The sheikhs twin baby su.., p.13
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       The Sheikh's Twin Baby Surprise, p.13

         Part #1 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner
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  Four Months Later

  I groaned as Omar’s strong hands rubbed my tired, aching back muscles as we lay together in bed. The plush penthouse had once been only his, but now it was ours, all my belongings moved in and mingled with his, along with the belongings of our son, who was due to arrive any day.

  And I couldn’t have been more grateful for it. Most of my anxiety about giving birth had been replaced by eager desperation to have my beautiful but active son out of my body. Over the last few months, my belly had grown so enormous that feeling attractive was a laughable pipe dream, and now even getting to the pool with Zaynab had become a task of the highest difficulty. I could barely walk under all the weight, but the swimming did wonders for relieving my joint pain, so it was a catch-22 that I was still determined to solve.

  “How are you feeling, my love?” asked Omar softly. “Can I get you the heating pad?”

  “That would be glorious,” I responded with another moan. “I feel like my back hasn’t stopped hurting in six months.”

  “Indeed, my son is making you work for his arrival.” Omar gave a soft little laugh and leaned over to kiss my cheek.

  He left bed just long enough to grab the heating pad before returning to place it on my lower back muscles. The soothing heat helped instantly, and I could feel myself relaxing just a little bit more.

  “I hate to see you in such pain,” Omar said. “Will you be able to get to sleep?”

  “I’m sure I will,” I said. “Eventually. As long as I don’t break the bed when I roll over.”

  Omar laughed, leaning over to plant a kiss on my nose. “You are a beautiful treasure, Carrie. I know you don’t feel like yourself right now, but I assure you, you’ve never been more attractive to me.”

  “Well, no offense, but I hope we get back to the less-attractive version of me very, very soon,” I replied with a laugh, rubbing my belly. “This son of yours has wanted to get out from the earliest days of this pregnancy and I think we will both be much happier when he does.”

  The pregnancy hadn’t been complicated, and I knew I was lucky to have had such a comparatively easy time. After all, Alima had been put on bed rest only a few short weeks after she fainted at the family dinner. Her doctors were concerned about her low blood pressure and demanded she stay as restful and quiet as possible. I couldn’t imagine having spent the last four months cooped up in bed; it was bad enough that I barely got out of the palace anymore.

  From the looks of my belly, I was going to give birth to an enormous baby, and even though it was going to be the most beautiful day of my life, I was also more afraid than I had ever been of anything.

  Omar listened patiently to all my fears. He wasn’t afraid, not even a little. He was overjoyed with every day that got closer to the day his son arrived. He kissed my tummy gently and leaned his head against it to listen to the sleepy movement of the baby in my womb.

  I ran my fingers through his hair and let out a deep sigh, momentarily content.

  I couldn’t believe how happy it made me just to lay here in bed with the man I loved while he worshiped me for carrying his child. It was its own kind of adventure—a much more blissful kind than those I had been on before.

  But like all adventures, it had to come to an end, or at least a fork in the road.

  As he worked to massage the pain out of my muscles, I could sense Omar growing nervous, clearing his throat. When I saw him put his hand in his curly hair, I knew he had something on his mind.

  “What’s bothering you?” I asked him. “Is something going on at the office?”

  Omar looked surprised for just a moment, and then he gave me a small smile. “Your intuition is only getting stronger every day; you know that? Being a mother is good for you.”

  “And I think you try and use that silver tongue of yours to change the subject when you don’t want to talk,” I retorted playfully. “Tell me, love, please?”

  Omar sighed. “I just worry this is not the best time to bring up my concerns, that’s all. The last thing I want to do is cause you or the baby undue stress.”

  “When would be the best time, then? After the baby is born and I’m exhausted from being up all night breastfeeding and crazy with hormones?” I laughed. “Now is the only time.”

  Omar hesitated a few moments, his gaze running over my face as I turned to look at him. Finally, he relented. “There is something I want to ask you… about our future, Carrie. And we are running out of time to discuss it.”

  Carefully, and with great ache, I rolled over to face him properly. I had known deep down that this conversation was coming eventually, but some foolish part of me had been hoping we could somehow bypass it. I was never great at planning my future, and just as bad at talking about my emotions. Of course, the future had been on my mind every single day since Omar had asked me to carry his child. With every step we had taken beyond that, the questions had only become more and more urgent.

  I had always liked my life with an escape hatch so that I never felt trapped. I didn’t want to grow old and regret tying myself right back into the Leave-It-to-Beaver family I had grown up in. Sure, I wanted that at some point, perhaps, but wasn’t that what older age was for? What good was my youth if I spent it simply re-creating the life I had already experienced as a child? I wanted to see the world. I wanted to feel the warmth of the sun on every ocean’s shore, to experience how different it felt on my skin.

  But Omar was right. Time was running out for me to face that fork in the road. My son—our son—would be arriving any day, and there would be no turning back after that.

  “My love,” whispered Omar as he nuzzled against my face. “I need to know what you intend to do after the baby has arrived. I know his creation began as a much more practical arrangement, but I think he—and we—have grown beyond that.” He curled his fingers in mine and pulled my body against him.

  “Yes, we have,” I agreed, squeezing his hand.

  “Our son was born of love, not through a procedure in a medical lab,” said Omar. “And I am truly grateful that, whatever happens next, I can tell him that with utmost honesty. He will know he was the product of love.”

  “Yes, he is,” I said, smiling. I ran a hand down the side of Omar’s smooth, handsome face. “I do love you, Omar.”

  “And I love you.” He kissed my hand. “I think you know what I would ask of you. I want to know if you intend on following through with our original arrangement, or if you could be persuaded to stay here in Al-Thakri with me, and our son.”

  Hearing the decision laid out so starkly only made my anxiety and fear loom bigger. I took a deep breath and let it out, trying to suppress the groan that came with it. I didn’t want to hurt Omar’s feelings. He was only doing what was right, confirming with me how I felt so that we could think about the future together, like mature adults. But in that moment, I didn’t want to face reality.

  I didn’t want to face it because I still didn’t know what I was going to do. Shameful or not, I was still torn between the old, adventuring me, and the new Carrie who was emerging just as surely as her son was: one day at a time. Neither of them had pulled ahead of the other in this internal civil war, and I didn’t want to break Omar’s heart by telling him that. Not when he was in such joyous spirits about our son.

  Omar waited, searching my face for any hint of what was in my head. Before I could form any sort of reasonable answer to give him, a sharp pain erupted in my belly, and I cried out. My hands flew to my stomach.

  “Oh my God,” I whispered breathlessly.

  Omar’s expression twisted in worry as he sat bolt upright. “What is it? Are you all right?”

  I grasped my belly and waited, trying to breathe, when the pain came again, stronger and deeper this time. “Oh God. Omar… the baby is coming. He’s coming right now!”

  He blinked twice at me, as if I’d spoken in a foreign language.

  “Omar, I said the baby is coming!” I repeated with a stressed laugh.
“Now’s not the time to gape at me like a fish!”

  Reality hit him all at once. His eyes lit up and his face flushed with the rush of adrenaline. “The baby! My son is coming!”

  He leaped from the bed and ran for the hallway to call in Rafiq, who was posted outside in his usual position. Omar ordered his faithful bodyguard to gather up the overnight bags we had packed weeks ago.

  “Get them down to the garage and load them in the Rolls Royce,” he said to Rafiq, who seemed more than a little disoriented at the sudden interruption. “We have no time to arrange the royal transport. We’ll take her ourselves.”

  Rafiq turned a little pale. “Sir?”

  “Go, go!” Omar waved his hands toward the door. “We’ll be right behind you!”

  Rafiq didn’t argue. He gave me a tight-lipped, nervous smile before turning on his heel and disappearing out the door with my leather bag full of necessities. The heels of his dress shoes echoed in the hallway, pounding on the marble floor as he ran for the garage.

  The contractions were still at an early stage, but already the pain was beginning to be too much to bear. Suddenly, all the toughness I used to feel when dragging patients around in desert dust, protecting them from nearby artillery shells, seemed to evaporate.

  “Omar, we have to hurry. Do you have the wheelchair? I don’t think I can—” Another agonizing wave of pain came over me and stole my words as I moaned out.

  “Yes, my love, hold on!” Omar fetched the wheelchair we had procured from the medical ward and helped me move delicately into it from the bed. He kissed my forehead and kneeled down in front of me. “Do you need anything else before we go?”

  “Everything should be in the bag,” I replied in a tense voice, bending over as much as I could to try and absorb another contraction. “Make sure to grab my phone from the nightstand. My mother will murder me if she’s not the first to get a picture.”

  “Yes, of course. Pull the brakes up, let’s get you to the hospital.”

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