The sheikhs twin baby su.., p.14
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       The Sheikh's Twin Baby Surprise, p.14

         Part #1 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner
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  We had arranged for a private ward at the local hospital for the baby’s birth, too concerned about complications to have the labor at the palace. Even though we trusted our doctors implicitly, the palace simply didn’t have the equipment on-hand to take care of any eventuality. All the scans and tests of our son had been positive, but we weren’t going to take a single chance. We wanted to be where all the help was if anything happened to go wrong.

  Omar wheeled me swiftly but carefully down the palace halls. The guards who were on duty stared in wonder as the Sheikh and future king of Al-Thakri rushed by them, pushing his pregnant lover who was clearly in dire pain. I sensed that they wanted to try and help, but had no idea what to do besides open doors and make sure the hallways were clear. It was help enough.

  Rafiq had the car waiting, engine running, in the garage by the time we got out of the elevator. Together, he and Omar lifted me into the backseat like I weighed nothing—a welcome sensation. Omar climbed in the back with me, leaving the wheelchair for one of the guards to attend to.

  “Step on it, Rafiq, but by God, make sure you drive safely,” said Omar. “The very future of your country is counting on it.”

  The bodyguard nodded, stone-faced, and obeyed. He weaved expertly through the bustling streets of the city, almost as if he had taken some sort of stunt driving course in another job before this. At one point we hit traffic just as the contractions began again, and I thought for sure I was going to end up giving birth in the back of a leather-clad Rolls Royce. My mother in Ohio would never believe it even if I did send her pictures.

  We finally arrived at the memorial hospital Omar’s grandfather had built and named after Omar’s grandmother—Adilah Memorial Hospital. It was a beautiful building, and when Omar had told me its origins, I’d known there was no way we could pick anywhere else to have our son. Maybe it was the hormones, but the thought of giving birth to Omar’s heir in the hospital his grandfather built brought me to tears.

  Rafiq pulled around to the emergency doors to allow us to exit before he parked the car. As the hospital staff helped Omar load me into another wheelchair, Rafiq suddenly pointed and asked, “Your Highness, that car there has royal plates. Is it your brother’s?”

  Omar and I leaned to look around to where Rafiq was pointing. Indeed, a Jaguar bearing the plates of the royal family was parked haphazardly near the emergency exit. Recognition fell over Omar’s face.

  “It is,” he confirmed. “That’s Sajid’s car.”

  I looked up at him from the wheelchair. “I bet Alima’s in labor, too. That has to be it.”

  Omar laughed breathlessly and shook his head. “I’m starting to think this is the work of my father from the afterlife, teasing us one last time. He always did love to point out to my brother and I how powerless we were to fate.”

  “Well, let’s hope you were his favorite,” I joked, even as I winced in pain. “Because this race to the throne is about to go down to the wire.”

  Quickly, I was whisked away to the private ward that Omar had arranged for the birth of his son. Somewhere, we suspected, Sajid had set up exactly the same facilities for Alima, but we had no time to go search him out and hospital staff was strictly forbidden from sharing their patients’ details without permission.

  In my suite, my doctors from the palace were all there, waiting to help me through the birthing process, assisted by the best staff the hospital had to offer. The room was filled with all manner of medical equipment, and even though I recognized most of it, it still made me nervous to see it all—as if they were anticipating a problem.

  As soon as I was laid back and comfortable in the hospital bed, Dr. Issa put a gentle hand on my shoulder, as if sensing my worry. “Don’t worry, Dr. Green. This is all just precaution—and part of the perks of having a private ward.”

  “Perks?” I said through my heavy breathing.

  “Whatever might go wrong, we have something in this room that can deal with it. There are only a handful of hospitals in the world that can say that tonight,” she assured me. “Nothing is going to go wrong. You are about to have a beautiful, perfect son.”

  Things calmed down for a little bit once I was set up in bed, hooked up to IVs and monitoring equipment, and surrounded by a room full of medical experts. The doctors got Omar outfitted in sterile scrubs and made him wash his hands like a surgeon, and I tried to memorize the moment, because I knew it would be a long time before the King of Al-Thakri obeyed someone as intently as he did the doctors. He wasn’t a king then—he was just a man about to become a father, overwhelmed with the emotion and worry of it all. His whole world was in this room.

  Once he was cleaned up, Omar came back by my side and stood, holding my hand and caressing my hair to comfort me. When contractions hit, he bent his head down against mine as if he could absorb my pain, holding me tight. After a few sets had passed, one of the nurses exposed my enormous belly to the air and slathered on some cool, lubricating gel in order to perform an ultrasound.

  “Let’s do a quick check on this little guy and make sure everything looks okay before your contractions get closer together,” she said with a bright smile.

  All three of us watched the screen intently, listening to the mechanical waves and the loud, beautiful sound of a fetal heartbeat.

  “Huh? But that’s…” Omar was first to notice the unusual sound.

  But the nurse didn’t seem to hear him. “Everything looks good, Your Highness! Your boys are ready to come into the world.”

  Omar and I looked at each other with loving smiles, but as the nurse’s words dawned on us, those smiles faded into shocked, open mouths.

  “Excuse me—my boys?” I demanded. “Plural?!”

  The nurse turned pale. “Boys, yes… Your twin boys.” She pointed to the image on the ultrasound and raised an eyebrow as if we were playing some kind of joke on her.

  “Twins?!” I screeched. “I’m having twins?”

  Dr. Issa rushed over to the bedside at the sound of the commotion, and immediately her jaw dropped at the sight of the ultrasound. “Heavens, how did our scans miss this?” she gasped.

  “Twins…” muttered Omar.

  “Well that explains why I feel like a beached whale,” I said, somewhat relieved. “I’ve got two little guys hanging out in there.”

  “I can’t believe this,” whispered Omar. “Carrie, we’re having twins?”

  “Well, we were having trouble deciding between the first two names on the list. I guess now we can use them both.”

  Omar laughed. “What a beautiful twist of fate.”

  “Beautiful? I’m the one who has to give birth twice today!” I tried to laugh about it, but inside, I was terrified.

  “And I’ll be here with you the whole way through,” he promised, kissing the top of my head. “Look at how amazing you are. I ask you to give me an heir, and you bring me two. You truly are a goddess. I love you.”

  “I love you, too, Omar,” I replied.

  My smile quickly faded as another wave of contractions overcame my body—much, much worse than the last had been. The sensation was unlike anything I could imagine, crushing my insides and blinding me to almost everything in the room. I felt every inch of my enormous body and nothing else.

  For hours, with Omar staying diligently by my side the whole time, I worked to deliver his heirs into the world. The doctors and nurses kept me as pain-free as possible, but there was nothing that was going to dull the pain of this most purely human act. Each set of contractions became closer together and more painful until finally, the babies were rotated and positioned and ready to be born.

  Dr. Issa was positioned between my knees, her dark hair done up in a powder blue hair net, her face covered by a mask. Her eyes still smiled above it, assuring me everything was fine, using her calming voice to guide me through the contractions.

  Omar told me to squeeze his hands as hard as I could as I pushed. He didn’t complain a single time, only kept his he
ad pressed against mine, whispering in my ear how much he loved me and how grateful he was for what I was giving him.

  When our first son came crying into the world, we looked at each other and called him Roni. It was the name of Mirah’s father, and his entrance meant that he first would be destined to rule in his father’s stead someday.

  Roni’s brother, Zamir, came along a few minutes later. This name, I had chosen from a book I’d found in Omar’s library, an old book of children’s tales from Al-Thakri. The story was about a little boy who could talk to birds.

  As soon as they emerged, my sons were whisked over to sterile bassinettes to be cleaned off and examined for any possible problem. My breathing heavy, sweat still pouring off my skin, I clung desperately to Omar’s hand as we waited. It was the longest wait of my life.

  Moments later, two nurses with wet eyes and happy smiles brought our sons over to us, swaddled in pure white blankets. They handed one baby to each of us—Roni to Omar, and Zamir to me.

  “They’re perfect,” one of the nurses said. “Perfectly healthy, happy boys.”

  I looked down into Zamir’s beautiful, sleepy face, puffed up and red from his birth and from crying, and I started crying too. His skin was so soft underneath my fingertips, and already he was grasping to hold them in his tiny little hands. I looked up at Omar and saw that he was staring down at Roni in complete, total awe, as if he were seeing the face of God.

  “My beautiful sons…” he whispered. He turned to me, his big brown eyes filled with tears. “Thank you, Carrie. Truly, I can never repay you for what you’ve done for me.”

  “For us,” I said immediately. “Omar, aren’t they gorgeous?”

  “They are the most beautiful children ever to be born in this country,” he said. “My mother is going to be overjoyed.”

  I gave a chuckle. “Especially when she finds out she got three new grandchildren today.”

  Omar’s face lit up, remembering that we had seen Sajid’s car out front when we arrived. As I moved to begin nursing Zamir, who was already clamoring for his first meal, Omar went to the door and invited Rafiq to meet his older son. Even from the bed, I could hear the pride in Omar’s voice as he introduced his lifelong bodyguard to Roni. Rafiq stared down at the baby with a soft look on his face, and I swear I even caught a smile as Roni reached to grasp at his finger.

  “Go and contact Sajid’s security staff,” Omar asked quietly. “Find out where he and Alima are in the hospital and let him know we’re here and would love to see them if they’re ready for visitors.”

  A few minutes later, there was a soft knock at the door, and Sajid was standing there looking happier than I ever thought would have thought possible for the moody prince. In his arms, Sajid held a wriggling bundle of baby boy who seemed less than pleased at being so far from his mother already.

  From the doorway Sajid gave me a kind smile that surprised me. I watched happily as the two brothers introduced their newborn sons to each other, speaking quietly and happily as they congratulated one another.

  “His name is Jarah,” Sajid said. “My first son.”

  “He is perfect, Sajid,” replied Omar. “Simply perfect.”

  For a moment, it felt like all the succession bickering had never happened. They were just two brothers sharing a beautiful day together, the stresses of ruling Al-Thakri relegated to mere background noise.

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