Diogo ground his teeth. Biskreta, he never should have taken her to Rio. He should have fired her at Christmas, along with his treacherous ex-lawyer.
His body went tense just remembering the gleam in Timothy Wright's pale, feral face when Diogo found out what he'd done. “You should thank me, Mr. Serrador,” the man had said slyly. “I saved you millions of dollars.”
Thank him? The man deserved to burn in hell.
Diogo should have fired Ellie, too. Why trust a woman who was Wright's friend? But Diogo's conscience hadn't allowed him to fire her. Hadn't thought it fair.
And perhaps, he forced himself to admit, he'd liked having her in the office. Unlike many of the other secretaries, she'd always acted cheerful and kind. She hadn't stooped to gossip. She'd added brightness to his office.
Until he'd slept with her.
Diogo ground his teeth. He'd known the girl was fresh from the country, but since she was twenty-four years old, it had never occurred to him she might be a virgin. If he'd known, he never would have touched her. Virgins were off-limits. They took lovemaking far too seriously. They saw it as a relationship. Plus, they were usually boring in bed.
But Ellie Jensen had been so sweetly stunning. With those china-blue eyes, that angelic white-blonde hair, and the curvaceous body of a swimsuit model, he'd naturally assumed she had experience. In the heat and lust of Rio's Carnaval, he'd acted on impulse. Ah, and it had been such a night… His body got hard just thinking of it.
But no, he was done. There were many beautiful women in the world, and he had no interest in breaking little innocent hearts. Or encouraging naive little farm girls that they might be the ones to tame him.
He heard a scuffle outside his office door. Irritated, he turned and pressed the intercom button a second time. “Mrs. Alvarez? What is the delay?”
The door was abruptly flung open, banging loudly against the wall. He looked up, his jaw hard. “Finally. Please take a letter—”
But instead of his competent executive secretary, he saw the bane of his existence. The woman whose beauty and innocence had just cost him a billion-dollar deal.
“I need to talk to you!” she gasped, struggling with Mrs. Alvarez. “Please!”
“Miss Jensen,” he bit out scathingly, then paused when he got a good look at her.
Her blond hair was pulled back in a disheveled ponytail, and there were dark hollows beneath her eyes as if she hadn't slept. Her forehead had a pale sheen, as if she'd been ill. She looked truly awful, and her rumpled sack dress made her look as if she'd gained twenty pounds overnight. What had happened to his neat, tidy, cheerful junior secretary?
Inwardly, Diogo sighed. He should have expected this. The girl no doubt intended to tearfully confess her love for him, then beg him for a commitment.
Exactly what he'd wanted to avoid. He would have liked to keep her as his lover for far longer than a one-night stand, but he'd denied himself the pleasure. He'd purposefully ignored her, hoping that she'd realize they had no possibility of a future.
It had been difficult for him, working in the same office. Seeing her in her cubicle, he'd often wanted nothing more than to drag her back to his office and make love to her on his desk, against the wall, on his leather sofa. But he'd held himself back. He'd tried to be noble.
And this was the result.
Three months without a woman in his bed, and now a blown billion-dollar deal.
“I'm sorry, sir,” the furious Carmen Alvarez panted, still pulling on the girl's sleeve. “I tried to stop her—”
“Leave us, Mrs. Alvarez,” he said shortly.
The older woman's jaw dropped. “But, sir—”
He gave her a look that immediately caused her to back out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Diogo placed his fingertips on his wide, dark wood desk. “Sit down, Miss Jensen.”
The girl didn't move. Folding her arms, she looked up at him bitterly. “I think you should start calling me Ellie, don't you?”
Ellie? He would never be so unprofessional to refer to a member of his staff by first name. Mrs. Alvarez had been his executive secretary for ten years, but he wouldn't dream of calling her Carmen. But then…he'd never taken her body in the heat and madness of Rio's Carnaval, kissing her in the street amid the collective madness of lust…
He pushed the thought aside.
“Sit down,” he repeated, and this time the girl obeyed. Her knees trembled as she sank into the leather chair across from his desk. She hugged herself, looking unhappy, almost ill. It made him feel uneasy. The look in her eyes troubled him. Made him feel guilty.
He resented the feeling. Maldição, he hadn't known she was a virgin! If he had, he never would have touched her!
Still. Best to have it out now. Obviously his silence hadn't given her the message. Nor had the fact that he'd taken out other women—although that had been for charity benefits and business engagements, hardly pleasure.
He would just have to be brutal. Inform her that he had no intention of ever settling down with any woman, no matter how sweet or pure or good in bed she might be.
With any luck, Ellie would accept his decision. She would return to being a competent secretary. He had to give her the chance…. Although, if a different member of his staff had made a billion-dollar mistake, he would have fired the person without thought!
But he couldn't do that to Ellie. Not after he'd seduced her in Rio on a whim. Not after he'd unthinkingly debauched the innocence of the only purely good-hearted girl he'd met in New York.
He looked down at her.
“What do you wish to discuss with me, Miss Jensen? What is so important that you nearly started a fistfight with Mrs. Alvarez?”
She swallowed. “I need…to tell you something.”
He waited, bracing for her to blurt out that she loved him, that she couldn't live without him, that she wanted them to move in together, or some other such nonsense. He'd heard it all before.
Instead, she said, “I… I'm leaving you.” She licked her lips. “Resigning. Effective immediately.”
Relief rushed through him. Then…
Regret? Ridiculous. He was just surprised, that was all. And rather sorry to lose a competent secretary.
He sat down heavily in his chair.
“I'm sorry to hear that. But I understand why you want to leave. I'll write you a recommendation that will get you hired by any firm in the city.”
“No.” She shook her head. “You don't understand. I don't need your recommendation. I'm getting married.”
He stared at her, shocked.
“Married?” The center of his chest went cold. “When?”
That soon? His hands tightened. “That's fast.”
He took a long breath. All these months, she hadn't been heartsick over him. He hadn't hurt Ellie at all by seducing her. Since then, she'd just been distracted by a hot new romance. Diogo should have been glad.
But something like cold fury went through his body. For no good reason, he had the sudden urge to punch the man who would soon have Ellie Jensen in his bed every night, doing his bidding and moaning his name. Giving him her body…
He ground his jaw. “Who is he?”
Her posture went straight in her chair. “Do you really care?”
“No.” He clenched his jaw. “I don't.”
She stared at him for a long moment.
“You really don't, do you?” she whispered. She shook her head. “Women are interchangeable to you. Useful only for organizing your schedule, making your coffee or warming your bed.”
Warming his bed? If he'd followed his own desires, he could have had her in his bed every night for the last three months. Diogo tried to remember why he hadn't. Something about being noble. He cursed under his breath. He should have just enjoyed her. Now he'd lost the chance—forever.
He'd been replaced so easily!
Diogo had never had the experience of being left by a woman he still desired. This was his reward for doing the right thing? To see his prize carried off by some other man?
He leaned forward in repressed fury, placing his fingers on his desk. “Useful, Miss Jensen? Hardly. Your distraction over your love affair has just caused me to lose the Trock deal—”
“I told you, call me Ellie!” she cried. “And I'm not finished!”
Feeling like a saint, he folded his arms and forced himself to wait.
She rose slowly to her feet. There was a sheen of tears in her eyes. She seemed to sway with emotion.
“I'm sorry about the Trock deal, Diogo. But there's something you need to know.” She spoke so softly he could barely hear. “I'm…having a baby.”