Alexandra nervously smoothed the kerchief style silk halter-top over the nonexistent bump where her baby rested under her heart.
The unaccustomed warmth of late spring had allowed her to wear the sexy outfit to boost her flagging morale. She turned to the side and surveyed herself in the full-length mirror in her bedroom. Her willowy body encased in the champagne silk hip-hugging pants and sexy halter looked no different than it had when Dimitri had left for Greece.
The week-old knowledge that she was pregnant with his child might show in her wary hazel eyes, tinted sultry green by colored contacts, but it had not yet affected the shape of her body. She adjusted the gold chain belt resting low on her hips and the multiple thin bangles she wore on her wrist tinkled like small bells as they clinked together. Then in a nervous gesture, she pulled another curling strand of her hair down to frame the soft angles of her face.
Curled and professionally bleached so many shades, it looked like rippling sunlight when she let it down, her hair was a Xandra trademark. Only right now, she didn't feel like Xandra Fortune, popular model and lover to Greek tycoon, Dimitrius Petronides. She felt like Alexandra Dupree, daughter of an old New Orleans family, convent educated and shocked to be unmarried and pregnant with her lover's child.
"You look beautiful,pethi mou."
Alexandra spun away from the mirror. Dimitri stood in the door, masculine appreciation burning in his startling blue eyes. For a moment she forgot her condition. Forgot the many truths she needed to tell him. Forgot her fears. Forgot everything but how much she had missed this man over the past three weeks.
She flew across the room and threw herself against his chest. "Mon cher,
I have counted the minutes since you left!"
Strong arms locked around her in an almost convulsive movement while his body remained strangely stiff. "It has only been a month and you have been busy with work. You cannot have missed me that much."
His words reminded her how he had resented her refusal to quit modeling when they had become lovers, but she had not wanted to be any man's kept mistress. Nor had she had the option of quitting her job. She needed the money she made to support the family he knew nothing about.
"You are wrong. Nothing can keep me so occupied I do not notice your absence. A day. A week. A month. I grieve them all." She grimaced inwardly at her blatant vulnerability. Where had her sophisticated cool gone, the career model facade that had initially drawn Dimitri to her?
The first crack had appeared when he'd told her he was going to be in Greece longer than anticipated and she'd cried. After two-and-a-half weeks of morning sickness, a positive pregnancy test and her mother's horrified reaction to the news, the Xandra Fortune persona was in definite risk of extinction.
Dimitri tried to hold on to his self-control, not an easy thing around Xandra. And this was Xandra as he'd never seen her. Clingy. Almost vulnerable, but he knew that could not be true. They had become lovers a year ago and although she shared her body with a generosity that moved him, she kept her heart and parts of her life hidden from him.
Their relationship was modern and free of long-term commitment, something she'd made it clear by her actions she did not expect from him.
She pressed her body to his in blatant invitation and he laughed. "You mean you have grieved my absence from your bed, do you not?"
That was the only place he was convinced she did need him. She wouldn't let him support her, making it obvious she would rather spend time away from him than give up any part of her career. None of this, however, made it easier to say what needed to be said. In fact, he was sure it would be harder for him to say the words than for her to hear them. His sophisticated lover would not appreciate a drawn out, or emotional goodbye any more than he would.
She shook her head, stretching up to link her hands behind his neck and brushed the hair at his nape. "I missed you,
Dimitri. There was no joy in cooking for myself alone, no pleasure in watching the French Open without you to mutter when your favorite double-faulted on game point."
He frowned, remembering the play. She smiled at him with a look that spelled his doom if he didn't get his news out quickly. It had already wrought an instant response in his body. "I have news I must tell you."
Her arms went stiff in reaction to the seriousness of his tone. "Can it not wait, mon cher?"
He reached behind his neck to remove her hands, but she locked her fingers with surprising force.
He clasped her wrists. "We must talk now."
Alexandra did not want to talk. She was not ready to share her news. He'd seduced her from the beginning. She'd given him her heart, her body and her fidelity, as committed to him as any wife could be. Only she wasn't his wife and she didn't know how he'd respond to his lover getting pregnant.
Fear more than desire prompted her hips to grind against him. "No." She kissed his chin, tasting the skin and letting her body absorb the return of its other half. "No talk." She brushed her unfettered breasts behind her thin top back and forth across the crisp white silk of his shirt. "First, this."
"Xandra, no." He pulled her hands away from his neck, but made the mistake of letting them go.
She tunneled under his jacket and pushed it off his shoulders. "Dimitri, yes."
He glared at her, but he did not stop her from pushing his suit coat to a pile of expensive Italian designer fabric on the floor. She smiled in approval. "I want you, Dimitri. We can talk later."
She needed the affirmation that they were two halves of the same whole before she could tell him the truth about the baby she carried and equally as terrifying, the truth about who and what she was.
He grabbed her round the waist and lifted her until her mouth was even with his own. "Heaven help me, I want you, too."
There was something about the angry tone in his voice she did not understand, but she could not focus on it for long, not with his warm lips closing over her own in overwhelming passion.
She tore at his tie while he made quick work of the two hooks holding her top together. He helped her with the buttons on his shirt. The two garments fell to the thick pile carpet together and his lips never separated from hers. He pulled her flush against his body and the naked flesh of her already aroused nipples brushed the heat of his muscular chest.
She shivered in reaction while he groaned.
"We should not be doing this."
The words registered only subliminally, planting a question as to why they should be said, but she could not consciously respond to them. She was too overwhelmed by the feel of his flesh against her own for the first time in over a month. He seemed similarly affected as his arms tightened around her until she could barely take a breath.
Seconds later they lay entwined on the bed, the rest of their clothes discarded, hungry hands touching intimate places, mouths devouring one another. They climbed to the heights together with a speed they never had before. When they tumbled into starbursts and oblivion, masculine shouts mingled with her own cries of pleasure.
Alexandra laid her hand over Dimitri's heart. It still beat with the accelerated pulse of recently spent passion. "Such a strong heart," she murmured, "such a strong man." Would the news she had to share direct that strength toward her or against her?
His body tensed as if he had some premonition of what was to come. He rolled away and ejected himself from the bed. "I need a shower."
She stared at the six-foot-four-inch sexy giant towering above the bed. Tension was emanating off him in waves.
"I'll join you."
He shook his head. "Stay there. I will be quick."
Her heart squeezed at the small rejection, but she smiled and nodded. "All right." Craven coward that she was, she gladly accepted another excuse to put off telling him her news.
He came out of the bathroom fifteen minutes later dressed in his usual sartorial elegance, but his dark hair was still damp. His choice of another business suit over something less formal made her pause.
"Do you have a meeting?"
The chiseled features of his gorgeous face were set in an unemotional mask. "Xandra, there is something I must tell you."
She scooted into a sitting position, pulling the sheet with her to shield her body from the blue gaze that had mesmerized her from the moment they met. "What?"
"I'm getting married."
Everything inside her went still. Had he said what she thought he had said? No. It wasn't possible. "M-mar-ried?"
His hands fisted at his sides, his body stiff with tension she could no longer ignore. "Yes."
She could not take it in. It had to be some kind of joke. "If this is your idea of a marriage proposal, you've got a lot to learn."
Sensual lips twisted in a grimace. "Do not be ridiculous."
"Ridiculous?" She wished her brain would start working again, but she couldn't think in the face of his words.
"You are a career woman as you've shown time and again over the past year." He slashed the air with one cutting hand. "A woman with your ambitions would not make a proper wife for the heir to the Petronides empire."
She shivered with a chill that went clear to the marrow of her bones. "What exactly are you saying?"
"I am getting married and naturally our liaison must come to an end." The sick paleness of his features did nothing to alleviate her personal pain.
"You told me our relationship was exclusive. You told me I could trust you. You would not make love to another woman while I shared your bed." She jumped out of that bed, feeling dirty and used, the passion they had shared soiled with his revelation.
Running his long fingers through the black silk of his hair, he sighed. "I have not had sex with another woman."
"Then who are you marrying?" she practically shrieked.
"No one you know."
"Obviously." Alexandra glared at him, wanting to kill him, wanting to scream, very afraid she would cry.
He sighed again. "Her name is Phoebe Leonides."
Greek. The other woman was Greek and probably meek, proper and brought up to marry money. "When did you meet her?" Though the pain was tearing her apart, she had to know.
"I've known Phoebe most of my life. She is the daughter of a family friend."
"You've known her most of your life and you just decided you loved her?"
A cynical laugh erupted from him. "Love has nothing to do with it."
He said love like it was a dirty word. Neither of them had ever spoken of love, but she adored Dimitri with every fiber of her being and had hoped that he had returned those feelings at least in some small way. Enough to make a marriage and family between them work now that she was pregnant with his child, but he quite obviously didn't believe in the emotion.
"If you don't love this woman, why are you marrying her?"
"It is time."
She swallowed convulsively. "You say that like it's something you'd always planned to do."
Blood roared to her head, making her feel flushed and weak. She swayed.
He said something vicious in Greek and grabbed her upper arms to steady her. "Are you all right, pethi mou?"
What planet was he from? How could she be all right? He'd just told her he planned to marry another woman, a woman he'd always intended to make his wife while he'd spent the past year using Alexandra as his whore.
"Let. Me. Go," she got out between clenched teeth.
He dropped his hands, his face registering affront and she wanted to slap him so much it was an ache in her muscles. He took a single step back.
She glared up at the face that had been more beloved than any other since they met fourteen months ago. "Let me get this straight. You always planned to marry another woman?"
Indigo eyes narrowed. He didn't like repeating himself. "Yes."
"Yet you seduced me into your bed. You made me your tart knowing you never intended our relationship to be anything more than sexual?"
He reared back as if she'd struck him. "I did not make you my tart. You are my lover."
His jaw clenched. "Ex-lover."
" She swallowed the bile rising in her throat. She couldn't ask this, but she had to. "Why did you make love, I mean
with me just now?"
He spun away from her, his magnificent body sending messages to her own even amidst the carnage of their discussion.
"I couldn't help myself."
She believed him. She hadn't been able to help herself with him from the very beginning. She'd still been a virgin at the ripe age of twenty-two, but her innocence had been no barrier to the feelings he ignited in her.
He'd been shocked by her virginity, but not deterred in his resolve to make her his lover. She'd loved him and after two months of holding him off, she'd given in. It had been fantastic. He had made her feel cherished and there had been times over the past year when she had even felt loved.
"I don't believe you want to let me go." He couldn't.
"It is time," he said again, as if that explained it all.
"Time to marry the woman you intended to marry all along?" she asked, needing to make it very clear in her own mind.
Suddenly she felt her nakedness even through the mists of her anger and it shamed her. She had shared her body without inhibitions with this man for a year
a year during which he knew he planned to marry another woman.
She spun on her heel and headed to the bathroom where she jerked on the toweling robe she kept hanging on the back of the door. When she came back into the bedroom, Dimitri was gone. A search of the apartment revealed he had not merely left the bedroom, he had left her.
She stood in the middle of the living room and let the emptiness of the apartment sink into her consciousness until it was so heavy it forced her to her knees. Her head dropped, feeling too heavy for her neck and the sting of tears began in the back of her throat.
Soon their acid heat burned their way down her cheeks and neck to soak into the lapel of the heavy Turkish robe.
Dimitri was gone.
--This text refers to the
Mass Market Paperback