The sheikhs secret love.., p.39
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       The Sheikh's Secret Love Child, p.39

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

  Juliette spent the bulk of her day making her final preparations to leave. It would be better when she was home and could put all this behind her, she thought. The day before, she’d anticipated that packing her bags would be a long, onerous process. But now, as she went through the motions, she only felt numb.

  She settled her accounts with her roommates, and told them what she’d be leaving behind in the apartment, and that they were welcome to keep it. She said goodbye to them. They were still students, and she’d felt close to them during her time here. The day before she’d thought that she would end up crying when she said goodbye, but today, she couldn’t quite summon the emotion. These people were no longer the ones she would think of when she thought of her time in Italy.

  And, again, she found herself hating Giancarlo; not for lying, this time, but for replacing everything she thought was going to be significant about her memories of this place. He didn’t deserve the primacy in her mind that she was giving him, nor did she think there was any way she would be able to take it away from him.

  She went to lunch with a college friend, who was waxing nostalgic about her leaving. She checked and rechecked her flights, and did her online check-in. She performed all the little rituals of leaving.

  And yet, somehow, when the time came to go to the airport, she still felt surprised that it was actually happening. She called a cab, and thanked the cab driver for helping her put her heavy suitcases in the back.

  “Where to?” he asked her, in Italian, from the front.

  She was about to tell him to go straight to the airport, but the words caught in her throat.

  “To the Fountain of Neptune,” she said.

  The driver shot her a curious glance, and Juliette realized it probably sounded odd that she would be packing up all her bags and not leaving.

  “And then to the airport,” she added, with more sadness in her voice than she had expected.

  The driver nodded, and pulled away.

  This was more like the city as she remembered it: as one of the people, from a standard cab. Juliette drank in every detail of every building. The melancholy she had felt yesterday, after she’d turned in the last of her assignments, began to steal over her, and she once again began to regret that this chapter of her life was over.

  When they reached the Fountain of Neptune, Juliette told the driver to slow down, and not to stop. She hunched down in her seat. She had her doubts, even now, that Giancarlo would show. If he was there, she didn’t want him to see her. It would be better that way. Easier for both of them.

  When she didn’t see him, she was surprised by the rush of anger that coursed through her veins. She didn’t intend to meet him, and she’d given no indication to him, earlier, that she did. It was completely understandable that he would change his mind.

  But the idea that he had changed his mind seemed wrong to her. It seemed insulting, in some way that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. And it seemed, in that moment, like everything she had angrily thought about him since finding out about his lie to her had been confirmed.

  “Do you want me to go around again?” the cab driver asked.

  Juliette said yes without thinking, and then wished she hadn’t. More time spent looking at the fountain where the man she hadn’t thought she needed to see wouldn’t be wasn’t going to make it any better.

  But then, just as they were completing the second drive-by, Juliette saw him.

  He was dressed differently than he had been the day before. He was dressed more like she imagined a modern-day prince usually dressed. And when she managed to pull her eyes from him, to look at the people around him, she could see that he was drawing a great deal of attention. When he was pretending to be someone else, people thought they recognized him from somewhere, but couldn’t place him—just the way Juliette had.

  But now, in his impeccably-tailored, bespoke suit, with an expensive watch and perfectly coiffed hair, he was unmistakably the man from the television and newspapers. He was royal, through and through, and the people around him caught onto it immediately. He was carrying a single purple flower; Juliette didn’t know the type.

  She sat up in her seat and looked out the back window as the cab drove away. There was no chance of him seeing her now, she thought, though she could tell that he was looking. He was too busy with bystanders coming up to him. For the slightest moment, Juliette thought he might see her, even through the crowd, and the tiny back window of the cab. She thought she might see a smile on his lips…

  In her mind, she willed the car to stop, even as she kept her lips firmly shut to keep herself from saying so. To her surprise, the cab stopped anyway.

  “Do you want to get out?” he asked, apparently having seen her change in countenance and the scene at the fountain.

  Juliette was torn. She wanted to tell him yes, and go and see the Prince. But as she watched him, and the people around him, she saw that his smile was for the people.

  He was a prince, and she was an unemployed student from Wisconsin. In a week’s time, she’d be living in her old bedroom and sending off resumes. In a week’s time, he could be doing any number of things, and all of them would likely be more important than anything she was likely to do for the rest of her life.

  “No,” she said, settling back into her seat and staring straight ahead at the seat in front of her. “I don’t want to miss my flight.”

 
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