Her Pregnancy SecretBy: Ann Major
She was dangerous. He had to rid himself of her quickly.
If he stalled for even one more night, she might have him totally in her power. He might even sink his own money into her bistro.
If he invested enough, would she favor him over Will?
Hell, he had the money. A part of him wanted her to prefer him to all others.
He swore. Such thoughts could derail him from his purpose. Just as he was about to throw off the covers and escape her so he could get his head straight, she whimpered. Clutching at his arms, she seemed to expect him to protect her from some mysterious terror.
His heart throbbed. Oh, God.
Her voice was feminine, helpless. When her featherlight fingertips brushed his skin, he burned, aching for her all over again. No way could he resist her plea.
How old was she? Twenty-five? Ten years younger than he was? Or even younger? Whatever her age, with her thick, dark gold hair tumbling about her face and bare shoulders, her wild beauty dazzled him. She had a classic brow, a long, thin nose, high cheekbones, an incandescent complexion and full, voluptuous lips.
Not that she had the money or sense of style to dress properly. Her baggy, overlarge clothes had concealed and distracted more than they’d enhanced her beauty. But naked—with her tiny waist, curvy hips, soft breasts and those pert nipples exposed—she was perfect.
More than anything he wanted to roll her over, take her in his arms, hold her and pet her hair, and whisper that everything was all right. But nothing was all right. Not when he knew what she was—and what he had to do—and yet still felt so powerfully attracted to her.
* * *
Careful not to disturb her, he arose. He had to get a grip. But the minute he broke their physical connection, she sensed it and seemed to miss his presence as much as he missed hers.
“Michael,” she purred in a sexy, sleep-blurred tone. “Darling, come back to bed.”
“I’m not your darling,” he growled, hating that on some level he wanted to be.
“Michael, I... Have I done something...?” At his harsh tone, her voice grew shy and uncertain before it died in the silvery darkness.
The powerful need to comfort her from the hurt he was determined to inflict wrapped around him.
Hell. He had to finish this—or he would go crazy.
“I’m not your darling,” he repeated ruthlessly. “Tonight, everything, all of it—it was all lies.”
“I seduced you to protect Will. From you. When you came on to me while I was with him at the fund-raiser, I knew what you were and saw how you intended to use him. You made my job easy when you made a play for me, too.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying I sought you out tonight and slept with you so I could use it as leverage to make you stop seeing my brother. Tonight was all about Will.”
“Will?” She sounded confused. “Wait a minute. You think Will and I...that we’re a couple? That we’re dating? You...you don’t like me?”
“How could I like you, knowing what you are?”
Having been poor himself, he knew all about wanting more, about using people to get what he wanted. He’d worked damned hard. Still, he’d done a few things he wasn’t proud of to get where he was.
“You were after him, and then after me, because you needed our money for your failing restaurant.”
“No,” she whispered.
“Do you deny Will is one of your investors?”
“No.” But her beautiful mouth trembled just a little, and her eyes were now glistening with unshed tears. “You...deceived me? You didn’t really want me?”
He shook his head.
“Why? How could you do that? I would never use Will...or anybody. Will’s a friend, and yes, he’s an investor. He’s been an investor right from the beginning. But I’m not after his money! I’m not!”
“Then why did you hit on me so blatantly the night we met at the fund-raiser when you were with Will?”
“Maybe I flirted. But only because I thought you liked me....” She sucked in a breath. “Will is just a friend. He was a friend of Johnny’s first, and an investor in Chez Z when my brother first opened it. That’s how Will and I became friends.”
“Friends? That’s all you were?”
The night of the fund-raiser she’d worn a silver backless gown and a transparent shawl that had left very little of her sensuous shape to his imagination.
Her family history hadn’t helped his opinion of her. Six months ago, Johnny Z, her celebrity-chef brother, had been found dead in bed with a prominent plastic surgeon’s wife, another of the bistro’s investors. Everyone presumed the surgeon had shot Johnny, but the husband, who’d hired lawyers, wasn’t talking to the police, and his wife had vanished. Thus, the investigation had stalled. Still, the scandal, coupled with Z’s absence in the kitchen, had been devastating to Chez Z’s bottom line.
“Will asked me to go with him to the fund-raiser, so he could introduce me to some people who might be interested in investing. When he introduced me to you, I thought you might be one of those people.”
Her eyes were so brilliant with innocence and outrage he almost believed her. Then he remembered Anya and how gullible he’d been. He’d wanted to believe her. Capable as he might be in the business world, apparently he was an easy mark when it came to women he wanted in his bed.
“Bottle the performance! If you think I’m as big a fool as my little brother, you’re wrong. I want you to dress and leave. If you stay away from Will, I won’t tell him I slept with you tonight. If you don’t leave him alone, I’ll tell him about us.”
“Tell him for all I care. Better—maybe I’ll tell him myself. He needs to know how far you’ll go to control his life. Maybe he’ll resent you even more than he already does.”
Her reaction caught him off guard. He’d expected her to care more, to bargain, and what she’d said about Will hurt.
“He can’t afford to resent me,” Michael bluffed. “I write his allowance checks.”
“So everything’s just about money and control to you? And you think I’m like you—”
“I know you are! So, leave my brother alone, and I won’t make him think the worst of you by telling him about us. You bet on the wrong horse this time. Pick another. Someone who isn’t naive. Someone more like you and me.”
“Tell him. I’m not like you, and you can’t blackmail me, either.”
“You are like me. Greed isn’t the only thing we have in common,” he replied coldly. “If Will didn’t desire you, I’d be willing to set you up as my mistress. I’d keep you and your bistro afloat for as long you excited me.”
“Do you ever listen? For the last time, your brother and I are just friends. That’s why he won’t care if you slept with me. He was just an investor in the bistro. He already has someone in his life.”
Michael knew she was lying when she faltered and said, “Maybe you should ask him.”
If only Will did have someone, then Michael could have Bree for himself. He could afford her a helluva lot more easily than Will, couldn’t he?
Suddenly Michael reconsidered the situation. Where was the harm in keeping her, if she wasn’t serious about Will? As long as he understood what she was and was willing to be generous to her?
“Okay, then, if Will doesn’t want you because he has someone else, there’s nothing to stop me from having you. Here’s a new deal for you. If you cut Will loose as an investor and become my mistress, I’ll keep your bistro afloat for as long as you please me in bed.”
“What?” She stared at him as if she was having a hard time comprehending him.
“You heard me. Be my mistress, and your money problems will go away for as long as you keep me happy. Like you did tonight.”
“I can’t believe this. First you sleep with me to destroy an imagined relationship with your brother. And now you want to buy me for yourself? I’m sorry I ever met you.”