Baby for the Billionaire

By: Maxine Sullivan

Chapter Ten

Cesare phoned the next morning to see how Porter was doing and Nick put the phone on loudspeaker so both he and Sasha could talk while they were getting dressed.

“Dad, it wasn’t a heart attack.” Nick went on to explain.

“Grazie a Dio!” Cesare said with relief.

“We’ve just called the hospital and he’s already been released,” Nick continued. “Sally will look after him. I’m sure she’ll make him take things easy.”

“Yes, she’s a good woman.” Cesare paused. “Sasha, your father’s a good man. He gives so much of himself to everyone. It would be a great loss if anything had happened to him. He’s the consummate businessman.”

Sasha wanted to choke. If only Cesare knew.…

“Thank you, Cesare,” she managed. “That’s kind of you to say.”

Cesare ended the call after that and Nick kissed her good-bye, but as he drew back he hesitated. “Are you sure you don’t want me to get out of the harbor cruise tomorrow? Alex or Matt can step in.”

Tomorrow was Wednesday.

Only two more days until Friday.

The thought of having to force her father’s hand pressed down on her. She felt sick at heart over him cheating the Valentes out of money.

She schooled her features. “No. I’ll be fine.”

Nick held her gaze a moment more. “Okay. See you tonight.”

“Yes,” she said, putting on a brave face.

As soon as he left, she finished dressing. She would go see her parents. Now that she knew her father hadn’t had a heart attack, he had to rectify the situation soon. She couldn’t go on like this.

No one answered the front door when she rang the bell, despite her father’s favorite music coming from inside the house. Then she realized it was coming from the back patio, so she went around the side and opened the gate.

To her shock, she found her father sitting on the lounger in the back garden, smoking a cigar and drinking whiskey. He looked like a man who was celebrating life.

Or something else?

Suddenly it hit her.

“Oh my God,” she accused, seeing him jump with fright as she strode toward him. “You didn’t have a suspected heart attack at all. You made it up.”

The blood siphoned from his face, then he turned red. “Don’t be stupid, child. Of course I didn’t make it up.”

“I don’t believe you.”

He stabbed out his cigar. “You think I’d put myself through all those medical procedures, not to mention worrying you and your mother, for the fun of it?”

“Yes! You were desperate. And you didn’t give a damn about me or Mum.” Sasha swung around when she heard her mother come out on the patio behind her. “Mum, I can’t believe you were a part of this.”

Sally’s eyes widened in alarm. “Wh-what?”

“Leave your mother out of this. She didn’t know.”

Sasha gasped. “So it’s true.”

“Know what?” Sally said, looking from one to the other.

“That Dad faked his heart attack so I wouldn’t tell the Valentes about his falsifying records.”

“No!”

“He thought I’d feel guilty enough to overlook the fact that it wasn’t actually a heart attack. No doubt he planned on milking it for all it was worth.”

“Porter?” Sally whispered.

“Sally, don’t look at me like that. I was only thinking of you. What will happen to you if I go to jail?”

“How magnanimous of you, Dad,” Sasha snapped.

“Mind your own business, Sasha,” he growled.

She stared hard at him. “You don’t regret what you did at all.”

“Of course I do.”

She knew he didn’t. He only regretted getting caught.

“Dad, unless you tell me here and now that you’re going to make things right and pay back the money, I’m going to tell Nick what you’ve done.”

He turned white. “You don’t mean that.”

“I do.”

“But I’m your father.”

“Emotional blackmail doesn’t work on me anymore.” She pulled back her shoulders. “Now tell me that you’ll make things right, or I go tell Nick right this minute what you’ve done.”

He blanched. “Okay, okay. I’ll pay it back, but it might take me a couple of days.”

“You’ve got until Friday.” She turned and walked away, her heart so heavy she was surprised she could walk at all. She’d never had much love or respect for her father but she had even less now.

Of course, she wasn’t fool enough to trust him. And how the heck was she going to believe him on Friday anyway?

Yet there was a bigger picture here.

How was she going to look Nick in the eyes for the rest of her life and pretend this wasn’t between them?

Sasha could feel Nick looking at her throughout dinner but she couldn’t seem to lift her spirits. A black cloud hung over her head. It was only a matter of time before it all poured down on her.

After they’d eaten and moved into the living room, she still couldn’t relax. She couldn’t get interested in the unfolding legal drama on television. She had enough legal drama of her own right now.

And she was terrified her mother would call and put pressure on her to give her father more time, or to beg her to change her mind. She didn’t want the stress of even talking to her mother right now and certainly not in front of Nick.

An idea occurred to her.

“I think I’ve got cabin fever, Nick. Let’s go out for a drink somewhere.”

He blinked in mild surprise and put aside some paperwork. “Will one of the local pubs do?”

“Yes, there’s some lovely pubs around here. And can we turn our cell phones off, please? Let’s not have any interruptions.”

He shot her an odd look. “If that’s what you want.”

Half an hour later they were sitting in the corner at a local pub, sipping their drinks. The hotel was on the heritage listing as were many buildings in the Hawkesbury district.

“Any special reason for the cabin fever?” he asked, leaning back in his chair, his eyes watchful.

It sounded a ridiculous thing for her to say now. They’d been out of the house a lot lately and cabin fever was the last thing she’d have.

She wrinkled her nose. “I guess it’s more that we haven’t had much time to ourselves.”

He nodded. “And all that with your father didn’t help either, does it?”

She gave a silent gasp. “Wh-what?”

“With Porter being in hospital.”

“Oh.” She swallowed. “Yes.”

His look sharpened. “You’ve been tense all night. Are you sure you’re telling me everything? He’s not taken a turn for the worse, has he?”

“No, he’s fine.” Panic bounced inside her. She had to get thoughts of her father out of Nick’s mind and onto something else. Otherwise she might give herself way. “Brenda called me, you know.”

He straightened in his chair. “What? When?”

“Sunday morning after you went to your father’s place. She said she was returning your call.”

The look in his eyes turned hard and dangerous. He would be a formidable enemy. “She did, did she?”

“So you didn’t call her?”

“No.” His gaze focused back on her. “Did you think I had? Is that why you didn’t tell me before now? You’ve been worrying yourself sick about it.”

“No, that’s not it at all. I figured you just wanted to tell her to stay away from you.”

“I’d already told her. And she knows the score. She was just trying to cause trouble.” He stared at her. “And succeeded.”

“No, she didn’t.” Brenda had tried to make her doubt Nick, but in the end she hadn’t succeeded.

Nick’s eyes were razor-sharp. “You’ve been upset all evening. In fact, you haven’t been yourself since Sunday at the party.”

Somehow she held it together. Sunday was when she’d learned what her father had done.

“I told you it’s because of everything else.” She swallowed past her dry throat. “I believe you, Nick. I swear I believe you.”

He studied her face, taking his time to measure her words. Finally a gentle look came into his eyes. “Thank you,” he murmured.

Her heart tilted inside her chest.

In the end they stayed for over two hours, talking about nothing much in particular and listening to a folk singer. Sasha could feel the tension easing out of her as the wine took hold.

“I think that did us both good,” Nick said on the drive home.

She leaned her head back against the leather seat and smiled sideways at him. “We should do it more often.”

He chuckled. “I believe you’re slightly drunk, Mrs. Valente.”

“Enough to take the edge off my pain,” she said without thinking.

His scowl was instant. “You’re in pain?”

She bit her lip and thanked heaven he had to concentrate on the road. “I had a headache before,” she lied. “I thought it was going to turn into a migraine.”

He darted a look at her. “Do you often get migraines?”

“No.” But she had the feeling she may well start after all this.

Without warning, he gave a crooked grin. “Don’t worry. I’ll kiss you better if it returns.”

“Then it’ll be worth it.”

“Don’t say things like that when I’m driving,” he pretended to growl.

She just smiled.

They arrived home and he parked the car in the sweeping driveway, but something happened inside her as she watched him come round to open the passenger door. A sense of impending doom centered in her chest. Suddenly she had the feeling this was all coming to an end.

“Come on, milady,” he drawled, holding his hand out.

She vaguely heard him. This moment was far more important than joking or teasing or anything else in this world. God, she loved this man. How could she ever tell him the truth?

She stood up and cupped his face with her hands. “Make love to me, Nick. Make me forget all my headaches.”

He looked down at her, his brows drawing together. “What’s all this about?”

“Nick, don’t talk. I need you tonight. Make me yours.”

He opened his mouth to speak, then must have thought better of it. He released his breath and lowered his head.

After that it seemed like they kissed all the way to the bedroom. And in the bedroom … dear God, in the bedroom … their lovemaking took on a poignancy she was sure Nick felt, too. There was a deeper focus in his eyes as he looked at her. A longer than usual pause as he entered her.

And when he made her his—perhaps for the last time—her heart hurt.

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