The Consequences of That Night

By: Jennie Lucas



Just that one word. The word he’d never said to her before. Please. She swallowed, then looked at him.

“Let me go. It’s better for you this way. Better for all of us.”

“I can’t,” he said in a low voice. “There are so few people in my life I trust. So few who actually know me. But you do. That’s why I know—I know—you can’t really love me.”

His words were strangely bleak. Her heart twisted. He was right about one thing. She, of all people, did know him. She knew he was not the emotionless man the world believed him to be.

Emma ached to reach up and stroke the roughness of his cheek, to whisper words of comfort. Her hand trembled. Shadows from the closed window blinds left lines across his dark, handsome face. His eyes burned through her.

But even more: her secret burned inside her, with every beat of her heart. She was pregnant with his child. Her silence in this moment was the biggest lie any woman could tell any man.

“Why ever did you think you couldn’t get pregnant, Mrs. Hayes?” her physician had asked, looking shocked. “Childhood cancer, especially ovarian cancer, can occasionally cause difficulties, yes. But in your case it worked out just fine. I see it’s a surprise, but this baby is wanted, yes?”

“Of course this baby is wanted,” she’d answered. Oh, yes. Emma had believed for so long that she’d never be a mother. That it wasn’t even a possibility. Fighting the same deadly, silent disease years before, her mother had never been able to have another child. Caroline Hayes had ultimately died when Emma was only four, at the age of twenty-nine. Barely older than Emma was now.

“Cara.” Cesare’s handsome face was almost pleading as he gave an awkward laugh. “How many times did we joke about it? That I wasn’t worthy of any good woman’s love?”

She blinked hard. “Many times.”

“So you must see. What you think you feel—it’s not love. Just sex.”

Hot tears burned at the backs of her eyes and she feared at any moment tears would spill over her lashes. “For you.”

“For both of us. You just aren’t experienced enough to realize it yet,” he said gently. “But someday soon, you will...”

Emma stiffened. Was he already picturing her moving on, finding sex or love with another man? Cesare could imagine this, without it ripping out his heart?

Not Emma. It had nearly killed her to find him with Olga. And even if he hadn’t slept with her—that time—she knew there had been other women. Many, many others. And there would always be.

She ripped her hand away. She didn’t have to live like this. Not anymore. She’d never have to spend another lonely night staring at her ceiling, listening to the noise down the hall while he had yet another vigorous one-night stand with yet another woman he’d soon forget. She was done.

It was like a burst of sunlight and fresh air after years of imprisonment.

“I don’t want to love you anymore,” she whispered.

He tried to smile. “See—”

“Do you realize that I’ve never taken a single vacation in seven years? No personal days, no time off, except for my stepmother’s funeral?”

“I just thought you were devoted to your work, like I am.”

“I wasn’t devoted to my work. I was devoted to you.” She shook her head. “I’ve lived in London for years and still only seen Trafalgar Square from the bus. I’ve never been inside the museums—or even had a picture of myself taken in front of Big Ben.”

He stared at her incredulously. “I’ll call my driver, take you down to Trafalgar Square and take your picture myself, if that’s what it takes. I’ll lower your schedule to thirty hours a week and give you two months off every year.” He tried to give his old charming smile. “Forget our night together, and I’ll forgive your infatuation. So long as it ends now.”

She shook her head. “I’m done working for you.”

“And there’s nothing I can do to change your mind?”

The deep, sexy timbre of his voice caused a shudder to pass through her body, all the way to her fingertips. She forced herself to ignore it.

“I can’t change your nature,” she choked out. “And you can’t change mine. There is nothing either of us can do.” She looked away. “Please ask Arthur to cut my last paycheck. I’ll pick it up on the way to St. Pancras.”

“St. Pancras?”

“I’m taking the train to Paris.” She licked her lips. “For a new job.”

He stared at her.

“You’re not even giving me two weeks’ notice?”

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

Silence fell between them. In the distance, she heard the sounds of a police siren, with its European sound, so different from New York’s.

“It seems I’ve been an awful boss to you these past years.” Something in Cesare’s tone made her look up. From where he stood on the other side of the bed, his handsome face was half-hidden in shadow. “Let me save you the trouble of a trip to the office. I’ll pay you now.”

“It’s not necessary.”

“But it is,” he said coldly. In his long-sleeved black shirt and trousers, he looked sophisticated, like the international tycoon he was. But the power of his muscled shoulders and cold fury in his black eyes were anything but civilized. “Here.”

Pulling a handful of fifty-pound bills out of his wallet, he tossed them toward her. Wide-eyed, Emma watched them float like feathers to the bed.

“Your paycheck,” he said grimly. Reaching back into his wallet, he threw out American money next. “The vacation time you refused to take.” He tossed out Euro notes. “Your Christmas bonus.” Then Japanese yen. “Overtime.” Dirhams and Russian rubles flew next. “The raise I should have given you.”

Shocked, Emma watched the blizzard of money fall like snowflakes onto the bed, a flurry of money from all over the world, pesos and reals and kroner, dollars from Canada and Australia.

Frowning, Cesare suddenly looked into his wallet. Empty. It seemed even billionaires had a limit to ready cash. Pulling the platinum watch off his tanned wrist, he dumped it on the bed, on top of the Matterhorn of money.

“There,” he said coldly. “Will that compensate you for all the anguish you suffered working for me? Are we done?”

She swallowed. Even now, in his generosity, he was being cruel—using his wealth as a weapon against her. Making her feel small.

“Yes,” she choked out. “We’re done.”

“So you’re no longer my employee. As of this moment.”

Head held high, Emma walked toward the money on the bed. Just take it, she told herself. She had earned that money—all of it and more! The money he’d tossed at her so carelessly was nothing to him, barely more than he might spend impulsively on an amusing night out, buying thousand-pound bottles of scotch for all his rich friends.

But still. There was something truly awful about reaching for a pile of money left on her bed. Something sordid.

She tried to force herself forward, then stiffened. She exhaled, pulling back her hand.

“What’s wrong now?”

“I can’t take it,” she said. “Not like this.”

He slowly walked around the bed toward her. “It’s yours. You earned it.”

“Earned it how?” she whispered.

“For God’s sake, Emma!”

She whirled back to him. “I can’t take it off the bed. As if I were your...”

She couldn’t say the word, but he did.

“My whore?” Cesare came toward her, his dark eyes like fire. “You are driving me insane,” he ground out. “If you do not want the money, then leave it. If you are so determined to go, then go. I don’t give a damn what you do.”

“You’ve made that painfully clear,” she said hoarsely.

“And you,” he snarled, “have made it clear that there is no way I can win. You think I’m a selfish bastard, you hate me, you hate yourself for your so-called love for me. You’re sick of the sight of me and you’re using our night together as an excuse to quit.”

She sucked in her breath.

“An excuse?” It was humiliating how her voice squeaked on the word.

“Yes.” Cesare was close to her now, very close. She was suddenly very aware that she was wearing almost nothing and they were alone in her dark bedroom. Her nipples were hard beneath her white lace bra. Her own breathing seemed loud in her ears. His powerful body towered over hers, and she could feel the warmth emanating off his skin. The heat in his gaze scared her—almost as much as the answering heat in her own body. He said in a low voice, “You’re running away from me like a coward.”

She gasped, “Are you kidding? I’m running like a coward?”

Cesare’s hand reached out to touch her cheek, and as she felt his fingertips against her skin, it was all she could do not to turn her face into the warmth of his caress, even now. “You mean nothing to me, Emma,” he growled. His dark eyes burned through her. “You never have. You never will.”

“Good,” she choked out. “Because I can hardly wait to leave you. I’m so happy that after tonight I’ll never see you again....”

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