Her Pregnancy SecretBy: Ann Major
“So, do you need help undressing or running a bath?”
“What?” His curt, dismissive change of subject hurt.
Surely she would lose all self-respect if he stripped her and touched her and made her even more aware of him as a man while he regarded her with such cool contempt.
Never again would she let him arouse her deepest feelings and play her for a fool. Never again.
“I can take care of myself,” she snapped, furious. She was weak and injured tonight and that had made her highly susceptible. He’d taken advantage of her.
“Then I suggest you get started,” he said.
“I don’t want to bathe with you here.”
“Then pretend I’m not here.”
“The only reason I’m looking after you is because I made a promise to my brother. Trust me, I’ll leave you alone. I didn’t kiss you because I wanted to. I kissed you to find out if you wanted my brother, the poor bastard. You didn’t. So, go in the bedroom, shut the door and get ready for bed.”
How could she stay here with him? How could she pretend he wasn’t here while she undressed, when awareness of him still buzzed in her blood despite his icy disdain?
“While I’m waiting for my turn to shower, I’ll see what there is to eat and make some business calls.”
“Right—the all-important CEO who’s always so busy looking after the North fortune he doesn’t have time to be human.”
“Damn you, I’ve got other things to do besides babysit you. I’ve got work,” he growled. “Lots of it.” Turning his back on her, he pulled out his phone and sank down on the couch.
Whoever answered on the other end must have begun by offering his or her condolences immediately because Michael lowered his voice and hunched over the phone, his expression haggard as he talked about Will. So, he wasn’t totally unfeeling. He just didn’t care for her.
Her heart constricted as she heard him going over some checklist about funeral arrangements, and Bree imagined he’d forgotten her. Surrendering to his will, partly because she couldn’t bear to listen as he finalized the details of Will’s memorial service, she padded softly toward Will and Tony’s bedroom.
As she entered it, Michael cupped the receiver. “Don’t lock the door,” he ordered. “If you faint, I’ll need to get in. If I can’t open the door, I’ll break it down. Do we understand each other?”
Exhaustion and frayed nerves and what was left her desire had her so close to the edge she felt like screaming. Or weeping hysterically. “You’re such a brute! I don’t want you here. And I don’t have to do what you say. I don’t! I can’t stand you!”
“We’ve already had this discussion. The doctor released you on the condition you’d remain under my care until your checkup next week because you were spotting. You agreed.”
As if he cares about the baby, she thought dismally.
“Next week!” she moaned aloud. “I was in so much pain, I was out of my mind to agree to a week with you.”
“Bottom line—you agreed,” he said. “So, you’ll damn well do what I say, or I’ll make you!”
She shut the door. Then, thinking about the way he’d kissed her and rejected her—as if she was nothing—she opened the door and then slammed it so hard its frame shook. Not that the childish action gave her any satisfaction.
Her gaze ran over the guys’ bright, modern bedroom. Being in Will and Tony’s private space brought the loss she felt for them to the surface again. They’d been so sweet to her. Feeling confused, grief-stricken and concerned about her unborn baby, she went into their bathroom where she stared at her white, bruised face in the huge, carved mirror they’d told her they’d bought on a recent trip to Oaxaca.
Cuts and purple bruises covered her gray skin. Blood stiffened several locks of her hair. How could she have imagined Michael desired her?
He didn’t want her. He never had, and he certainly didn’t care about her. No, he disliked her. He’d seduced her to drive a wedge between her and Will. Tonight he’d kissed her and used his expertise at lovemaking merely to prove that he had her where he wanted her. His only interest in her had always been using her to protect the North fortune. For that same reason, he was interested in the baby. The baby was his heir.
If only she hadn’t agreed to Will’s plan. Then Michael wouldn’t be here, and she wouldn’t have kissed him again and relearned how powerfully she still felt about him. Nor would she have had to endure realizing how much he despised her.
Choking back a sob, she began to strip.
* * *
Michael couldn’t stop thinking about Bree alone in Will’s bedroom.
Had she and his brother been happy in that bed together? Even though a part of Michael hoped she’d made his brother happy, another more selfish part resented any connubial bliss, however short-lived, she might have shared with Will. Because the idea of her in any other man’s bed, even his brother’s, felt like sacrilege.
She was Michael’s. He wanted her. Kissing her again had taught him how much.
Why was he always attracted to users like her? God, what a mess.
How many endless, bleak hours had passed since she’d slammed the door? With his arms pillowed under his head, he felt restless on this couch from hell that was too short for him. He stared up at the bar of moonlight shifting on the ceiling.
Michael had promised his brother he’d look after Bree. He’d come here intending to honor his promise. What had he done instead? He’d mauled her just because he’d had to know if she still desired him.
She did. Her molten response had almost brought him to his knees.
He had no right to touch her. No matter what else she was, she was his brother’s widow. She’d been injured in a car wreck that had claimed three lives. She was pregnant, and her condition was precarious. For her protection and the baby’s, he had to keep his hands off her.
His eyes grew heavy, but just as he was about to shut them, she screamed. His heart racing with fear, Michael bolted to his feet and raced across the shadowy apartment.
He pushed the door open. “Bree?”
She’d kicked her sheets and blankets aside and was shivering. When she neither cried out nor answered him, he realized she was having a nightmare. His fault, no doubt. She’d been through a lot, and he hadn’t made things easier for her.
His anger forgotten, he rushed to her. The masculine, long-sleeved dress shirt she’d chosen to wear had ridden up to her knees. When he saw the paleness of her bruised face and the dark shadows under her eyes, his concern and the self-loathing for his callous treatment of her grew.
Instead of awakening her, he pulled the covers over her gently. When she continued to tremble, he went to the living room and grabbed his jacket. He draped it over her shoulders. Then, unable to leave her, he sank down onto the bed beside her. After a long moment he began to stroke her hair.
Asleep, she looked young and innocent and completely incapable of deceit. He remembered the blood on his sheets that first night and how virginal she’d seemed when he’d made love to her. He’d never been with anyone who’d seemed so young and fresh and eager for him. Although he’d told himself she’d been a clever actress, he’d been enchanted. He’d almost forgotten that he’d ever considered her opportunistic and out to deceive his naive brother.
When she cried out again and then, drawn by his warmth, cuddled against him, he hardly dared to breathe for fear he’d startle her.
Then her hand slid across his thigh and a flame went through him. In an instant he was as hard as granite.
With her soft body lying against him, it was much too easy to forget why he should dislike her, much too easy to remember the heat of her response.
“Michael,” she whispered. “Michael.”
“I’m here,” he said, worried that he’d awakened her somehow.
“I’m...baby...I’m having a baby. Wanted to tell you...but didn’t know how.”