Authors: D.M. Mortier
Mari sat foaming, while listening to Nico try to engage his daughter in conversation, given her limited vocabulary—asking her how old she was, what was her favorite this-and-that.
The little traitor was happily basking in her father’s attention.
She was so busy smoldering in her hatred of the presumptuous, arrogant, pigheaded rat sitting in front of her, that she paid no attention to where they were going. As Gio pulled up to a gleaming powered-up Bell helicopter parked on the tarmac, Mari stiffened with defiance, and fear surged through her. How had this gotten so out of control?
“Nico, this has gone far enough! This is
life you’re messing with. How can you think to come here and dictate what we do, where we go!
won’t let you get away with it.” Mari glared at him with blatant defiance, her body violently trembling in distress. She tried to calm down, to think clearly. She couldn’t afford to lose control. There was too much at stake.
“Do your worst,
. You’ve kept my daughter from me long enough. My daughter, Mari! She will never sleep outside of my home again, this
promise you!” Nico’s silver stare was cold as granite. He exited the car and opened the door for Alex as Gio opened her door.
“You bastard! Don’t you dare take her on that thing!” Mari screamed at him as he unbuckled Alex from her seat and started to board the helicopter. The toddler couldn’t help but notice her mother’s anxiety. She started to cry then, reaching out for Mari. Alex refused to be quiet as her father tried unsuccessfully to soothe her. She glared at him and stubbornly continued to holler. Looking over Nico’s shoulder for her mother, Alex insistently squirmed to escape his arms.
It was impossible for him to board the helicopter with a protesting, determined three-year-old.
“Stop being such a bleeding drama queen!” Seething with anger, he glared at Mari. “You’re frightening her unnecessarily.”
“Oh, that’s rich!
frightening her. You created this, with your moronic arrogance and insistence on kidnapping us. Give her to me! And watch your language around her!” Mari shouted above the combined noise of the powered-up aircraft and screaming toddler. She angrily wiped the tears from her cheeks, barely realizing that she had started crying.
“Get on the bloody aircraft and she’s all yours.” Nico shouted above the noise.
“You bastard!” Mari screamed, striding angrily toward Nico’s retreating form.
“I think you’ve said that already. Either board or we’ll leave without you. I won’t ask again.” Nico turned and proceeded to board.
Her blood ran cold.
She knew he was deadly serious. His actions repeatedly showed he cared nothing for her. For the first time since she’d known him, she was truly terrified of him. In all her experiences with him, he’d never been this hard, this angry. Fear settled in the pit of her stomach, making her incredibly nauseous. Mari reluctantly boarded, entering the aircraft in his wake.
As soon as she was seated, Alex was placed in her arms. Nico sat across from her. Gio went up front with the pilot. Nico gave her two headsets to block the shocking noise of the aircraft. In seconds, the helicopter was in the air.
As soon as she was fitted with the noise-reducing device, Alex buried her tiny face in her mother’s bosom and promptly fell asleep, thoroughly exhausted from her recent tantrum. Mari held her tightly and plotted their escape.
Mari would have agreed to let Nico see Alex whenever he wanted. She’d never had a problem with that. Especially after seeing Alex’s reaction to him, she would agree that they should maintain some form of a relationship. A relationship based on her terms, not his. However, now she was so pissed, she couldn’t see straight.
If he thought his autocratic arrogance was going to intimidate her, he had another think coming. She had no intention of allowing him to get away with this behavior. Obviously, he’d forgotten
he was dealing with.
Mari was livid.
Undiluted rage consumed her, escalating as they arrived at the penthouse of Darian’s office building. The building had long been outfitted with a helicopter landing pad to provide easy transportation to anywhere in London and accommodate Nico’s manic schedule.
He ushered them quickly into the flat. Mari had been there before. It was still a daunting and impressive spectacle every time she saw it. Accessible by an elevator that ran from the executive floor of the building, it spanned about five thousand square feet on two levels, featuring ivory marble floors in the foyer throughout the lower floor, surrounded by double-glass windows and French doors opening onto four terraces. The rooms were accentuated with natural wood ceilings and moldings, elegant drapes, and strategically placed antique rugs. The flat had an indoor heated swimming pool and Jacuzzi, plus a high-tech fitness room. The kitchen would be the envy of any celebrity chef. A study with an impressive library and an entertainment room with a plasma screen were Nico’s most used rooms. The living room was designed for hosting small gatherings, while the five bedrooms with
bathrooms on the upper level were available for use by Nico’s elite team.
On his insistence, Mari took Alex to one of guest bedrooms so that she could continue to nap. She’d had slept blissfully throughout their journey, seemingly exhausted from the dramatic events of the day.
Nico waited at the door of the bedroom with an obvious, impatient energy. With a flick of his head, he beckoned Mari from the room and strode purposefully to his study. Mari glanced around to ensure everything was as she remembered so that when the time came, she could make a speedy escape.
Nico entered his study, closed the door firmly behind her, and strode to his desk.
She refused to be intimidated by the show of aggression and authority in Nico’s demeanor as he stood behind his desk.
“Sit!” Nico pointed at the chair impatiently.
“No, I think I’ll stand. This won’t take long. What more could you possibly have to say after bringing me here against my will and causing unnecessary distress to
child? Your behavior has permanently prejudiced any goodwill I may have extended to you,” Mari stated coldly
Legs braced apart, hands on his hips, his dark jacket opened, he glared at her steadily. His demeanor and voice were laced with quiet aggression. “How could you do this to me, to our daughter? Didn’t you think I deserved to know I had fathered a child? What did you hope to gain by this deception?”
“Are you crazy? I told you that I was pregnant! You decided in your all-knowing omnipotence that I wasn’t telling the truth! How could you possibly blame this on me? You have nothing to be angry about.” She advanced on him in spectacular outrage. “I did what you asked me to do. Have a nice life, you said! Well, I did, and I do. Alex is
daughter, nothing to do with you!” Mari shouted in his face.
He moved so swiftly, she had no time to avoid him. “You dare to deny she’s mine?” Nico snarled while seizing her forearm.
Mari tried to escape him, struggling like a wildcat to dislodge him. She hit his arm, slapped his chest, his face, anywhere she could reach with her free hand.
“Stop it!” He held her tight against him to impede her attacks.
The simmering arousal he’d been sporting since he saw her again intensified to sizzling proportions. He closed his eyes, fighting to ignore it.
Still trying to get away from him, Mari seemed oblivious to his plight. “I haven’t confirmed or denied anything. But you’re not going to steamroll into my life as if you’ve some right to do so. I gave you numerous opportunities to be a part of our lives.
denied us at every turn. I’ve kept
from you, certainly not my daughter!” She momentarily pulled away from his grasp, spun around, and marched to the door.
Mari didn’t get very far before Nico grabbed her arm and pulled her back against him. She tried to scream but he silenced her with a scorching kiss. It was hard and punishing, bruising her soft lips, not meant for pleasure, but to convey the frustration he felt.
Mari tried to struggle out of his arms, to no avail.
Nico was determined to let her go when he was ready. His strength was impenetrable.
Her long-remembered taste exploded on his tongue and penetrated the dark fog of his rage. He clutched her tighter to his chest as desire pulsed around them.
She stiffened and became passive in his arms, not returning his kiss or responding to it.
He knew this was her way of fighting him, but he would have none of it. He pulled her even more securely into his arms, ensuring there wasn’t an inch of her body that wasn’t surrounded by his. His lips eased, becoming more persuasive as he roamed his hands possessively over her curves. The kiss became soft, a tender exploration, compelling her to respond. He plundered her mouth, sliding his tongue sensually against hers. He made a guttural sound in the back of his throat as his body shuddered with pleasure.
Mari was drowning in his scent, his heat, his arrogance, his dominance. All were conspiring against her, completely exacerbating her resolve to remain unaffected by him. She couldn’t fight him and fight herself as well.
She wanted this, needed it, even.
Unable to withstand his allure, Mari achingly gave into him, locking her arms around his neck, writhing against him passionately and draping her limbs around him like clinging vines.
What followed was a total devastation of her senses, an obliteration of any resistance she might have mounted.
No one else could make her ignite like this, completely eroding her moral high ground. With him she had no sense of right and wrong, no defense against him. The feel of his hard, warm masculinity against her made her throb violently with arousal. She couldn’t get enough of him.
Nico groaned in frustration, trying to get at her skin. He flicked open first one button on her blouse, then another, until it was completely opened and she was vulnerable to his ardent caress.
He deepened the kiss, holding her lips captive, driving them both mindless to everything around them. All that mattered was this moment, his touch, his taste. She was insatiable in her quest to gorge herself on what she’d been missing for four lonely years.
His hands were busy in her opened blouse, lightly, feverishly stroking her bra-clad breasts and their protruding peaks. He impatiently unclasped her bra from the front, pushing the garment carelessly aside. He stepped back a little to admire his prize. His eyes were glazed with lust, and raw desire to take what was before him.
“They are a little bigger than I remember. Did you breast-feed my daughter?”
“Yes,” she cried softly. “Nico, please!” She pleaded with him to touch her where she ached the most.
His eyes darkened with satisfaction. The blue in their depths intensified further as his attention reverted back to her breasts. Her nipples hardened at his continued, blunt stare. He growled gutturally as his hands circled a plump globe. He took his time and gently caressed the throbbing tip. Mari whimpered and couldn’t suppress the trembling of her limbs at his touch. She sank her fingers in his hair as he sucked them strongly into the warm cavity of his mouth. Each tag of his tongue made a virtual link to her throbbing clit. He flicked his attention from one breast to the other, making her forget where she was and the fact that she was mad as hell at him. Under his touches, his past rejection was forgotten and the pain he’d inflicted ignored.
Mari reveled in the feel of his lips at her breast and his big hands exploring her sensitive skin. She couldn’t stop her own frantic probing of his hard contours and smooth, bulging muscles. His hair, so much like Alex’s, felt like silk in her hands. She caressed his broad, sculpted chest, the graceful lines of his back, the hard walls of his stomach, and then the granite swell of his masculine ass. She shivered violently at the feel of him beneath her fingertips, and was overwhelmed with longing to have him deep inside her.
Her nipple popped from his mouth as he suddenly, inexplicably stopped his seduction. He held her firmly away from him and stepped back. She struggled to regain her breath and make sense of the abrupt end to their lovemaking.
“How many men have been in my daughter’s life?”
“You heard me. How many other men have you introduced to my daughter as her
, or mommy’s
?” Nico asked impatiently.
Mari gaped at him in incredulous disbelief. “Are you kidding me? After everything that has passed between us, this is your most pressing question?” She shook her head in disgust, muttering underneath her breath.
“Answer the fucking question.” His anger returned hot and swift.
“You know what you can do with your questions? Kiss my black behind!” She had to get out of there, regroup, and decide what to do. With Nico blocking the exit, her options were limited. She was suddenly exhausted, both physically and mentally. After so many turbulent emotions, she felt herself wilting right there in front of him. She had to get out before she broke down from total exhaustion.
“Has it been so many that you can’t even remember?” he persisted silkily.
Clenching her teeth in frustration and deliberately ignoring his question, she quickly refastened her bra, buttoned her blouse, and tidied her hair as best she could.
She regarded him with a withering glare. “Sorry, I’d forgotten. I’m a whore, right?” She weakly held her hand up, as if to ward him off before he could respond. “Nico,
. Save your bullshit for someone who gives a damn! I need to get back to my daughter. She must be awake by now and you’re wasting my freakin’ time with your nonsense.”
Ignoring his angry glower, Mari didn’t wait for his response. Instead, she edged swiftly around him and escaped.
Nico watched her leave. He had to let her go. Fighting to regain control, he raked his hands through his hair in agitation. His response to her was too destructive, so out of control. He didn’t expect to still want her so much. The last time, she had almost destroyed him.
This wasn’t what he wanted right now!
They had too many issues to work through. Most pressing was his need to ensure his place in his daughter’s life. Mari had, so far, stubbornly refused to refer to Alex as
daughter. While he acknowledged his role in her defiance, he couldn’t continue to allow her to keep him away from the girl. They had to move past this point. This time, he intended to keep them both in his life.
God, I have a daughter!
A feeling of exhilaration and immense joy consumed him. He picked up the phone on his desk. His first call was to his parents. He had to hold the phone away from his ear at his mother’s piercing screams of joy. After promising to bring Alex for a visit as soon as he could arrange it, Nico called his lawyer and then called Gio. They had a lot of work to do to ensure his daughter’s future.
As tired and as bone weary as she felt, Mari knew she had to act now, before Nico eroded any desire on her part to leave him. She gathered her daughter in her arms.
Mari crept down the stairs with a sleeping Alex held close to her body. She could see Nico’s study door open, with Gio in deep discussions with him inside. Martha was busy in the kitchen. It was almost too easy, she thought, and they silently exited the flat.
She took the elevator to the garage floor without it stopping once in its descent. They exited the building through the service delivery area without any security blocking her exit.
Alex woke as soon as they entered the sunlight. She immediately wanted to be let down to better view her new surroundings. She didn’t protest or fuss the abrupt change away from her familiar environment.
Thank God my child is so sweet-tempered!
It was the middle of April, in late afternoon, so although the sun was out, there was still a decided chill in the air. Mari’s goal was to get to Richard’s flat, fifteen minutes away by taxi. Richard had given her a key when she was pregnant with Alex. It served to ensure she always had a secure place to stay in London. She very quickly hailed a taxi, and was taken to her destination without further incident.
The doorman recognized her as they entered the building and waved an enthusiastic hello to Alex. Alex skipped along behind her mother and waved a cheeky greeting back. The key on her ring opened the locked front door. Mari sighed with relief.
Upon entering the flat, she immediately went to the kitchen and started preparing a light meal for them. The flat was the usual bachelor pad. But thanks to Richard’s housekeeper, who came in twice a week, the fridge and cupboards were always adequately stocked. Although the housekeeper was scheduled to come in the next day, Mari still ensured she left everything as neat and tidy as she’d met it.
“Man gone?” Alex asked her suddenly.
Mari was surprised that Alex was already missing her father.
“Not man, baby. Daddy. Can you say ‘daddy’?”
“Daddy! Daddy!” her daughter triumphantly chanted.
Mari smiled at her easy acceptance and cheerful personality.
Once she and Alex were fed and comfortable, Mari took her to the bedroom for a bath, and soon after put her to bed.
She stood under a hot shower, contemplating her dilemma and trying to come to grips with having Nico back in her life. Seeing him today had been a shock to her system. She was annoyed to find that after all that had passed, she still loved him. She would be extra vigilant in preventing even a glimmer of her feelings for him to be revealed again. No matter what transpired between them, her love for Nico wouldn’t be a determining factor this time around. She had her child to consider. Alex’s wellbeing was all that mattered and would dictate her action. After experiencing her parents’ indifference, Mari was more determined than ever to do better, to be the conscientious, selfless parent Alex needed.