The sheikhs secret love.., p.38
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       The Sheikh's Secret Love Child, p.38

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

  The heat of the Mediterranean sun beat down on Juliette as she walked. It was almost enough to regret not calling a cab. Almost, but not quite. She needed to get her frustration out, somehow, and walking angrily down the long road seemed as good a way as any. Besides, if she’d called a cab, she would have needed to wait for it. And she couldn’t stomach the thought of staying at that house any longer than needed.

  That palace, rather. That gorgeous, amazing palace. The further she got from it, the more she was able separate out her feelings of betrayal from the memories of the world she’d briefly been allowed into. It had been an amazing experience. Maybe one day, when she was past the anger of this moment, she would be able to look back on it and be glad that, at least, she’d gotten a private tour of the royal residence of the King of Campania.

  But that day was not today. No, today she was just looking forward to getting on a plane and leaving the country.

  The road from the palace back to town wasn’t a busy one. There were very few residences out there, and apparently all the workmen had arrived on site already. So, when Juliette heard the sound of a car coming up beside her, it was unexpected enough that she turned her head to look.

  Immediately, she wished she hadn’t. It was a limousine, black and shiny, gleaming in the morning sun. She would have known immediately that it was owned by the royal family, even if she hadn’t seen the little Campanian flag flying from the top of the antenna.

  She shifted her gaze back to the road in front of her, though she couldn’t see it as well through the tears of anger that jumped up into her eyes. She fought them back.

  The car slowed, and pulled up next to her, the driver keeping pace with her as she walked. Juliette heard the sound of the window rolling down, and had to force herself not to look. She knew who it would be, and she didn’t think she could see his face again. Not yet. There was too great a chance she’d forgive him, and she didn’t want to do that.

  “Juliette, please.”

  His voice still had the music she’d heard the night before. But now, there was an authority to it she hadn’t detected before. He was a prince, now, and the combination of anger and pleading in his voice didn’t do anything to disguise that.

  “Go back to your palace,” Juliette said, the anger still dripping from her voice.

  Her words came out harsher than she meant them to be. Harsher than she thought he really deserved. Embarrassment flooded through her again.

  “Juliette, wait.”

  She didn’t respond. She didn’t turn her head. She didn’t want to give him the satisfaction.

  And that irritated him. She could hear the frustration in his voice as he ordered his driver to stop the car.

  The car stopped, forcing Juliette into a choice. She could keep walking, knowing the car wouldn’t follow her, or she could stop.

  She wanted to keep walking. She willed her feet to keep going. But they wouldn’t. If she kept walking, now, she would never hear his voice again. She knew it. And, as angry as she was, she wasn’t quite ready for that. Not after he’d come after her.

  She stopped in her tracks, though she still looked straight ahead of her, her fists clenching and unclenching at her side. She heard the sound of the car door opening, and closing again, and the sound of expensive shoes walking on cheap roadside gravel. Then she felt a hand on her shoulder.

  “Don’t touch me!” she cried, whirling around. And with the words and the emotion behind them, the same embarrassment rose up in her again.

  She was angrier than she should be, and she didn’t know why.

  Giancarlo removed his hand, but didn’t step back. He was standing so close to her, now. Nearly as close as they had been when they were laying down, staring at the stars the night before. They were almost touching.

  “I know you’re angry,” he said, his voice quiet, soothing.

  Juliette looked into his eyes for a moment before she had to avert her gaze. His eyes were still magnetic. If she looked any longer, she’d be lost again; lost again to the lying man.

  Instead, she swallowed hard, staring out at the ocean. She could hear the water, just as she had been able to last night.

  When it became clear that she wasn’t going to respond, he spoke again.

  “It’s a long walk back to the city, and it’s going to be a hot day. I’ve already upset you, and I’m sorry for that. Don’t let me make you have a miserable last day in Italy, too.”

  He hesitated, then, as though it were just occurring to him to question everything she’d told him. When he spoke again, she detected a little more pique in his voice.

  “If today even is your last day in Italy?”

  Juliette swallowed hard, again, and nodded, fighting back the tears that wanted to spring from her eyes.

  “OK,” he said, a tinge of sadness in his words. “I’m going to walk back to the palace. I’ll leave my car and driver here. I hope you’ll consider letting him drive you home.”

  He stepped back, and Juliette steeled herself before looking back up at his face. His gaze was shifting from one of her eyes to the other, as though he were searching for something there.

  “And,” he said, hesitantly, “if, before you leave, you can find it in you to forgive me, I’d very much like to see you again. I’ll be at the fountain tonight, waiting for you. I hope you will come.”

  She wanted to respond, but didn’t have the words. Instead, she looked down at the ground. She saw his expensive shoes walk away, and heard, again, the hateful crunch of the gravel.

  She stood there, without moving, listening to his departing footsteps and staring at the ground until she could no longer hear them over the sound of the waves. Finally, she looked up and saw him, some distance down the road. He wasn’t looking back. Not now. She couldn’t tell, in her own mind, if she wanted him to be.

  Now that he was far away, her mind began to calm a little. It was easier to breathe, and it was easier to think. She looked down the road, in the direction of the city, and felt the heat on her skin from the sun above. It was hotter, now, than when she’d first set out. Giancarlo was right; it was going to be a long, hot day, and a walk all the way back to the city would make it even more miserable.

  There was no harm in accepting his offer of a ride back, she finally decided. After all, he was the one who stranded her out there in the first place. So, she got into the limo, and told the driver where he could take her. The driver seemed surprised to hear her speak Italian, but respectfully complied.

  The city, when they reached it, felt like a very different thing, viewed from behind the tinted glass of the limo. It was so distant, somehow. She could see the people, but none of them could see her. She could see their envious, curious, or fearful glances at the car as it passed them. They had no way of knowing it was just her inside. They had no way of knowing she was just like them; that it was just a strange, random course of events that had led to her being in there, while they were outside, suffering through the heat of the day.

  She wondered, for a moment, if this was how Giancarlo felt when he rode through town; so close, and yet so separate from them all. There was a very specific kind of loneliness that sitting unseen behind a window provided. She wouldn’t have thought it would feel this way.

  And then she cursed herself for thinking of him. She needed to get him out of her head. It was over. It was done. She needed to accept that. But it still felt like she was losing something when the limo pulled up to her tiny apartment and she got out. She felt like she was leaving his world. And she wished, for just a moment, that she didn’t have to.

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