Pregnancy of Revenge(6)

By: Jacqueline Baird

Charlie didn't say a word. She could hardly believe what had happened; it was so unlike her. Where had her common sense, the steely nerve she was noted for, gone? Banished into oblivion by one kiss. Her entire body thrummed with a strange excitement and she had never in her wildest dreams believed a man could make her feel so wonderfully, vibrantly alive. But what was even more unbelievable was that Jake seemed to be as captivated by her as she was with him. She had felt it in the pounding of his heart, his shaken reaction when he had ended the kiss.

Suddenly the dinner she had tried to refuse held great appeal.


IT WAS an exclusive French restaurant and at first glance appeared to be full, but within seconds of them entering the head waiter was at Jake's side, and declaring it was a great pleasure to see him again, and his charming companion. His shrewd eyes flashed an appreciative glance over Charlie as he bowed courteously and led them to a small table set for two in an intimate corner of the room.

She looked around the dining room, her blue eyes widening in awe as she recognized a couple of politicians and a few famous faces from television. 'You must have friends in high places,' she said, grinning across the table at Jake. 'I read an article about this restaurant in a Sunday supplement. But it's even better than I imagined, though I never thought I would ever eat here.' Eyes shining, she leant forward slightly. 'Apparently one has to book months in advance.'

'Obviously not in my case,' Jake said arrogantly as the waiter arrived with the menus.

Disconcerted by his cool reply, Charlotte felt her smile fade as she realised her mistake. He was a big man and every inch the dominant male. Add wealth and sophistication, and it would take a very brave man or a fool to turn him down. As for women-—she only had to recall how easily he had overcome her objections to dining with him to know the woman probably wasn't born who could say no to him.

She gratefully accepted the menu from the waiter and buried her head in it, telling herself to get a grip. Instead of spouting off like some overenthusiastic teenager, she would show Jake d'Amato she could be as sophisticated as any woman.

'What would you like to eat? I am going to have the hot smoked salmon followed by the steak. How about you? The same?'

She placed the menu on the table and lifted her head. 'No, Jake,' she said coolly, before turning to the waiter and asking him in perfect French what he recommended. A lively debate ensued on the relative merit of the red sea bass or the chefs special stuffed trout. Finally Charlie gave her order for a starter of seasonal spring salad followed by the bass to a now beaming waiter, with a brilliant smile of her own.

'So, Charlotte,' Jake commented mockingly as the waiter departed. 'You are a woman of many talents, it would seem.'

Charlie turned sparkling eyes to the man seated opposite. 'Well, I'm not an idiot.' She smiled, her confidence restored.

'No, but, French aside, you did turn the poor waiter into a drooling idiot.' His eyes flashed with a hint of some dark emotion, then softened perceptibly as his gaze roamed down to the soft curve of her breasts. 'Though I can't say I blame him,' he added huskily.

She felt a flush of heat creep from her stomach to cover her whole body at his sensuous gaze, and she had to take a deep breath before she could respond steadily. 'Thank you for the compliment.'

'My pleasure, I assure you.'

Out of nowhere the thought of Jake at her pleasure deepened Charlie's colour, and she frowned. In the sexual stakes she was not in his league, and she wondered what she was letting herself in for.

Jake reached out to cover her slender hand resting on the table with his own. For some reason the reservation in her eyes bothered him. 'Charlotte, don't look so serious,' he said softly. Entwining his fingers with hers, he lifted her hand and pressed a tiny row of kisses across her knuckles. 'Please, relax and enjoy your meal, and let us see if we can get to know each other a little better. We can become friends—can we not?'

Friends? With every nerve in her body quivering at his casual touch, Charlie doubted she could ever be just friends with such a supreme specimen of the male sex as Jake. But it was a start.

'Friends. Yes.' Striving to appear cool, she continued conversationally, 'so, tell me, why the name Jake? It doesn't sound very Italian.'