The Consequences of That Night

By: Jennie Lucas

He frowned, sensing sarcasm. “Um...”

“Thank you for taking pity on me that night. It must have felt like quite a sacrifice, seducing me to make the crying stop. Thank you for your compassion.”

Cesare glared at her, looking equal parts shocked and furious. “You’ve never spoken like this before. What the hell’s gotten into you, Emma?”

Your baby, she wanted to say. But you don’t even care you took my virginity. You just want me back to cook and clean for you. Anger flashed through her. “For God’s sake, don’t you think I have any feelings at all?”

He clenched his hands at his sides, then exhaled.

“No,” he said quietly. “I hoped you didn’t.”

The lump in her throat felt like a razorblade now.

“Well. Sorry. I’m not a robot. No matter how inconvenient that is for you.” She fought the rush of tears. “Everything has changed for me now.”

“Nothing changed for me.”

Emma lifted her gaze to his. “It could, if you’d just give it a chance.” She hated the pleading sound of her voice. “If you’d only just listen...”

Cesare’s eyes were already hardening, his sensual lips parting to argue, when they heard a gasp. Emma turned to see an elderly couple staring at them in the hotel hallway. The white-haired man looked scandalized at the sight of Cesare wearing only a white towel, while his wife peered at him through her owlish glasses with interest.

Cesare glared at them. “Do you mind?” he said coldly. “We are trying to have a private conversation.”

The man looked nonplussed. “I beg your pardon.” He fled toward the elevator, pulling his wife with him, though she shot Cesare’s backside one last look of appreciative regret.

He turned back to Emma with a scowl. “Nothing can change for me. Don’t you understand?”

It already had. He just didn’t know it. Emma swallowed. She’d never thought she’d be forced to blurt out news of her pregnancy in the middle of a public hotel hallway. She licked her lips. “Look, can’t we go somewhere? Talk about this in private?”

“Why? So you can confess your undying love?” His voice was full of scorn. “So you can tell me how you’ll be the woman to make me love again? How you’ve imagined me proposing to you? How you’ve dreamed of standing next to me in a white dress?”

“It’s not like that,” she tried, but he’d seen her flinch. It was exactly like that.

“Damn you, Emma,” he said softly. “You are the one woman who should have known better. I will not change, not for you or anyone. All you’ve succeeded in doing with this stunt is destroying our friendship. I don’t see how we can continue to maintain a working relationship after this....”

“Do you think I’ll even want to be your housekeeper after this?”

His eyes widened, then narrowed.

“So much for promises,” he bit out.

She flinched again, wondering what he would say when she told him about the far worse promise she’d unknowingly broken—the one about it being impossible for her to get pregnant.

But how could she tell him? How could she blurt out the precious news of their child, standing in a public hallway with him staring at her as if he despised her? If only they could just go back to his room—but no. His suite was already filled, with a hard-eyed blonde in skimpy lingerie.

Everything suddenly became clear.

There was no room for a baby in Cesare’s life. And Emma’s only place there, as far as he was concerned, was scrubbing his floor and folding his sheets.

Cesare’s expression was irritated. “If things can’t be like they were...”

“What? You’ll fire me for caring? That’s your big threat?” Looking at the darkly handsome, arrogant face that she’d loved for so long, fury overwhelmed her. Fury at her own stupidity that she’d wasted so much of her life loving a man who couldn’t see a miracle when it was right in front of him. Who wouldn’t want the miracle, even if he did see.

How could she have loved him? How could she have ever thought—just as he’d accused her—that she could change his playboy nature?

He exhaled, and moderated his tone in a visible effort. “What if I offered to double your salary?”

Her lips parted in shock. “You want to pay me for our night together?”

“No,” he said coldly. “I want to pay you to forget.”

Her eyes stung. Of course he would offer money. It was just paper to him, like confetti. One of his weapons, along with his power and masculine beauty, that he used to get his way. And Cesare Falconeri always got his way.

Emma shook her head.

“So how can we get past this? What the hell do you want from me?”

She looked up at him, her heart full of grief. What did she want? A man who loved her, who would love their child, who would be protective and loyal and show up for breakfast every morning. She whispered, “I want more than you will ever be able to give.”

He knew immediately she wasn’t speaking of money. That was clear by the way his handsome face turned grim, almost haunted in the dim light of the hallway. He took a step toward her. “Emma...”

“Forget it.” She stepped back. Her whole body was shaking. If he touched her now, if he said anything more to remind her what a fool she’d been, she was afraid she’d collapse into sobs on the carpet and never get up again.

Her baby needed her to be strong. Starting now.

Down the hall, she heard the elevator ding. Glancing back, she saw the elderly couple hesitate in front of the elevator, obviously still watching them. She realized they’d been listening to every word. Turning back to Cesare, she choked out, “I’m done being your slave.”

“You tell him, honey,” the white-haired woman called approvingly.

Cesare’s expression turned to cold fury, but Emma didn’t wait. She just ran for the elevator. She got her arm between the doors in time to step inside, next to the elderly couple. Trembling, she turned back to face the man she’d loved for seven years. The boss whose baby she now carried, though he did not know it.

Cesare was stalking toward her, his almost-naked body muscular and magnificent in the hallway of his own billion-dollar hotel.

“Come back,” he ground out, his dark eyes flashing. “I’m not done talking to you.”

Now, that was funny. In a tragic, heart-wrenching, want-to-burst-into-sobs kind of way. “I tried to talk to you. You wouldn’t let me. You were too terrified I’d say those three fatal words.” She gave a bitter laugh. “So here are two words for you instead.” Emma lifted glittering eyes to his. “I quit.”

And the elevator doors closed between them.

                      CHAPTER TWO

I’M DONE BEING your slave.

Cesare’s body was taut with fury as the elevator doors closed in front of Emma’s defiant, beautiful face. He could still hear the echo of her scornful words.

I want more than you will ever be able to give.

And then she’d quit.

Cesare couldn’t believe it.

It was true that in the past few months, he’d thought once or twice about firing Emma rather than face her again. But he’d promised himself he wouldn’t fire her. As long as she didn’t get silly or ask for a relationship. After all they’d been through together, he didn’t want to lose her.

He’d never expected this. He was the one who left women. They didn’t leave him. Not since...

He cut off the thought.

Turning, he stalked back down the hall, passing a wealthy hotel guest, a heavily bejeweled white-haired lady dressed in vintage Chanel, holding a small Pomeranian in her arms. An entourage of three servants trailed behind her. She glared at him.

Ah. Cesare’s lip curled in a mixture of admiration and scorn. The wealthy. He hated them all sometimes. Even though he himself had somehow become one of them.

Returning to his suite, he realized he had no key. And he was still wearing only a towel. At any moment someone would snap an embarrassing photograph, to add to the rest of his indiscretions already permanently emblazoned all over the internet. Irritated, he pounded on his own door with the flat of his hand.

Olga opened the door, still in her lingerie, holding a lit cigarette.

“There’s no smoking in this hotel,” he snapped, walking past her. “Put that out.”

She took a long puff, then snuffed it out in the bottom of a water glass. “Problems with your housekeeping staff?” she asked sweetly.

“How did you get in here?”

“You sound as if you’re not glad to see me.” Pouting, Olga slinked forward, swaying her hips in a way that was no doubt supposed to be enticing. He almost wished it were. If he’d still been attracted to her, maybe he wouldn’t have made such a mess of things with Emma. Because he couldn’t go back to thinking of Emma Hayes just as an employee, no matter how he wished he could. Not when every time he closed his eyes, he remembered the way she’d felt beneath him in the hot breathless hush of night.

Don’t worry. I can’t get pregnant, she’d whispered, putting her hand over his as he’d reached for a condom in his bedside stand. It’s impossible. I promise you...

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