She told herself she didn't want him. And even if she did, she couldn't have him. The pleasure he offered was like a drug. One more taste, she would never escape the addiction.
Diogo was a selfish womanizer. He took what he desired. He grabbed a woman and didn't let go until he'd had his fill; then he tossed her aside for the next one. He cared only for his own pleasure.
She heard him leave the room and waited to hear the front door slam. Now that she'd denied him his instant gratification, he would move on to some other, more compliant woman.
She closed her eyes. He would easily find another woman to satiate his desires. A woman a thousand times prettier and smarter than Ellie would ever be.
“Ellie,” he said.
Shocked he'd returned, she opened her eyes. He was dressed in a black shirt and dark jeans. He held out something for her.
Taking the pile of clothes in her arms, she saw a lovely dress, panties, a bra in her size—all stretchy enough for her expanding shape, but soft and very, very pretty. The kind of maternity clothes that cost a small fortune.
“Where—how did you—”
“I had my staff arrange a wardrobe for your stay.”
He gave her a slow-rising smile that she felt down to her toes. “Come with me.”
ALL THROUGH BREAKFAST, Ellie couldn't stop giving Diogo little furtive glances over the table.
Sitting on the sunny warmth of the penthouse balcony, with a wide vista of the Atlantic Ocean and the sharp, cragged peak of Sugar Loaf Mountain rising to the east, she watched Diogo drink black coffee. Watched him smile and chat easily in Portuguese with the housekeeper. Watched him eat his buttery croissant slathered in jam with obvious pleasure.
So different from Timothy, who ate his meals with surgical disinterest. Diogo enjoyed his life. Even the little moments.
Sitting with him in the Brazilian sunshine, breathing sea air that was fresh from last night's rain, Ellie realized that she was enjoying herself, as well. She wiggled her toes in her comfortable new sandals, then sat forward in her chair and accepted the housekeeper's offer of a second ham-and-cheese omelet.
For some reason, for the first time in forever, Ellie felt…hungry.
She sipped sparkling water from a crystal stem. Finishing her ham-and-cheese omelet, she gobbled down two chocolate croissants, all the while gulping down papaya, mangoes and açai berries, washing it down with sweet-tart pitanga juice. Every bite was ecstasy. Every taste better than the last. She felt good down to her bones.
And every time she looked up from her plate…
She saw him.
Their eyes met, and a shiver went through her. He hadn't left her when she refused to make love to him. He hadn't run out to look for some other woman. He hadn't even been angry. He'd just brought her outside to share a meal with him in the sunshine.
Almost as if he cared.
She bit her lip, trying not to even think such things. She couldn't start to imagine he cared. She couldn't count on someone who would inevitably fail and abandon both her and the baby. It was better that her child have no father at all!
Growing up with a distant father and bitter mother, Ellie had promised herself that her life would be different. She would fall in love with a man who loved her desperately in return. They would marry and have a family. Children. Grandchildren. Through all their lives, they'd have a love affair that never ended.
But real life wasn't like that, was it?
At least—she thought with sudden sadness—it wasn't like that for her. But she'd be a fool not to enjoy this moment while she could. Breakfast with Diogo in Rio. A beautiful, sunny morning. Delicious pastry and comfortable shoes…
Reaching forward, she helped herself to another chocolate croissant. She sighed as she took a bite, enjoying the exquisite flavor. She'd try to follow Diogo's example. If she couldn't have her impossible dreams, she would try to savor the pleasures of the moment while she could!
The housekeeper refilled Diogo's coffee, and he nodded her dismissal. When he was alone with Ellie on the balcony, he leaned across the table.
“Pregnancy suits you.”
Mouth full, she looked up to discover Diogo looking at her with frank desire. An electric current traveled between them.
“You're even more beautiful,” he said, “than you were that day at Carnaval.”
Feeling awkward, she swallowed the bite of fruit and leaned back in her chair. Forgetting her gracefully placed linen napkin in her lap in her confusion, she wiped her mouth with her sleeve.
“Thank you,” she muttered.
“How are you feeling?”
“Great.” And to her amazement, it was true. The nausea she'd felt for months was gone. In fact, she hadn't really felt sick since she'd arrived back in Rio and taken a deep breath of the fragrant air, spiced with exotic flowers and the salt of the sea.
“Good.” Diogo smiled at her. “I have a proposition for you.”
A little thrill zinged through her. “A proposition?”
A fantasy overwhelmed her brain. I want you, Ellie, you and only you. I want to raise our child together. I want to marry you and make love to you every day for the rest of our lives…
Stop it! she yelled at herself. Hadn't she learned not to dream impossible dreams—and learned it the hard way? Besides, she didn't want to be Diogo's wife. Why would she want to marry a man she couldn't even trust to be faithful?
“Ellie.” He took a sip of his coffee, then set down the cup. “You are so young.”
She snorted. “Twenty-four!”
His dark gaze seared her. “That is young to me. You are barely starting your life. You had no intention of getting pregnant, but I caused you to conceive my child. You shouldn't suffer because of my mistake.”
She gave him an uncertain smile. “I haven't exactly been suffering…”
He gave her a brief, humorless smile. “I've caused you to be sick for months. Driven you out of your job. Kidnapped you from your wedding… Shall I go on?”
“What is your point?”
“I caused this,” he said quietly. “I can fix it.”
She clasped her hands beneath the table to hide their trembling. “How can you fix something like this?”
“I want you to promise to stay with me.”
Her heart leapt up into her throat. “To promise?”
“Until the baby is born. Then you can go back to New York, or anywhere you desire. You can return to your career, if you like. You can date whomever you want. Being pregnant has thrown you—it's what nearly made you marry a man you did not love. It clouded your judgment. Marrying him would have ruined your life—and my son's.”
“What are you driving at?” she whispered.
“After our child is born, I will set you free.” He took another sip of coffee. “My son will stay with me.”
A dagger of ice passed through her body. “You want to separate me from my baby?”
“It is for the best, Ellie. You never wanted to be a mother—”
“That's not true!”
“And I'm not convinced that you can take proper care of him.”
Her jaw dropped. “You can't be serious.”
She sucked in her breath.
“You think you would be a better father?” she demanded furiously. “You'd never even be home! You fling yourself into a new woman's bed every night!”
“No, you listen to me!” She abruptly rose from the table. “You're the one who doesn't have the ability to be a good parent. The baby and I are leaving right now—”
“Stop,” he ordered, and she stopped. She heard him come behind her. He placed his hands on her shoulders. The weight of them pressed down on her like the burden of her heart's hopeless yearning.
He turned her around in his arms.
“You will stay here until the child is born,” he said. “That is nonnegotiable. I can't take the chance you might return to Timothy Wright—or any other man like him. You will remain here where I can keep an eye on you.”
She fought back tears. The Brazilian sunlight must have glazed her brain to make her think that she could ever trust Diogo! “So you can keep me prisoner, you mean!”
“So I can keep you safe,” he said coldly. “You don't know Wright as well as you think you do.”
“I know he's my friend. I know he's got more honor and decency in his little finger than you've got in your whole body!”
He gave her a grim smile. “And it's that blind lack of judgment that shows you're not fit to raise my son. I simply cannot trust you to—”