“You can't trust me?” she gasped. “That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard! You are nothing but a rich, spoiled womanizer who's never had to struggle for anything in your life. While all I want, all I've ever wanted, is to take care of the people I love!”
He ground his jaw. “I do not want a custody battle, Ellie. Give the baby up to my care. He will be happy and secure.” He paused. “And I will compensate you for your trouble. I will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams.”
“What?” she gasped, confused. What did money have to do with custody of their baby?
“Ten million dollars.” He looked down at her. “I will give you ten million dollars to go.”
For a moment, she couldn't breathe.
Then outraged fury rushed through her. “No!”
“Is ten million not enough?” He leaned closer to her, his black eyes holding an unfathomable darkness in their depths. “You're holding out for twenty?”
“I won't sell her for any price!”
“Him,” he corrected unthinkingly. “You have a price. We both know you do. Just tell me what it is.”
“I don't want your money, I just want you to let us go!”
“A hundred million dollars. That's my final offer, Ellie. I advise you to take it.”
A hundred million dollars.
She stared at him in shock. It was an unimaginable number. And Diogo meant it. She could see it in his eyes. A powerful billionaire like Diogo Serrador could make a single call, and the forty dollars in her bank account would instantly be transformed into a hundred million dollars.
He truly thought he could buy her baby. Just like that.
His reckless arrogance made her catch her breath. What kind of man would think he could buy and sell anything he wanted—even the precious relationship between mother and child?
“But you don't even want to be a father!” she choked out. “You had a vasectomy. You don't want children. Why try to take mine?”
He clenched his jaw. “I had the vasectomy to make sure that no child of mine was in the world without my knowledge, to be hurt by someone who doesn't have the judgment or resources to be a decent parent.”
Fury raced through her.
“And you think you'd make a decent parent just because you're rich? You've never been able to commit to anyone for longer than a week. You'd likely grow bored raising a child and abandon her. I wouldn't choose you as my child's father if you begged me!”
The hard look in his eyes could have shattered diamonds into dust.
“Agree to my terms, Ellie. Until the baby is born, I'll treat you like a queen. Then you will be a rich woman, free to pursue life and enjoy your own romances to your heart's desire. What is your answer?”
She clenched her hands. He really thought she would sell her child to the highest bidder then go gallivanting off to find a boyfriend and spend her millions?
She set her jaw, facing him with eyes full of hate.
“My answer? That's easy,” she spat out, clenching her hands. “Go to hell.”
Go to hell?Diogo cursed softly in Portuguese.
He was already there.
He'd been a fool to sleep with Ellie in the first place. An employee—a small-town girl—a virgin. What had he been thinking?
He hadn't been thinking. That was the problem. Returning from an all-night deal in Rio, triumphant over an acquisition, they'd been stopped on their way back to the hotel when their car was halted by an impromptu street celebration along the Avenida Atlântica. Samba music and dancers had poured from Copacabana, some samba dancers dressed in sequins and feathers, others barely dressed at all.
Diogo had pulled Ellie from the car. He'd cleared a path for them, walking the last blocks to the Carlton Palace. They'd passed an alley where a man was making love to a woman against a wall. As he kissed her lips and caressed her breasts, a different man knelt reverently between her naked legs.
Diogo was a Carioca by birth. He hadn't been shocked. But he'd instinctively glanced back at his wholesome junior secretary trailing behind him, her hand clinging tightly to his own. He'd seen her look in the alley, and her pink lips had parted in a hoarse intake of breath.
And then she'd turned and looked straight into Diogo's eyes.
Wordlessly asking him to touch her.
Begging him to taste her.
Suddenly, amid the frenzied celebration of the music- filled batucadas swaying to the frenetic rhythm filling the air like exotic perfume, he'd really seen Ellie Jensen. Not just as a beautiful girl, but a pure-hearted beauty, skin white as snow, hair like spun gold. Ellie had been so desirable that it had made him hurt inside. As if he'd gone back in time to when he'd still believed in love and fidelity…
He shook his head. Love? Abestado. He'd stopped believing in that particular fairy tale long ago. But he'd known then that he had to have Ellie or die.
People lost their minds during Carnaval. They discarded marriage vows without repercussion or blame. Diogo had briefly lost his senses beneath the pounding rhythm—nothing more and nothing less.
He didn't remember how he got her upstairs to his penthouse. He just remembered the way she'd trembled beneath him in bed. Her gasp of pain and his own shock when he'd discovered she was an untouched virgin—not wholesome just in appearance, but reality. He'd tried to pull back, but she'd reached up and kissed him with lips so tender and sweet that all possibility of stopping was swept away. He'd thrust into her slowly, inch by agonizing inch, until he heard another slow-rising cry rise from deep inside her. He made her come again, and then a third time, until the tears in her eyes were from pleasure too great to bear.
Only then did he finally allow himself to surrender. He thrust inside her, imploding with an explosion of white heat that made him collapse against her on the bed.
Afterwards, he'd held her. He made love to her all night. And far more surprising—he'd slept in her arms. He still remembered the feel of her soft, gentle body. Knowing that when dawn came, he would have to give her up.
Biskreta, he grew hard just thinking about that night.
Staring at her now, even as he demanded that she leave both him and the baby forever, he wanted her back in his bed. Craved her beyond all reason. Beyond all resistance.
But he couldn't trust her. Ellie was young, naive, shortsighted. If Diogo hadn't guessed the truth about his baby's paternity, he would never have even known that he existed. Ellie would have married that bastard Wright. She would have given his child away.
Did she know what kind of man Timothy Wright was? Did she have any idea how he'd suddenly gotten so rich over the last few years—his nasty little side business?
Diogo intended to find out.
“A hundred million dollars is a lot of money, Ellie. It's far more than Wright would have gotten for you.”
Her china-blue eyes widened. “What are you talking about?”
He watched her narrowly. “Don't you know?”
She shook her head, and her lips turned down in a sad little moue. “I just know I treated Timothy badly,” she whispered. “He's loved me for ages. But I couldn't love him no matter how hard I tried. Then I humiliated him in front of all our wedding guests…”
Diogo barked a laugh. “He deserves far worse.” Suddenly haunted by the image of a woman's face, he looked away. “I nearly killed him at Christmas. With my bare hands.”
“Why?” He heard Ellie take a step toward him, heard her intake of breath. “What did he do?”
“Do you really want to know?” he asked harshly.
She put her hand on his arm. “Yes. I want to know.”
He looked up at her. Ellie had changed a great deal from the shy secretary he remembered. Her body had changed, as well. He could now see the unmistakable signs of pregnancy. Her pale skin glowed. Her slender breasts had grown huge. They swelled beneath the pretty neckline of her maternity dress, straining beneath the fabric.
He found himself picturing what those new breasts now looked like. What they felt like.
How they tasted.
Maldição, she was the most alluring woman he'd ever met. And she didn't even realize her own power…
His whole body broke into a hot sweat. Desire went through him with an unbearable force that made his hands tremble. He wanted to toss her onto the bed, take her hard against the wall, to thrust into her again and again until he satiated this agonizing need…
He clenched his hands, turned away. He had to get a hold of himself. It wasn't like him to be so close to losing control!
“Ellie,” he said in a low voice, “do you know how Wright was getting so rich?”
“Timothy's private practice in Flint was thriving—”
“He's been buying and selling babies on the open market,” he ruthlessly interrupted. “Taking children from poor mothers and giving them to rich, childless couples who can afford his illegal fees.”