The coldness in him spread, turning to ice. A baby?
Ellie was pregnant. With another man's baby.
For a second, he couldn't even breathe. He heard the echo of a woman's voice long ago, pleading in Portuguese. “Will you marry me, Diogo? Will you?” And later, a man's voice in the same language. “I'm afraid she's dead, senhor. Beaten to death…”
Ellie's voice brought him back to the present.
Pregnant. That certainly explained the weight gain and the pallor and all the time she'd been spending in the ladies' lounge. She hadn't been suffering tears of unrequited love. It had been morning sickness.
Pregnant. Ellie had been in bed with another man. Her legs had wrapped around his as she pulled him down on her naked body with an ecstatic cry of joy. How many times had they made love for her to get pregnant? Three times a week? Three times a day?
Anger rushed back in force, careening over the numb shock like raging water filling a dry riverbed. Ever since they'd returned from Rio, he'd been celibate as a monk, striving night and day to bring the Trock deal together. And while he'd been blaming himself for taking the poor, sweet, innocent girl's virginity, she'd nonchalantly gone from his bed into a hot love affair with another man. As if her night with Diogo had been a mere stepping stone to bigger and better things.
She was pregnant.
And getting married in a hurry.
Suddenly, he saw the whole situation in a new light.
He sucked in his breath. He turned to face her, and his lip curved into a sneer.
“Ellie, you've got quite the act going, don't you? Playing the part of a sweet, innocent girl. But when you realized that giving me your virginity wasn't going to pay off, you quickly moved on to the next man, didn't you? You accidentally got pregnant. I assume he's very rich? Congratulations.”
Her jaw fell open. She stared up at him in shock, her eyes large and limpid and blue as a summer storm over the Atlantic.
“You think I got pregnant on purpose?” she whispered. “That I'd force a man to marry me with a baby?”
“I think you're clever,” he said coldly. “All this time I've thought you were so different from the rest—but you're just better at the game. Biskreta, you're the most accomplished little actress I've ever met.”
“How can you even think that!”
“I'm just curious to know who the poor fool is,” he said ruthlessly. “Tell me. Who's the idiot who got caught in your trap?”
He saw tears in her eyes. He steeled his heart against her fake tears, which she no doubt manufactured at will. He wouldn't let her play him for a fool. Never again! For three months, he'd worried about her feelings. He'd even denied himself her bed because he'd been trying to protect her. And all along she'd just been angling for a diamond on her finger!
Her blue eyes glittered at him through a prism of tears.
“You think only an idiot would marry me?” she choked out.
“That's right,” he said coolly. “Only a fool would marry a woman who deliberately trapped him with a pregnancy.”
The tears spilled over her lashes.
“Such a poised little actress,” he murmured acidly. “Such a fine performance.”
Looking up at him, she gave a harsh laugh, shaking her head through the tears. “You'll never get a woman pregnant, will you, Diogo?” she bit out. “You've made sure of it!”
“Sim, it is true.” He bared his teeth in the semblance of a smile. “I've never met a woman I could trust longer than it takes to seduce her.”
She sucked in her breath.
“And that's all you have to say to me?” she whispered. “After you seduced me and took my virginity? After three months of silence, you have nothing to say to me—but insults?”
An unwelcome shiver of emotion went through Diogo. He pushed the feeling aside. Ellie Jensen was a gold digger. It was ridiculous of him to be so surprised about it. The city was full of women who were just pretending to have a career while they tried to find a rich man.
“I do have one question,” he said acerbically. “Why are you still here in my office? You've quit your job without notice. Fine. You've become such a bad secretary, I'm glad to see you go. So why are you still here? Are you afraid your marriage bed will be unsatisfying, and you're already angling to take a lover? Sorry, but I don't date married women.”
She wiped her tears savagely. “You're disgusting!”
“No, querida. That would be you. As my employee, I respected you. But I was wrong.” Wrong about so many things. First about Timothy Wright—now about Ellie. Suddenly weary, Diogo rubbed the back of his head. “Go, Ellie. Just go.”
She drew back, like an ominous dark cloud rolling against the earth before the storm.
“Don't worry, Diogo,” she said softly. “You'll never see me again.”
Her lovely blue eyes stabbed at him with accusation. He felt troubled in a way he couldn't explain. But the moment was interrupted by a knock at the door. A security guard stood heavily in the doorway.
“Miss Alvarez called me, Mr. Serrador.”
“Yes. Show Miss Jensen out,” Diogo said, turning away. “Get out, Ellie. Good luck.”
“Good luck,” she repeated in a tight voice. “Goodbye.”
He looked up, but the door had already closed behind her. Alone in his office, he took a deep breath and leaned his head in his hands. He tried to work, but couldn't. After an hour, he gave up. He called a gorgeous actress and asked her to lunch.
It was only halfway through his martini and steak that it occurred to him that Ellie's child might be his.
IT WAS THE PERFECT day for a wedding.As Ellie stepped out of the hired limousine, sweet- scented blossoms from the village's cherry trees floated through the warm spring breeze, as lush and fragrant as her pink-and-green bouquet. She could hear the sound of birds singing in the cloudless blue sky, soaring high over the white clapboard church.
It was the perfect day to start her new life as a happy wife and mother-to-be. The perfect day to forget Diogo Serrador's existence.
So why did she feel so miserable? Why had she cried for the last six hours straight, all across the Pennsylvania highway and through her hour at the hairstylist's?
“Steady,” her grandmother said gruffly, taking her arm as they reached the doorway of the white church. Lilibeth's gray, bushy eyebrows quivered as she looked up at her taller granddaughter. “Are you ready?”
“Yes,” Ellie muttered. But she wasn't ready at all. She'd left Timothy eight messages on the trip from Manhattan, but he hadn't answered his cell. He was likely getting in his last billable hours at his new, thriving private practice before they departed for their Aruba honeymoon.
Timothy was determined to be rich for her, he said. He didn't believe Ellie when she said she didn't need to be rich. All she wanted was to feel safe.
Safe, and to never have her heart broken again.
But she couldn't marry Timothy without telling him she was pregnant. She couldn't. She had to give him the option to back out of their marriage. Her hands tightened. Part of her even hoped he would back out…
“Careful—your flowers!” her grandmother protested.
“Sorry.” With every minute that passed, Ellie's heart was pounding harder and faster. She was starting to feel dizzy. Her voice was a squeak as she said, “You promised you'd find Timothy first?”
“Are you really sure?” Lilibeth Conway squinted at her doubtfully. “It's bad luck for a man to see his bride before the ceremony.”
Her grandmother sighed. “All right, all right. It's your day.” She pushed her into a tiny antechamber inside the church, past the ushers and last few arriving guests. “Wait here.”
Ellie waited. And waited. She paced, staring out the tiny window.
In the distance, she saw the rolling hills and green forests. But it wasn't all beautiful. She could see the stacks of the old, abandoned steel mill. The boarded- up storefronts. Flint, Pennsylvania, was only four hours from Manhattan by car, but felt like a world away.
She and Timothy had both grown up poor here. Returning this past Christmas as a wealthy lawyer, he'd been welcomed back to town like a hero. Timothy had already bought the nicest mansion in town and was fixing it up for her. He was spending money all over Flint, hiring carpenters and cleaners, sparing no expense. He would do anything, he'd told her, to make her love him. Anything.
But before they could marry, she had to tell him she was pregnant. Then let him decide if he still wanted to marry her.
Was it even fair to marry him like this? She took a deep breath. In spite of all his assurances that she would grow to love him, the idea of being his bride somehow felt…wrong.