“Señorita Wilkinson, what are you doing?” the older woman asked sharply.
Chloe hesitated, taken aback by the hostility in her employer’s demeanor. “I was going to start work. I’m terribly sorry I’m late.”
Señora Martinez stared for a moment, then her red painted mouth curved into a satisfied smile. “You’re not just late. You’re fired.”
Chloe reared back, her heart stopping. Panic slammed into her. No, not on top of everything else. She couldn’t lose her job too. If she lost her job, she couldn’t stay in Spain. “You’re firing me?”
“No, I’m not,” the manager practically purred. “Andrés Montero is.”
The blood drained from her face and Chloe shook her head, wanting to deny the words. “He has that kind of power? To have me terminated?”
Señora Martinez’s smile widened, and Chloe had the distinct impression the other woman was enjoying this entirely too much. “Are you really this dim? I thought you knew—I was informed you were extra cozy with him last night.” She paused, then went in for the kill. “Señor Montero owns Diablo’s Paraíso and a few dozen five-star resorts throughout Europe.”
The room spun, and Chloe gripped the wall to keep from falling. Andrés Montero. The name finally, completely sunk in. How had she not seen it? He wasn’t some random, elite guest. When he’d said he had the power to save her job, he’d been dead serious. This was Andrés’ resort. He not only had the power to save her job, but to take it too. As he’d just proven.
Her entire world was crumbling.
She closed her eyes, fighting the merciless waves of shock. Faintly she heard her manager telling her to clean out her locker and leave.
Two days later, Andrés received the package. He’d just completed his business at the resort and was packing to fly out to Paris later that evening. He needed to get away from this hotel, from the reminder of Chloe. His temper had been quick to ignite lately; his mood had never been quite as foul.
When Pablo strode into the room carrying the small package, Andrés bit back a snarl of annoyance at the interruption. He kept himself in check, giving a nod of thanks while he accepted it.
There was no return address and the padded envelope simply had his name on the front. He ripped it open, only mildly curious to see what was inside. But his interest increased tenfold when he pulled free the black silky halter dress and heels he’d bought her. There was no note. Nothing personal except for the surprising return of the one gift he’d bestowed on her.
“When was this delivered?” he demanded swiftly, turning to Pablo.
“Just minutes ago, Señor.”
Which meant she was likely in the building…
Unwanted excitement poured through Andrés’ blood. He crumpled the dress in his fist. Dammit. He shouldn’t care one ounce where Chloe was and what she was doing. The woman who’d enchanted him had been nothing but a carefully woven fantasy. Their time together a lie. She’d gone to bed with him not because she’d shared that same shocking chemistry, but because he was a hot-topic story for her magazine.
He drew in a slow breath, careful not to reveal the turbulent thoughts in his head to Pablo. He prided himself on his ability to keep his emotions controlled. “Señorita Wilkinson is at work?” he asked calmly.
Pablo cleared his throat. “No, Señor. Someone else delivered the package. Chloe’s position at the resort has been terminated.”
Andrés stilled. Terminated? “By whom?”
Alarm stabbed sharply in Andrés’ gut. He shook his head and turned away from his assistant. Estella had fired Chloe? On what grounds? Because she’d been tardy for work?
“Do we have an address in Valencia for Chloe?” he murmured absently, not quite sure why he was even asking. He couldn’t possibly be considering reinstating her job, could he?
“We do,” Pablo said carefully. “But it is no longer valid. Señorita Wilkinson flew back to America yesterday morning, Señor.”
The announcement slammed into him like a fist to his stomach. Could it possibly be true? But the expression of regret on his assistant’s eyes left little doubt of the validity of his statement.
Chloe was gone. She was literally thousands of miles and an ocean away from him now. Gone from his life as quickly as she’d come into it.
So why was he not thinking good riddance?
Guilt pricked deep, and was maddeningly persistent. He couldn’t brush it off. Not while knowing the greeting Chloe would find from her magazine employer when she returned to America.
She is no longer your problem.
“Very well then,” Andrés finally said. “Have my bags carried down, and prepare the driver to take me to the airport to fly to Paris.”
Turning on his heel, Andrés strode out of the penthouse suite, pressing the button to call the elevator.
Chloe had made her bed, and now she would lie in it. He had no reason for guilt, no reason to even be thinking of her any longer.
The elevator doors slid open. He stepped inside and hit the button to go down, and closed his eyes. Unfortunately, the image that greeted him behind closed lids was of Chloe in his arms. Sweet and vulnerable. Crying out with pleasure when he’d claimed her.
He opened his eyes once more and stared at the paneled walls inside the elevator. He would forget Chloe ever existed. There had been women prior to her, and there would certainly be many after.
Chloe pulled off her sneakers, fell back onto the couch, then rubbed her aching feet.
Another double shift at the diner, serving greasy food to cranky patrons for the last sixteen hours. Quite the far cry from the posh resort in Spain she’d been at just a couple of months ago.
She shook her head and laughed. Only it wasn’t really a laugh, more of a hysterical whimper. One that quickly morphed into a choked sob while fat tears rolled down her face.
She hadn’t thought it could get any worse. Not after returning to America and discovering the diary and her notes were missing. No doubt taken by Andrés, apparently the reason behind his assumption that she was a dirty reporter willing to do anything for a story.
And his absurd belief had ultimately led to the dreadful call from her editor. Tracy had been beside herself, apologizing and ranting in the same breath as she’d fired Chloe.
How could Chloe be so foolish? Sleeping with such a powerful man and wanting to write about it? Andrés was threatening a lawsuit that could crumple the entire magazine, which left them no option but to promise to fire Chloe and not run the article.
Fired from the resort. Fired from the magazine. And now this.
Her watery gaze slid to the coffee table and to where the results of the pregnancy test still sat in a plastic sandwich bag. She was pregnant with Andrés’ child.
She was an idiot. Because she hadn’t even considered the possibility of a pregnancy after the initial panic they’d had that night. She’d been certain conceiving would be a challenge when the time came. And now, one time without a condom and she was pregnant. Pregnant with the child of a man who’d singlehandedly wrecked her life and yet, as much as she resented it, still had part of her heart.
Chloe pressed a palm to her belly and closed her eyes. Her pulse quickened and something inside of her softened with warmth. She was going to have Andrés’ baby. It would be a tangible reminder of their passion and of their two soul-changing nights together, before everything had gone terribly wrong. She couldn’t be happy about the pregnancy, could she? And yet…
But how on earth can you afford a baby? The stressful reminder stabbed at her again and caused another flood of tears. She was barely staying afloat financially as it was. Three weeks ago she’d nearly been evicted from her apartment until some unknown person had paid off the amount she’d been short, plus an extra two months’ rent.
Chloe suspected the good samaritan was Martha, another waitress at the restaurant, though she’d never admitted it.
Martha was also the same friend who’d insisted she take the pregnancy test. Chloe’d been getting sick for two weeks straight like clockwork, but had refused to consider what the symptoms could potentially mean.
Chloe had been reluctant to take it, because denying the possibility of a baby was really so much easier if she didn’t have proof. But now there was no ignoring it. She swept her hand over her belly where there was additional proof—her jeans were growing snug.
A swell of panic and helplessness took root inside her. She knew the right thing to do was to inform Andrés. But just the idea of facing him again made everything within her recoil at the idea. And yet, you’re carrying his child.
Unlike when she was in Spain, she now knew exactly who Andrés Montero was. How she could’ve ever failed to recognize him in the first place was inexplicable. He was routinely found in business magazines and papers, often making headlines because of his ruthlessness in acquiring small resorts and hotels that were in financial woes and then transforming them into five-star luxury resorts.