Diogo punched him hard across the jaw. Ellie screamed as Timothy dropped like a stone into the lush green grass.
The Brazilian turned to her, and the rage in his eyes made her draw back in confused fear. He blinked, staring at her. His dark eyes suddenly looked sad, as if haunted by shadows and ghosts of long ago.
Then he abruptly turned away without a word. At his signal, two black sedans pulled forward on the street. As a bodyguard opened the door, Diogo pushed her gently into the backseat, holding her against the leather as he drew the seat belt over her body. She struggled, but his grip was implacable. His hands were like iron shackles wrapped in silk.
And every accidental brush of his fingertips made her feel fire in her veins. How could she fight her own desire? How? She swallowed, trying to control the pounding of her heart as she glanced through the back window.
“He'll have a headache.” His teeth gleamed in a feral growl. “He deserves worse.”
Why? What had Timothy done? But she didn't have the nerve to ask. She had far more pressing issues to worry about. “Where are you taking me?”
“To the airport.” He sat next to her as the driver pulled away. She could feel his thigh pressing against hers through the layers of her wedding dress.
He looked down at her, his eyes black as onyx. Then he gave her the heavy-lidded half smile that had led so many women to ruin.
“Now,” he said, “you belong to me.”
BY THE TIME THE PRIVATE plane touched down in Rio de Janeiro, Ellie knew without doubt that Diogo was a soulless barbarian without a drop of mercy.
They'd left from a small private airport tucked in the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania. He'd carried her onto an enormous private plane waiting in a hangar. Ignoring her questions and demands, he'd locked her into a small ensuite bedroom in the back of the plane. She'd been alone since the plane took off. For sixteen hours, she'd had nothing to do but cry and sleep and eat snacks from the small refrigerator. And wonder what he meant to do with her.
Now, you belong to me.
What did that mean?
She shivered, holding her ripped wedding veil tightly in her hands.
Diogo had made it clear he had no intention of getting married. Shown that he did not like or even respect her. And his playboy lifestyle was hardly conducive to being a father.
So why had he kidnapped Ellie? Where had he taken her?
She placed her hands on her belly through the wrinkled taffeta of her wedding dress. In just one day, she'd already come to love this baby more than her own life. To vow that she would treat the little boy or girl—for some reason, she thought it might be a girl—very differently than her own mother had treated her. Ellie would treat her child with love. Ellie would protect her.
She clenched her hands into fists. Diogo might think he could still boss her around, but she was no longer his employee. He would soon realize how much had changed between them…
She heard the bedroom door unlock. Diogo entered the small cabin of the plane, newly shaved and wearing fresh clothes. In his crisp white shirt and tailored black pants, he appeared relaxed and self-confident. He'd no doubt had an excellent night's sleep. Unlike her.
“Welcome to Rio de Janeiro,” he said with a smile, holding out his hand. “I trust you slept well?”
She rose from the bed, folding her arms with a scowl. “Rio? No! Take me back!”
“Back to your precious bridegroom?” Coolly, he withdrew his hand. “No. You will remain with me until the baby is born. I thought I made that clear.”
Kept prisoner by the most ruthless playboy in the world, in a strange, exotic city? A whimper escaped her lips. She wanted to go home. She wanted her grandmother. She wanted to be a million miles away from this man who'd so carelessly seduced her, lied to her, and lured her into heartbreak.
She raised her chin. “You can't keep me here against my will. I'm going home the first chance I get!”
“This is your home now.” He gave her a lazy smile. “But Rio can be dangerous. You must stay close to me. For your own protection.”
But who was going to protect her from him?
She looked wildly at the door behind him. “I'm not going to stay with you!”
“You have no money or friends here. You don't even speak Portuguese. I'm curious. Exactly how do you intend to escape?”
“Somehow,” she whispered, but uncertainty raced through her. Everything he'd said was true. How on earth would she get home?
“Forget Wright,” he told her coldly. “He cannot help you. Obey me, and it will be easier for everyone. Especially you.”
That was what had gotten her into this trouble in the first place. In the alley off Copacabana Beach, amid the rhythmic beat of samba music and cries of the crowds, he'd taken her in his arms and kissed her with a sudden ferocity that had made her weak. “You're coming home with me now,” he'd whispered against the flushed heat of her skin. “You can't say no.”
And she'd been desperately in love with him then as only an innocent girl could be. All she'd wanted was to be utterly his. To give herself completely. And she'd naively believed that he would give himself to her in return, body and soul.
She no longer believed in those frosted, sugar-coated dreams. She knew better now. She knew to play it safe.
Diogo Serrador was a million miles from safe.
She shook her head desperately. “You said you would never want to marry any woman because of pregnancy. Fine. Send me back home. We'll never bother you again. The baby will never know you're her father!”
Diogo's dark eyebrows lowered. “Because you and Wright have other plans for him?”
She thought of Timothy's angry words, the hurt in his eyes. But he'd always been good to her. He'd even offered to take care of her baby. Marrying him would have been such a sensible, respectable choice, but now she'd ruined everything. She suddenly felt like crying. “He's a good man, and I promised to be his wife.”
“Forget it,” he said with a curl on his lip. “You're not leaving Rio.”
He marched her out of the plane.
The rush of jungle humidity and the smell of exotic flowers hit her like a blow in the deep violet darkness of dawn. Clouds were pouring a brutal onslaught of rain, pounding heavily against the leaves, leaving puddles on the tarmac of the small private airport.
A bodyguard held an umbrella over their heads as they descended the steps from the plane. Ellie balanced precariously on her four-inch, white satin heels, her wedding gown dragging through the water as Diogo steered her into the backseat of a waiting steel-gray Bentley.
Giving a calm order in Portuguese to the chauffeur, he leaned back against the supple leather seat.
“Don't do this,” she said tearfully. “Please. Let me go back.”
“To Wright?” His eyes were dark. “You still love him after he called you a whore?”
Pain wracked through her. She briefly closed her eyes, taking a shuddering breath.
“You wouldn't understand,” she whispered. How could he understand her guilt and shame? She was desperate for Timothy's forgiveness after she'd treated him so badly. “We have known each other since I was fifteen years old—”
He cut her off. “You will never see him again.” He reached his arm around her in the backseat of the Bentley, pulling her close to his body. “Now you belong to me.”
For one brief instant, she relished the warmth and weight of his strength. Then she caught herself. Horrified at his power over her, she forced herself to pull away.
“You only want me because you think you can't have me.”
He looked down at her. “Is that what you think?” he asked huskily. “You think I can't have you?”
“It's what I know.” Her heart was pounding in her throat. “You are a liar. A thief. A heartless playboy. I'll die before I let you touch me again.”
“Touch you how?” He stroked down her neck, tracing the bare skin of her collarbone. It was like an electric shock down her body. “Touch you like this?”
“Don't.” One brief touch of his hand against her skin, and she trembled all over. “Please.”
“Please what?” He stroked her cheek to her tender bottom lip, causing heat to race from her lips down to her pregnancy-swollen breasts. Her nipples tightened in a sudden shock of desire as he gently ran his hand down the valley between them.
“Please,” she whimpered. She closed her eyes, barely able to breathe. “Please stop.”
“That's not really what you want.” She felt his hand move over the smooth taffeta of her bodice, cupping her full—and very sensitive—breasts. Her nipples sizzled with painful sensation.
Gently, he pulled down the fabric. He lowered his head to taste her bare breast. She felt his lips move against her aching nipple, suckling her, swirling her taut flesh with his tongue.