Pregnancy of Revenge(8)

By: Jacqueline Baird

'Well, I don't know about that,' Charlie murmured, pushing her empty plate away. There was something in the tone of his seemingly jocular comment that struck a discordant note and made her wary. Plus she was not comfortable talking about her father or about money.

'No, of course you wouldn't,' Jake agreed smoothly, and for the rest of the meal he endeavored to keep the conversation general while trying to discover more about the woman before him. Though he was loath to admit it, Charlotte was beginning to intrigue him more than any woman he had met in a long time.

For Charlie the next hour passed in a hazy bubble of happiness. Jake was a great conversationalist and, without her realising it, she had soon told him where she lived and how, after the death of her grandmother, she had left school to help her grandfather run the small family hotel overlooking Lake Windermere.

'And you inherited the hotel, of course,' Jake prompted when she fell silent for a moment.

'Yes. Yes, I did.' The thought of the family she had lost dulled the sparkle in her eyes for a moment.

'Lucky you,' Jake said. Charlie frowned and she was about to argue there was nothing lucky about losing one's family, when he added, 'But I was very lucky in a way,' and to her surprise proceeded to tell her more of his own past. After the death of his mother when he was eight, he had been placed in an orphanage and got involved with a bad crowd. But miraculously he had been fostered at the age of ten by a man whose pocket he had tried to pick. It had saved him from a life of crime and had been the incentive he had needed to study and become a marine engineer, and owner of his own company. His foster-parents were still alive and he visited them regularly.

Charlie simply beamed at him, and thought how kind. He must have a very caring nature.

Also a very sensual nature, because as they ate the meal and drank the bottle of champagne Jake subtly managed to keep her in a state of simmering sexual tension. A forkful of his food offered to her willingly parted lips, a casual touch of his hand, an intimate smile. By the time they got to the coffee stage Charlie was unaware she had consumed the lion's share of the champagne, and as she spooned sugar into her cup and added cream any resistance to his sophisticated charm was well and truly vanquished.

'I am glad to see you are not one of these women who have to watch their figure all the time,' Jake said, glancing at her coffee cup, then allowing his gaze to glide slowly up over her high firm breasts and to her beautiful if slightly flushed face. A lazy smile curved his sensuous lips as his dark eyes finally met and held Charlie's. 'Though it is well worth watching—quite perfect,' he declared throatily.

She recognized the male appreciation and the suggestion of more on offer in his gleaming dark eyes. She wasn't totally naive; she had experienced sexual chemistry before, but never as potent as this. Her pulse started to thud under her skin, and instinctively she lifted her hand to the hollow at the base of her throat. Her tongue slipped out to lick over her suddenly dry lips and she saw Jake's gaze drop to her mouth, and she heard his sharp intake of breath.

'Let's get out of here,' he commanded suddenly, rising to his feet and dropping a pile of notes on the table. He reached a hand around her upper arm and almost hauled her to her feet, muttering something in Italian under his breath.

'Why the rush?' she queried as he hustled her out of the restaurant, tension in every line of his long body.

'Don't pretend you don't know, Charlotte,' he said, his voice raw and thick with a sensual hunger that made Charlie shiver. Then he dropped her arm and curved his own around her waist in a possessive hold that thrilled and slightly frightened her as he led her to the car.

'Get in,' Jake said, wrenching open the passenger door and guiding Charlotte inside. Walking around the bonnet, he wondered what the hell he was doing. He had nothing but contempt for her type of woman, and yet he found her incredibly desirable. To his unemotional, analytical mind it did not make sense. But right now all his thinking processes seemed to be centered below his waist, and the quicker he got her into bed, the quicker his problem would be solved.

Alone for a moment, Charlie began to wonder what on earth she was doing, but seconds later, when Jake slid into the driving seat and reached for her, she knew.