“You want…what?!” Rachel asked, trying to hide the panic that was filling her throat.
Princess Talia, Rachel’s boss, smiled as she patted her infant son’s bottom, the little guy was fast asleep in her arms and adorably cute. “My brother wants to build a university. He needs someone who understands the details, knows how to get things done, and is reliable and trustworthy. That’s you, Rachel. You’ve been an incredible assistant and are amazing at organizing everything and knowing what has to happen. You’re perfect for the job.”
Inwardly, Rachel cringed. “Trustworthy”. Yep, that was her. She was reliable and trustworthy. Loyal. Hardworking.
Her boss and good friend could have described a golden retriever with the same adjectives. Rachel fought not to show how much those words hurt.
Rachel looked down at her gathered, flowered skirt that she’d paired with a high-necked silk blouse and wished she looked less…frumpy. She compared herself to Talia who, even post-partum, looked gloriously beautiful in a blue cotton dress that hugged her breasts then draped lovingly over her still-plump belly. In contrast, Rachel was just…ordinary. Her only saving grace, her green eyes, were overwhelmed by her hair. She couldn’t seem to tame it. The wild spirals had a mind of their own and nothing she’d tried in the past could smooth them out. Oh, how she’d love to have silky, dark, smooth hair like Talia’s! Rachel couldn’t help but admire the way Talia’s hair cascaded over her shoulders, looking sleek and sophisticated.
As Rachel watched Talia sooth her newborn son back to sleep, that wistful stab of envy gnawed at her. Rachel was twenty-six years old and had been working with Princess Talia for a while now. But what about her hopes for a child? For a family? She worked long hours, ensuring that the princess’s schedule ran smoothly, running interception on anything that might clog up the day’s plans, and resolved crises before they happened. That left little time for dating and romance.
Not that she’d had a great deal of romance before taking this job! And in truth, she absolutely loved working for Talia. The hard work was a breeze compared to what she’d done before coming here.
No, the issue wasn’t the job or the long hours. It was…that niggling sense that life was passing her by. That she’d never find the time to have a life dictated by her own terms, a life centered around her family and her children. Often, Rachel felt as if she were sitting on the sidelines, watching everyone else be happy and find their dreams, falling in love and having precious babies.
The idea of Tarin being the father of her children popped into her mind. But that image wasn’t new. In fact, it had occurred to her so many times that she was used to pushing it away.
The idea of helping Talia’s brother with a project as massive as building a university was an amazing opportunity, Rachel told herself.
However, no matter how amazing the opportunity or exciting the challenge, Rachel couldn’t take on this project for one excellent reason.
She was in love with Prince Tarin.
Embarrassing and heart-wrenching to admit, not to mention trite and predictable. And yet, still true. There was no way Rachel could work side by side for the man again! She’d done it for a few months after Princess Talia’s marriage to Sheik Santos of Padar. But after the princess’ wedding, Talia had worked mostly here in Padar, and Rachel had worked very hard to stifle, or at least ignore, her feelings for the handsome prince. For a while now, she’d been successful at ignoring her painful, unrequited love for the tall, amazingly handsome, virile, gorgeous, and funny prince.
So no. Work directly for the man? She just couldn’t do it!
Shifting slightly in the comfortable chair, Rachel folded her hands over her lap, trying to appear calm. “Thank you so much for the compliment,” she said, pulling her shoulders back, “but I already have a job, Your Highness. I work for you.”
Talia grinned, her eyes lighting up. “That’s the best part! I’m taking some time off.” She looked down at her two week old son. “I know that I worked right after giving birth to Sinan,” she explained, referring to her first son, “but this time, I’m going to take off more time. No interviews, no light duty.” She sighed and leaned back slightly, staring lovingly at her infant son. “I really pushed too hard after Sinan’s birth two years ago. I told Santos that I wanted to slow down this time. He even agreed to slow down with me and has already delegated more than half of his responsibilities to his staff for the next several months. So both of us are taking time off in order to be with our kids.”
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