And worse, it was no longer just her own heart and soul at risk. Now she had her child to think about. When Diogo left, as he inevitably would, he wouldn't just abandon Ellie. He would leave behind a heartbroken child who would always wonder why her father hadn't loved her enough to stay.
Just like Ellie's father. He certainly hadn't loved them enough. He'd been forced into marriage by a baby—Ellie. He'd married her mother, he'd been Ellie's father. Sort of. He'd mostly spent years on the couch after work, watching mindless television and drinking beer, barking at Ellie or her mother if they ever dared to ask him a question.
Then when her mother had gotten sick, just when they needed him most, he'd packed up his bag. “Sorry,” he'd muttered to fifteen-year-old Ellie without meeting her eyes. “I've just got to take my own happiness while I can.”
And so Ellie had dropped out of school to take care of her mother, working nights at the Dairy Burger to support them. Her mother had accepted her care bitterly, blaming Ellie as the cause of her miserable marriage and all her own missed chances.
Ellie's child wasn't going to grow up that way.
“Ellie,” Diogo said. She looked up and saw echoes of her own pain in the dark depths of his gaze. It was so tempting to reach out to him. To try to protect him from whatever had caused that hidden anguish in his eyes.
But what was she thinking? Diogo need her help? That was a laugh!
She turned away. “I'm just cold.”
He reached out to stroke her cheek.
“So let me warm you,” he whispered.
Pulling off her bra and panties, he lifted her naked body up into his arms. She was too numb to protest as he carried her into the marble-and-steel bathroom. He carried her into a tall, freestanding shower surrounded by a round wall of clear glass and pushed her gently inside.
She gasped as hot water hit her skin. It caressed her body, running down her hair, her throat, between her breasts. Down her belly to the tuft of hair between her legs. So hot, so sensual, so alive. For so long, she'd felt nothing but heartache. She'd felt so numb when she agreed to marry Timothy. What difference did marrying him make? She almost hadn't cared if she lived or died.
Until she found out she was pregnant…
She heard Diogo enter the shower behind her.
With a sudden intake of breath, she closed her eyes, realizing he had to be naked. Awareness surged through her body as she leaned her hot forehead against the glass. She knew his hard, muscular body was just inches from her own, his muscles caressed beneath the same streaming hot water. She moved as far away as she dared, pressing her body against the glass.
“Please don't touch me,” she whispered, not turning around.
“You want me to touch you, meu amor.” His accented voice was deep, barely audible above the sound of rushing water. He put his hands on her shoulders, slowly rubbing the knots of tension with his thumbs. “And I want to touch you. I've wanted it for months. It has nearly killed me not to touch you.”
He hadn't forgotten her? He'd missed her?
But even as she told herself it couldn't possibly be true, she leaned back against him. His hands felt so good. Stress and anger and fear melted away beneath his ministrations.
He slowly rubbed her shoulders.
Then her back.
Her whole body felt pink and warm and limp as he turned her around in his arms. She closed her eyes, as if she could pretend she weren't naked in front of him. As if every inch of her skin weren't crying out for his caress, to feel his body hot and hard against her own.
She felt his arm around her naked waist. His muscular thigh pressed between her legs. “Open your eyes, querida.”
She shook her head.
He ran his hand down her naked back, against her soft skin that was already slick with wet heat. Involuntarily, she shuddered beneath the stroke. She pressed her hands back against the glass, struggling to steady the sway of her knees.
“What do you want from me?” she whispered. “After all these months of ignoring me?”
“I stayed away to protect you.” He took a deep breath. “You were a virgin. I feared you would take our affair too seriously, that you would want things from me I could not possibly give.”
“Like—like a commitment?”
His voice was low. “Yes.”
Unthinkingly, Ellie's eyes flew open. “I know you'd never commit to any woman—”
Her voice trailed off as she looked at him.
The glass of the round shower was opaque with steam, leaving them in their own white world, utterly alone and far too close. Broad-shouldered, he towered over her, every inch of him hard with muscle. His masculine brutality frightened her. Her eyes glanced between his heavily-muscled legs and she sucked in her breath.
He scared her. And yet…
She wanted him. So badly.
She licked her lips. “And now?” she managed hoarsely. “What has changed?”
“You are pregnant with my child. There is no question of me letting you go.” Leaning close, he stroked her wet hair back from her face. “Until the baby is born, you are mine….”
He ran his hands down her hot skin. Down her arms. Down the valley between her breasts to her belly. She felt his fingers slowly run along her hips, lightly brushing her waist and pausing to caress the new fullness of her belly.
He lowered his lips to hers.
His embrace was as hot and demanding as it had been during Carnaval. He kissed her deeply, roughly, biting her lips until they bruised. Then his embrace became more gentle. His arms wrapped around her body, holding her close. He took her swelling breasts into his hands, cupping their weight, squeezing her sensitive nipples between his fingers.
A soft cry escaped her lips as he bent his head beneath the hot water. He teased one nipple with his tongue as he crushed the other in his hand. The whole world seemed to swirl around her, around and around with the sweet agonizing pressure of the water—and his tongue.
With a little cry, she arched her back.
“I am the only man who's ever touched you like this,” he whispered in her ear. She felt the dark scruff of his chin against the tender skin of her neck. “Tell me.”
“Just you.” She sighed.
“Ellie.” She felt his fingers, soft as a whisper, brush against the hair between her legs. A hard shiver rocked through her body as she gasped for breath. She threw her head back against the glass, trembling to her toes. The warmth and closeness of the shower crowded in upon her, the hot waves of pounding water rushing down the curves of her body.
He was so close. So close. And she wanted him closer still. Wanted him to pick her up in his arms, press her against the glass and thrust inside her until she forgot her own name. Until she forgot every pain and regret. Until she soared with the explosive joy she hadn't felt since the day he'd left her….
He stroked between her legs with deliberate, agonizing slowness.
“Please,” she whimpered, twisting her head from side to side against the glass. “Please!”
“Please what?” he said softly. He lowered to kiss her, biting her neck.
She could feel him leave a mark on her skin. As he'd long ago left a mark on her soul. He'd already marked her in the deepest way possible: he'd filled her with his child.
“Tell me what you want, Ellie,” he murmured against her skin. “I want to hear you say it.”
What did she want?
A cry rose up from her heart. A man she could love. A man she could trust with both her child and her heart.
She wanted the impossible.
Tears rushed into her eyes.
“Isn't it bad enough that my baby will be born without a name?” she whispered. “Bad enough that I'm an unwed mother—bad enough that everyone thinks I'm your whore? Are you so selfish that you want to make it true? To take the last bit of pride I've got left?”
He froze. Looking down at her in the shower, his expression was half-shadowed in the light of the translucent bathroom windows.
She had the vision of his muscular body in the sunlight flickering through the hot steam, standing proud and fierce like an ancient god of fire. An all-powerful heartless Greek god who seduced mortal maidens at will and left them cold and starving for his fire until the day they died.
He looked away.
“I never wanted to hurt you, Ellie,” he said in a low voice. “Never.”
Abruptly, he turned off the hot water.
Without another word, he pulled her from the shower. He dried her off with a thick cotton towel, then did the same to his own muscular body.
And even as she trembled beneath his touch, she still couldn't look away from his perfect masculine form, the dark hair on his chest and belly forming a perfect arrow down to his…