Her Pregnancy Secret(37)

By: Ann Major


She thought about the way he’d grown up...without ever getting enough love. Maybe he did love her. Maybe love was such a new experience for him, he wasn’t sure what it was or how to express it.

She remembered how sweet he’d been after her fall, how committed and determined he’d been to have her in his life ever since.

He could have any woman he wanted, and he’d chosen her.

Maybe he did love her. Maybe she’d been wrong.

Whether he truly cared or not, she was worried about him. Should she go to him? Check on him? After all, he was the father of her child. They would have to talk at some point. Why not now?

But what if he wouldn’t let her in?

Her key. Since she’d procrastinated as usual, the envelope with his key was still in her purse, waiting to be mailed.

* * *

When the intercom buzzed for the fifth time, Michael got to his feet, swaying slightly. How many shots of scotch had he had? Who cared? He’d lost count.

On unsteady feet he crossed the room that was littered with newspapers and business magazines and answered his intercom.

“It’s me, Natalia.”

Surrounded by media, she looked gorgeous on his video screen.

“Go the hell away,” he said.

“Carlo, I told you about Carlo, he jilted me. He thinks he’s this big important producer. But nobody jilts Natalia publicly and gets away with it. I was so wrong about you, wrong to blame you for anything. Carlo—he is the real bastard.”

“Well, I’m sorry about Carlo, but I can’t talk right now.”

“Can I please come up?”

“I said this is a bad time, Natalia. Look, you’re a beautiful girl. Sooner or later your luck with men will change.”

Platitudes, he thought. Who was he to give advice to the lovelorn when he was in a lot worse shape than Natalia?

He cut the connection and poured himself another scotch. Then he slumped onto his couch again and tortured himself with more memories of Bree—Bree with her cute baby bump climbing on top of him, Bree taking him into her mouth, Bree kissing him everywhere with those little flicks of her tongue that drove him wild.

What the hell was he doing, dreaming of a woman who didn’t want him? Luke was right. He couldn’t go on like this.

Michael had brought this on himself. She saw him as deal-maker, not as a husband. He’d offered her all he had to give and she’d rejected him.

She was the mother of his child, and he had to establish a workable, familial, brotherly relationship with her so they could raise that child together. That was all that was left, their bond as parents.

* * *

With Michael’s key clutched tightly in one hand and her purse in the other, Bree walked up to his building just as Natalia emerged with a smile meant to dazzle the paparazzi lying in wait for her.

“Yes, I’m dating Michael North again,” she said to a reporter when he thrust a microphone to her lips. “He invited me here.” When flashes blazed, she laughed triumphantly and raced for her limo.

An inner voice cried inside Bree. See how easily he replaced you with someone more beautiful. You were just an obligation, a deal he wanted to close. Go home. Forget him.

On the walk through the park from her place to his, visions of married life had flooded her mind. She’d imagined Michael beside her when the baby came, Michael beside her at their son’s first birthday, Michael beside her at the holidays and dining at home with friends. And all the while that she’d been imagining a shared life with him, he’d been entertaining Natalia.

She flung the key into the bottom of her purse. Lacking the strength to walk home, she went to the curb and asked the doorman to hail a taxi for her.

* * *

Somewhere a bolt turned in a lock. Michael blinked, annoyed at the sound. Dimly he grew aware that someone was outside his front door fumbling with a key. Who the hell could it be?

Natalia? Hadn’t he sent her away? Despite the liquor that fogged his brain he was almost sure he had sent her away. He hadn’t given her a key, had he?

When his door gave way, he shot to a sitting position in time to see a woman glide gracefully inside.

“Natalia?”

The great room was filled with gloom and long shadows and his vision was blurry from drink, so he couldn’t make out her features. Still, something didn’t seem right. Natalia was several inches taller, wasn’t she?

“Not Natalia. It’s me, Michael,” said the soft feminine voice he’d dreamed of for days.

A pulse in his gut beat savagely.

“Bree?”

“Yes.”

When she turned on the lights, he blinked at the glare and sat up straighter, pushing back his tangled hair. When was the last time he’d showered or shaved? Why did he give a damn? She’d turned him out, hadn’t she? She saw him as nothing more than a crass deal-maker.

“Why are you here?” he demanded coldly.

She shut the door and moved cautiously around the newspapers that littered his floor. She moved as if she was approaching a dangerous wild animal.

Aware suddenly that he wore the same T-shirt and pair of jeans he’d put on yesterday, the same ones he’d slept in, he flushed. His eyes burned as he studied her, and his head ached.

Damn it. He didn’t want her pity or her tenderness.

“Tell me what you want and go,” he growled fiercely.

“Luke came to the bistro and told me...you weren’t well.”

“The two of you should mind your own damn business. As you can see, there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m fine. Having the time of my life! Go home.”

She picked up his empty scotch bottle. “Looks like we’ve got one dead soldier. Why don’t I make you some coffee?”

“Because I don’t want coffee,” he snarled.

“Well, maybe I do. Why don’t you freshen up so you can play host while I putter around in the kitchen?”

“What gives you the right to barge into my house and boss me around? We broke up—remember?”

“I’ll be happy to tell you why I’m here after you take a shower and make yourself presentable. You really don’t look very civilized, darling.” Again her voice was maddeningly light and cheery as she disappeared into his kitchen.

He considered going after her, but when he took a step in pursuit, he stumbled. Feeling unsure, he thought better of following her.

One glance in his bathroom mirror had him shuddering in disgust. Who was that man with the narrowed, bloodshot eyes and the greasy, tangled hair?

Ashamed at how low he’d sunk, he stripped and stepped into an icy shower.

The cold water was hellish, but it revived him. Five minutes later, when he returned to the great room, he’d shaved, brushed his teeth and slicked back his damp hair.

She smiled. “You look like a new man.”

Except for his headache, he felt a lot better. Not that he was about to admit it.

“Why the hell are you here? If you’ve come because you pity me, so help me...”

“I don’t pity you. I love you. I’ve missed you. Picnics in the park. Dinners out. And the passionate things you did to me in bed. I think I’m okay with you thinking maybe you love me.”

He looked down at her, unable to comprehend her words.

“What?”

“Drink your coffee,” she whispered as she handed him a steaming cup.

His hand shook slightly, but he took a long sip and then another. It was strong and black, just what he needed.

“What are you saying?” he demanded.

“Luke came to see me.”

“Oh.”

“I was worried about you, so I came over. Then I was so scared when I saw Natalia downstairs in your lobby. She was all but holding a press conference and telling everybody you two were back together.”