The sheikhs triplet baby.., p.14
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       The Sheikh's Triplet Baby Surprise, p.14
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         Part #3 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner

  afford it, not in my position. Every day, I get closer and closer to becoming better in my people’s eyes. It’s just as you said. They appreciated it when I showed my true self.”

  Amity didn’t speak. She felt bloodied.

  “Anyway. While I do not have the capacity to be involved in such a scandal, I do have the capacity to keep you and the children safe. I can give you the only thing I truly have. And that’s money.”

  Amity bowed her head. She realized, then, what was bound to happen. She’d be paid to keep quiet. Her blood boiled. Her heart felt stumped with the truth. She hated him.

  “I’ll give you one billion dollars,” he said then. He scratched the back of his neck. “This will be enough to raise them. You can quit your job if you want. You can find a better place to live. You can send them to the finest schools, to the best universities.” He cleared his throat, his eyes searching her face. “I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt them. But this is something I have to do.”

  Amity stood up. She hovered, wanting to scream but not wanting her colleagues to hear to great depth of her despair. She felt the words coming from her throat like vomit.

  “I’ll do it,” she murmured. “I’ll keep them out of the public eye. I’ll keep them away from Al-Mabbar. They will never know who you are. I know you want it that way.”

  “Thank you,” Aziz said quietly. “Thank you.”

  Amity swept her hands over her stomach, reminding herself that she wasn’t alone. She had them. She would always have them.

  She pushed herself toward the door, suddenly feeling that if she spent another moment in his presence, she would actually throw up on him. She was riddled with pain, with anxiety—and she didn’t need that level of defeat. Not now.

  Just before she opened the door, she turned back to him, her eyes bright, pools of tears. She yearned to tell him to keep the money. She yearned to tell him she wished she’d never met him. But instead, her words were soft, defeated. “Have a nice life, Aziz. I’ll keep your babies safe.”

  And then, she rushed from the room and toward the bathroom, trusting him to leave the office. Trusting him to walk out of her world forever. Trusting him to believe that was what she wanted.

  She rushed into the stall and leaned over the toilet, her fingers clutching at the porcelain. Her shoulders shook as jagged tears traced down her face. Aziz was gone, she told herself over and over again. Aziz was gone, and he wasn’t coming back.

  After several minutes in the bathroom, mopping at her face with a strip of paper towel, Amity finally revealed herself to her office. Several people glanced at her before rushing their eyes away, nervous. Flora gave her a half-smile, an encouraging wave, gesturing for Amity to meet her in her office.

  Flora flipped her hair, drawing Amity’s bag up from behind her desk. “I’ve packed your bag for you, Amity. You shouldn’t stay here a moment longer,” she said, her voice anxious. “We heard everything.”

  Amity padded at her forehead. “I assumed as much.”

  “It’s terrible what he’s doing to you,” she murmured sympathetically. “We all think so.”

  “I appreciate that,” Amity murmured. Her mouth tasted like sandpaper. “I really do.”

  “You should take a few days off. To recuperate. This added stress can’t be good for you!”

  “You’re probably right about that,” Amity conceded, grateful that someone seemed to be in her corner.

  “We’ve called you an Uber,” Flora said cheerfully. “You’ll be home in no time, and this will all feel like a bad dream. Trust me, I know. I already feel like all that drama with Rama happened in another lifetime. Mark and I are back together.”

  “Well. That’s marvelous,” Amity said dryly. She knew her sarcasm was beneath Flora’s radar. She lifted her bag over her shoulder and smiled at the girl. “You’ve done great work for me today,” she finally said. “Now. I’ll see you in a few days. As usual, I expect daily emails about the office schedule, the various meetings. I want to be kept updated.”

  Flora nodded, her eyes already dancing toward Mark. “We’ve got it covered, Amity,” she said. “Just trust us. We’ve never done you wrong.”

  Feeling defeated and anxious, Amity walked toward the elevator and stabbed the button. She slipped her sunglasses over her eyes as she crept outside, feeling like an exposed animal. The Uber driver snapped his gum in his mouth as he drove, and she lifted her chin, gazing at the drab and sunburnt L.A. skyline as she swept home, wishing she were anywhere else.

  ***

  When she arrived home, Amity crawled up in bed once more, wearing only a large T-shirt over her tiny bump. She yanked white socks over her feet and turned up the air conditioning, wishing to feel cozy, alone beneath her covers. She tried to watch a television show, but continued to switch between channels, her mind jolting from thought to thought.

  She couldn’t shake the terrible way Aziz had looked at her when he’d accused her of trying to blackmail him, of attempting to ruin his image in front of his countrymen. After all they’d shared, after all that had happened, it seemed incredible that he could think this about her.

  Amity stretched back, her mind rolling. She realized, in that moment, just how poorly she’d handled herself. She was a PR executive, yet Aziz no longer thought of her well, and neither did her colleagues. How in the world could she help clients’ images, when she, herself, purported the worst image of all?

  “Aren’t you the woman who destroyed the image of that sheikh?” she imagined a future client asking. She’d be ragged, destroyed by raising triplets alone.

  Alone. She’d be alone her entire life, she realized then. Who would date anyone who worked herself crazy? Who would find her body attractive after she’d pushed three humans out of her? She brought her fingers to her face, her panic rising. She felt like everything was hitting her at once.

  The following days, Amity spent most mornings and early afternoons in bed, occasionally racing off to the bathroom. The morning sickness was taking its toll. Each afternoon, Flora sent her a brief email, explaining the events of the day. It was filled with smiley faces, with heart emoticons. And, of course, she kept her updated on her and Mark’s renewed relationship. “I REALLY THINK HE’S THE ONE!!!”

  Amity was grateful for the distraction, fleeting as it was.

  She knew she needed to find a way to go on, to forgive herself. She occasionally found herself opening her laptop and composing emails—none of which she sent—explaining to Aziz that she didn’t feel right accepting the money. She didn’t want to feel paid off by him. She didn’t want to feel so used.

  But she couldn’t find the right words. And so she sat, watching the cursor blink on her screen, reminding herself that her time with Aziz was over. It was over, and it was time for her to focus on her new, perhaps terrific, but wholly difficult future: her future with the triplets.

  SIXTEEN

  Two weeks later, Amity found herself positioned in the very room in which she’d last seen Aziz, addressing her colleagues and interns—the people she’d been surrounded by for so many years, the people she woke up for every day.

  She cleared her throat as the many twentysomethings blinked up at her, some of them drooping with early morning hangovers.

  “Thanks for coming today,” Amity began. She cleared her throat, placing her fingers on her belly. It had grown exponentially in the weeks since she’d learned of the pregnancy. She now understood that her balance would take a toll as she toted three humans toward life.

  “As many of you know, I did something that was quite out of character for me.”

  A few of the people in the room gave her knowing smiles. They all knew about her fling with the Sheikh, but none of them had approached her about it. Flora flipped her hair in the corner, eyeing the clock. She’d already offered to babysit, and Amity had already made a mental note to never allow that to happen.

  “But honestly, since I became pregnant,” Amity continued, “I’ve done quit
e a bit of soul searching. And I’ve taken inspiration from many of you. In actuality, I never had a youth—not really. I worked hard to get where I am. And while I’m proud of my station, of this job, of our many accomplishments as a team, I don’t exactly know what the real world is like anymore. I don’t know what my friends are up to. I don’t know what Joshua Tree is like this time of year.”

  She cleared her throat, feeling like she might weep. The hormones were really throttling her. “And, in any case, I don’t really know what beauty I’d like to share with my children, because I haven’t given myself the space or the time to discover that beauty for myself.” She sighed, smoothing her eyebrows with her fingers. “And for that reason, I’ve decided to take a sabbatical, until my children are at least a year old.”

  Many in the crowd raised their eyebrows high. Their fearless leader—the woman who seemed to love PR more than she loved anything else—was abandoning them.

  Amity felt her heart palpitating in her chest, but she knew she was doing the right thing. She knew, as she gazed at the sun from her office window, that she needed to escape the walls she’d built in her life. She needed to set herself free, to find something better. And if that meant she’d come back eventually—to the job she’d built for herself, to the life she loved—that was fine.

  She tugged her cardigan around her pregnant belly and gazed around the room, assessing their faces. Only Mark spoke.

  “Well. I have to admit, I never thought you’d do it.”

  A few others laughed. Flora gave him a hasty smile.

  “But you think it’s right?” Amity asked, nearly breathless. She felt uncomfortable standing for long amounts of time, and she yearned to collapse in the chair.

  “We all think you work way too hard. And it’ll be nice to have you off our backs for a bit,” Mark said, his voice jovial. “You’ve been through more than we could understand. And know that we’ll stand aside and fight for you to return, if and when you so choose.”

  Amity felt a smile creep across her face. The members of her team started to clap, their rings and bracelets glittering in the bad lighting.

  “Well,” she murmured. “Thank you, all of you. It has been an incredible privilege working with you all.” She shrugged, tossing a few folders onto the table. “I would help you coordinate who gets what client, but I can’t very well make assignments if I’m out of here, can I?”

  Mark swept his hands toward the folders and nestled them against his chest, nodding curtly. “Don’t worry, Amity. We’ve got you covered.”

  Amity looked at them all warmly, remembering how she’d spent so much of her time there irritated at their sheer inability to get anything done. Perhaps she hadn’t allowed them to work because she hadn’t trusted them. Perhaps she’d gotten in the way of her colleagues’ own success.

  She moved to leave the room, collecting her small bag and striding toward the elevator for a final time. This wasn’t her world anymore. She had to cultivate something beautiful for her children. For herself. She deserved it more than anything.

  SEVENTEEN

  As she drove home, Amity dangled her fingers through the window, feeling the aching way the August heat was moving toward cooler September air. She yanked up the radio volume and drove past her apartment building, toward the beach. For the first time in years, she didn’t have anywhere to be or anything to do.

  Minutes later, she found herself ankle-deep in the ocean, gazing out at the horizon. Somewhere, across the water, she knew, was her children’s father—perhaps guzzling priceless champagne, bumping elbows with celebrities, or, sure, donating massive sums of money to an orphanage without telling anyone about it. People were complicated, she reminded herself. Aziz was, certainly—and so was she. She’d leave space for her children’s complexities. They deserved to feel important, to feel like so much of something, even when their relationships faltered, when they didn’t get the promotion they wanted, when the world turned too quickly for them. It had taken her a long time to accept this about herself—that she deserved space and time to think, that she deserved to love and be loved. But she hoped to pass this lesson on to her children.

  She arrived home later that night and ordered herself a pizza—something she never normally did. But she was celebrating her new ideas of life, of the world—and that, she had decided, included pizza. She shelled out the cash for the delivery driver, tipping extra, and hustled back to her living room to watch a film, the cardboard box on her lap.

  Normally this would have disgusted her, she thought, as she slipped the first slice into her mouth. But she’d already done something so immensely distasteful—accepting the money from Aziz—that she almost didn’t mind seeing how far she could go. The previous week, Amity had received an email from Aziz’s accountant, informing her that the money would be deposited into her account in a month’s time. And now, she was eating pizza in her underwear. The world was a strange place, but pizza was effortlessly delicious. Accept the good things in life, she thought.

  She hadn’t responded to the email from the financial advisor. She’d wait for the deposit, and then she’d close that chapter of her life.

  After eating just two slices of pizza (she wouldn’t go crazy, after all), she boxed up the leftovers and slipped them into the refrigerator, centering her mind on getting a good night’s sleep. She had a doctor’s
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