you to let me do anything. Not return to teaching or even give me a child. I already have that. What I need is for you to care about me and my daughter. I need you to love us.”
She stood up and faced him. “I would have risked it for myself,” she said. “I meant what I told you before. I do love you and I would be willing to stay. But I can’t now. I’m not the only one who lost her heart to you. Bethany did as well. As a grown woman I can take a chance on you changing your mind and admitting your feelings. As a mother, I can’t let you continue to hurt my daughter. You’ve destroyed her, Malik. She thinks you’re just like Chuck. That you made her promises that you’re not going to keep. It’s ironic. I came halfway around the world to find a man so like my ex-husband.”
“I am not him,” he growled, insulted by her comments. “I’ve kept every promise I made to your daughter.”
“But you won’t tell her you love her, and that was an implied promise. I hoped you would be able to remember what it was like when you were young and project those feelings on to her. Like the time you broke your arm and one of the ministers thought you were being a crybaby. You were sent to your room and not taken to the doctor until the next morning.”
The memory threatened, but he pushed it away. “I would never do that to her.”
“I know, but she needs more than responsible parenting. She needs to be loved. The way things are now, I could hire a nanny to do what you’re doing with her.”
He took a step toward her. “How dare you insult me in this way?”
She didn’t back down. “How dare you hurt my child? I would have forgiven you everything. I would have waited. But the day you made her cry was the day I knew we had to leave.”
The bottomless abyss threatened, but he ignored the cold fear tickling the base of his spine. He turned his back on her. “Go if you must. I don’t give a damn.”
“I know,” she whispered. “That’s the point.”
Malik stood at the top of the palace and watched the black limo pull away. The rooftop garden retreat had changed from the last time he’d seen it. Probably because of Liana. He’d heard that she’d taken to spending part of her afternoons up here.
As the dark car disappeared around a curve in the driveway, he tried to find some part of her presence still lingering near him, but she was truly gone, and there was no way for him to bring her back.
He should have told them good-bye, he thought. He should have said something to Bethany. But he couldn’t face the pain in her small face, or the disappointment in her mother’s expression.
The irony was that a single phone call would prevent both of them from leaving the country. But to what end? Liana had made it clear that she didn’t want to be here any longer, and he couldn’t blame her. A heavy yet familiar weight settled on his shoulders. Once again he’d let his people down. News of his wife’s departure would spread quickly, and everyone would know he’d failed again.
He should never have married her, he told himself angrily. She knew nothing of the pressures of royal life. He should have allowed his father to arrange a suitable match with someone appropriate.
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