Baby for the Billionaire

By: Maxine Sullivan

Chapter Four

For a moment Nick was confused when he woke up the next morning. He could hear car doors shutting and voices talking, and usually he didn’t hear those sorts of noises from his tenth-floor apartment in the city. Then he remembered.

He was married now. And this wasn’t his apartment. He was at the Valente estate and the sounds he heard were the caterers clearing up the last of the wedding reception.

Sasha!

He lifted his head to find himself weighted to the bed by the naked female sleeping against his chest. He looked down at the top of her blonde hair, and heat surged through his veins.

God, she’d been a virgin.

Amazingly there was something totally satisfying about knowing he was the only man to ever touch her like he had. Knowing he was the first man to be inside her like he’d been. He’d never thought he’d be the sort of guy who indulged in that sort of thing. He wasn’t usually some sort of he-man who beat his chest in triumph.

Yet this time he wanted to do exactly that.

A virgin, for Pete’s sake!

And of course that meant she’d lied to him all those years ago when she’d told him she’d gone out and slept with Randall Tremaine. It had been a few weeks after the gazebo incident and at the time he’d put it down to the fickle ways of a woman not knowing her own mind.

It hadn’t stopped him wanting to knock the other man out when he’d seen them talking together briefly at a party. He remembered thinking Randall had been playing it so cool. No wonder. The poor guy had been an innocent pawn in it all.

Totally innocent.

Just like Sasha.

Hell, was he blind or what? Everything had pointed to her being a virgin, only he hadn’t been looking. He’d just thought her a little inexperienced. He could see it all now. The shyness in her, her first climax, wanting the light turned off.

The thought of being inside her again made him groan softly, and he knew he could wake her up and take her again. And it would be good for both of them.

Damn good.

But this wasn’t a woman he could make love to, then kiss goodbye. This was his wife.

That thought had him easing out of bed and heading for the shower. He’d already given up his freedom for this marriage. He wasn’t giving up his work, too.

But tonight … yes, tonight … he was going to enjoy teaching Sasha more about making love with a man.

Sasha opened her eyes to find the sun streaming in through the windows and an empty bed next to her.

She was a woman in every sense of the word now.

And her heart was still intact.

She’d been terrified last night. Deep-down terrified that somehow Nick’s lovemaking would open up the floodgates on the love she’d had for him years ago. It had been a very real fear.

But she’d had nothing to worry about, thank heavens. Nick’s expertise in bed had made it so very special for her, and while lingering memories of her teenage love may have played a part in her enjoyment, pure physical attraction had saved the day.

It was such a relief!

Yes, she could cope with a physical relationship, she mused, throwing back the sheets and taking a couple of steps, then felt herself blush at how pleasurably sore her body was in all the places he’d touched.

And kissed.

Her hot shower should have soothed her but she kept remembering Nick carrying her in here last night. The thought of it brought a lump to her throat. How gentle he’d been.

And caring.

By the time she was dressed she was ready to face the day. The main thing was that she didn’t love Nick nor had he guessed she’d been in love with him years ago.

And that was something to celebrate, she decided, as she went down the staircase to the kitchen. Today was business as usual for her husband, and it would be for her, too. She had her own work to do.

She had plans.

Lots of them.

Her fingers itched while she ate breakfast on the terrace, her mind racing with excitement, eager now to get back to the designs she’d started a few weeks ago.

The house was an interior designer’s dream. It had a grand salon with picture windows and French doors looking out over spectacular gardens and courtyards. There was also a formal dining room and family living areas with five bedrooms and bathrooms, a study upstairs and one downstairs, and a kitchen with modern conveniences in an old-fashioned style.

Before too long she’d spread herself out in the downstairs study, her ideas and thoughts spilling onto the paper, her enthusiasm for the project continuing to bubble as she worked past lunch.

“Have you been here all day?” Nick said from the doorway.

Startled, she looked up and her heart skipped a beat at the sight of him. He was so handsome, and she’d been intimate with him last night. The thought made her feel warm all over.

She quickly dragged her gaze away to her watch. “Is it six o’clock already?”

He started to scowl as he stepped into the room and came toward her. “You’re working on plans for the redecorating?” A muscle ticked in his cheek. “So you’re still going ahead with it?” he asked, stopping in front of the desk.

That warm feeling disappeared at his tone. She leveled him a look. They hadn’t discussed it further, but she’d assumed he would still let her redecorate. “I guess that’s up to you. You’re the boss.”

His eyes narrowed. “This is your home, too, now, you know.”

“I guess it is.”

Not for a moment did she think she owned this house. How could she? It was Nick’s. It would always be Nick’s even if she stayed married to him for fifty years.

Her breath stopped at the thought.

He leaned over the paperwork and looked at her plans for the main dining room. A minute later he grudgingly admitted, “They’re good.”

Despite herself, she felt a thrill at his praise.

She shrugged. “They’re just ideas. There’s still a lot to be done.”

He studied her. “This means a lot to you, doesn’t it?”

“Yes.”

There was a tiny pause. “Fine. Then you have carte blanche to do what you like.”

“Really?” Excitement rushed through her, but she quickly reined it in and said more primly, “Thank you.”

“But my old bedroom stays as is.”

“Oh?” She didn’t say she’d planned to turn his room and the one next to it into a larger suite. “If that’s what you want.”

“It is.”

“Okay.” She’d allow him that. After all, she had the rest of the house.

“I’m going to shower and change before dinner,” he said, a possessive gleam in his eyes sweeping over her, making her panic.

She swallowed. Was he asking her to join him?

“Um … I want to finish something here first. I’ll freshen up in a minute.”

A knowing look in his eyes, he turned toward the door. “Don’t be too long.”

“I won’t.”

They both knew she wasn’t about to follow him upstairs. As much as she suspected being in his arms was addictive, she had to keep her distance or risk becoming his sex slave.

She smiled to herself. Would that be so bad?

Reality returned. Perhaps she ought to remind herself that she hadn’t even warranted an “I’m home, honey” kiss. Whether he wanted her in his bed or not, it was clear he wasn’t going to treat her like a real wife outside the bedroom. Not when they were alone anyway.

Shades of her parents’ marriage?

No, she wouldn’t think that.

The thought was too painful to contemplate. Sasha looked down at her designs and started working on them again. Work had always helped her concentrate on the moment, holding unhappy thoughts of the past or the possibility of a lonely future at bay. Work had been her salvation.

Now, if only she could get the color just right for …

“Dinner’s almost ready,” Nick said, startling her again.

She looked up and saw he’d showered and changed and she wrinkled her nose at herself. “I totally forgot the time again, didn’t I?”

“Obviously you’re not falling over yourself to be with me?” he drawled, not looking in the least put out about that.

No doubt he’d have plenty of women who would fall over themselves to be with him, she mused. Well, she wasn’t one of his women.

She held her head high. “No, I’m not.”

He considered her. “You’re not like other women, are you?”

Was that a compliment? She wasn’t sure.

“I guess not.”

His face closed up. “You’ve got ten minutes,” he said gruffly before striding away.

For a moment she just stood there. What was all that about? Her virginity? Was he feeling guilty about it? There was no need.

After that she hurried to shower and re-apply a light coating of make-up, leaving her straight blonde hair to fall loose past her shoulders. Taking her cue from Nick’s dark trousers and polo shirt, she didn’t dress up too much for dinner, instead slipping on a summery dress made from soft material that fell just above her knees.

Fifteen minutes later she joined him in the dining room. The hint of pleasure in his eyes made her heart race as she walked to where he held the chair out for her.

They sat down at the table. Iris served dinner before mentioning that Cesare had called to remind him about the English launch of “Valente’s Woman.” Then the older woman left them to eat.

Sasha was curious. “When is the U.K. launch?”

“In a couple of weeks.”

“It’ll do well over there.”

He nodded. “It’ll do well everywhere.”

She had to smile at that.

“What are you smiling at?” he asked.

“Your arrogance.”

His mouth quirked at the corners. “It’s the Valente way.”

“I know.”

Some lazy moments passed while they ate in silence. Sasha was still amazed she was now actually married to Nick Valente. Who would have thought it?

Not her.

Aware she needed to move away from such thoughts, she made herself reflect on how much effort went into launching a new perfume. “You should go with Alex. He may need you with him.”

“Alex can handle it. He and Olivia will make sure it goes off with a bang.”

All at once she didn’t want him staying home for her sake. “Just because we’re newly married doesn’t mean you have to stay home with me.”

His lips twisted. “Are you trying to get rid of me so soon?”

“Of course not. I’m just thinking you have other commitments and being married shouldn’t change that.”

He held her gaze for a moment, then, “If I thought Alex needed me, I’d go. But he doesn’t and frankly, I’d prefer to stay home.”

She noted he didn’t say “stay with her.”

Strangely she was rather glad he wasn’t going away and leaving her alone. She seemed to have had too much aloneness these past few years.

Had he?

She didn’t think so.

They began to talk about the wedding—was it only yesterday?—and before too long Iris was serving dessert, and then not long after, they finished their dinner.

She wondered what was next.…

Coffee?

Tea?

Bed?

“Would you like to watch television?”

She ignored the look in his eyes. He’d known what she was thinking. “That would be nice.” She got to her feet, and Nick stood, too.

“You go ahead and I’ll be with you shortly. I’ve got a couple of calls to make first.”

She felt a smattering of disappointment, but she quickly pushed it aside. Time alone would let her pulse slow back to its normal beat.

An hour later she was still waiting for Nick to join her. Her favorite sitcom hadn’t held her attention, and now a rather boring program was about to start. She could go get her designs and continue working, but she needed a break from them. What’s more, she didn’t want to interrupt Nick in the study. He could be on an important call.

She yawned.

She felt so tired.

Perhaps she’d just close her eyes for a moment or two.

The next thing she knew a pair of strong masculine arms were lifting her up and carrying her. She tried to clear her mind but she felt warm and protected and she just wanted to snuggle closer.

“Nick?”

“Yes.”

It was so hard to open her eyes. “Put me down,” she murmured. “I can walk.”

“No.”

She let out a small sigh. It was too much trouble to argue, especially with her cheek pressed against his chest, his heartbeat beneath it.

He was climbing the stairs now and he smelled so good, his clothes fresh but mixed with his own male scent, his breath retaining a hint of coffee. She’d never been carried by a man before. There was something to be said for all those movies that made it look so romantic being swept off her feet like this.

And then she realized something and she started to giggle. She couldn’t help herself.

At the top he paused to look down at her. “What’s so funny?”

“You’re a little out of breath.”

A gleam of amusement twinkled in his eyes. “Are you saying I’m too old to carry you up the stairs?”

“Would I dare?”

“Yes.”

All at once she noticed his firm mouth curve up at the corners.

His eyes held a certain glitter. “I’m not too old … or out of breath … to make love to you, my sweet,” he murmured, then carried her into their bedroom, kicked the door shut and stood her up against it.

His blue eyes smoldered for her in the lamplight as he bent his head and kissed her. And he kept right on kissing her until it became a game between them that neither would give up. In the end she had to break away to catch her breath.

He gazed at her triumphantly and before too long he’d stripped the clothes from her body and kissed her again in much more intimate places.

And if he was out of breath by the end of it, he didn’t show it. The only thing he showed was a passionate hunger for her that took her by surprise.

Sasha was in the pool when Nick returned early from work the following evening. She’d meant to be showered and changed by now but summer was almost over and she’d wanted to take advantage of the warm weather.

He sat down on the deck chair and loosened his tie, looking handsome but with dark shadows beneath his eyes. She felt guilty for keeping him awake last night, even if it had been mutually beneficial.

She trod water in the middle of the pool. “You look tired.”

He seemed surprised she’d noticed. “Yeah, I guess I am.”

She frowned. “All that driving into the city and back is taking a lot out of you.” Commuting to the city took an hour and a half each way, not to mention putting in a full day’s work.

He shrugged. “I’ll get used to it.”

“You shouldn’t have to, Nick.” She tilted her head at him. “Why don’t you get yourself a driver? Your father’s had one for many years.”

His brow creased in consideration. “Hey, that’s not a bad idea. I could hire a permanent driver and that way I can work while I’m in the car and not waste time.” He gave her a smile. “Good thinking.”

She gave a quick shiver as a late afternoon breeze skipped over her. “Thanks, but I’m sure you would have thought of it yourself.”

His gaze dropped to the water lapping at the top of her breasts. “Probably,” he said, his distracted tone giving the comment less arrogance.

Her nipples tightened beneath the pink bikini top at the sudden sensual look in his eyes.

He stood up and started undoing his shirt.

“Er … what are you doing?”

“Joining you.” He discarded shoes and socks, then his hand went to his belt buckle. Soon he had stripped down to black boxer briefs that fitted him like a second skin, leaving nothing to her imagination.

Her heart thumped erratically. “It’s getting a little cold in here.”

He gave her a wicked grin. “Then I’ll warm you up.”

He dove into the pool and she watched him come toward her in the water like a torpedo. The urge to turn and swim for the other side was strong. The temptation to stay and have her defenses annihilated was more exciting.

In one whoosh he came up close to her body and rose to the surface, so close she felt him like a caress. He shook the water from his face and smiled, his wet hair plastered to his head, his sooty lashes spiked with moisture.

“Fancy meeting you here,” he drawled, looking what he was: a drop-dead gorgeous male who’d caught the biggest fish in the pool.

Her.

Of course, she was the only fish in the pool.

“Yes, fancy that.”

The late afternoon sun showed a mischievous gleam in his eye and all at once she knew he was up to something. “Nick,” she warned, trying to escape, the water hindering rather than helping.

He laughed playfully and caught her by the waist, before lifting her in the air and tossing her backward. She took a breath just as she went under the water, her mind already on sweet revenge.

She’d get him back, she promised herself as she burst through to the surface. “Nick, you’d—” She gasped. “My bikini top’s come off!”

“Really?”

She ignored the relish in his voice and started looking around. Then she saw a pink blob of material near the edge of the pool.

“There it is.” She started to swim toward it, aware that Nick was swimming with her. She thought he was merely trying to help her, until they reached it at the same time and he snatched it up and threw it onto the concrete outside of the pool.

“Nick!” She glared at him as she covered her breasts with her hands.

“What?” His eyes danced with the devil.

“How am I going to get out of the pool now?”

“No one’s around. Iris is in the kitchen and Leo’s gone into Richmond for supplies.”

“I’m not a prude but—”

“Yes, you are.” He chuckled. “Look at you. I know your body intimately now and yet you’re still covering yourself from me.”

“You’re still a stranger, Nick,” she said without thinking.

His smile disappeared. “Am I?” His blue eyes deepened in color. “Then we’d better do something about that.”

Without hesitation, he caught her by the waist and pressed her up against the side of the pool.

And then he kissed her.

At first his lips were cold from the water but they soon turned warm enough to have her melting against him. For long, languid moments she reveled in having his mouth take advantage of hers, but eventually he eased back from the kiss.

“Still think of me as a stranger?” he said, a very masculine expression of satisfaction on his face.

A minute ago she’d felt very feminine, but now his words brought her back to reality and she didn’t feel in the least like being coquettish. “There’s more than knowing a person physically, Nick.”

His face closed up. “It’ll do for now,” he said and turned away. “Stay here. I’ll get us some robes.”

Sasha watched him heave himself out of the water and stride over to the cabana, all male muscle and sinew. She swallowed hard. What on earth had made her say something so deep like that? Maybe she really was a prude and saying that had been her only defense?

He came out wearing a thick white robe and carrying one for her. “I’ll cover you as you get out.”

Thankful he was still being conscious of her sensitivity, she began climbing up the ladder. It was probably silly to be overreacting but she’d never been one to flaunt her body outrageously and merely because she was no longer a virgin didn’t change her way of thinking.

Just as she reached the top of the ladder she looked up in time to see Nick’s eyes flicking over her naked breasts. Unable to stop herself, she flushed.

“Put your arms in here,” he said huskily, and she did as she was told, feeling more secure once she had the robe cinched in at the waist.

Nick cleared his throat and stepped away from her. “It’s still balmy. Would you like to have dinner out here?”

She’d half-expected him to make some excuse to retire to the study. After all, he’d frozen up when she’d started talking about feelings. Fool that she was! The last thing she needed to bring out in the open was any sort of feelings.

To hide her surprise, she pushed back her wet hair. “That would be lovely.”

“Good. I’ll tell Iris.”

“And I’ll go dress.”

“Let’s not bother.”

“Er … okay.”

He started toward the house, detoured slightly and stopped to pick up something, then came back and handed her the pink bikini top.

Their eyes met and she blushed. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” He turned and walked back toward the house.

She watched him for a moment with her heart thudding, unable to stop herself from admiring those firm legs beneath the bathrobe. She liked the dark hair that was just-so-manly and just-so-touchable and if she dared, when he came back she would love to run her palms up his legs, caressing them, caressing him.

All at once she realized she was squeezing her bikini top. Giving it one last squeeze she dropped it in the pocket of her robe, then went to sit down at the table, her own legs kind of shaky.

And he’d called her a prude?

Not any longer.

A few minutes later Nick came back. “Iris will bring out dinner shortly. In the meantime …” He held out two glasses of wine and passed one to her, then went to sit in the chair opposite.

Made selfconscious by her thoughts, she looked away, pretending to concentrate on the guest cottage and glasshouse that could easily been seen from here. Mercifully, the gazebo where they’d shared their kiss was on the other side of the house.

The sound of clinking glass from behind told Sasha that Iris had come out on the patio area. She turned around and smiled as the other woman came toward them pushing a trolley. Before too long she’d left and Sasha and Nick were tucking into their steak and salad.

“How are the designs going?”

She glanced up and saw he’d noticed the paperwork on one of the small tables. She’d been working on them before deciding to take a swim.

“Really well.” She hesitated. “Would you like to look over them after dinner?”

“Sure.”

After that she turned the conversation to some of the problems she was having with one of the contractors, then they began to talk of the family and other general things.

Nick stood up as soon as they’d both finished eating, and walked over to her designs. Sasha followed him, her heart thumping, wondering if he’d like them. She’d gone to great lengths making sure everything suited the house just right.

“I’m very impressed with these. You’ve kept the charm of the place without taking too much away from it all.”

A swell of relief filled her. “My intention was never to make major changes. I love this place as it is, too, Nick.”

His eyes riveted on her face. “Yes, I can see that.”

She flushed with pleasure, feeling her cheeks turn almost the same pink as the bikini she wore.

Or didn’t wear, she mused, pulling the robe tighter over her breasts, seeing his gaze drop to where she pretended she wasn’t naked underneath.

“You surprise me,” he murmured, lazy seduction seeping into those blue eyes. “I’d have thought you’d put your bikini top back on.”

All at once she felt a touch defiant. “Maybe I’m not quite the prude you think I am.”

Taking her by surprise, he placed the tip of his finger at her chin. “Hmm, maybe not,” he murmured, sending her heartbeat thudding into a mad gallop. Then his finger slithered down her throat to rest on her wildly beating pulse. “You look so damn sexy in that robe.”

She moistened her lips. “Nick—”

“I could strip it off you here and now and you wouldn’t stop me … would you?”

She was very much afraid he was right.

“And I could slide those tiny bikini bottoms off you and you wouldn’t say a word … true?”

Heavens, yes! He could take her this very moment and she’d let him. He made her want to do things she normally didn’t do.

How she wished she could lie. “Nick, you know you’re right but—”

He dropped his hand away from her throat. “But?”

“Afterwards I would feel totally embarrassed if I thought Iris or Leo had seen us.”

His eyes filled with satisfaction. “So you are a prude?”

She started to frown. “Are you pleased because I’ve admitted it? Or because you’re right?”

“Both. I like to win.”

And he would never give in until he did, she was sure.

Suddenly he said, “I can’t help who I am, Sasha.”

She looked at him and saw no apology, just a simple statement that made her succumb to her need for him. No, he couldn’t help being who he was.

“Nick, please. Take me to bed.”

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