Her Pregnancy Secret(9)

By: Ann Major

“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.”

“It’s okay.” He looked down at her.

Her lashes were shut. He relaxed when he realized she was only talking in her sleep.

“I know about the baby,” he said. “It’s all right.”

“I wanted you to be happy about it.”

“I am happy about it.”

He was happy his brother had left something of himself behind. At the same time, illogically, he wished she’d never been involved with Will.

Unable to resist the temptation to touch her and reassure her, he placed his hand on her shoulder. Then very gently he brushed his lips to her forehead.

“Don’t be afraid,” he whispered. “I won’t let anybody hurt you...or your baby. I swear.”

In her sleep, she smiled. “I know. You just pretend...to be mean and awful and greedy.”

The wistful tenderness in her voice touched his heart. As before, she smelled of strawberries, making him remember how slick and tight she’d been, how she’d cried out at his first stroke—just as a virgin would have—but then had refused to let him stop. She’d felt so perfect. She’d been so sweet.

The memories had him burning up. His every muscle felt tight. The blood on his sheets had been real. He’d been her first. She hadn’t been lying about that as he’d tried to make himself believe. No matter what she was, that had to mean something.

He wanted to pull her closer, to hold her, to ask her why she’d never slept with anyone before him. But more than that, damn it, he wanted to make love to her again.

What was he thinking? Why did he care so deeply for this woman who’d only wanted his brother’s money?

He had to get up and separate himself from her before he lost all control and kissed her and woke her...and risked jeopardizing her health and the baby’s.

Gritting his teeth against the pain of leaving her, he eased himself to the other side of the big bed. Then he got up and went to the window where he stood for a long time, staring down at the glittering rooftops of the Village. Not that he really saw the sparkling lights or the buildings in the moonlight.

He couldn’t let himself feel so much for this woman.