Baby for the Billionaire

By: Maxine Sullivan

Chapter Three

At eighteen Sasha had dreamed about a white wedding to Nick in a beautiful church in Sydney—the perfect setting for their perfect love for each other.

Now at twenty-five, a stylish ceremony on the sun-drenched lawn of the massive Valente estate was more than lovely, but a marriage of convenience to a man who’d never given her a moment’s thought wasn’t quite the same.

And that was never more prominent than on her wedding day. She’d been nervous in her responses throughout the ceremony but Nick hadn’t missed a beat. Obviously she still didn’t affect him in the slightest, least of all by marrying him.

“I now pronounce you man and wife.”

Oh God. Sasha’s knees threatened to wobble, making her grateful for her white wedding gown hiding them from view.

“You may now kiss the bride.”

She swallowed hard as she turned to fully face Nick, looking so handsome in his black tuxedo. She’d melted the last time he’d kissed her all those years ago but until his lips were on hers again she wouldn’t know for sure how she’d react.

His blue eyes gave nothing away as he lowered his head. Their lips touched and Sasha nervously held her breath, waiting for something … anything … to kick in. It was pleasant, but she didn’t melt.

Thank God!

He broke off the kiss and they stared at each other. She was so relieved that she broke into a small smile. His eyes narrowed, making her wonder what he was thinking.

Everyone started to clap, bringing the world back into focus. She turned toward their beaming guests seated on the largest of the private courtyards surrounding the main house. Everyone loved a wedding, it seemed.

Everyone but the bride and groom.

People surrounded them with congratulations and before too long a string quartet began playing music and waiters started circulating with glasses of champagne.

“You’ve made your mother and me very happy, Sasha,” her father said, kissing her cheek, pride shining from his eyes. It was silly but despite everything, Sasha felt teary that she’d done something to make her father proud of her.

“We’re so glad,” Nick responded, his voice holding a touch of sarcasm.

His words spoiled the moment for Sasha and she blinked the moisture out of her eyes in time to see Cesare send Nick a warning glance. She wondered again why Nick didn’t like her father.

Cesare leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. “Isabel and I are very happy, too,” he said, speaking for his wife, who was seeing to their guests. Then he slapped Porter on the back. “We’re all one big happy family now, amico mio.”

And Porter beamed. “Yes, our two families have been joined together at last, my friend.”

Sasha swallowed back a hysterical comment that perhaps her father should have married Nick, but then she saw her mother’s happy face and forced herself to relax.

She had done this for her mother.

After that the late afternoon rolled into evening, drawing the hours closer to when she and Nick would be alone. Thankfully their two hundred guests kept her occupied and stopped her thinking about it too much.

“Everything’s gone very smoothly, don’t you think?” Isabel asked, rescuing Sasha from an older relative and leading her over to the tables laden with wedding gifts beside the open French doors.

Sasha really liked her new mother-in-law. Isabel had always been one of her favorite people. “You’ve done wonders, Isabel. Thank you so much. I know it took a lot to get it all done in time, especially when you had to move into your new apartment, as well.”

Isabel looked pleased. “Anything for you, Sasha. And Nick, of course.” Then as quickly she frowned. “I still don’t condone what Cesare has done, but after his heart attack I don’t want to upset him too much. I’ve tried all I can, but he’s a law unto himself.”

Sasha had appreciated it when Isabel had taken her aside two weeks ago and asked her if she knew what she was doing. The other woman had known her husband was blackmailing Nick into marrying her and for a while she’d been very vocal about it.

Knowing she had to do this, Sasha had hurriedly assured her it was okay, and things had proceeded with alarming speed.

“Being a law unto themselves seems to be a trait of the Valente men,” Sasha said.

“Yes. And Nick has assured me he knows what he’s doing.” She squeezed Sasha’s arm. “I’m so happy to have you in the family.”

“Thank you,” Sasha said huskily. It was lovely to be welcomed so warmly. If she and Nick were truly in love …

“And you know,” Isabel’s voice cut through Sasha’s thoughts, “when I see how happy Alex and Olivia are now, it appears that Cesare knows what he’s doing.”

Sasha regarded Nick’s older brother across the courtyard. Alex was here today with his wife and their adopted eight-year-old son, Scott. Olivia was the daughter of movie legend, Felicia Cannington, and was just as beautiful as her famous mother, and more than gracious. The love between Alex and Olivia made Sasha catch her breath.

Yet just because last year Cesare had blackmailed Alex into marrying Olivia and somehow the two had fallen in love didn’t mean it would work for her and Nick.

It wouldn’t.

For love to grow there had to be a basic need for love within that person. Nick had no need for love from any woman, and especially not her.

“They certainly look very happy,” Sasha agreed, keeping quiet about her thoughts. Isabel loved Nick and only wanted the best for her second stepson she’d raised since he was a baby.

Isabel nodded. “You know, I don’t think Nick got any sympathy from Alex about it all.” She gave a wry smile. “Especially when he’s marrying you.”

Sasha forced herself to smile back. She didn’t think of herself as a beauty, but she knew her looks were probably the only thing she had going for her with Nick.

“Matt must be getting worried that he’s next,” Sasha said, trying to take the focus off herself.

A worried gleam entered Isabel’s eyes. “He says he’s not. He told his father he wouldn’t be coerced into anything. Of course, when Cesare wants something …” she trailed off, just as Nick came strolling up to them.

“Somebody wants something, Mum?” Nick said, coming up next to them with a smile that must be more for Isabel, Sasha decided. If he ever smiled at her like that …

“Me. I need a drink,” Isabel quipped, shooting her new daughter-in-law a look that said it was time to move on. Sasha wanted to beg her not to leave, but that would look foolish.

“I’ll do that for you,” Nick offered, about to turn away.

“No, honey, that’s fine. I want to see your father anyway. I need to make sure he’s taken his medication.”

The line of Nick’s mouth tightened at the mention of his father. It was easy to see he hadn’t forgiven Cesare for all this.

And rightly so. Both their fathers had a lot to answer for, Sasha knew. It was the one bond they had in common.

Nick turned the charm on for some of their guests who had come up to say they were leaving. A charm that wasn’t false but neither was it for her benefit.

Still, she gratefully accepted the distraction to say goodbye, fielding more questions about not having a honeymoon. No one had dared ask about the haste of their marriage, but if they thought she was pregnant they’d soon find out she wasn’t.

And if they wondered about the lack of affection between her and Nick? Maybe then they would guess the hasty marriage was for convenience. She didn’t want anyone thinking it was for love.

Certainly not Nick.

Once all their guests had departed, Sasha left Nick talking to Matt beside his Aston Martin, but not before she saw the scowl on Nick’s face and suspected he was probably warning his younger brother to watch out for their father. Though by the confident set of his head, Matt wasn’t too concerned for his future.

She almost felt sorry for Matt. Just as no doubt Nick was feeling sorry for himself right now for having to marry her. She felt an instant’s hurt but quickly dismissed it.

She had to keep busy.

Walking into one of the smaller dining rooms, she began tidying up, gathering the few remaining glasses and stacking them at one end of the table for the caterers to collect. It had been a good idea of Isabel’s to use the room for some elderly relatives as a quiet place to get away from all the commotion and noise of the wedding.

And didn’t she know exactly how they felt? If only she could have hidden in here permanently, away from Nick, away from the night ahead.

“Leave it.”

Her head shot up to find Nick standing in the doorway. Panic stirred inside her chest. “But—”

“The catering crew will clean up.”

“I know but—”

“You’ll get that beautiful dress dirty,” he pointed out, his enigmatic gaze pausing over her.

“Oh.” She glanced down at the smooth white satin of her simply styled wedding dress. She’d been so anxious she’d totally forgotten she was wearing it. Any other bride would be horrified at the treatment.

Of course, who could call her a typical bride?

“Come on,” he said brusquely, interrupting her thoughts. “Let’s go upstairs. Iris will see everything is put right here.”

Swallowing hard, she placed the glass down on the table and started to walk toward him. “Has Matt gone?” she said for something to say.

His jaw clenched. “Yes.”

Then he cupped her elbow and led her up the sweeping staircase, his touch sending a shiver through her that she tried to ignore. There would be more touching soon, more exploring, molding her softer curves to his hard body.

“Relax. You look like you’re going to the guillotine.”

“Maybe I’ve already lost my head,” she quipped.

His eyes narrowed as he glanced sideways at her. “What does that mean?”

She blinked. Oh heavens. He surely didn’t think she was talking about love?

“Nothing, except that I’d have to be crazy to marry you, that’s all.”

A moment crept by while they continued up the stairs and she held her breath but he said nothing further.

Soon they came to one of the large bedrooms they would use until she could renovate the master bedroom. The bed had already been turned back for them.

Suddenly she felt overwhelmed and she hung back in the doorway. Part of her wanted to know what making love with Nick would be like. Another part of her wanted to run for the hills.

Nick walked over to the large windows and stood looking out for a few seconds, his back to her. “Come here.”

Her breath stopped. This was it.

Not wanting to appear childish or afraid, she started across the plush carpet but when she got close he didn’t reach for her as expected.

He stood looking out over the estate’s magnificent lawns and gardens deeply shadowed by the setting sun.

“Thank you for helping me keep all this,” he murmured, the rough edge of emotion in his voice.

Oh.

Pleasure swept through her. “You belong here, Nick.”

He turned and put his hand under her chin, lifting her face up to him. “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

And then his lips descended.

She wasn’t expecting it right then and she didn’t have time to prepare. All at once he was there and the second his mouth touched hers she slid into his kiss. It was soft and slow and she melted for him like a frost in the morning sun.

Just as unexpectedly, he took the kiss deeper, pulling her with him into a world she’d dipped into only once before, many years ago. It was a world that tilted on its axis and began to spin out of control.

His tongue gave her strokes of pleasure, his hands sliding down to her hips and pulling her up against him, his body telling her he was a man who wanted, and that she was the woman to give.

And then he eased back.

And the world righted itself … slightly.

He lifted a strand of hair off her cheek. “Want to take a shower?” he asked huskily, his blue eyes holding a dark glitter.

“Er … together?”

He eased into a smile. “Is that an offer?”

She felt her cheeks wash with pink. “No.”

He leaned back further, his eyes softening with understanding. “You’re shy?”

She swallowed past her dry throat. “Only the first time,” she whispered, hoping he’d take the hint so she wouldn’t have to say it in words.

“And after that?” he teased.

“I don’t—”

He chuckled and stepped back before she could finish. “Don’t worry. I’ll shower in my old room so that you can have some privacy.” He strode away but stopped at the door and looked over his shoulder, his eyes no longer teasing. “This time.”

Sasha stood there until she no longer heard his muffled footfall on the carpet along the landing.

She slowly exhaled. Oh God. How could she know if she would be shy after she made love with him? She’d never made love with any man.

She was a virgin.

And a virgin who’d never felt anything for any man what she had felt for Nick all those years ago.

Nick whose kiss had blown her away just now. How could their wedding kiss earlier today have felt so different … so mild … yet this one be so mind-blowing?

This was like the kiss in the gazebo.

And unlike the episode after the gazebo, Nick wouldn’t be going off with another woman. She would be the woman in his bed tonight. And all the nights ahead.

For now.

With a shaky hand she managed to unzip her dress and step out of it, carefully placing it over a chair. Then she headed for the shower, aware she was leaving behind more than her wedding dress. Tonight she was going to be a married woman in every sense of the word.

But would Nick even notice?

Or care?

Thankfully, when Sasha came out of the bathroom Nick was nowhere to be seen. Feeling awkward, she took off her silk robe and slipped beneath the covers in her nightgown, pulling the sheet up to her chin.

In the lamplight she lay there for a few seconds looking like she’d been mummified, then gave a nervous laugh. Make that petrified.

Of Nick?

No, she was being absurd. Nick would never physically hurt her. Realizing she was letting her nerves get the better of her, she sat up against the pillows, only just managing to cover herself with the sheet a moment before Nick opened the door.

His gaze flashed over her. “I see you’re already in bed.”

She blinked, suddenly confused. Should she have sat on the brocade chair instead? Or stood by the window? What was the protocol on one’s wedding night of a marriage of convenience?

“I thought this was where you’d want me.”

“Oh, it is.” An intense look filled his eyes. “I’d want you anywhere, Sasha.”

“That wasn’t what I meant.”

“It’s exactly what I meant.”

“Nick—” She stopped speaking as he came toward her carrying a bottle of champagne and two glasses. He wore a navy bathrobe, his long legs bare and masculine. She could feel herself grow hot.

“I like the way you’re looking at me,” he said huskily.

Her gaze darted away, then back as she tried to get some sort of mental balance. “It feels strange being here like this with you,” she said, her excuse lame but all she had.

“Why?”

She should tell him now.

She took a deep breath. “Perhaps because I—”

“Hell, you don’t think of me like a brother, do you?”

His question took the wind from her sails. She blinked. “No.” That was the last way she’d ever think of him. Hadn’t those two mind-blowing kisses told him that, if seven years between?

“That’s a relief.” He was joking but she knew the question had been partly serious.

He held out a glass of champagne toward her. “Here, this should help you relax a little.”

Grateful for something to do, she accepted it and took a sip, letting the bubbles slide down her dry throat. Perhaps drunk was the way to go, she mused, then dismissed the thought. If she were drunk she might say too much.

He sat down beside her on the bed, a sudden predatory gleam in his expression. “Why did you look shocked after I kissed you before?”

So he’d noticed she’d been taken aback by the power of that kiss.

“Um … at the wedding?” she said, deliberately misunderstanding him.

“No, not that placid little kiss I gave you at the wedding ceremony. I mean the one just before by the window over there.”

She cleared her throat, then decided on the truth. “I guess I didn’t expect to … enjoy it so much.”

“I did.”

“Nick, I—”

“Have the most delectable looking mouth I’ve ever seen,” he murmured, then put his glass down on the table beside the bed and did the same with hers. He leaned toward her. “I want to taste it again.”

She moistened her lips, wanting to tell him about being a virgin but a mere second later his mouth settled on hers and she forgot everything but him. He nibbled on her lips until she sighed with delight, then took advantage by slipping his tongue inside.

In one swoop he was a part of her.

She shuddered. The kiss deepened and stole the breath from her lungs, sending excitement zinging to every pore in her body. She’d never known a kiss to be so all-inclusive.

And then he slowed the kiss and edged back a little to stare into her eyes, probing even. “There’s something very unusual about you, Sasha.”

She held her breath. Had he guessed?

“You haven’t slept with many men, have you?”

“Um … no.” She swallowed. “Does it make a difference?”

“Oh, yes,” he rasped.

She couldn’t read his expression and suddenly she was terrified he wouldn’t make love to her if he knew she was a virgin. And that would be the biggest waste of her life. She was married to him, yes. And they would make love eventually, yes. But she’d missed out on her dream wedding. She didn’t want to miss out on her honeymoon, too.

Not tonight.

“Kiss me, Nick.”

A light flared in the back of his darkened eyes. Without hesitation, his mouth found hers again and he kissed her with a hunger that filled her with new awe. This kiss took her to places she’d never been before. She didn’t want it to end.

She held her breath, her heart tilting with relief as he feathered kisses along her chin and down her throat. She couldn’t bear him to leave her now.

He placed his lips at the center of her cleavage and murmured, “I’ve always thought your name suited you. Soft, sexy Sasha.”

She shivered, never expecting this man would say something like that to her. It was the talk of a lover … a soon-to-be-lover.

He moved back and slid the thin strap of her nightgown off her shoulder, exposing one of her breasts to him. His hot gaze lingered on her for a long moment. She gasped when he began tracing her nipple with his fingertip, then held it between his fingers for his mouth to take over.

He suckled, and she almost came apart. She’d never realized her breasts were so sensitive to touch … to Nick. Oh God, this was Nick making love to her. Nick drawing on her nipple with his mouth. Nick who was sending such delicious sensations rippling through her. Everything he did, every move he made, was overshadowing everything else in the world.

The suckling continued, and she felt an odd sort of curl start at her toes and run its way upward. It tightened as it climbed higher through her thighs … higher and tighter still as it reached the core beneath her panties. She stiffened as something marvelous took hold and held her there, making her exhale in little gasps that seemed in rhythm with her body.

It was over almost before it began, the tightness diminishing, then disappearing as quickly.

Nick was looking at her curiously. “Did you just climax?”

“I … I think so. A little.” She could feel herself blush. She wasn’t sure. “Can we turn out the light, please? I’m embarrassed.”

“No need to be embarrassed. Nothing should embarrass a man and a woman when they make love.”

“The light, Nick. Please.”

“No, I want to see you. I need to see you, sweetheart. All of you.” And with that he took the hem of her nightgown and lifted it over her head.

Lamplight shone through the room, showing her naked body to him for the first time. “Beautiful,” he murmured, reaching out and resting the palm of his hand on her stomach, leaving it there as if soaking up the touch of her skin. Her pulse shimmied through her veins, building anticipation. She wanted him to touch her more.

So much more.

Instead he leaned down and placed his lips against her there and just as she recovered from the shock of it, he gave a deep groan and pushed himself off the bed.

Her gasp was not because he’d left her, but because he was shrugging out of his bathrobe. In the blink of an eye her focus was on him, her sensibilities shocked at seeing a man in his full glory for the first time. Transfixed, she reached out to touch him. She could see her hand shaking but once she slid around him, he was her rock.

The air grew thick.

“Sasha,” he said in a guttural voice.

She thrilled to the sound of him, to the sight of him, and now if she could just keep on …

“I need to touch you, Nick.”

He made a low sound deep in his throat and that was all the encouragement she needed. Tentatively she ran the tip of her finger over the head of his erection. She wanted to see what power she had over him.

He jerked. “No more,” he growled and took her hand off him, twisting away to take a condom out of the bedside drawer and roll it on himself, entrancing her by his very masculine action. She’d read about all this in magazines, but the reality was overwhelmingly intimate.

“Slide over,” he ordered, and he joined her on the bed, where he grasped her waist and rolled her on top of him.

She felt a rush of heat at the full length of his body against her own for the first time, and the feel of his hands cupping her bottom.

Their eyes met.

She wanted to look away but couldn’t. Not when she could feel that curl starting in her toes again, making her want to tighten her legs and grind herself against him.

Suddenly he rolled her over and slid on top of her like he was meant to be there. And then he nudged her legs apart and pushed inside her a little.

She winced at the slight pain.

He stilled, his eyes widening in shock. “You’re a virgin?”

She wanted to deny it. Wanted to say that she was experienced so he would keep making her feel this way. Only she couldn’t lie.

“Yes.”

He swore but amazingly didn’t pull out. He took a deep breath and then began to move slowly, his eyes never leaving her face. Carefully he filled her, and when he was fully inside her he stopped.

“Okay?” he asked hoarsely.

She nodded, too emotional to be able to speak. Nick had made her a woman.

His woman.

He began to move, and the world faded away. No one else existed, and nothing mattered. It was just the two of them, and when she climaxed Nick followed, and they came together in their own private world.

After Nick returned from the bathroom he sat on the bed and took her hands in his. “Why?”

Sasha swallowed. “Why didn’t I tell you? You said it would make a difference and I … well … I wanted you to make love to me.”

His mouth softened with tenderness. “You silly goose. The difference would have been in the way I made love to you, not in whether I made love to you at all.”

“Oh.”

“Your first time needs to be handled gently.” A moment later he grimaced.

She saw the hint of regret in his eyes. “Nick, you were very gentle with me. Thank you.”

He kissed her briefly. “Thank you for saying that.” Then he leaned back with a penetrating look in his eyes that made her uneasy. “I seem to remember you telling me that you’d slept with Randall Tremaine.”

She’d been prepared for this.

“Yes, I did say that. But I was eighteen, and I didn’t want you thinking our kiss meant anything to me so …” she lifted one shoulder in a shrug, “I made it up.”

“You were saving face?”

“Yes.”

He considered her. “Why haven’t you ever slept with anyone?”

“Perhaps I wanted to save myself for my husband.”

A tic beat in his jaw. “And I’ve taken that away from you.”

“No!” She swallowed, feeling bad for him. “Nick, look, we’ve both lost a lot of things from this marriage but we’ve gained some things, too. I’m glad you were my first, okay?”

His gaze took on a piercing look that held hers for long moments. Then just as quickly it changed to a sensual warmth that made her heartbeat stutter.

He got off the bed and scooped her from the sheets. “Nick! Where are you taking me?”

“To the shower.”

She didn’t ask why. It became obvious when he stood her in the cubicle and began to wash her with tenderness and care, and with a gentleness that almost brought tears to her eyes. This rich, arrogant playboy had a capacity for caring she hadn’t really expected.

Then his hand and fingers replaced the soap, creating a lather that had nothing to do with bathing and everything to do with making love.

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