Pregnancy of Revenge(66)

By: Jacqueline Baird

Jake lifted his head. 'I wanted you so much, Charlotte, but on our wedding day—' His eyes darkened but, as if compelled to talk, he carried on. 'Dio, I listened to Dave telling me what you did, and felt ashamed I had not known. I glanced across and saw you so brave and so beautiful and thought I was the luckiest man on earth.

'And on our wedding night I needed you, ached for you so badly. I could not believe it when you mentioned Anna and the painting. And if Diego had been there I would have flattened him on the spot for putting the idea in your mind. I had long since given up any idea of revenge—it was a spur-of-the-moment, stupid idea in the first place. And I wanted nothing to spoil our night though even then I could not admit why.'

Charlie's lips parted in a soft, tremulous smile. 'Diego's revelation gave me a bit of a shock,' she murmured, lifting a hand to weave it through his soft black hair, and saw the expression on the face only inches from hers become slightly hooded.

'Not as shocked as I was when you mentioned the portrait in the bedroom, at the very moment I held you in my arms and kissed you. You have no idea how much it hurt me to see the doubt, the lack of trust in your eyes. I was furious and I lashed out at you.'

'You said you married me only for the baby,' Charlotte reminded him, but the hope in her heart was growing.

'I lied. I didn't marry you because you were pregnant. I didn't marry you for any other reason than I had to because I needed you and only you,' Jake said quietly, and brushed his finger across her cheek and round the contours of her lips. 'The baby is a marvellous bonus. But I was angry with you because it was my own guilt I could not face. Not only thinking badly of you but, if I am honest, because of Anna. You were wrong earlier when you said I was like your father and would be fiercely protective of any child. I never protected my child who was aborted, and I never protected Anna the way a real brother should. I never paid her enough attention—a lunch occasionally, and that was it. I had no right to be angry with you or your father. Anna was a grown woman and made her own mistakes. But I never learnt from mine. I never protected you, my wife, as Dr Bruno so succinctly pointed out.' To see her proud, indomitable husband so chastened, so vulnerable was a shock to Charlie.

'But if you will just give me a second chance, Charlotte, I swear I will protect you and our child with my life. You are the love I never thought existed,' he said huskily. 'And I want you so much.' He groaned, his eyes darkening as his gaze flickered over where the sheet had slipped and exposed the soft curve of her breasts barely covered by her satin nightgown, and then he fastened his mouth on hers in a kiss that was so piercingly sweet it melted her bones.

'You are so exquisite I can't think straight, let alone talk sensibly about anything, but, please, just say you will stay,' Jake pleaded. 'You said you loved me once, let me try to persuade you to love me again.' With a smothered groan he began kissing her again, until she started to tremble with emotion.

'Jake...' she murmured, her hand splaying across his broad chest, feeling the heat of his satin-smooth skin, the tickle of body hair on her palms. But still she pushed him away, and it was the hardest thing she had ever done. 'Please, I need to know,' she faltered. 'I need to know you truly mean this. The very first time we made love,' she said in a rush as Jake tensed, his dark gaze fixed warily on her face as though expecting some knockout blow, 'you turned your back on me and walked away in anger. Why? Was it something I did or didn't do?' She had to know she wasn't opening herself up to get left again afterwards.

'Oh, cara .' He paused to take a brief, hard kiss that left her breathless. 'That wasn't your fault, it was mine. You made me angrier than I could ever remember being before. I felt quite savage simply looking at you, because I had just made love to you and I wanted you again so badly. I could not understand the totally overwhelming sensations I felt just kissing you. And to be brutally honest I was still reeling from the shock of discovering the portrait of Anna. I'd only learned of its existence a few hours before I met you, and I felt terribly guilty. I could not understand myself. I had to walk away or reveal my desperation for you, and I was not prepared to do that.'

'You wanted me that badly.' Charlie was thrilled.