The Sheikh's Pregnant Prisoner(9)

By: Tara Pammi

“You can’t leave, Ms. Hamby. Besides the fact that His Highness has forbidden it,” she rushed over her words as if afraid that Lauren would lose it again, “given your condition, you’re very weak. I recommend that you spend at least a week in bed and wait two weeks before you fly long-distance.”

“My condition?” Lauren said, her heart beginning a strange thump-thump loud enough to reach her ears. “Nothing’s wrong with me except the effects of dehydration.” Which was really His Highness’s fault. But she managed to keep the words to herself this time.

“Your pregnancy,” Dr. Hasan said with a frown. “You’re not aware of it?”

Lauren felt as if she’d been physically slapped. She shook her head, huffed a laugh at the ridiculousness of the suggestion. The doctor’s eyes remained serious.

She couldn’t be. “But that’s not...”

She collapsed against the bed, shaking uncontrollably from head to toe. Her breaths became shaky, and a vicious churn started in her stomach. Pregnant? How was that possible? She took her pill without missing it a single day. She clutched the sheets with her hands, tears leaking out of the corner of her eyes.

Fear and shock vied with each other, a heaviness gathering in her belly.

She couldn’t be pregnant. A child needed unconditional love, stability, two parents who loved it, who would put it before anything else, before their own ambitions and duties.

Zafir and she couldn’t even bear to look at each other without distrust.

Panic unfurled its fangs, and she felt woozy again.

“Just breathe, Ms. Hamby,” the doctor said, and Lauren let that crisp tone wash over her, glad to have someone tell her what to do.

As her breathing became normal again, a little flicker of something else crept in. She shoved her top away under the cotton sheets and splayed her fingers on her stomach. A tiny life was breathing inside her, and it felt as though it breathed courage into her.

A baby.

Her job as an ER nurse at an inner-city hospital in Brooklyn consumed every ounce of her energy, both physical and emotional. Christ, she had never even had a normal boyfriend.

She saw and dealt with unwed, single mothers and their difficulties on a day-to-day to basis. That gritty reality coupled with her own childhood had made at least one thing clear in her head. She’d never wanted to bring a child into the world that couldn’t have the love of both parents.

“Is everything okay with” she said, her thoughts steering in another direction suddenly.

Dr. Hasan smiled, as though reassured of Lauren’s mental state. “It is very early in the pregnancy, I’m assuming. As far as your health, you’re fine. But you’re dehydrated and I suspect your iron content is low. Nothing that a week’s rest and nutritious food wouldn’t cure, though.”

Lauren nodded, feeling a little calm. As much as she hated staying within a ten-mile radius of Zafir, she wasn’t going to take any chances. She’d stay a week and then fly back to New York on her originally scheduled flight.

She needed to sort out her life, and she couldn’t do that here. Once she was back in her own city, adjusted to this new change, then she would tell him.

“Are you friends with Zafir?”

Deep pride filled the doctor’s eyes. “Yes, Zafir... I mean, His Highness and I have known each other since childhood.”

So Farrah was not only his staff but one of his friends. A week was a long time surrounded by people who worshipped the ground Zafir walked on. “But as your patient, I have your discretion?”

She frowned. “Yes, of course, Ms. Hamby.”

“Please call me Lauren.” She tugged the sheet up and clasped her hands on top of it. “I need you to keep...this,” she said, as her fingers fluttered over her stomach, “between you and me, Dr. Hasan.” A part of her flinched at the lie she was spouting with such little effort. “It doesn’t concern Zafir and I would like to keep it that way.”

A frown furrowed the doctor’s forehead. “Of course, it’s not something I will disclose to anyone. But if—”

Lauren turned away from her questions. It was better for everyone concerned if she said very little right then.

* * *

Zafir signed the last file with satisfaction and pushed it into the pile for his assistant. This was one of his pet projects, a plan sanctioning the money to upgrade the existing women’s clinic on the outskirts of the city for the tribes that still resided in the desert and constantly faced the challenge of bringing their women into the city for medical care.

He stood up from the massive oak table and walked toward the liquor cabinet. He poured himself a glass of whiskey and drank it straight. It burned a fiery path through his throat and gut but did nothing to curb the seething mass of frustration. Knowing that Lauren was in the palace, just in reach, was messing with his self-control.

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