Claimed for Makarov's Baby(4)

By: Sharon Kendrick


And out there stood a confused man who had never been anything but a good friend to her.

Pulling away from Dimitri, she glared at him. ‘I have to go and talk to Chico. I have to explain what is happening,’ she said, even though she wasn’t entirely sure herself. ‘Wait here for me.’

But he caught hold of her wrist, his fingers vice-like against the frantic hammering of her pulse. ‘Okay, speak to him if you must—but make it brief. And just make sure you come back, Erin,’ he said, his voice cold. ‘Because if you try to run away I will find you. Be in no doubt about that.’

She pulled away from him and went to find Chico, trying to explain why there wasn’t going to be a wedding, her heart twisting with distress as she saw his face crumple. But by the time she returned to the featureless room where Dimitri was waiting, her distress had turned into anger and she was shaking with rage as she shut the door behind her. ‘You had no right to do that!’ she flared.

‘I had every right,’ he said. ‘And you know it. And what is more—you didn’t fight me very hard, did you? If you don’t want a man near you, then you shouldn’t kiss him as if you want him to do it to you right then and there.’

‘You bastard.’

‘Is that what I am, Erin?’

‘You know you are!’

‘Shouldn’t you think very carefully about applying that particular word as an insult?’

His loaded words precipitated something—it must have been shock—for why else would her teeth have started chattering so violently? She made one last attempt at rebellion. He has no real hold over you, she told herself fiercely. He’s not your guardian or your keeper, or your boss. ‘I’m going now,’ she said, meeting his eyes with a defiant stare. ‘I want to go home.’

He laughed very softly and the sound filled her with dread.

‘Please don’t be delusional,’ he said. ‘We both know you aren’t going anywhere—at least not until you and I have had a little talk. So sit down.’

Part of her wanted to object to the masterful way he sat her down on a nearby chair, but in truth she was grateful because her knees felt as if they might give way at any minute. But any feeling of gratitude was soon forgotten when she looked into the determined set of his face. She’d forgotten just how ruthless he could be. How he moved people around as if they were pawns on his own personal chessboard. As his secretary she’d been granted the rare gift of immunity to his whims, because once he had liked her and respected her.

Once.

Sitting huddled in her too-big wedding dress, she stared up at him. ‘Now what?’

‘Now you tell me all about your Brazilian lover,’ he drawled. ‘Is he hot between the sheets?’

‘He isn’t...’ She hesitated, wondering how much he already knew. ‘Chico isn’t my lover—as I suspect you may have worked out for yourself, since he’s gay.’

His mouth twisted. ‘So it isn’t a love match?’

‘Hardly.’

‘You’re marrying a gay man,’ he said slowly. ‘Who I suspect is paying you for the privilege. Maybe he needs a visa, or a work permit.’ His icy eyes glittered. ‘Am I right, Erin?’

Did her face give her away? Did guilt wrap itself around her features so that he was able to give the smug smile of someone who’d just had his hunch confirmed?

‘And that—as we both know—is against the law,’ he continued softly.

Shaking herself out of her stupor, she glared at him, telling herself that attack was the best form of defence. ‘Is that why you turned up out of the blue today, to point out the finer points of the law?’ She willed herself not to show fear even though inside her heart was pumping like a piston. Brazen it out, she told herself. Just brazen it out. ‘Is that what this is all about, Dimitri—are you about to report me to the authorities?’

Suddenly, his face changed and Erin knew that when he spoke his voice would be different, too. It would be steely and matter-of-fact instead of mocking and casual. He was bored with playing games and was about to cut to the chase. She knew him much too well.

‘But you already know the answer to that question, Erin. You’ve known since the moment you turned round and saw me. You just haven’t had the guts to come out and admit it.’ In the featureless room with the blinds drawn down to block out the outside world, his eyes glittered like shards of blue ice. ‘Or maybe you were intending to keep my son hidden from me for ever—was that your plan?’





CHAPTER TWO


DIMITRI SAW ALL the colour drain from Erin’s face and felt a beat of something which felt very close to satisfaction. He watched as she leaned her head back against the wall—as if the weight of her head were too much for that slender neck to support—and looked at him warily, her green eyes slitted. He didn’t know what had hurt the most. No, not hurt. He didn’t do hurt. Mentally, he corrected himself. What had angered him most. The fact that she hadn’t told him, or the fact that she had lied to him, when once he would have counted Erin Turner as about the only truly honest person he’d ever known. She was still trying to lie—he could see it in the sudden whitening of her face and the way she was nervously licking her lips. He found himself thinking that she would make a useless poker player.

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