Pregnancy of Revenge(59)

By: Jacqueline Baird

'Oh, my God. That is appalling,' Charlie exclaimed, her hands involuntarily stroking his chest in a gesture of comfort. She could feel his pain as if it were her own, hear it in his voice.

'What is truly appalling,' Jake rasped, 'is the knowledge I paid to kill my own child.'

'No, you can't believe that. It wasn't your fault,' she told him. His hand pressed lightly on her stomach, but his mouth hardened as she watched.

'We are all responsible for our own actions, Charlotte, and the effect they have on those around us. She was my fiancée, not for any great love I felt for her, but out of necessity, and I should have known better than to trust her. But I learnt from it. I have never made the mistake of trusting a woman again.'

Her heart ached for him. He was such a proud man— what it must have done to him to know the woman in his life could betray him so abominably... With her new-found knowledge, she realised why he had so little trust in her sex. After what had happened to him, he had a right to be cynical. 'But not every woman is like your ex-fiancée, and you can't possibly want to live your life without trust,' she said softly.

Jake rolled onto his back. 'I've managed perfectly okay so far,' he said, pulling her into the curve of his arm. 'Forget about what I said. You have the damnable ability to make me reveal more than is good for either of us.'

Charlie leant up on one elbow. He looked so self- contained and devastatingly attractive that she felt anger mounting inside her. 'How can you say that, when it was that attitude that had you ranting and raving at me about money and proof when you discovered I was pregnant?' She paused as it hit her forcibly: Jake's insistence on marriage had not been solely about her baby, but the one he had lost. She remembered the expression on his face when she had wildly threatened to slit her belly open, convinced he wanted her to have a termination. How wrong had she been!

'That was why you insisted on marrying me. You had lost one child and were going to make sure it didn't happen again.'

'Charlotte,' he said tersely and the familiar shuttered look was back in his dark eyes. 'Does it matter why? We are married and I will support and protect you and our child.'

'The same way you protect yourself,' she said more scathingly than she intended. 'Blanking out anyone who tries to get close to you with a wall of ice around your true feelings. That's no way to live.'

He rose abruptly, and his narrowed glance held hers as he methodically picked up his robe and slipped it on. 'It sure as hell beats having to listen to your psychobabble in the middle of the night. I have to leave for Japan in the morning and I need to get some sleep. The bed next door will do me just fine.' And he turned on his heel and left.

She shivered, cold with the kind of heart-rending chill that came with rejection, and as she watched his back moisture filled her eyes. The euphoria she had felt in his arms was replaced by a growing certainty that Jake would never let himself see her as anything but the mother of his child, and a convenient lay when his overactive libido got the better of him.

Charlie brushed the tears from her cheeks, disgusted with herself for being such a fool as to love a man who didn't know the meaning of the word, and didn't want to. How many times was she going to let him use her, only to be slapped in the face with rejection afterwards? She deserved better than that.

Face it, she told herself. Knowing the reasons why Jake kept such a close control on his feelings or lack of them, and why he was so cynical about her sex had done her no good at all. Because Jake was perfectly happy the way he was. He wasn't prepared to listen and had walked away.

Feeling listless, Charlotte refused young Aldo' s requests to play with him after lunch, and decided to take a siesta instead. She hadn't slept or eaten much since Jake's departure five days ago. He had called her every day but the conversations had been short and stilted and yesterday she had put the phone down on him. She could not be bothered to talk to him as a polite little wife. She had reached her limit. And she wasn't sure she cared any more.

She felt as if she were living in a deep fog, where there were no longer any clear lines to follow, any certainty or purpose in her life, except for the baby she carried. She had been a woman of action, but she now seemed incapable of taking any and she didn't like the woman she had become. Not bothering to remove her shorts and top, Charlie flopped down on the bed and closed her eyes, hoping that in sleep she could forget her troubles.