The sheikhs secret love.., p.8
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       The Sheikh's Secret Love Child, p.8

         Part #2 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner
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  A few weeks later, Rosie lay on her couch, drumming her fingers over her stomach. She had the day off, thankfully, but had wasted the many hours she could have used for anything else on daydreaming. The Sheikh’s smile hadn’t escaped her mind, and it seemed that no matter what she was doing: sleeping, walking, eating, or some combination of all three, he wasn’t far from her mind. She wished she could snap her fingers and erase him forever. At least that way, she wouldn’t have to live with all that leftover hope.

  She stood from her couch, her knees creaking, and meandered toward the kitchen, opening and then closing the refrigerator to no avail. There, on the freezer front, was his card—something she’d magnetized there and not been able to take down. She bit her lip, staring at the scrawl: “Call me!”

  She had called him. She’d played into his spiel about fate. And she’d been screwed.

  Rosie yanked her cellphone from her pocket, then, and felt herself dialing the number, almost as if someone else was doing it. As she neared the end of the number, she imagined him on the throne, all the way across the world. She imagined the women who lined up for him, who wanted to please him, their ruler. She imagined that he thought about his life in the United States in a very abstract way, now, and that she was just a blip in his memory, if that. She was nothing.

  She halted her dialing and put her phone down, running her fingers through her hair. Her frustration was growing. This wasn’t the first time she’d considered calling him.

  It was a classic case, really, she considered. When she’d been in high school, she’d always forced herself to wait till the boy called her first. After all, if he wanted anything to do with her, then he would surely make the first move. That was always, always how it worked. And she was silly to think this was any different.

  Rosie returned to the living room, remembering that at one point she’d considered the date with the Sheikh to be practice for further dates, with different guys. She imagined herself going on a rampage: one guy after another, until she found someone who suited her. But it seemed like she’d already hit the pinnacle of her dating career, and she wasn’t prepared for another round. Not yet.

  That afternoon, Rosie dressed to attend the baby shower of her and Amy’s close friend, Denise. Denise was also a nurse at the hospital, but she’d been on maternity leave for the previous month. She had often joked that she could work right up until her labor, since she worked on the obstetrics floor—crawling into bed with her clipboard in toe. But when she’d reached eight months, she’d become too uncomfortable—a walking beach ball wearing scrubs, Rosie had thought.

  Rosie wore a red autumn dress. The season was changing, which in Seattle just meant that it rained even more than usual. She wrapped a coat around her and raised the hood as she marched to the bus stop, a pair of tiny jeans—her present for the new mother—concealed in a package beneath her left arm.

  As the bus hummed toward the suburbs, Rosie thought abstractly about her own body, which had been acting strangely lately. Perhaps she was just aging poorly? She knew she couldn’t eat much dairy, but now, every time she ingested it, she nearly vomited. What’s more, she’d been crying more often, finding sadness and happiness to be extremes that she couldn’t control. And she normally had no patience for criers. Not outside of the hospital.

  Plus, there was the issue of her period. It hadn’t come the previous week, like it should have. And despite knowing that the likelihood of her being pregnant was very, very low, she felt frightened, as if she was standing on the edge of a cliff. What was going on?

  She carried this information with her silently, not telling a single soul of her fears. Not even Amy. She didn’t want to be nagged about “always being precautious.”

  Rosie stood in a gaggle of moms in the large suburban house, gazing at the pile of presents that towered beside the window. Each had been wrapped in colorful paper, many in blues, greens and dark purples, because the baby was going to be a boy. Denise sat on the couch like the queen bee, her feet out before her, her ankles swelled to the brim.

  Rosie meandered from Amy and the others, who were talking about how truly terrible the terrible twos were, and sat beside Denise. Denise laid her head on Rosie’s shoulder and sighed.

  “What is it, honey?” Rosie asked softly.

  “I just don’t know if I’m ready,” Denis murmured. “It seems like those ladies over there have everything figured out. I’m sure they weren’t as frightened as I am right now when they were pregnant. But I feel like I can’t voice my concerns. I sound like a child.”

  “Psh,” Rosie said. “Please. Don’t you remember Amy, when she was pregnant with Mario? She had a panic attack every second. I distinctly remember her using one of the baby blankets at her baby shower to mop up her tears. She didn’t know what she was doing, but she figured it out. You know?”

  Denise nodded, her eyes gleaming. “You would be a good mom, Rosie. You’re very comforting. You know that?”

  Rosie blushed. “Well. I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.” If only she could share her suspicions; if only she could dive into the depths of her fears.

  “Amy told me about that asshole sheikh,” Denise said then, frowning. “You know, I hate to say this, but I think you’re getting too old to mess around like that. You went into that knowing he would hurt you.” She shook her head, hesitating. “As a woman, you have to learn what will hurt you, and stay away from it. It’s a wilderness out there. We’re all just trying to survive.”

  “What are you going to tell you son, then, about the wilderness?” Rosie whispered.

  Denise strummed her hand over her bowling ball stomach. Her fingers were so swollen that her wedding ring looked like it was cutting off her circulation, pushing blood-red skin into a balloon. “I’m going to tell him to become a priest. I never want him to hurt anyone, or for anyone to hurt him.” She grinned, then, and the two friends devolved into laughter.

  “I guess it isn’t too late for me to join the convent,” Rosie offered.

  “They do have pretty good style,” Denise teased. “Now. Help me gather up these presents. I’m going to put you all through the torture of watching me open all of them, one by one. Won’t that be fun?” She winked, then, and the other women drew closer, babbling on about the baby brands they trusted.

  As she watched them, Rosie vowed to herself that she wouldn’t become one of them. That is—if she truly carried a baby within her. A baby no bigger than the olives on the appetizer platter. Absentmindedly, she placed her hands over her stomach, and watched the afternoon float by, daydreaming about the Sheikh and imagining what he would say if he learned of a son.

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