Pregnancy of Revenge(65)

By: Jacqueline Baird

He was pale, Charlie noticed, but otherwise seemed to be maintaining a tight control. She sensed he was genuinely concerned—but then why wouldn't he be? She was carrying his child. 'You were probably relieved I wasn't kidnapped.' She shrugged, dismissing his fear. 'Think of the money I saved you,' she added nastily.

Jake stared at her, his eyes violent with some inner emotion of such magnitude that it took him a few seconds to successfully mask his expression. 'You think that badly of me?' His voice was bleak and his strong face clenched taut. 'Then you can leave when you like. There is nothing more to be said.' He turned to walk away.

Charlie suddenly saw red. He was doing it again, blanking her out. But this time they hadn't made love, but worse— he had said he loved her.

'Yes, there damn well is!' she shouted. 'You thought that badly of me, remember? A selfish greedy bitch selling her father's paintings for gain. Not so nice when the shoe is on the other foot, is it?' she snarled.

He spun around, his eyes hard as polished jet. 'I never said that, you did.'

'But you thought it,' she lashed back, and he did not attempt to contradict her. 'Well, let me tell you, Mr High and Mighty, all the money from my dad's art is going to the earthquake relief fund. With the agreement of Jess, the only one of his models I met. And as for selfishly refusing to meet your sister, that was my father's idea. I caught him once with Jess and, like most womanising men, I believe— and you should know,' she snapped, her blue eyes flashing fire, 'he was incredibly strict when it came to his own daughter. He didn't want me to meet his women, and whatever tales he told Anna had absolutely nothing to do with me. In fact, you're just like him, over-protective of your sister, and you'll be just as bad with your own child. So you know what? I'm glad I'm leaving. You're nothing but a workaholic, money-mad megalomaniac. And I hate you.'

Charlie swayed back against the pillows as reaction at the day's events and regrets for what could have been hit her badly. She placed a protective hand on her stomach and blinked back the tears that threatened.

For several seconds Jake stared back at her in shock. He felt about two inches tall. He could not deny he had once thought her capable of greed and selfishness and hadn't cared. At the beginning he had been content to have a willing Charlotte in his bed. She was right; he was everything she said he was, and more. He was a coward too, because he had never had the nerve to tell her how he really felt until she had almost killed herself. He was useless at this love thing, he thought, momentarily defeated. Then he saw her protective gesture and the tears she was trying so valiantly to hide, and he almost fell apart. But not quite. Instead he did the one thing he knew he was good at. He strode forward and sat down on the bed.

'You still here?' Charlie tried for sarcasm, but her voice wobbled.

'I am not going anywhere,' Jake said, and just snatched her into his arms.

'No? Well, I am.' She was leaving him, but somehow, held close in his arms, Charlie was suddenly too exhausted to fight him.

'No, you are not,' Jake muttered, and claimed her mouth with a gentle, possessive pressure. 'I am everything you say I am, but I love you, Charlotte.' His hand cupped her chin and she was unable to move. 'I am not very good at this, because I have never loved anyone before.' His mouth moved as soft as thistledown to her eyes, and briefly brushed her lids. 'But I can't bear to see you cry, I can't bear to see you hurt. I can't bear to see you in danger,' he told her forcibly. 'Dio! I love you so much I can't, I won't, let you go.'

She could only look at him. There could be no doubt he meant every word. It was there in the depth of his dark eyes, the husky determination in his voice, his touch as he brushed away a stray tear from her cheek, and carefully tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear.

Hope and joy ignited inside her and heat washed through her veins, washing away her fears. Her blue eyes widened in wonder on his.

'I love everything about you,' he murmured softly. 'Though no woman has ever confused and frustrated me so utterly as you have.' His lips curved in a wry smile. 'Nor hurt me as much.'

'Hurt you?' Charlie asked. 'I didn't think that was possible.' But she saw the vulnerability in his dark gaze and was shocked.

'Oh, it is, I assure you,' he said, and then pushed her back against the pillows, his hard body pinning her down, and claimed her mouth with all the fierce passion of his arrogant nature. And she sighed against his lips, and pressed closer.