Authors: D.M. Mortier
“What the bloody hell was that?”
Nico grinned at her disgruntled inquiry. “Now that I have your attention…” he whispered huskily. He took his time and made love to her again, slowly and with endless, torturous patience.
During the night, Mari stumbled from the bed after her fifth orgasm. She felt boneless and thoroughly loved. She savored the intense feeling of contentment deep within her and couldn’t remove the silly grin etched on her face. A visit to the
bathroom resulted in a lengthy, warm shower. She was distracted by the sensual sensitivity of her body to the warm spray of the shower, in her hair, on her breasts, on her smooth stomach. There had been nowhere on her body Nico hadn’t explored. The sensation of his touch lingered and her body shivered with remembered ecstasy.
The shower door opened suddenly and Nico’s big, bulky frame crowded her.
Mari licked her suddenly dry lips. Confronted with his slick, chiseled body and his dark, brooding stare, her core clenched in blazing awareness.
“The bed was cold without you and I’m not done with you yet.”
“Is that so? Perhaps I need to show you some of my moves, because I’m not done with you, either.”
“Oh, so now you have moves? Who taught you?” Nico’s eyes darkened with possessiveness.
“Ah, Nico, you’re far too suspicious. Rest assured, no one taught me anything. I want to touch you the way you’ve touched me. I want to love you.” She seductively placed her hands on his solid chest. The feel of his hot skin beneath her fingertips sent an intense sizzle of desire through her.
“Show me,” he murmured.
She first coated her hands with soap and tormented him slowly all over his body—every masculine peak, edge, bulge were explored with hands, lips, and tongue, with movements that were purely instinctive, and infused with love.
With his hands braced on the shower walls for support, eyes closed, teeth clenched and head thrown back, Nico growled in appreciation and agitation, desperately trying to withstand her assault on his eager body. Her wicked tongue and teeth attacked his masculine nipples, his taut stomach, his hard buttocks, and then finally his glistening cock. She licked the swollen head with more enthusiasm than skill, before swallowing him to the back of her throat.
Nico completely lost it. He pulled his shaft from her mouth, lifted her with effortless strength, and placed her against the wall. “Now you’ve done it, little girl. I’m going to fuck you so hard, you’ll never play with the beast again!” He slammed into her tight, wet sheath with jarring intent. He pounded into her over and over again, growling in satisfaction as her legs tightened around his back.
“Oh, fuck yeah!” he roared as his body stiffened and a violent orgasm gripped him. Mari wasn’t far behind as her climax ripped through her, raw and primitive, leaving her weak and clamoring for breath.
They stumbled back to the bed, after drying each other’s bodies, and collapsed in the sheets for much-needed rest.
Mari woke just before dawn as usual. Her memory of the night before returned in vivid Technicolor, as she found herself trapped beneath a very masculine arm around her waist and a heavy leg thrown over her hips.
Oh my God, what have I done
? Everything she’d promised she wouldn’t do, she’d done, and repeatedly. Mari groaned in shame, burying her face in the pillow. Her body ached in places she had never dreamed possible.
Nico came awake with a sense of wellbeing he hadn’t felt since his college days. In fact, he felt so good, he wondered if Mari would mind terribly if he slipped into her tight slit one last time. He couldn’t believe he wanted her again! This endless craving was bordering on obsession. That thought gave him pause. No, he only had to have her again and again until he slaked his thirst, and he would walk away as he always had in the past. There was no way he would ever marry again. He just had to get over the possessiveness he felt toward her, and he was certain she wouldn’t object to being his mistress.
He knew just how to persuade her.
He started to massage one breast, and was startled when Mari immediately rounded on him and slapped his hand away. She then pushed his leg off her and abruptly got up from the bed.
She looked back at him with silent regret. With alarm, Nico realized she appeared pale—and about to be sick. “What the…”
Mari sprinted to the bathroom and began retching in the toilet.
Nico got out of bed and followed her to the bathroom.
She lifted her head from the bowl long enough to growl at him. “Get out!”
Nico ignored her and knelt on the floor with her, holding her hair out of the way while she retched until there was nothing left. He lifted her up, flushed the toilet, and held her at the sink while she rinsed her mouth and cleaned her teeth. He stroked her messy, soft hair and gently rubbed her stomach.
“Please, Nico, would you give me some privacy?” She seemed weak and embarrassed. He gazed at her, concern eating at him. She didn’t raise her head, and he reluctantly left the bathroom.
He returned to the bedroom and gathered his clothes from the chair where he’d placed them the night before. He found another washroom off the tiny kitchen, then cleaned his teeth and washed his face. He was on his second cup of coffee before Mari made an appearance in the kitchen.
She was dressed in a Kimono-style dressing gown with matching house slippers on her feet. Her long, black hair, now obviously blow dried, was brushed neatly and shimmered from the little bits of sunlight coming through the window. Nico noted how fragile she appeared. He checked the impulse to gather her in his arms. She looked all but sixteen years old. He swore under his breath as unwelcome doubt consumed him.
What the hell am I playing at?
She was too young to handle this. As his employee, she was his responsibility. He had no business dragging her into the middle of a bitter divorce. He’d known from the beginning that she was not mistress material. It would destroy her.
I am such a bloody bastard!
“Are you okay?” Nico was afraid to even touch her.
“No. I’m pregnant.”
“What?” Nico wasn’t sure he had heard her right. He stood frozen in disbelief.
She looked at him dispassionately for a few moments, watching him trying to come to grips with what she’d just imparted. She walked past him and proceeded to pour water in the kettle to make tea.
“I’m pregnant,” Mari reiterated without turning from her task.
Nico felt the blood drain from his face. Fighting to control his escalating anger and hurt, he ran his fingers through his hair.
Hurt? He was astonished by that debilitating feeling rising up in him.
He closed his eyes against the anguish of it. She had just obliterated something inside of him. Something he hadn’t even been aware was there. He had trusted her. She was his, damn it! A rage unlike any he had felt before filled him and expanded in every pore, leaving him with blessed coldness. The initial pain had been shocking, nothing he’d ever felt before. He fought for emotional numbness.
“How the hell did this happen?” he asked in a deceptively calm voice. He gave a meritless laugh. “No, let me answer that. After all, I was the one to introduce you to the delights of sex. You just couldn’t help yourself. You loved it so much, you had to screw any guy who asked. Now last night begins to make a lot more sense. You are so hot for it, anyone would’ve done.” His outrage increased with every bitter word he uttered. Even Celina’s infidelity paled in comparison to this betrayal. He wanted to lash out, smash something. Smash someone. He recoiled from piercing hurt invading him, instead embracing the icy detachment he’d perfected over the past few months.
“How dare you? I knew this would be hard for you to believe after the schemes Celina has done, but you know me. You were there. This baby is yours.” She stood in front of him, erect to her full height, her head thrown back, and glared at him with hurt, dark eyes.
Nico laughed. There was no humor in it, however. He continued to laugh and leaned against the kitchen counter, too consumed with his private hell to appreciate any pain
may be feeling.
Mari just stared at him as if he had lost his mind.
“Didn’t you get the memo, sweetheart? I can’t have children. I’m sterile.” Nico sauntered menacingly toward her. Mari refused to be intimated by him and held her ground. “So you see, baby, you lose. Another bitch already beat you to that particular punch line.”
“Nico, I know you don’t believe me.” Nico snorted at the understatement. Mari continued, ignoring his interruption. “I swear to you that this baby is yours. I want nothing from you. I just wanted you to know.” She finished in a soft voice, pleading for him to understand, to believe.
Nico gazed at her sexy, provocative curves, and felt a moment of utter disgust at the immediate response of his twitching member to the arousing sight. There was no way that Mari wasn’t aware of his arousal. She held his gaze as his head slowly descended toward hers. He hovered over her lips for excruciating indecisive seconds before pulling back and spinning away from her. He ran his hand through his hair, while cursing his body’s weakness.
He pulled his mobile from his pocket and called Gio.
Mari turned away as she was consumed by a maelstrom of emotions. She’d imagined that he might not believe her initially, but didn’t expect this anger, this ugly distrust. Nico knew her. Despite her hurt and shock at his refusal, she was even more stunned at her immediate response to him. He’d gotten so close, his masculine heat made her body prickle in awareness. She was aghast at her inappropriate and unwelcome recognition of him. My God, how was she to continue at the company?
She heard him disconnect from his call with his bodyguard and bravely met his gaze.
“I want your resignation on my desk before the end of day. I realize that in your condition, you may not get another position immediately, but I can at least give you a good reference and settlement.”
Her eyes pooled with tears. Mari had watched her mother degrade herself to be with a guy who cared nothing for her, only wanting her body. She should have known better.
How did I fall into the same trap?
“Kiss my ass, Nico! I will take care of me and
baby. I need nothing from you!” She was consumed with such impotent rage that her body quivered. She refused to let the tears fall.
“Good. Have a nice life, Mari. The next guy you try this on may not be so forgiving. My suggestion to you is that you should learn to curb your desires and maybe the next time you may know who the father of your baby is.”
Nico sauntered out the door without a backward glance and was left with emptiness in his heart that he feared would never heal. He was anguished by her fall from the pedestal he’d unconsciously placed her on. She’d been the only woman besides his mother and sisters that had garnered his respect. The events of a few minutes ago had completely shattered that.
He barely heard her broken sobs as he exited the flat. He didn’t care. The heart he hadn’t known he had was splintering into a million pieces. As he entered the elevator, he was stunned by the hot, sticky tears leaking down his face.
Four years later
Mari rushed through
the elevator doors, barely waiting for them to open properly. She was late again. Her schedule was going to be shot to hell, but she couldn’t care less.
Alex had been difficult all morning, dreading the time that she’d take her at the crèche. She hated leaving her baby in the care of others. Mari smiled at the thought of how Alex would vehemently declare that she was no longer a baby, but a big girl. At three years old, her daughter brought her implicit joy. So much so that it was harder every day to let her go to the crèche, even though it was located in the same building as her firm’s offices! Her little girl was fast gaining the personality of her father: confident, assured of her right to an opinion, and stubborn as hell.
Her calendar was filled with meetings that day and the late start was not going to help. Some buyers were coming in, to review the possibility of purchasing the small investment firm that she worked for. She knew two of the banks scouting them; after all, she had approached them upon review of their corporate structures and cultures in order to ensure an easy transition of their staff to the much larger organization.
Her boss, and president of the firm, Harry Brennan, had at the last minute scheduled another bank for later in the afternoon. She was not concerned, as she trusted he was just as keen as the other top managers to ensure that the purchaser fit well with their operation. Their goal was to have the managers retained their positions and not to lose staff. Mr. Brennan wanted to retire and withdraw the capital he’d invested in the firm, so in order to realize this, as well as to ensure the continued financial viability of the company, a merger with another local financial institution was preferred—but not their only option.
Brennan’s Mutual was a sole proprietary firm operating in a small suburb outside of London. It afforded the professional staff, all of whom had worked in demanding jobs in London, the best of both worlds: a job in a challenging industry without the hassle of London traffic, air pollution, or hectic lifestyle, plus a lower cost of living, suburban houses, small-town schools and community life. Mari loved it and was grateful to be able to offer her daughter this environment. She was confident that her colleagues felt the same for their families.
The vetting of firms was going well and everyone was optimistic about the two potential buyers from earlier in the day. The only drawback was their inability to deliver adequately on the financial package that Mr. Brennan required. Mari took a break from the meetings in the afternoon to lunch with Alex in the nearby park. The rest of the managers were having a working lunch with the other potential buyer, at a restaurant in town. She’d promised to join them for the presentation in the boardroom later that afternoon. Her desire to spend time with her daughter far outweighed any obligation to socialize with her potential new bosses.
After having eaten their packed lunches and engaging in an animated debate about who was smarter, Dora the Explorer or Little Bill, Mari and Alex returned from the park. They’d just arrived at the glass front doors of her office building, when suddenly the hairs on the back of her neck stood up, and she shivered in awareness.
Mari stopped and scrutinized her surroundings.
She was stunned by the sight of Nico and her former team emerging from three expensive, dark sedans in front of the office building.
Mari was certain she’d seen them before they saw her, but she wouldn’t have been able to move if her life depended on it. She was completely mesmerized by the fluid, lithe motion of Nico exiting the sleek, black Lexus, his usual dark sunglasses, superbly fitted custom-made charcoal grey suit, and his usual “don’t fuck with me” scowl on his face. He looked elegant and dangerous.
Held immobile by a loud roaring noise in her head, she was stunned by the avalanche of emotion that ricocheted through her body.
Richard was the first to see and recognize her.
He came toward her with an unholy grin and wickedly gleaming eyes. He picked her up in a bear hug and spun her around.
She squealed in indignant.
Alex didn’t take too kindly to this and proceeded to bite and hit Richard on the leg, while yelling at the top of her lungs, “Leave my mommy alone!”
Richard, seeming stunned by the miniature attack, abruptly placed Mari back on her feet and tried to get away from the angry toddler.
“Alexandra Quinn! Behave!”
Mari frantically tried calming her agitated daughter as the rest of the team, Brad and Jarrod, surrounded her. Each man hugged and kissed her in turn, while asking about her wellbeing. Their obvious joy on seeing her was a soothing balm on her still fracturing emotions. With a now restrained and shy little girl in her arms, the toddler’s dark head tucked in her mother’s neck, Mari proudly introduced her daughter to the men. On each introduction, Alex was passed around to each male, despite their chagrin. They initially held the toddler at arm’s length, seeming terrified of dropping her. But Alex, always an affectionate, happy child, soon broke down their reserve and was held more lovingly in their arms. With a grin on her face, she settled against Brad’s chest, gripping his jacket with sturdy little fingers.
When all was quiet, everyone turned and looked at Nico, who stood back with his gaze locked on his daughter.
Nico stood apart from the group, quietly observing, brooding and biding his time. No one looking at him would guess the turmoil bombarding his system, the shock he felt. At first, he’d had eyes only for Mari. The sight of her—she was still so fucking stunning! Her skin glowed, her black gleaming tresses fell gracefully down her back, and her eyes sparkled with humor. Her curvy body was elegantly encased in a tan Chanel suit teamed with a white silk blouse. He couldn’t stop the startling, feverish response of his body.
Then he saw
! The toddler was the most beautiful kid he’d ever seen.
There was no doubt in his mind that the little girl in Brad’s arms was his. The men looked back and forth between their boss and the little girl. Silver blue eyes stared back at silver blue eyes. He would have to be blind not to see his own stubborn mouth, sharp nose, midnight-black hair, and the olive complexion that irrefutably made her his offspring. She looked so much like his sister Sarah when she was a toddler, only a little darker complexioned. Her little lips were distinctly her mother’s in their pouting, rosebud fullness.
The tension in the air was electric.
None of the other adults moved, knowing better than to prick his emotions. His daughter, however, seemed just as enthralled with him as he’d been with her. The little girl was the first to move, reaching her chubby arms out to him, almost dislodging herself from Brad’s arms in her insistence on reaching her father.
Nico launched forward with quick, agile strides and took possession of his toppling daughter. He held the warm, sturdy body clutched tight in his arm, holding her close to his heart.
This is my daughter!
Alexandra Quinn, Mari had called her.
His eyes glistened with unshed tears as a rush of love and immense happiness reverberated throughout his entire body. He kissed her gently on the cheeks, the forehead, and lips, and then buried his head in his daughter’s tiny little neck. Nico smiled tremulously as his daughter peppered his face with smacking, loud kisses. For the first time in his life, a feeling of peace and tranquility settled through his very being, and cleansed the dark spaces that had resided there for so long.
Nico was amused by the stunned reaction of his employees to this latest development. They’d all been with him through his bitter divorce, the well-publicized sterility revelation following the leak of his medical records, and the less-than-amicable departure of Mari from company. He had to admit, after she left he’d fallen far off the rails—becoming impossible to please in the office, and ruthless, almost brutal, when dealing with competitors. He’d rarely slept. For months after, he’d usually been intoxicated. Drinking excessively had become the norm. Everyone walked on eggshells around him, terrified of incurring his wrath. No one dared mention Mari in his presence: this was grounds for instant dismissal. His team had been very busy going behind his back, rehiring and soothing the ruffled feathers of employees and clients. For six months, he’d existed in a dark haze, physically going through the motions of life but emotionally dead.
Gio, ever the concerned, loyal employee, one day just stuffed his drunken ass in the helicopter and took him to his parents’. He’d remained at the vineyard for weeks, not because he had any great revelation or intervention, but because he simply didn’t care about anything, not the company or his family. He’d stopped drinking, however, because his mother was so pissed with him and would rip him a new one every time she found anything alcoholic in his hand. She had no problem taking his beverage from him and slapping him in the back of his head. She was in no way gentle about it, either. He’d left, returned to work, existing on autopilot.
This was the first real emotion to pierce his heart since his last encounter with Mari. He had an image of his heart just now being jolted to life by the delicious feel of his daughter in his arms.
The tense atmosphere was broken on the arrival of the Brennan Mutual executives, who had accompanied Nico’s team to lunch.
Harry rushed toward them. “Why is everyone still out here? Come inside. Mari, I’ll start with my introduction in the boardroom with the other managers while you take the baby back to the crèche.” He obviously didn’t sense anything amiss.
As Mari’s colleagues preceded them into the building, no one on Nico’s team moved.
“Well now, this is rather interesting!” Richard whistled in awe.
Nico glared at him to shut him up.
“My bad!” Richard offered with his usual devilish grin.
Mari approached Nico cautiously as everyone remained uncomfortably silent. Alex was busy inspecting her father’s hair and the diamond-stud earring in his ear.
“We have to talk.” Nico gave her a hard stare. He turned his head and looked at his team. “Gentlemen, I’m afraid I have more pressing issues to deal with. Proceed as we have discussed. I want the papers on my desk by tomorrow morning. Give my regrets to Harry.” He dismissed the men with cool authority.
Nico closed the space between them and seized Mari’s forearm. “We have a lot to discuss.” He steered her toward the waiting car.
Mari didn’t bother acknowledging his statement. “Don’t touch me!” She pulled angrily out of his grasp and reached for Alex.
Nico didn’t move a muscle. He held Alex securely in one arm.
“Give her to me, Nico,” Mari whispered.
He ignored her and turned to Gio, who was leaning against the hood of the Lexus. He came forward.
“Sir?” Gio had watched the proceedings from the sidelines. Nico knew that his faithful employee and friend would be just as overwhelmed with emotion as he was. None of them would have been prepared for this miracle baby. And Alex was a miracle. Gio would understand what this would mean to him. He’d guarded Nico since birth. His family had served the Darians for generations. His brothers and cousins worked the vineyards, his wife took care of Nico’s home, which happened to be wherever Nico was doing business at the time, and his children were all employed in various capacities in Nico’s companies. Yes, Gio would understand.
“Here. Take her to the car.” Nico handed Alex over to his most trusted employee.
Mari went numb with shock. This couldn’t be happening. She tried to calm herself for Alex’s sake. Right now she was happy and basking in all the male attention, but any show of agitation from her mother, and that would change very quickly. She didn’t want to frighten her, and tried desperately to keep the panic out of her voice.
“Nico, don’t do this.”
“Don’t try my patience, Mari. Get in the car!” Nico stated through clenched teeth, pinning her with a cold glare.
Mari looked about her, and noted that no one would meet her gaze. She made as if to approach Richard, but Nico stopped her in her tracks by his next statement.
“Unless you want me to destroy anyone who dares to interfere with my wishes, I suggest you don’t encourage any misplaced heroism,” Nico whispered silkily with menacing intent.
Mari had always prided herself on her pragmatic approach and levelheadedness in any situation, but her helplessness in that moment was a foreign situation. Feeling like a cornered animal, she was predictably filled with fear and rage.
She welcomed the anger, but tried to ignore the fear. Letting icy fury seep into her veins, she was able to momentarily disregard her heart’s jubilant response to his shocking presence.
“I won’t be intimidated by you or anyone. You have
right to take her. You gave up that right.” Her voice shook with her indignant.
He gave her an assessing stare and sauntered toward the car. Alex was already fastened securely in the back seat of the car. Refusing to respond to her assertion, Nico held the door for Mari to enter.
The fear suddenly resurfaced, paralyzing her and threatening to overwhelm her. She shook her head as if to clear it and then chided herself for being even remotely intimidated by his attitude.
She had done nothing wrong!
In fact, he should be grateful she’d even allowed him to touch her daughter. If Nico thought for a second that he would just walk back into her life, her daughter’s life, and direct them at will, well, he was in for a rude awakening.
“Come, Momma, let’s ride!” Alex cheerfully beckoned with all the innocence of a child anticipating a treat. Jarred out of her immobility by her daughter’s voice, she strode reluctantly toward the car. Nico closed the door firmly behind her and got into the front seat beside Gio.
“Don’t think for a moment that you will get away with this,” Mari muttered through clenched teeth from her perch in the back of the car.
Nico ignored her and maintained a stoic silence.
Gio sped away from the curb, the powerful vehicle making hardly a sound.