Seduced, Page 23Melody Anne
Right then he sounded so cold that a shudder passed through Ari. This was the man she’d met three years previously, the man who had frightened her, but also intrigued her. There was fire in this man’s eyes, but also something that needed fixing. She’d been so naïve.
“Why me, Rafe? Why would you possibly choose me? I was nothing like those women you’d been with before. I had no clue what I was getting myself into when I went in for that interview. I honestly thought it was a real job. ”
“Oh, it was a real job,” he said as he nuzzled her throat.
“I’m serious, Rafe,” she scolded.
“I know. I knew from the moment you walked into my office that you weren’t the right type of woman. I looked at you, and innocence was practically leaping from every pore on your body. You wouldn’t cooperate, wouldn’t fall into the type of relationship I demanded. I knew it was a bad idea from the start. ”
When he paused, she waited, then asked, “So why did you pursue me?”
“Because I couldn’t stop myself. ”
“What?” None of what he was saying made any sense.
“I knew you wouldn’t go along, blindly and unquestioningly, with what I wanted. I knew it would be a constant battle, but even knowing that, I was drawn to you. I thought I wanted you so much just because you refused me, and that turned me on, but it was more than that. I couldn’t get you from my mind. ”
“Are you saying you were in love with me?” Ari didn’t believe in love at first sight.
“No. I was infatuated. I had to have you. I thought if I had you even once, the appeal would fade, but the more I was with you, the more insatiable I became. You quickly turned into an obsession for me,” he admitted.
“Is that what this is about? Obsession?” Ari felt as though her heart were being crushed.
“No! That was the way it was in the beginning. I fought the infatuation. I didn’t like the control you held over me. I didn’t like the free-falling sensation you inflicted on me, but I couldn’t seem to function properly without you. I still can’t. ”
“So, this is all because I said no to you, because I walked away? You can’t handle that?”
“No, Ari. That was how it started. Now, I feel like I can’t breathe without you, but it’s not in a bad way. I was in South America and there was a couple. I knew better than to get attached, but I did anyway. The woman died during childbirth, and her husband was so devastated that he took his own life. That’s how I feel. ”
“Like you want to take your own life?” she gasped.
“No. I would never do something so selfish. I am not that weak. What I mean is that I don’t want to live my life without you. I realized while I was down there that it wasn’t just obsession. It was love. I don’t spout poetry, or admit to feelings too often, but I love you, Ari. Yes, this started as a desire to control you, to bend you to my will, to break you, I’m ashamed to say. But somewhere in the middle of all of this, it changed. I didn’t want to break you anymore. I didn’t want to hurt you. I wanted to see you fly. If I were a better man, I would walk away, let you live your life. But I am still selfish; I am greedy. I need you in ways you won’t ever begin to comprehend. I love you. ”
Ari was left speechless; she twisted in his arms, turning her body so she was straddling him and could look into his eyes. What she saw made her heart leap in her chest.
Raising her hand, she stroked his cheek. He lifted his own hand and covered hers, keeping their eye contact unbroken.
“I love you, too, Rafe. ” He smiled, but she continued, “But is love enough?”
He looked at her with so many emotions filling his unique eyes. “It’s a beginning. It’s a foundation. If you let me prove it to you, I’ll show you that I will never hurt you again,” he promised.
“I want that,” she said, and then leaned forward and kissed him. Yes, her body was on fire, but that wasn’t what this was about. This was about trust, need, emotional connection. There was more to life than just sex and passion — though those things were damn good.
She leaned her head against his shoulder while his arms wrapped around her. As his fingers rubbed up and down her back, one lone tear slipped from her eye.
Was love enough to overcome the pain?
Rachel sat at the small café, enjoying the spring breeze as she drank a cup of decaffeinated tea. What was the point of drinking it without caffeine? she wondered. Oh, this pregnancy wasn’t going to be pleasant, not at all.
Having arrived in America only a few days before, she was taking the higher road and meeting up with Ian, who had asked nicely this time and had flown across the ocean to speak to her. For the sake of her unborn child, she could compromise — just a little. She was the one who had to carry the child, gain a million pounds and have strange cravings at all hours of the day, so she had her limits.
If anyone should be compromising, it should be Ian, but she knew it was more mature just to speak to him, to be an adult. She didn’t want to have what ifs, and she wanted to be able to tell her child about his father, even if the man was a little bit crazy.
Still, the longer that she sat there, the greater her misgivings and second thoughts about meeting with him. She was afraid of the turbulent emotions he caused in her, but then again, she knew she couldn’t think only of herself. Though she didn’t feel pregnant yet, there was a baby growing inside her, and whether she liked it or not, Ian would be a part of her child’s life if he really wanted to be.
Her decision to have a weeklong affair with a stranger would forever haunt her now. She still hadn’t worked up the courage to tell her family. There would be no choice soon, since she would be showing in about a month. She could probably hide it for a while longer with the right clothes, but then when she showed up for a family function holding an infant, she’d have more than a little explaining to do.
It was time she confessed. She wasn’t a young girl who would get grounded or have her car taken away. She was an adult, and she had made an adult decision, and now she would face the consequences of her actions.
“Thank you for meeting with me, Rachel. ”
Rachel jumped at the rich timbre of Ian’s voice as he sat down across from her. If only he weren’t so devastatingly handsome. His nearly black eyes bored into her as he waited for her to say something.
At least today he was dressed in regular clothing. Well, as regular as a wealthy man could wear, she thought. His custom suit probably cost about fifty grand. Not that she had much room to talk, considering that her shoes had been ridiculously expensive — oh, and then there was her purse. Still, his expenditures left hers in the dust.
“Of course, Ian. We are adults and can discuss this rationally. I think we both just needed a little time to cool down. I’m curious about something, though. Why are you so sure that the child I’m carrying has anything to do with you? Maybe I’m trying to scam you, take what I can get. You seem to have a low opinion of women, anyway, so what makes you think I haven’t been a floozy, sleeping around with anyone and everyone?”
He sat there too stunned to utter words for a moment as she looked at him without emotion. Let him think what he wanted about her. She didn’t care — well, not much, at least.
Finally, he must have decided on humor, because he laughed. “I have some very good reasons, Rachel. By themselves, each could be considered weak, but together, they satisfy me beyond any doubt. ”
“And they are?” She definitely wanted to hear how he’d come to his own conclusions. He was either very trusting, or incredibly foolish.
“The first is that you didn’t try to deny it when I confronted you,” he said.
Rachel almost snorted. “Maybe I wanted to pawn my child off on a king. Clever, no?”
“But you didn’t know I was a king. ”
p; “Details, details. I could be one hell of an actress. You don’t know me, can’t possibly know me after only a week together. Maybe I just wanted any guy stupid enough to claim the child I carry. Maybe I simply don’t know who the father is — for all you know, I could have torrid affairs with different men every week. ”
“But you don’t, Rachel,” he said smugly. “To be sure, I don’t know precisely what you were up to before our week together, though my investigators didn’t turn up any evidence of promiscuity, or even a serious boyfriend. And after we were together? No one at all. Remember, I had you followed. In short, my sweet, you are not a wanton woman — or let me rephrase that. You seem to be very selective in your favors. ”
“Ha. Let me rephrase what I said earlier: you don’t know me,” she practically growled, not at all liking how thoroughly he’d had her watched. It angered and upset her. It also brought home the sad fact that she didn’t have much of a life.
“I’m trying to remedy that now, Rachel. You’re the one who is choosing to be stubborn while I’m putting myself out there,” he scolded her, before adding, “Am I sorry that the condom broke? Who knows? It’s impossible for me to form a decision either way because the reality is that it did break, and we can’t turn back the clock now. I will emphatically say, though, that I am pleased that the mother of my child is an honorable woman. I would have expected that anyway because of your fine family. ”
Rachel decided to suppress her outrage; it wouldn’t do any good. She’d just cut to the chase. “I’m sure by now,” she said, “that you’ve realized how ridiculous your insistence on marriage was. ” Trying to act casual and unaffected, she picked up her cup and took a drink.
His eyes narrowed only the slightest bit, but she could easily see she’d irritated him. Well, too bad. He needed to realize that she wasn’t some pushover, and he would have to learn very quickly that the baby she carried was in her body. When their child was born, he could help with decisions, but until then, it was all on her.
“I see you haven’t taken time to consider the needs of our child. ”
“Maybe this wasn’t a good idea, Ian. I thought by now that you would have come to your senses. Obviously you haven’t,” she said.
The waitress approached and Rachel sat there steaming while Ian placed an order, perfectly calm, even making the waitress swoon when he gave her his megawatt smile. She wanted to smack his face. That was the same smile he’d given her!
“This conversation would be much better held in private,” he said when the woman departed.
“I don’t trust myself not to stab you if we’re in private,” she told him pleasantly as she picked up her bagel and began to munch on it.
His eyes rounded before he laughed.
“Rachel, you are very refreshing. Do you know that? I am unused to women taking such liberties in the way in which they speak to me. ”
“Well, then, you haven’t been hanging out in America long enough. ”
“No. I’m unable to be here for the length of time I originally planned. I have obligations at home, a country in upheaval since the death of my father, and a brother who is on a vendetta,” he said, thanking the waitress when she set down his coffee.
“You lost your father?” she asked, her voice softening for a moment.
“Yes, about a month before I met you,” he replied.
“I’m sorry, Ian,” Rachel told him. That explained a bit about his desperation when they were together, maybe why he’d been so eager to be with a stranger. It didn’t explain her own behavior, but it was obvious that he had been grieving and using sex as a way to deal with that pain.
If she hadn’t been using him as well, she might have been offended, but as it was, she couldn’t take too much of a stance.
“He was a great king,” Ian said.
“I’m sure he was a great father, too. ”
“Yes, he did a good job of ruling his home and his country. ”
“That doesn’t sound like a father. That sounds like a tyrant,” she replied, even more worried now that this man was her child’s father.
“You compare the king to a tyrant?” he gasped.
“Oh, come on, Ian. You are much too outraged over a little comment. I wasn’t calling your daddy a tyrant. Sheesh. ” She blew out her breath, then returned to her bagel.
“It will do you good to be in my country. Obviously you need to have some manners taught to you,” he said with a smirk, quickly recovering from his shock over her unrestrained tongue.
Rachel felt her blood boil.
“I can’t believe you just said that. Seriously, Ian, I don’t want to keep our child away from you, but I swear, if you make such insulting comments around him, I will chop off your head. My parents taught me that men and women are equal. I don’t know what kind of archaic country you run, but you won’t turn my child into a chauvinist pig,” she said.
“I will enjoy taming you, Rachel. But I do hope you keep some of that fire — for the bedroom, of course. ”
“I’m done with this conversation. You’re the man — pay the bill!” she snapped, and then rose from the table and walked away.
How had she thought they could have a normal conversation? What had she gotten herself into by sleeping with a stranger? Her brother was going to kill her, kill Ian, maybe just throttle them all and call it good.
“We weren’t done speaking yet,” Ian said when he caught up to her on the sidewalk.
“You might not have been done, but I was,” she informed him. She tugged against the hand he’d placed on her arm.
Suddenly, she was lifted in his arms and he was carrying her between two buildings, leaving them in a quiet alcove. She seriously thought about screaming bloody murder.
“Listen for two seconds,” he commanded.
She was so shocked by his tone that her mouth fell open and no sound emerged from her throat.
“That’s better,” he said. “I can tolerate a certain amount of insolence because you do carry my child, but there are also some things on which I must insist. You will marry me — and I will play an active part in raising the future king. Once you accept this, it will be much easier on all of us. ”
His body was pressing her against the wall, and though she felt a small measure of desire, anger was quickly overriding it.
“If you don’t release me right now, I’ll have you arrested for assault and kidnapping,” she snapped.
“As a foreign head of state, I have immunity under international law. Good luck with that. ”
His confident smirk sent her over the edge and Rachel struggled against him, ready to do damage to any part of his body that she could get her hands on.
Ian leaned down and closed his mouth over hers, knocking her breath out from shock as his tongue slid along her lips. Before she could bite him, he pulled back.
“I won’t leave without you, Rachel. ” By the look in his eyes, she could see that he was deadly serious.
“Well, then, welcome to America,” Rachel replied. She’d finally got enough room to lift her knee, and she slammed it against his groin, making him double over in agony.
Before he had a chance to react, Rachel sprinted from the alley and hailed a cab. She was long gone before he emerged from the dark alley. That was probably a really good thing for her.
As the stun-gun prong plunged into Lia’s delicate skin, Shane saw red. Time for talking was over.
Three men had approached, and of course, the maggots had gone straight for Lia. They were now circling around Shane, knowing he wasn’t as easy a target.
“You need to get away from Andino,” the largest man in the group said, menace clearly written on his face.
“You’re going to pay for hurting my woman,” Shane growled, taking a s
tep back so he could have all of the men in his line of vision.
“What do you think you’re going to do about it?” another of the men said and guffawed.
“Yeah, I think we’re going to have a real good time with your woman. She seems like quite the little peach,” the group’s obvious leader said. He threw a leer in Lia’s direction.
Their circling had pushed the group of men, including Shane, back farther into the alley, blocking them from the view of the passing people on the street — not that anyone had jumped in to help thus far. Shane didn’t think anyone was planning to call the cops or come to their assistance any time soon.
Not that he needed help.
When the man turned toward Lia, taking his eyes off Shane, he made his first mistake. Never take your eye off the threat.
Shane rushed him, and the man turned back just in time to see Shane’s fist slamming toward his jaw.
One hit. That was all it took for him to knock the burly man out.
His friends gasped in shock. Obviously, people didn’t take down their leader so easily. They eyed Shane warily as they pulled out baleful blades.
Shane just smiled. He’d taken on far worse thugs than these pathetic wannabe gang members. He wasn’t afraid of them; he was just seriously pissed off.
“Kid, I suggest you run like hell. Leave the purse,” Shane said, keeping the boy locked in his vision along with the two more hardened men who were still standing.
“I…” The kid was obviously terrified, and he was at a loss for what to do.
“Don’t listen to this piece of shit, Andino!” the other guy said. “This will be your first kill. ”
“No one is dying today, unless it’s you,” Shane told him. “It’s your choice. ”
Shane didn’t back down, and he noticed a glint of fear in the man’s eyes. Of course he was afraid, as he should be. These street thugs were so used to using intimidation; they didn’t know what to do when their usual tactics didn’t work.
“You come into our territory, mess with our business, and then threaten us?” the man said incredulously.
“This isn’t a business. This is theft and terrorizing. Real men don’t go after innocent women. I lived on the streets. We never hurt women!” Shane thundered.