The Consequences of That Night

By: Jennie Lucas



“I’m so glad you came to your senses,” he murmured as he kissed her.

She drew back with a frown. “My senses?”

He smiled, twisting a long black tendril of her hair around his finger. “You are going to be a very enjoyable bit of carry-on baggage.”

“Oh, so now I’m baggage, am I?”

“I’ve decided you were right.”

Her green eyes suddenly shone. “You did?”

“I’m glad you quit,” he said lazily, running the pad of his thumb over her nipple, for the masculine pleasure of watching it instantly pebble beneath his touch. “I need to be in Asia tomorrow, Berlin on Friday.”

Lifting a dark eyebrow, she said lightly, “And I need to take that job in Paris.”

“You’re thinking about your job?” He snorted. “I want you to come with me.”

“Give up my career to do what—just hang out in your bed?”

“Can you think of a better idea?”

“I like my career.” Her voice had a new edge to it. “I’m good at it.”

“Of course you are. The best,” he said soothingly. He hadn’t meant to insult her. “But I’ll cover your expenses while you’re with me. We can just both enjoy ourselves. For however long this lasts.”

“Are you joking?” She sounded almost angry.

Cesare was still waiting for her burst of excited joy and arms to be thrown around him at the brilliance of his plan. Her joy didn’t seem to be forthcoming. “Don’t you understand what I’m offering you, Emma?”

“I must not,” she said. “Because it sounds like you expect me to drop everything for you, when all you want is sex.”

“Sex with you,” he pointed out. He would have thought that would be obvious. “And friendship,” he added as an afterthought. “It’ll be...fun.”

“Fun?” she said in a strangled voice.

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing. Wow. It’s the answer to all my childhood dreams. Fun.”

He was starting to grow irritated “You can throw away your mop and broom. No more twenty-four-hour days with a jerk for a boss.” He tried to laugh, but she didn’t join him at the joke. He continued weakly, “You’ll travel with me—see the world...”

Pulling away from him entirely, she looked at him in the gray dawn.

“For how long?” she said quietly.

“How should I know?” Sitting up straighter against the headboard, he folded his arms grumpily. “For as long as we’re enjoying ourselves.”

“And you’ll kindly pay me for my time.”

He ground his jaw. “You’re twisting this all around, making it sound like I’m trying to insult you. Why aren’t you happy? You should be happy—I’ve never offered any woman so much!”

She rebelliously lifted her eyes. “We both know that’s not true.”

A cold chill went down his spine. “You’re talking about my wife.”

She didn’t answer. She didn’t have to.

“Christo.” Cesare clawed back his hair. This couldn’t be happening. “We’ve been together only two nights, I’ve barely asked you to be my mistress, and you’re already pressuring me to marry you?”

“I didn’t say that!”

“You don’t have to.” He could see it in her face: that terrible repressed hope. The same expression he’d seen in so many women’s faces. The desire to pin him down, to hold him against his will, in a place he didn’t want to be. To make iron chains of duty and honor replace delight or even pleasure.

“You did get married once. You must have had a reason.”

Anger rushed through him. The memory of Alain Bouchard’s hateful voice. You married my sister for her money and then made her life a living hell. Is it any wonder she took the pills? You might as well have poured them down her throat.

Cesare’s lips parted to lash out. Then he forced himself to focus on Emma’s lovely, wistful face. It wasn’t her fault. He choked back furious, hateful words.

“I married for love once,” he said flatly. “I’ll never do it again.”

“Because you still love her,” she whispered. “Your wife.”

Cesare could see what Emma believed. That he’d loved Angélique so much that even a decade hadn’t been enough to get over the grief of losing her. He let it pass, as he always did. The beautiful, simple lie was so much better than the truth.

He set his jaw, facing her across the bed, not touching. Just moments before, they’d been so close. Now an ocean divided them.

“I thought I made myself clear. But it wasn’t enough. So hear this.” He looked at her. “I will never love you, Emma. I will never marry you. I will never want to have a child with you. Ever.”

In the rising pink dawn, every ounce of color drained from Emma’s beautiful, plump-cheeked face, causing the powerful light of joy to disappear, as if it had never existed.

It was hard to watch. Cesare took a steadying breath. He had to be cruel to be kind. If they were to be together, even for just a few weeks, she had to accept these things from the beginning.

“My feelings in this matter will never change,” he said quietly. “I thought you understood. I thought you felt the same.” He reached for her hand, trembling where it rested on the bed. “Lust.”

In a flash of anguish, her luminous eyes lifted to his. She shook her head. His eyes narrowed.

“You must accept this,” he said, “for us to have any future.”

A low, bitter laugh bubbled to her lips—the most bitter thing he’d ever heard from her. She ripped her hand away. “Future? No love, no marriage, no child. What kind of future is that?”

His jaw tightened. “The kind that is real. No promises to be broken. No pretense. No fakery. We just take it day by day, enjoying each other’s company, taking pleasure for as long as it lasts.”

“And then what?”

“We part as friends.” He looked at her. “I don’t want to lose your friendship.”

“My friendship?” Her lip curled. “Or my services?”

“Emma!”

“You want to stop paying me as your housekeeper, and hire me straight out as your whore. No, I get it.” Holding up her hand, she said coldly, “I’m sorry, this is awkward for you, isn’t it? Usually I’m the one who handles this, who puts out your trash the morning after.” She looked past the tangled mess of bedcovers at the foot of the bed, still surrounded by an explosion of money, to his platinum watch lying on the floor. “You even gave me a watch. Just like all the rest.”

His own personal watch was even more expensive than the Cartier ones, but he sensed telling her that wouldn’t impress her. “Emma, you’re being idiotic....”

“I really am just like the rest.” She threw the sheets aside and stood up from the bed. “I’ll just collect my things and buy myself some roses on the high street, shall I?”

But as she started to walk away from the bed, Cesare grabbed her wrist.

“Don’t do this,” he said in a low voice.

“Do what?”

“This.” He looked up at her, his eyes glittering. “I want you in my bed. For now. For as long as it’s fun for both of us. Can’t that be enough? Why do you need false promises of more? Why can’t you just accept what I freely offer you?”

Their eyes locked. He could see the pain in her gaze.

“I want more. I want it all,” she whispered. “Love. Marriage.” She swallowed, looking up at him. “I want a baby. Our baby.”

The air around him suddenly felt thin. He shrank back from her words. Literally. “Emma...”

“I don’t need a wedding proposal. Or for you to say you’re ready to be a father.” Her eyes met his. “I just need to know you might want those things someday.” She blinked fast. “That you might be open to the possibility...if something ever...”

“No,” Cesare choked out. Still naked, he scrambled back on the bed, putting his hand to his neck, feeling as if he had something tight around his throat. He took a deep breath, forcing his hands down, trying to calm down, to breathe. “Either this is a fun diversion, a friendship with benefits, or it’s nothing. You decide.”

She stared at him for a long moment, her face as pale as marble. Then, violently, she grabbed her white bra and panties off the floor and yanked them on her body. Walking to her closet, she pulled out big armfuls of clothes. “What was I thinking—” she kicked open her old suitcase “—to believe—” she tossed the clothes inside “—in miracles!”

Cesare rose to his feet. Still naked, he padded across the hardwood floor. Without her warmth next to him, the bedroom felt chilly in the autumn morning. He heard traffic noise from the street outside. Soon, the house’s day staff would arrive. He desperately wanted this settled before they were interrupted. He felt Emma was slipping away from him. He didn’t understand why. With a deep breath, he tried once more.

“Why are you throwing everything away for the sake of some distant future? Think about today.” Wrapping his arms around her waist from behind, he nuzzled the side of her neck and said in a low voice, “Let tomorrow take care of itself....”

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