The sheikhs secret love.., p.2
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       The Sheikh's Secret Love Child, p.2

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

  Rosie took the bus home and collapsed on the couch, too exhausted to eat, too exhausted to think about anything except the card that still burned in her pocket. It was a promise that so much still waited for her, outside of the realms of her normal world.

  At around three in the morning, her eyes opened to the sound on the still-running television. She swept her shirt and pants from her body, tapped the television off, and walked slowly to bed, the events of the day still rattling her. Her stomach grumbled loudly, but she knew she needed to bide her time, that food would just keep her awake longer.

  She wondered what Hakan was doing just then: surely curled up with a Seattle beauty from downtown, certainly having forgotten her. Rosie knew that she was pretty, but she had long written herself off as forgettable. Why else would her ex-boyfriend have left her in Seattle?

  Of course, she rationalized, that relationship had been going nowhere. She was being silly if she didn’t remember otherwise.

  She fell into a deep sleep, then, with the alarm clock turned off in preparation for her day off—her first in nearly two weeks. No dreams plagued her, and she blinked awake at nearly eleven in the morning, stretching her toes to the edge of the bed and feeling clear-headed, her muscles relaxed.

  She felt like a new version of herself.

  She rolled from her bed, yanking her nightgown down over her legs, and walked to the kitchen. Her stomach was nagging her, and she opened the refrigerator, eyeing the milk (it had gone bad), the eggs, the sausage from the previous grocery run.

  She poured oil into a pan and cracked the eggs. As they sizzled, her mind turned once more to Hakan. She knew, somehow, that he didn’t wake up and make eggs. Nothing about him spoke of normality. He probably awoke every morning to grand breakfasts, dining with people from all over the world.

  As she chewed her sad eggs, Rosie thought about the previous day’s events. Remembering his insanely electric smile, she was sure that even if Hakan wouldn’t be interested in her for very long, he was absolutely interested in her then. And if she followed this rabbit hole, she could experience a side of life that she’d never imagined, not in her rural Washington girlhood and absolutely not now. At least, looking down at her eggs, she could find out what existed on the other side of the million-dollar mark.

  Rosie pulled her computer toward her at the table and entered his name into Google, feeling a little bit like a stalker. She wasn’t sure why, but she sensed he could feel her fingers moving across the keys.

  Sure enough, his photo and name came up on the screen immediately. His smile made her stomach turn over in ways that reminded her of high school nerves. Beneath his name, she saw his company website. With a few extra clicks, she found his net worth—and her jaw nearly fell to the ground.

  Not only was he a sheikh—a term that had, until now, been completely foreign to her—he was a billionaire. He was one of the richest men in the world, and he was only 32.

  She did a bit more stalking, then—not too much, as intimidation and fear filled her heart. There he was in Italy with a supermodel, and there he was with several other big media gurus. In each, she had to admit, he looked at ease; good-natured, and not smug, like the others.

  With a bit more clicking, she found him pictured driving the very Lamborghini she’d caused him to wreck the previous evening. He looked confident, with the same haircut and the same cool style. It seemed that nothing had ever beaten him down, that nobody had ever stood in his way.

  A charmed man, and a charmed life.

  She washed her plate and pan, trying to rid the image of him from his mind, trying not to think about what it would mean if they went on a date together, if they touched or kissed. To him, she was sure, it wouldn’t mean anything. But to her, it would mean the world. More than anything, Rosie couldn’t shake the feeling that there had been chemistry, a real spark between the two of them.

  Didn’t they say that’s how it was meant to be? Love, or the beginnings of it?

  Rosie picked up the business card from the table once more and stared at it intently, reminded of the last meeting she’d had with a guy. He’d been a broad, strong ex-athlete, who’d played football for her university. He’d chipped a tooth in the national game, and he’d showed her, his bright eyes causing hope to form in her chest. He’d kept her at the bar long after her friends had left, telling her joke after joke and making her think, for a moment, that she was special.

  Of course, it turned out that he was married—a fact Rosie hadn’t learned until after they’d slept together. And the knowledge of that had really spurned Rosie from the idea of dating.

  But a sheikh. They were meant to be honorable, right? And Hakan had charisma and an openness to him, a sort of inner compassion that Rosie longed to understand. The guys of her past had nothing in common with him.

  And so, she watched her fingers as they dialed the number, guided by an outside force. She dove into his world—almost by accident.

  The phone rang three times, and she sat, biting her lip, drawing bright red blood once more. Maybe he was too busy to answer? She almost hoped he wouldn’t. But in a moment, she heard it: that deep, smooth, honey-like voice on the other end, that Middle-Eastern accent. Her heart sprung up into her throat.

  “Hello, this is Hakan speaking,” the syrupy voice said.

  Rosie sputtered at first. “Hey, Hakan. Hi. It’s—um. It’s Rosie. From yesterday, with your car and everything…”

  “Ah, Rosie!” came the reply, and she could almost sense the smile stretching across his face. “I’m delighted you called. How is your day? How are you?”

  Rosie laughed, unsure. So he actually remembered her?

  “I’m fine, I’m good. I’m better than your car is doing right now. Did everything work out with that, by the way?”

  “I think so. I told the aides to take care of it, but they’re also addicted to video games. For all I know, that car’s still out there. Just the car versus your wild Seattle world. Maybe the jungle’s taken over by now.”

  “I don’t think Seattle could handle it. Too tough,” Rosie giggled.

  “Well, if I’m being honest, the only thing with powers great enough to destroy that car is a tiny red-headed girl named Rosie. I met her yesterday, and I was completely blown away. Literally.”

  Rosie laughed outright, then, realizing that Hakan was genuinely funny. Perhaps she had been too frightened the previous day to realize it—too rabbit-like, shivering.

  “I was wondering how much longer you have in Seattle before you leave?”

  She bit her tongue sharply, waiting for his answer. An aide, she assumed, had entered Hakan’s room and was asking him a question, causing Hakan to put the phone down for a moment. She could hear his muffled voice, speaking in his mother tongue. It sounded exotic and intrigued her, even as she waited for his response.

  “Rosie?”

  “I’m here.”

  “Sorry about that. Just another mini-crisis, but anyway. To answer your question, I’m actually waiting for information on when I need to leave town. Happily, it won’t be tonight. Which leads me to my question, which is: would you like to go to dinner with me, Rosie?”

  Rosie felt her heart flying from her rib cage. She crossed her still-aching fingers, feeling the pain of the movement jolt through her body. “Dinner? Tonight?”

  “Tonight, yeah,” he said, his voice going soft. Was he showing her his vulnerability?

  “I’d love to. I really would.” Rosie knew she sounded a bit too eager, that you weren’t meant to give away too much too soon. But she couldn’t care. Her heart was open to this experience, and she was diving straight in. Normally, she wasn’t so reckless. Not since the ex-athlete, at least.

  Hakan gave her the name of a restaurant downtown and asked her to meet him there at around eight thirty. He told her to come hungry. Again, she could feel his smile through the receiver. She felt addicted to that energy.

  “That won’t be a problem,” Rosie laughed.
“I’m always hungry.”

  They hung up, then, and silence overtook Rosie’s ears. She longed to hear Hakan’s voice once more, laughing with her, ribbing her. She stared at her phone for a while, shaking her head, before raising it again and calling a familiar number.

  Amy, her best friend of the past five years, answered the phone after five rings, her voice breathless and filled with anxiety. “Rosie? Hey, sorry. Can you hold on one second? Marco’s having a screaming attack.”

  Rosie heard the snap of her friend Amy’s phone falling on the table and the tumultuous cries of the toddler. Amy had gotten married just a few years after Rosie had met her at their hospital job, which meant that Amy and Rosie had hardly been single together. Rosie knew that Amy didn’t remember what being single was like anymore. It had been too long, and her encouraging words that Rosie should just “get back out there” didn’t really ring true.

  All the same, Rosie loved Amy fiercely. They were warriors of the obstetrics floor, their white tennis shoes flying into mad runs during emergencies, crying over mid-shift snacks, when they were both too hungry to handle their emotions. Since having a baby of her own, Amy hadn’t been working as often, and Rosie had to really fight to see her, to retain their friendship.

  “Rosie, you there?”

  “Here,” she affirmed.

  “Okay. I put him down, finally,” Amy sighed, exhausted. “I love how big this house is. I can walk rooms away from him and feel like I’m on some kind of mom vacation.”

  Rosie laughed. Amy had recently moved to the suburbs with her husband. The girls, used to the smaller apartments of the city, were amazed with the concept of space. When Amy had moved, they’d laid down in the middle of the empty living room, baby Marco rolling around alongside them, and gazed at the tall ceiling. “Think of the Christmas tree you could buy,” Rosie had said.

  “So, what’s up, Rosie?” Amy asked. “Today’s your day off, isn’t it? I’m sorry, honey, but I don’t think I can do dinner tonight. Marco has the flu, and I don’t want to leave him.”

  “It’s all right,” Rosie said, already having forgotten their plans. “Actually, I met someone. And he’s asked me out to dinner later.”

  Amy gave a slight squeal. “Tell me everything! Where did you meet him?”

  “Um…” Rosie wasn’t sure how to answer this. She didn’t want to get into the story—about the car, about the wreck. She knew Amy would give her a lecture about paying better attention. “We met on the street, actually.”

  “Very old-fashioned of you. And who is he?” Amy’s voice was laced with skepticism.

  “He’s actually in the media,” Rosie said, frowning slightly. “He’s, um. He’s from the Middle East. Very handsome, very clever. Incredibly kind.”

  “You know all of this from your meeting on the street?” Amy sounded incredulous. “He could be anyone, Rosie. You trust people too easily sometimes, you know.”

  “No I don’t,” Rosie said, her tone hardening.

  “Well, you don’t trust the right people all the time. What happened to that guy I set you up with a few weeks ago? The engineer Josh works with?”

  Rosie remembered the gaped-tooth guy, the raspy voice on the phone when he’d asked her to go for a coffee. She had feigned a toothache, stayed home and felt sorry for herself instead. The truth of it was, he hadn’t made her feel that initial electricity, which she now felt, even minutes after speaking with Hakan on the phone.

  “There wasn’t any chemistry,” Rosie answered.

  “You can’t wait for chemistry.”

  “Don’t you and Josh have chemistry?”

  “Maybe at the beginning. But we’re adults, now. We have to take care of a child,” Amy said pointedly. She was Rosie’s age, almost exactly, and yet she’d begun to speak as if she were years older. “We don’t have time to think about it.”

  Rosie nodded halfheartedly into the phone, starting to wonder why she’d called. She made up an excuse and hung up, holding the phone against her chest. She hoped, from the bottom of her heart, that she’d never grow so cynical, that she’d always feel the love and energy for her husband—if she ever found one, that is.

  Rosie slipped her feet into her tennis shoes and donned running clothes, heading out to the streets for a quick run. She felt electric, even as the Seattle rain began to fall on her shoulders and legs.

  A broad grin slid over her face, and she knew, somehow, that the winds of change were upon her. All she needed to do was open her arms to them.

 
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