Pregnancy of Revenge(4)

By: Jacqueline Baird

She could not believe it. Jake d'Amato was flirting with her. She didn't know how to respond so she simply smiled like some idiot teenager. She felt her nipples harden beneath the lace of her bra, and, hopelessly embarrassed, she blushed scarlet and was lost for words yet again.

Jake d'Amato stilled. The sexual attraction visible in he brilliant blue eyes plus the invitation in the tight nipple: starkly outlined beneath the fabric of her dress had an un expected effect on his powerful body. It had been a long time since a woman had so instantly aroused him. That it should be this woman would have shocked him rigid—if he had not been rigid already for a much more basic reason.

He did not like it. He had had every intention of putting her down in public. Revealing her as the selfish, money grubbing parasite she was, and leaving. But suddenly that scenario no longer held such great appeal. Instead he found himself imagining what her lush lips would taste like—the high, firm breasts in his hands, in his mouth... and the only place he wanted to put her down was naked on a bed under him.

He must be going crazy. The Summerville family was responsible for the untimely death of Anna Lasio, and for the grief of her parents. Embarrassing Charlotte was nothing compared to the turmoil the Summervilles had caused it, what was the closest thing to a family Jake possessed. Given that Charlotte Summerville was not the young girl he had been led to believe, but a mature woman who should know better, a much more satisfactory course of action sprang to mind.

He was here on business, with meetings lined up over the next fortnight. For once in his life combining business with pleasure held great appeal. Without conceit, he knew he was a good lover and it would be interesting to slowly seduce the lovely Charlotte until she was desperate to share his bed, as her father had done his foster-sister...

Turning on the charm, he murmured softly, 'Ah, I see I have embarrassed you, Charlotte.' His dark eyes narrowed on her face. 'You think I am some old lecher who spends his day ogling naked women, perhaps?' he prompted, and noted the deepening flush in her pale cheeks with amusement. It was a long time since he had seen a woman blush and Charlotte Summerville did it beautifully. She played the innocent to perfection, even though he was sure she was anything but.

'Let me set your mind at rest, Charlotte. I am a businessman first and foremost, and when I see a good deal I snap it up, whether it be a company or art. The painting is an investment. I do not wish to sound callous, but you, who sanctioned the exhibition, must be well aware work by a dead artist is much more marketable than that by a living one.'

The ease with which he had read her thoughts was scary. But Charlie knew his cynical assessment was correct. 'Yes,' she murmured, finally finding her voice.

'And let me reassure you...' his deep voice thickened as he turned back to the painting '...this is the only nude I want to own. I believe it is your father's best and last.'

Following the line of his gaze, Charlie looked once more at the picture, in which her father had captured the mood of the woman perfectly.

'Yes, she is beautiful,' she agreed again. But, though it might be his best, she knew it wasn't his last. There was a half-finished portrait in her possession of a red-headed woman. Determined to try and match his sophistication, she looked up at Jake. 'But not, I think, his last,' she said archly, and was about to tell him of Robert's last affair in what she hoped was a sophisticated attempt to keep his interest. But her effort was wasted; he wasn't listening. She saw the glazed look in his dark eyes, and reality hit her like a slap in the face. The man was transfixed by the portrait.

But then, he had just paid a hefty amount of money for the picture—why wouldn't he be fascinated? she told herself firmly. What was she thinking of, trying to impress a man she had just met? A man, moreover, who was captivated by the portrait of a luscious brunette. Where did that leave her a very average blonde? Precisely nowhere, and she castigated herself for being a fool.

Her first assessment had been right before she'd ever seen Jake d'Amato. He was certainly no fat old man. The very opposite—a more striking male would be hard to find. But as for the rest, she had been correct. He was wealthy— it was evident in the supreme confidence he displayed, and in every line of the designer suit right down to the handmade shoes, never mind the fact he had bought the painting. But that aside, she told herself firmly if a little regretfully, he was also the type of guy who got off on looking at pictures of nude women.