Her Pregnancy SecretBy: Ann Major
“I’m sure you’ll feel differently after you shop for the right apartment in the neighborhood of your choice and we settle on your generous allowance.”
“Now you wait a minute!”
“You want to save the bistro, don’t you? We enjoy each other, so why not?”
She pushed herself up from the bed. “You can’t just buy people!”
“You’d be surprised what money buys.”
“Well, I’m not for sale.”
“I doubt that. I just haven’t made you the right offer. Tell me what you want, and we’ll negotiate.”
“I can’t believe I ever thought for one second that you were a decent human being.” Her expression twisted in utter misery. “And I did. I really did. I can’t believe I’ve been such a fool...again.” She sighed. “This just proves what I told you earlier—I don’t have very good instincts about men. I think you’re the worst of them all...and I have to tell you, that’s pretty low.”
Her rejection stunned him. Too late Michael saw that he should have flattered her, that he should have seduced her into the deal as he had seduced her into his bed. Obviously she was like all the criminals in prison who proclaimed their innocence; she really didn’t see that she had done anything wrong. That’s where they were different. At least he knew when he’d crossed the line and was willing to accept the inevitable consequences.
“I’ll call my chauffeur,” he said coldly, hiding his disappointment. “He’ll be at the front door downstairs in five minutes to escort you out of the building. He’ll drive you anywhere you wish to go. After tonight I don’t ever want to see you with my brother again. Do you understand?”
“You can’t order me around...or your brother, who is an adult, and who is, whether you like it or not, one of my key investors. I fully intend to see him as often as I like! He has every right to invest his money where he chooses.”
“You’re very wrong.”
Michael turned his back and strode out of the room because the sight of her shimmering, pain-filled eyes, her quivering lips and her bare breasts were more than he could bear. Damn it, in spite of her rejection, in spite of what she was and how she was using Will, he still wanted her.
Only when he heard her rushing down his spiral staircase to the lower floor—she never used an elevator unless she had to because she was afraid of them—only when he heard his front door slam downstairs, did Michael return to his bedroom.
For a long moment he stood in the dark and stared out at the city that sparkled beneath a full moon and a starless sky. It was a beautiful night, he supposed, a night made for romance, if one believed in such things. He wondered if his failure to do so was due to the many flaws in his soul.
Growing bored with the view he left the window and turned on every light. Never had the vast marble bedroom in his penthouse apartment blazed with such cold and terrible brightness.
Only when he saw the bright splashes of red staining his sheet did he realize that maybe he’d been wrong about at least one thing.
Had she been a virgin? His heart, which usually felt so solid behind its frozen walls, began to beat with vicious, guilty pain. Surely no virgin would have shown such a wild, uninhibited response. And yet...
When he remembered her little cry when he’d first entered her, and her sweetness, and the admiration in her eyes when he’d discussed some of his projects with her, he recoiled. What if she had been an innocent? What if he, who’d been raised so roughly, had failed to see goodness because it had been such a rarity in his life?
“If I could succeed at even one thing, I’d feel so proud of myself,” she had confided. “And look at you—you turned the family investment firm around right after the last global financial meltdown. Now you’re opening banks and hotels in China and power plants in Malaysia. You conquer worlds—and accept such feats as your due. Your family must be so proud of you.” Her shining eyes had warmed him through.
If he’d been wrong about her virginity, had he been wrong about other things? Had she truly admired his accomplishments? Had she liked him, at least a little? Had he wounded her? And what was she really to Will?
Damn it. He was sure of her ulterior motives. With her famous brother dead, his image trashed and their once popular bistro on the Upper West Side in trouble, she’d been after Will for his money. Then she had zeroed in on Michael at the fund-raiser when she’d seen a better mark. The only reason she’d turned down Michael’s second offer was because he’d wounded her pride.
As he yanked the sheets off his bed, he remembered her radiant complexion and the wonder in her eyes and his own intense pleasure. Sheathed to the hilt, he’d felt all male and powerful and yet happy in a bone-melting way he’d never known before.
If she was what he believed, why had she turned him down? Why?
Michael tried and failed to push his gnawing doubts aside. Damn it, he had to know why. But he couldn’t face her tonight.
They both deserved a few hours to recover from his brutal offer and her rejection. Tomorrow morning would be soon enough to confront her again.
But by morning she was gone.
After he bribed the doorman to let him in to her empty apartment, he stomped about flinging her cupboards open while he dialed her cell phone, which went to voice mail. For more than an hour he searched for some clue as to where she’d gone and found none. His texts were ignored. When he went to Chez Z, her steely-eyed French mother, Bijou, had been in a meeting with the waitstaff.
“She said she had to go somewhere,” her mother said coolly, when he’d insisted upon interrupting her. “She said it was an emergency. She looked upset. I didn’t pry. Now, I wish I’d asked more questions. Are you the problem? Is she in trouble because of you?”
“Well! She is no good with men. In fact, that’s an understatement. She’s pathetic. She took after me, you see. Her father did everything he could to ruin my life. If you aren’t going to treat her right, stay away from her, yes?”
What could he say to that? Despite the circumstances, he envied Bree for having such a mother. He hadn’t been so lucky.
When Michael went to his brother’s to warn him about Bree, Will refused to let Michael into his apartment.
“She already told me what you accused her of,” Will said, standing with the door half-closed to keep Michael in the hall. “I don’t know where she is, and frankly, I wouldn’t tell you if I did. You’ve overstepped the line.”
“She said you were seeing another woman? Are you?”
Will, who usually had an easy nature, scowled. “Right now, maybe you can guess why I don’t choose to discuss my personal life with you.”
Then he shut the door in Michael’s face.
Michael felt guilty and uneasy. What was Will hiding? Not only had Bree rejected him, she’d turned his brother against him. Will wouldn’t even confirm he was dating someone else, so did that mean he was still interested in Bree? If Will was involved with another woman, what the hell had Michael accomplished by bedding Bree other than becoming obsessed with her himself?
The odds were he was right about her character. Maybe she was gone, but what good was that if Will felt more protective of her than ever? Instead of turning his brother against her, all he’d done was make his brother angry with him.
Despite everything, Michael burned for her. No matter how hard he tried to bury himself in his work during the weeks that followed, no matter where he traveled or how many glamorous women he publicly dated in the attempt to prove to himself and to her how little she mattered, he couldn’t forget her.
Even when he left on what proved to be a month-long business trip to Shanghai to solve a crisis at one of his hotels, memories of her sweetness and outraged innocence lingered, haunting him.
The perfection of their night together drove him mad—especially after he learned that the same day he’d left New York, she’d returned to her bistro and had lunched with Will.