The sheikhs twin baby su.., p.11
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       The Sheikh's Twin Baby Surprise, p.11

         Part #1 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner
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We left the medical wing in a dazed happiness. Omar whisked me back to his suite and immediately ordered dinner from the chefs, including some celebratory sparkling apple juice. “I will quit drinking alongside you, my dear,” he told me after hanging up the phone. “We’ll endure a new, healthy lifestyle together for the sake of our child.”

  “Our child,” I said thoughtfully, rubbing my still-flat belly. “I can’t believe we did it. All that medical science, but all we needed was to come together naturally.”

  “And now our son will be born of love, and nothing else.”

  I held my breath at his words. “Omar, do you love me?” I asked tearfully.

  He stepped over to me and wrapped his arms around me. “Of course I do, Carrie. I’ve loved you for a long time; this past fortnight has only confirmed all the beautiful things I already knew about you. And now you’re going to give me the greatest gift of all: a beautiful baby boy.”

  “Or girl,” I teased through my tears. “It could still turn out to be a girl, you know.”

  “And I shall love her with all the fire in my heart,” he replied.

  “I love you too, Omar. I’ve been waiting so long to speak those words to you. So many months watching you spend your affection on other women… it was so difficult.”

  He stroked his hand gently over my hair and kissed my forehead, then my lips. “Those days are over now. It’s the dawn of a new time, and a new family—our family.”

  His words melted my heart. I leaned into Omar and let him envelop me in his strong arms, listening to his heart beat underneath his skin.

  Our family… that’s what this would be. And yet, this had all begun as a business arrangement—a labor I was carrying out for money. I’d never planned to stay around and be with my son after he was born. My intention had been to earn enough money to follow my true passions, and leave behind the doldrums of being a palace doctor.

  But that was before all of this, and before Omar had confessed his feelings to me. Before we had finally made love and spent the night wrapped in each other’s arms, sharing dreams and fears and hopes for the future. Was I going to leave all of that behind still? Would I be able to do it, even if I wanted to? Would I be able to look into the face of my beautiful son, and the eyes of his father that radiated so much love for me, and turn and walk away?

  Or would I be here forever, in this decadent but sedate life, away from the people who needed my help and the career I had dedicated my entire life to building?

  There were no easy answers to these questions, and they began to haunt me, gnawing at my gut. Omar must have sensed the change in me, because he became even more doting and attentive than usual, turning down a phone call from one of his senior staff members in order to stay with me and make sure I had what I needed. When dinner arrived, he made me stay in bed and did all the serving and cleaning up.

  After dinner, when he finally asked me what was wrong, I only told him that the shock of everything was settling, and the reality that a baby was growing inside me was beginning to take hold. “I think I’m just tired,” I said—not entirely untruthful.

  Omar seemed to understand that, and readily accepted that the pregnancy was already doing things to my mood and body. “What do you need, my love? Ask for anything and I will bring it to you.”

  “The only thing I think I want right now is some chocolate ice cream,” I giggled at him, running my hand through his hair.

  He smiled at me. “Then you shall have it. I’ll call the kitchen.”

  “With sprinkles!” I called after him as he moved across the enormous bedroom to the telephone.

  As Omar made the call, I fretted over whether to burden him with my worries about staying or going. Everything had seemed so simple before, when I was providing a service to him and saying my goodbyes.

  But now everything was different, and I didn’t know what I was going to do.

  I couldn’t tell him, not now. The joy on his face at knowing he was finally going to be a father was too much. I couldn’t strip that joy away from him so quickly; I couldn’t break up the dream he clearly had of us being one big, happy royal family.

  I didn’t know what I was going to do when the baby arrived. I only prayed the coming weeks and months would light a path for me that made some sort of sense.

  ELEVEN

  Four Months Later

  Omar squeezed my hand and pulled it into his lap, sitting next to me on the plush limo seat. I looked over at his loving face and smiled.

  “You look absolutely stunning, my love,” he told me, pulling my hand to his lips and giving it a soft kiss.

  “I can’t say I feel very stunning,” I replied, only half-joking. Already, our son was proving to be a healthy, growing boy. My belly felt like it was getting bigger and bigger every day, and he was quite an active little thing, doing summersaults and kicking his tiny little feet into my ribs every chance he got. As I thought about him, he moved again, and I instinctively put a hand on my belly.

  Omar repeated the gesture and grinned, his whole face lighting up when he felt the baby move. Even though he’d felt it dozens of times already, it still never failed to amaze him. “You are stunning, Carrie. Pregnancy is kind to you; your skin is absolutely glowing. You look like a goddess.”

  I blushed and planted a kiss on his lips. “You’re too sweet to me.”

  “Nonsense.”

  From the other limo seat, Rafiq chuckled to himself, making both Omar and I look over with curious surprise.

  “What’s so funny, Rafiq?” Omar asked lightly.

  “Nothing, sir,” he answered quickly, looking suddenly shameful and self-conscious.

  “Come now, out with it.”

  Rafiq looked at me with a warm grin. “It is only that I remember teasing Dr. Green months ago, in this very car, saying that she needed to tell you about her feelings, and she promised me there was none to speak of. And now, here we are.” He followed up in a speedy voice. “I do not mean to speak out of place.”

  I squished up my nose and gave Rafiq a playful little glare. “Yes, yes, you were right, Rafiq. Happy now?”

  He chuckled again and nodded before turning away from the conversation.

  “Well, his job is to be observant,” shrugged Omar with a laugh.

  “Maybe he’s observed enough to tell me how your family will react to the news tonight,” I said, biting my lip with worry. “I’m still very unsure about this. I think you should tell them without me around. I don’t think they’re going to react well.”

  “But why? You are the mother of my child and I love you.”

  “I love you, too. But your mother scares me.”

  Omar laughed loud and long at that, kissing me warmly when he’d calmed a little. “She is not as scary as she seems—that’s only her queenly demeanor coming out to take over when she needs it to do so. My mother grew up in a very different royal family; she was taught a different way of showing her power.”

  “And do you think she might be keen to show it to silly American girls who fall in love with her son?”

  “Not at all. You have nothing to worry about, my love. I’m going to be there right by your side through this whole dinner, and the baby will be here sooner than we think. Once he is born, neither my mother nor Sajid’s opinions—whatever they may be—will matter at all. I will be king, and they will have no choice but to accept that I love you. And I trust completely that they will come to love you, too.”

  Omar meant his words to be comforting, but somehow they weren’t. There was nothing in my upbringing or experiences—even the most adventurous ones—to prepare me for this: a dinner with a royal family, during which we would announce that I was pregnant with the heir to the kingdom.

  Not only that, but we would also be announcing our own deep love for each other, and revealing that this wasn’t simply a business arrangement. Tonight would be a night of history, and turning points, and as sure as Omar seemed to be about what would happen, I knew there was no telling
how his family was going to react to the news. In my darkest anxiety dreams, I had imagined them disowning Omar, or trying to shame him, or hurt him for his decision to love me and have me carry his child. I worried about what would happen to his legacy.

  But Omar wasn’t worried. He was still overjoyed at the thought of becoming a father to our son. He was already doting on him by doting on me, and never let me lift a finger around the palace. He had hired me my own assistant, a young woman named Zaynab who was helpful and intelligent and kept me company when Omar had to attend to his duties. Even though she was younger than me by almost a decade, we had become fast friends and had lots of fun going shopping or having lunch in the gardens. My fear of boredom meant I couldn’t just sit around in bed, waiting for the baby to arrive and doing nothing until he did. Zaynab seemed to understand that, and helped me find safe activities to keep my mind occupied and my body healthy.

  Every day, Omar came in with new gifts for me and the baby. He had already re-arranged his enormous suite to include a grand nursery in one corner, complete with every bit of furniture we would need for the baby. I spent hours in the rocking chair, resting my back and feet that ached anew every day, reading stories to my unborn son, hoping he could hear.

  Omar had come to every single check-up with me, beaming with joy when the doctors announced all was well and the baby was perfectly healthy. He promised them all raises and the finest casks of wine and whiskey the kingdom could offer, and they would just laugh at him and tell him they were just doing their job.

  Watching Omar’s happiness at his impending fatherhood made me happier than I ever thought I could be. I could only imagine how much better it would get when our son finally arrived—even if a kingdom’s-worth of anxiety came along with it. On top of everything, I was simply terrified of giving birth. Even as a doctor, I knew the experience was going to be joyous and scary, painful and incredible.

  I couldn’t imagine doing this alone; I couldn’t imagine doing it without Omar by my side.

  We arrived right on time at the restaurant Omar had reserved for dinner with his family. The place had been fully bought out for the night so that the royal family could dine undisturbed, and a cadre of security guards was already surrounding the building, creating a wall of black suits to allow us clear passage to the front doors. A few paparazzi were here, anyway, trying to snap photos and get any gossip they could.

  Omar kept a protective arm around me as we left the limo for the restaurant.

  “Aren’t you worried about our pictures appearing in the gossip rags?” I asked him, pressing my lips against his ears.

  “It won’t matter after tonight,” he replied. “Once my family knows, there will be no reason to keep our relationship a secret. No one will be able to do anything about it, no matter how much they dislike it. Let them gossip, I don’t care. I only care about our family.”

  I smiled up at him and let him lead me delicately inside. The restaurant’s maître-d’ was waiting eagerly for our arrival. He didn’t seem to think my presence was odd or unusual—either that, or he was very good at his job of not looking like he cared about his guests’ business.

  “Your Highness! Good evening, good evening.” He bowed before us. “Welcome, both of you. Your brother and his family have already been seated. We’ve received word that your mother is on her way, but that she’s running a bit late. Appetizers have been served to the table.”

  “Wonderful,” said Omar. “Can you please find some pomegranate juice and bring it to the table, chilled? My love has grown quite fond of it lately.” He gave me a smile and squeezed my hand.

  “Certainly, sir, right away. Let me take you to your seats.”

  He led us through the romantically-lit restaurant. All the other tables had their place settings out, waiting perfectly for dinner guests that would not arrive tonight. The table Omar had reserved was near the back, far away from the prying eyes of the street crowds or paparazzi, where the family could talk together in private.

  As we approached, Sajid stood from the table, as did his beautiful wife and daughters. I could see the dawning shock on his face as he realized Omar was leading me by the hand—not something one would do with an employee. Sajid frowned at us, as if he were trying to figure out what was going on, as we approached the table and Omar pulled my seat out for me.

  “Brother,” said Omar. “I’m sure you remember Dr. Green?”

  “Of course,” said Sajid curiously, reaching out to take my hand for a polite kiss. “How are you, Doctor?”

  “I’m well, thank you,” I replied with a stiff smile.

  Omar greeted his nieces and sister-in-law with kisses and hugs, complimenting each of them as he did. The girls giggled at him, and I smiled; I loved seeing how wonderful he already was with children. Even Sajid’s wife turned a little pink in the cheeks when Omar complemented how beautiful she looked in her glittering gold and white dress.

  “Mother should be here soon,” Sajid said. “And then we can get on with this big news.”

  “Yes, it is big,” agreed Omar. He thanked the waiter who had interrupted to serve me the pomegranate juice. I’d been craving it something fierce ever since the second month of my pregnancy—Omar told me it was just the legacy of my son’s Middle-Eastern blood coming forward, craving the fruit his ancestors had loved for centuries. I loved the idea.

  It wasn’t long before Mirah arrived, looking as gorgeous as ever with her long black swept up on top of her head. She beamed at her sons as she walked around the table to greet everyone. Though she was used to the sight of me around the palace, there was some surprise on her face as she saw me standing at Omar’s side.

  “Apologies for my tardiness,” said Mirah as Omar helped her take her seat. “There was some nonsense business at the palace to attend to; some problems with the caterer for next month’s fundraiser.”

  “Don’t worry, Mother, we haven’t been waiting long,” assured Sajid.

  “And I hope I haven’t missed the big announcement?” Mirah asked.

  “Of course not,” smiled Omar, pouring her a glass of wine. “But let us have some dinner first. There’s no need to rush into official business.”

  As she picked at the appetizers already laid out on the table, Mirah seemed to agree. But Sajid only snickered at his older brother in a way that made me angry and want to jump in and defend Omar. I stayed quiet.

  “Must this all be so dramatic?” mocked Sajid. “Or is it that you want us to have food in our tummies because you the news you need to share is less than pleasant?”

  “Quite the opposite. I only thought it would be more civilized of us to enjoy each other’s company instead of meeting simply to exchange news,” retorted Omar. “We are still a family, are we not?”

  For whatever reason, that line made Sajid shut up, and he accepted Omar’s suggestion of waiting until after the meal had been served. The cook had prepared an amazing feast of roasted pheasant spiced with flavorsome peppers, and garnished with an array of roasted veggies and potatoes.

  The baby started to kick much more after the meal, but I said nothing to Omar. I knew what he would say. My son is already remembering the spices and flavors of his kingdom.

  The family made small talk during dinner, most of which I was left out of simply by virtue of my position. They discussed diplomats I had never heard of and big royal plans that were far above my pay grade. Both Alima, Sajid’s wife, and I were silent during most of the meal. I stole glances at her, and noticed she looked a little bit paler than I remembered. I thought perhaps she must be feeling ill, but had said nothing, not wanting to inconvenience anyone. I didn’t know her very well, so couldn’t be sure—we had only spoken a few times over the last six months, and it was always little more than small talk and pleasantries.

  Once dinner had been cleared away and dessert had been served—a chocolate mousse Omar had arranged just for me, knowing how bad my chocolate cravings had gotten—Omar cleared his throat, clearly deciding
it was time to discuss the big news.

  “My family, thank you for coming here tonight,” he began. Under the table, he grasped my hand and pulled it into his lap. “I know the last year has been very hard on us. We have carried a great heaviness in our hearts at the loss of father, and at the issues of succession we have to face.”

  I expected Sajid to have a snotty retort to this, but he was silent, staring at his brother intently.

  “But I have some joyous news that I hope will begin to pull us out of the darkness we have had to endure.” He looked to me with a gentle, loving smile and brought our joined hands up on the table for all to see. “It appears I have finally fallen in love—with the ravishing woman sitting next to me, Dr. Carrie Green.”

  Mirah gasped audibly, while Sajid and Alima looked up in shocked surprise, eyes wide. I felt myself shrinking under their gazes, but Omar only squeezed my hand and made me feel brave again. Being by his side was all that mattered, and I held onto that thought alone.

  “Is that so?” said Sajid curiously. “Of all the women in all the kingdoms of all the world, you choose your own doctor? What’s come over you, Omar?”

  “Love chooses us,” replied Omar. “I cannot control who I love any more than you can, brother. And Carrie is the woman I love.” He grinned at me happily. “And more than that, she is going to be the mother of my child.”

  “What?” gasped Mirah, leaning forward in her seat. “What are you saying, my son?”

  “I’m saying you are once again going to be the most beautiful grandmother in all of Al-Thakri, because Carrie is pregnant with my child. And we’ve just today had an appointment with the doctors which confirmed that our child is a son. The next heir of Al-Thakri will be born in only a few short months.”

  Mirah squealed, overjoyed in a way that I didn’t expect in my wildest dreams. Her big brown eyes filled with tears, and she stood up quickly from her chair to come around the table towards me. I could barely get to my feet fast enough before she was embracing me, throwing her arms tightly around my shoulders.

  “This is glorious news!” cried Mirah. “Finally, an heir to continue on the line and put this succession business to rest. I have grown so weary of ruling, and wearier still watching this battle tear my sons apart. And what a beautiful mother my grandson will have!” She pulled away to search my face, smiling so widely that her whole face lit up. “I’m so happy to welcome you to the family, Dr. Green.”

  “Please, I think you can call me Carrie at this point,” I replied with a grin.

  “Of course—Carrie. You’ve been a trusted part of my son’s entourage and protected his life, and now you will be the ward of my grandson’s life. I’m so thrilled my eldest son has finally found love.” She put her hands on either side of my face as she spoke, and then gave me a gentle kiss on my forehead.

  Tears welled in my eyes, despite my best efforts to keep them at bay. I hugged Mirah back and relished in the warmth of a mother’s love—something I had been so far away from since leaving the States to pursue a life of adventure.

  “Thank you, Your Highness. I’m so happy to be here.”

  “And you had best get used to calling me ‘Mother,’” laughed Mirah. “May I?” She gestured gently towards my just-protruding belly with her hand.

  “Yes, of course,” I said. “Your grandson is already full of fire and life. He barely wants to sleep. He would rather run around my belly all day, playing soccer with my organs.”

  Mirah laughed uproariously as she put her palm on my belly. Almost immediately, my son responded with a series of kicks, and Mirah squealed in delight. “Omar was exactly the same way,” she said. “He was ready to be born, ready to face the world and all the adventure it had to offer. He hated being cooped up, even in the womb.”

  “Well this is certainly his son,” I nodded and laughed. “This kid cannot wait to get out.”

  “I’m so happy for you, my dear.” She turned to Omar and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, kissing his cheeks. “And for you, my precious son. You’ve waited so long for happiness to find you. It has been difficult as a mother to watch.”

  Omar seemed emotional at hearing her words, and patted her arms, giving her hands a kiss. “I’m very happy, too, Mother. It has been a long time coming. I’m anxious to be the best father I can be to my son.”

  “Have you decided on a name yet?”

  “Not yet,” I told her. “But we have a short list we’ve been thinking about.”

  Across the table, Sajid finally couldn’t take any more. He threw his napkin down on the table and everyone turned to look at his angry, sullen face.

  “This is an outrage,” he said firmly. “You think this is cause for happiness, Mother? You think this is what will put the succession issue to rest? That your oldest son, our supposed king, is going to have an heir from a western woman?”

  Next to him, Alima gasped and put a gentle hand on his arm, but Sajid ignored it.

  Omar’s expression darkened noticeably. “Sajid, must you be so selfish as to interrupt every happy moment this family has? First, you had to pull a tantrum at mother’s birthday gala, and now this? Is it so much to ask that you simply be happy for me, or do you hate me so much that this is an impossible request?”

  “I don’t hate you, Omar. But I love Al-Thakri more than you do. I love this country as much, if not more, than father ever did.”

  Mirah hissed. “Watch your tongue, my son. How dare you speak ill of your father? This country was his world.”

  Sajid continued, “No monarch of this country has ever been born of a foreign woman. It’s unheard of, and an outrage. You should have found yourself a woman of Al-Thakri, or at the very least a woman with some sort of civilized upbringing.”

  I flushed red, embarrassed, with no response to give Sajid. I could feel my son becoming upset by his words, and he began to kick and twirl in earnest, making me grasp my belly to try and calm him down.

  Omar rose from his chair, somehow looking even taller than he was, his broad shoulders squared and his hands clenched into fists. “Brother, I will not have you insult Carrie. She is a talented, accomplished woman with a beautiful heart and a gentle soul. She has spent her life training to help people as a doctor, and instead of working in a cushy American hospital, she chose to travel the world and help people who were suffering in much more desperate circumstances. She has sacrificed everything in order to make the world a better place. How dare you sit there and insult her when you’ve barely been outside the country’s borders to see how the rest of the world is fairing. You sit in your palace and move your chess pieces trying to ensure more power for yourself, and then dare to look down your nose at someone who has saved lives?”

  Sajid seemed to blush, his brother’s words hitting home in some way I hadn’t expected. Omar’s passionate defense of me made my heart swell and my eyes water. The pregnancy hormones only compounded things, and tears began to fall down my cheeks before I could stop them.

  “This is enough, Sajid,” said the Queen. “It’s time for you to grow up and accept that things do not always go the way you think they should go. I know you are still raw about your place in the line of succession, but this has been the way of the monarchy for millennia, and you have to accept it or your anger will kill you while you are still young. Is that what you want? To leave your daughters fatherless, your wife without her husband’s embrace while she raises your girls? Is it so important to you to beat your brother? Why not join him—work with him to make this country you claim to love a better place, instead of wasting all your energy bashing your head against a wall?”

  Before Sajid could form any sort of response to his mother’s crushing words, Alima suddenly stood up from her chair looking dazed and afraid. Sajid turned from his mother suddenly to ask what she was doing, but he could barely get out a full question; no sooner had she stood up then she began to wobble on her feet, grasping for the back of her chair. It only lasted a few seconds, but we all watched in ho
rror as she fainted before our eyes, slipping to the floor with a loud thunk.

 
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