The sheikhs secret love.., p.18
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       The Sheikh's Secret Love Child, p.18

         Part #2 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner

  Rosie leapt from the bus, wrapping her coat closer around her maid’s uniform as the wind whipped around her. The fall sky brimmed with dark rain clouds. There was a sense that something momentous was about to happen, and her heart throttled in her chest.

  When the Edgewater Hotel came into view, she stopped running, knowing she needed to play it cool if she was going to pretend she worked there. A mad dash didn’t look quite right.

  “Just clocking in,” she murmured to herself. “Just a new staff member, clocking in. Nobody wants to deal with the new girl, anyway.”

  She hadn’t been much for getting into trouble as a kid, always the one to follow directions. Those Clarice-instated morals had, perhaps, done the trick. Nor had she ever confronted an ex-boyfriend, if you could call Hakan that—this was new territory in more ways than one.

  Rosie swept around to the side of the hotel, where she saw the staff entrance, and she nodded her head at two smoking butlers, who didn’t look at her twice. She heard them mumbling about the recent basketball game; they were wishing themselves anywhere else in the world.

  Once indoors, she removed her coat and flung it on the rack with the others, her eyes wide. She was close to the kitchen, where she heard the clattering of pots and pans and the sizzle of vegetables, and she reasoned she would have to get through the kitchen to find the service elevator that would take her directly to the presidential suite. Her finger went to her mouth, unconsciously, and she chewed on her nail.

  In that moment, a harsh-looking woman with high, penciled-in eyebrows turned the corner and stopped abruptly, her heels clattering on the ground. “You,” she said, her voice angry. “I believe I told you to clean the third floor about a half hour ago.” She righted her dark blue suit, sticking her nose in the air. “And yet I find you here, dilly-dallying, and chewing on your nails. I’d hate to give you another demerit.”

  Rosie bowed her head, her heart beating quickly. Clearly, her outfit had worked.

  She squeaked out a tiny apology and fled past the woman, her apparent “boss.” She swept into the kitchen, where she nearly ran headlong into a chef, who held a massive turkey, just roasted, in his arms. He yelled out and she ducked down, running beneath his arms as she continued through the aisles.

  “Get out of here!” the chef called, his mustache quivering above his mouth. “We don’t need service for another hour!”

  But Rosie continued, seeing an elevator just a few feet away. The prep cooks looked at her curiously, their knives gleaming in their hands. She prayed they wouldn’t ask her any more questions; she thought she might vomit if she needed to speak.

  She reached the service elevator and called it, wringing her hands together. She tried to meditate as she heard the car zoom down to greet her. “Do it for your son,” she murmured. “Your son deserves answers. You both do.”

  Finally, the elevator opened. She took a quick step inside and turned, catching eye contact with the youngest prep boy, who looked at her with warm eyes. Somehow, they gave her a millisecond of hope.

  The doors slid shut and Rosie hit the button that said ‘P’, hoping for the best. Moments later, the elevator was speeding up to the top of the hotel. In her mind, Rosie wanted to slow the movement, to give herself more time to think. But she knew she’d already jumped from the cliff, and she was on her way to the water. She’d gone too far to slow down now.

  Finally, at the top, the elevator opened, revealing a small hallway that led directly to a large, maple door. It was the only door in sight, and Rosie knew it had to be his.

  She inhaled, exhaled, and walked toward it, her legs quivering. Her nurse’s watch, which she’d stowed in her pocket, told her that the opening ceremony for the new television station was taking place downstairs in just under an hour. She’d made it just in time.

  Rosie knocked on the door with clattering knuckles. “Room service,” she said brightly.

  On the other side, she heard it: that syrupy, strong voice. Her knees nearly gave out, sending her to the floor.

  “Hello? I’m sorry. I didn’t order room service.”

  Rosie knocked again. She furrowed her eyebrows, reminding herself just how much she hated this man. He’d given her hush money to avoid having anything to do with his son’s life. He was the scum of the earth.

  “I’m sorry, I didn’t order anything,” he said again.

  But again, she knocked, this time with greater urgency.

  She heard rustling behind the door, alerting her that he was coming. She closed her eyes as she heard his hand on the handle, silently wishing that she could reach inside her chest and still her beating heart.

  Finally, he appeared before her—looking exactly the same as he had two years before, with those dark, honest eyes; with the five o’ clock shadow that made him simultaneously handsome and almost edgy. He wore an impeccable suit that, she knew, had been chosen for the ceremony.

  She stood without speaking, trying to rally the hatred deep within her. She wanted her first words to be icy, full of cold wit. Come on, she thought to herself. Say something. You’ve come all this way. But her tongue wouldn’t move.

  But Hakan found the words first. His jaw dropped and his eyes shone with utter pleasure and surprise as he opened the door wider. “My, my, Rosie! The gorgeous Rosie Lund!”

  He took a step back, assessing her. His expensive shoes tapped on the marble floor. “I say, you look even more beautiful than the last time I saw you. How do you do it?” He gave her that devilish grin. “Please, please. Come in. Don’t stand out in the hallway.”

  Rosie felt perplexed. She followed him with soft footfalls and found herself inside the very room in which she and the man before her had conceived their child. She cleared her throat, ready to speak.

  But Hakan beat her to it again, clearly shocked to see her. “Rosie, do sit down. Make yourself at home. God, it’s been, what, two years since I last saw you? I remember, you were my last great adventure in America before I had to take the crown. All those years ago.” He shook his head. “So much has probably happened in your life since then. And in mine, of course, as well.”

  He clucked his tongue, gesturing. “Can I get you a drink or something? I have this ceremony later. I hate to go to these things sober. All that handshaking and small talk.” He winked at her, pouring them both a glass of wine. Rosie didn’t have the words to stop him.

  “What kind of wine this?” Rosie asked quietly, at a loss for something else to say.

  “It’s actually the very wine I showed you when we ate dinner together—from rural Washington. I’m sure you don’t remember…”

  Rosie raised her palm, then, nodding. “No. I remember. I remember so much from that night.”

  She took a sip, trying to summon up the courage she needed to go on a serious tirade against him. How was he pretending that he didn’t know about their son? Did he want to make small talk and then kick her out of his room? What was the point of all of this?

  Hakan continued. “I’m surprised,” he gestured, after they’d clinked glasses. “I wouldn’t have thought you’d give up your job at the hospital to work here. You seemed so passionate about that position. All those lives you bring into the world, each and every day.”

  His eyebrows lowered, his face growing serious. “Rosie, I have to tell you. Since I met you, you’ve never been far from my mind. I swear, I’ll be sitting in the throne room, going through some problem with my advisor and chief of staff, and suddenly, I’ll see your face.” He laughed to himself. “I can’t explain it. And for so long, I was sure that my memory of your face was off. I was certain I was remembering a kind of ghost. As the months turned to years, I realized I wasn’t going to hear from you again. And yet, here you are.” He shook his head, awestruck.

  Rosie allowed silence to linger between them. Her head was spinning, as she realized that she’d encountered the Sheikh just as he’d been when she first had met him: kind, compassionate, even retaining memories of the
ir time together.

  She pressed her tongue against her cheek, frowning. “And how have—how have you been?” she finally muttered.

  Hakan smiled, leaning toward her, swirling his wine as he told her about his first two years on the throne, about how it had been difficult to juggle his media work in the United States with his role as constitutional monarch, but that it was rewarding. “I know I’m doing my father proud,” he said, bowing his head. “Maybe that sounds silly. But it really means the world. Especially to my mother.”

  Rosie swallowed, recognizing that he still cared so much about his family. None of this was fitting into the image she had constructed of Hakan in the past two years. How could he care so much about his mother and father, yet abandon his son in Seattle?

  And then she realized; there was absolutely no way Hakan knew about their son. The old man, Osman, had duped her. For some reason, he had lied to her, hoping to remove her from the royal picture. He must have arranged for money to be sent to her without Hakan’s knowledge, in order to erase her from Hakan’s life. Her head was swirling with this new information, and with the realization that Hakan had been as good as she’d thought.

  So she wasn’t a bad judge of character, after all.

  After Hakan had spoken a bit longer, about his mother, about getting used to reigning over a nation, she heard him ask her a question, somewhere in the mad swirling of her brain.

  She listened closely, feeling dizzy. Why couldn’t she concentrate? Everything was spinning.

  “I’m sorry. Could you repeat that?” she asked, shaking her head.

  “I asked why you gave up your job at the hospital? It seemed like it was your life’s work, last time we spoke,” Hakan said quietly. His eyes were bright, showing her how intensely he listened. She couldn’t help but see her young son in those eyes: the way he looked at her in the morning when she got him up and ready. God, how she treasured those moments.

  Rosie shook her head, not quick enough to think of a better response. “Oh. Um. Actually, I’ve only been working here for about a month. I’m trying to earn some extra cash on the side, actually. I’d never give up nursing.”

  Hakan nodded, his eyes filled with understanding.

  She continued, stuttering. “I heard you were going to be staying here,” she said. “I made up the room service order as an excuse to come to your suite. I couldn’t help but come see you.” She felt tears welling in her eyes, then. She hoped he didn’t notice. She needed to stay strong.

  “And I’m so glad you did,” he murmured. His voice was smooth, as if he was talking to her beneath the covers, back when they’d curled up together in the bed in that very suite. She longed for that day again.

  Suddenly, Hakan brought his arms out to her, beckoning to her, and she fell into his embrace. Her eyes filled still further, and she felt her slim body shaking in his arms. She felt like a child with him there, knowing that he was accepting her, there in the room in which they’d shared so much.

  “It’s all right,” he whispered.

  But it wasn’t! She wanted to scream. He had had a son for the past sixteen months of his life, and he hadn’t known—nobody had told him. She’d been living on her own with Zak, thinking that Hakan hated both of them; that he wanted to forget about them completely. And now, here she was, coiled up in his arms, not brave enough to tell him the truth.

  Her cries began to grow louder. She bit her lip, trying to keep them inside, but this just caused her to shake more. She felt the Sheikh’s fingers tighten around her, and she wailed into his ear, lost in her emotions. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “I’m so, so sorry.”

  Finally, the Sheikh pulled back from her, still clinging to her shoulders. He peered up at her wet eyes, his own dark eyes furrowed with concern.

  Rosie continued to cry, the tears rolling full-force down her cheeks. She’d hardly known this man—this king—for a full day in her life, and now she was weeping in his arms. What was wrong with her? Was fate really such a messy thing?

  “Please, Rosie,” he whispered, bringing her red hair from her face. “What is it? Why are you crying?”

  Rosie cleared her throat. She shook her head left, then right, and then, acting on impulse, dove toward him, linking her lips with his.

  Their kiss was immediately passionate, gripping her stomach, making her inner muscles tense. She felt like the world was spinning around them, that he was the only person standing still. Please, she wanted to say to him. Please, keep me safe. He had been out in the world the entire time, this genuine, passionate soul, and she hadn’t been with him. She hadn’t been allowed to see him. She felt both robbed and really, beautifully grateful that she’d had the courage to come see him. All of her thoughts, all of her dreams, her every move had hinged on him being a good person. And now: she finally knew the truth.

  And all she had to do, then, was tell him about Zak.

  She removed her lips from his and gazed into his gleaming eyes, biting her lip. He brought his hands higher on her waist, cinching it. She wondered if her body felt different to him now that she’d given birth. She hoped he still found it attractive to touch.

  “What is it, Rosie?” he urged her again. “Why are you crying?”

  “Hakan,” she murmured, trying to choose her words carefully. “Do you remember when we were in this room last? When we made love on the floor, and we woke up in that bed together?”

  “It was a beautiful night,” Hakan agreed softly. He kissed her lightly on the mouth, and Rosie’s heart felt like it might burst. “I think about it more than I should.”

  “Well. When we woke up that morning, something was very different,” Rosie continued, keeping intense eye contact. “A few weeks later, after you’d gone and been instated on the throne, I discovered I was pregnant. With your child.”

  Hakan’s eyes grew still wider. His mouth jolted into a magnificent smile, and he clung her closer to him, hugging her till she nearly screamed. “Tell me,” he whispered. “Tell me more.”

  Rosie nodded, loving the way he cradled her. She could stay in his arms forever. “I had your baby nine months later,” she said. “A baby boy. Eight pounds and nine ounces. Gorgeous black hair and eyes, so much like yours. And I named him Zak.” She was nearly breathless, watching as the Sheikh’s face changed from happiness to ecstasy. She slid her thumb over his cheek. “And he’s the most beautiful person in the world.”

  Hakan kissed her once more, first lightly, then opening her mouth to his and fueling her with passion, with lust. He broke the kiss, and she saw, for the first time, that he was crying.

  “Rosie,” he said. “Rosie, this is the most wonderful news I’ve ever received.”

  They kissed again, in the midst of weeping and feeling united after so much time apart. Finally, they separated, both of them weeping, lacking the words to propel the conversation further. Spontaneously, Hakan began to laugh—that familiar, outrageous laugh that grew from his gut. And Rosie wanted to join him. But she slid her fingers over her cheeks, shaking once more.

  “Wait. There’s more,” she whispered. “There’s so much more you don’t know.”

  Hakan swept her hands from her face, sending her a clear, firm gaze. “Tell me, Rosie. What is it? There’s no reason not to be completely honest with me, now. Everything must be brought to light.”

  But Rosie just quivered before him.

  Slowly, Hakan’s face loosened. “You tried to tell me, didn’t you? You wanted to tell me you were pregnant?”

  She nodded, her teeth chattering. She worried, suddenly, that Osman was around the corner, watching them. She could almost feel his beady eyes boring into her. She felt like she was in danger.

  But Hakan continued. “Who did you contact? Who did you speak with? Come on. Please, tell me.” His voice was coaxing, comforting her. He kneaded at her shoulders, at her back. “You can feel safe here. It’s just us. I promise.”

  It was as if he could read her mind.

osie cleared her throat, inhaling, exhaling. She centered herself on his lap, her chest leaning against his. “I dialed the number you gave me. And I reached your chief of staff.”

  “Osman,” Hakan whispered. “You spoke with Osman.”


  She nodded, wiping her tears, feeling foolish.

  “I see.” Hakan looked angry. “And he wouldn’t pass the information on to me.”

  “It was more than that,” Rosie murmured. “He said that if I told anyone that you were the father of my baby, that it would put you in grave danger. He said your country wouldn’t accept an American, and certainly not a half-American prince.” She sniffed. “He said you would pay me one million dollars a year for me to just go away. To pretend like none of it had ever happened.”

  Hakan kissed her gently on the cheek, fully understanding, then, what Rosie had gone through the previous two years. He stuttered, something he so rarely did, as he searched for the right words.

  “Osman has been my advisor for nearly twenty years,” he affirmed, finally. “He’s always watched out for me, but at the same time, he doesn’t understand much about me. He can’t. He was raised during a very different time. My country was a very different place back then.”

  Hakan bowed his head. “He should never have put you through this. He should never have kept this information from me. And I will deal with that the very best I can. But I also know…” He paused, bringing Rosie’s bright red strands behind her ear. “I know that Osman meant well for me, although he betrayed me in the end. He wanted to keep me safe. And now—now, Rosie, I want to keep you and baby Zak safe. More than anything in the world.”

  Rosie sniffed softly, taking in the information slowly, nodding along. Osman. That evil Osman. He had tried to destroy her, but now she was back.

  She had found the man of her dreams. Fate had brought them together before they were so cruelly dragged apart—and she had used her wit and know-how to put the pieces of the puzzle back together again. She hadn’t been content with the course of things, so she had pointed her finger at what she wanted, and demanded that the universe listen. And it had.

  Rosie leaned her head back, looking at the high ceiling of the presidential suite. Hakan leaned in and kissed her neck, then her chin, before meeting her lips once more. Their body heat elevated, and they began toying with each other’s buttons, with each other’s clothes, finding solace in each other’s bodies, the way they had two years ago. They’d both been lonely for far too long. And now, in each other, they could find release. They could find home.

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