The sheikhs secret love.., p.15
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       The Sheikh's Secret Love Child, p.15

         Part #2 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner
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  The following week, after several nights of arguing with Amy, of lonely dismay, and finally, some kind of resolution, Rosie found herself sitting at a table in a Mexican restaurant. She checked her phone for the time, feeling anxiety nibble at her stomach. She was ten minutes early, and already dreading the coming evening.

  Finally, a handsome man—tall, broad-shouldered—entered the restaurant, moving quickly on long legs. He wore jeans and a band T-shirt, looking the right kind of Seattle rugged.

  Rosie stood up, bringing her fingers to her hair. She recognized that she was suddenly nervous.

  “Rosie?” the man asked.

  “Jared, right?”

  She shook his hand, feeling the clamminess of his palm. He wiped his hands on his jeans as he sat down, apologizing. “It’s quite cold out there. Hasn’t stopped raining in days.”

  “Guess you’re not used to that, huh? Since you’re from the Midwest?”

  Jared picked up his menu, grinning at her.

  A fine smile, Rosie affirmed. Amy hadn’t been wrong. This guy was very good-looking, and probably her type—or at least he would have been at some point in her twenties. Of course, she wasn’t in her twenties anymore.

  They ordered margaritas and tacos and placed their menus together in a tidy pile.

  Jared leaned toward her on his elbows, eager. “So. You work with Amy, don’t you?”

  Rosie nodded. “We’ve worked together for years. She’s my best friend.”

  “She seems…”

  “Intense,” Rosie finished, finding herself laughing. “Yeah, she basically forced me to go out on a date. Since my son was born, I haven’t been out much.”

  Jared nodded, his eyes bright. He seemed unfazed by the fact that she had a son. “You don’t seem old enough to be a mom.”

  Rosie blushed. “I might be older than I look. But I don’t regret not going out these past couple years. Raising my son has been my top priority. He’s the thing I care most about in the world.” Somehow, she needed this stranger to know that.

  “I understand,” Jared said, his voice solemn. “My mother was a single mom. I don’t know how she did it, but I attribute all of my accomplishments to her.”

  Rosie felt his honesty through his words. At least this guy told the truth, she thought.

  She found herself falling easily into conversation with him. Sure, her stomach wasn’t falling over itself; sure, she wasn’t experiencing a cold sweat, as she had with Hakan. But in many ways, she knew, she’d grown up since then. Perhaps this was how adults dated. They didn’t lose their heads over it.

  After their second round of margaritas, Jared asked her if she was interested in having a walk by the water. “I know it’s winter, but there’s something about a walk after dinner—especially out there,” Jared began.

  Rosie held up her hand, understanding completely. “I’d love to,” she whispered.

  She followed him from the restaurant, after they’d both paid separately, and they strolled through the grass toward the dark water.

  Rosie thought of her son, who was under the care of her mother once more. Clarice had been excited about Rosie’s date, telling her that finding a suitable man who could support her and her baby was an absolute priority. Rosie had silently rolled her eyes as she smeared lipstick over her lips. In the mirror, she had blinked at herself, shocked. She hadn’t worn proper makeup in ages, and was surprised that she still looked good, youthful, vital. Like herself, before she’d had Zak.

  Jared turned to her, gesturing upward. “I can’t believe it, but we have stars tonight.”

  Rosie blinked, gazing up at them. Seattle was so often cloud-covered, and the city lights were usually far too bright to see anything. But Jared was right; the stars cut through the night.

  “They’re beautiful.”

  “Out in Iowa, we could see them every night,” he said softly. “I kind of miss that.”

  “Why did you move out here?”

  Jared meandered closer to the water. “I wanted an adventure. I didn’t know of anything I hadn’t done in the Midwest, and I felt like I needed to move west to find something. Maybe to find myself. And perhaps to find love.” He eyed her briefly.

  Rosie felt unmoved by his statement, but gave him a quick smile anyway. She allowed the silence to linger.

  “I’ve always felt calm by the water,” Jared began again. “I didn’t have it so much growing up. And now I like to come out here and think.”

  Rosie saw that they were nearing the Edgewater Hotel, where her baby had been conceived. This particular stretch of water had been incredibly important to that time in her life, had made her feel less crazy, somehow.

  She closed her eyes, breathing in the salty air. “I know what you mean. It’s like a reminder of how small you truly are. I think it’s healthy to remember that.”

  Jared agreed. “I know there’s a scientific reason behind it.”

  “But sometimes you don’t want to know it,” Rosie laughed.

  “Most often, I do,” Jared said. Such an engineer. “But I suppose it’s enough to just breathe out here. And it’s nice to have company.”

  Rosie agreed. “I haven’t seen anyone besides my patients, my mother and my baby in ages. Tell me. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about something lately, and I need your opinion.” She paused before speaking, building the anticipation. “Do you believe in fate?”

  The question hung in the air for a moment before Jared chuckled slightly, a laugh that came from high in his throat. “Fate?”

  Rosie nodded, her eyes shining. “Yeah. Fate.”

  Jared bobbed his head from left to right. “Well, let me see, here. In some ways, I’ve always linked the idea of fate with, you know, religion and Christianity, and all that. I grew out of that stuff ages ago. I had to go to church as a kid—”

  “Me too,” Rosie whispered.

  “—and I felt, at a very young age, that it was all, essentially baloney. We don’t have an ultimate ‘reason’ to be alive, like they say. Definitely not.”

  “So you don’t think you were born to be an engineer?”

  “I think that my skillsets are appropriate for engineering. I think I work very well in that environment. But if I had chosen something like, say, teaching, I can’t say I wouldn’t have been good at that, as well.”

  “We aren’t called to be who we are, then. And we aren’t called to love who we love. Is that what you mean?” Rosie asked, frowning.

  The man shook his head. “I just can’t believe in something so far-fetched,” he murmured. “I think we can bring ourselves to love good mates. People who will learn to love us for all our weird quirks. People who will care for us in sickness and in health. But I certainly don’t believe in soulmates. And, to answer your question, I absolutely don’t believe in fate.”

  Rosie bit her lip, gazing out at the sea. Her mind drew a picture of Hakan, dressed in the traditional garb of the head of state. Did he still believe that fate had brought them together? Or was that just pretty talk that had caused her to fall for him more quickly?

  She shook her head, trying to clear her mind. “I think you’re probably right. The entire concept is the stuff of fairytales,” she murmured.

  “And I think so much of living the kind of life that involves divorcing yourself from concepts like that. This way, you can choose your own destiny,” Jared said softly, taking her hand.

  Rosie’s first instinct was to draw her hand back, to flee. But she wanted to live in the conversation he was creating, in which they were both reasonable adults who agreed that concepts like “fate” were the stuff of fiction. She tried to force herself to remain in the moment.

  They walked down by the water for a bit longer before Rosie came up with an excuse to leave. She kissed him on the cheek, watching the disappointment bloom like a flower on his face. They both knew, in that moment, that fate wasn’t in their favor, although Jared would never admit it. And wasn’t that ironic?

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