Casada Con Un Prncipe: (A Mistake, a Prince and a Pregnancy) | Chapter 12 of 20

Author: Maisey Yates | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1583 Views | Add a Review

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CHAPTER FIVE

 

A SENSE of triumph, along with a compressing sensation in his throat that felt suspiciously like the tightening of a noose, assaulted Maximo. It was necessary; the only thing that could be done. The only way for him to truly claim his child, make him his heir. And the only way to claim Alison.

A heavy pulse throbbed in his groin at the thought of claiming Alison in the most basic, elemental way. He wanted her with a kind of passionate ferocity that was foreign to him.

He would have wanted her no matter what, would have desired her had he passed her when she was walking down the street. But the intense, bone-deep need to take her, to enter her sweet body and join himself to her…that had to be connected to the pregnancy because it was outside anything in his experience. He’d experienced lust—the basest kind that had nothing to do with emotion—and he’d been in love. This didn’t resemble either experience.

He could satisfy his lust for her without marriage, but marriage was necessary for him to have the sort of relationship with his child that he wanted, that he craved. And it was the only way he could give his child everything he or she deserved.

“My acceptance isn’t without provisos,” she continued, her gorgeous face deathly serious. “I agree that marriage seems to be the best solution, but don’t expect that I’m just going to cave into all of your demands.”

“Even after knowing you for only a few days, I would never expect that,” he said drily.

She swung her legs over the side of the bed, a cracker still in her hand, and stood. She wobbled and he reached out for her, hooking his arm around her waist to steady her. His response was immediate and fierce, his blood rushing south, his body hardening instantly. He could feel her heart pounding hard against his chest. Her copper eyes were wide, her lips parted slightly. How easy it would be to dip his head and taste her again…

She straightened, much too quickly for his taste, and pulled away, adjusting the hem of her casual T-shirt, her mouth now pulled into a tight line.

“Thank you,” she said tartly, moving back from him again, creating even more distance between them. “I’m not feeling very well.”

“So you said. Is it like this every day?”

“Pretty much. It hit with a vengeance right when I entered my sixth week.”

“How far along are you?” He realized then that he’d never asked.

“Seven weeks.”

His stomach tightened. She was nearly two months along already. It wouldn’t even be nine months until he held his son or daughter in his arms.

She was still slender, her stomach flat. He had to wonder if her breasts had already changed or if this was her normal shape. He could easily imagine her filling out, her belly getting round. Some previously undiscovered, primitive part of him surged with pride at the thought.

Pride…and a hot tide of arousal. He’d never actually thought of pregnant women as sexy before, but he could very easily imagine running his hands over Alison’s bare, full stomach, feeling his child move beneath his hands.

“The baby’s due in October,” she said.

He’d heard of pregnant women glowing, but he’d never seen it before. Until now. Alison’s whole face was lit up, a sweet, secret smile curving her lips slightly. The absolute joy he could see shining from her eyes was staggering. And it reminded him again why marrying her, providing his child with both parents, was the absolute best choice. She would be a good mother; he was absolutely certain of that. Were he not, there was no way he would have considered marrying her. If he wasn’t sure of that he would have simply sought sole custody of their child, and he would have done it without compunction.

“You are excited about it,” he said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“Of course I am.”

Their eyes locked and held, and the tightening in his stomach intensified, radiating outward, desire gnawing at him with an urgency that was impossible to ignore.

“We’ll have to have the wedding soon. Before you start to show,” he said, his voice harsher than he’d intended.

She chewed her lip, her eyes betraying insecurity, fear, for the first time since he’d met her. Anger he’d seen, sadness, too, but never this bleak hopelessness. It made his chest ache as fiercely as the rest of his body.

“As I said, there are provisos to my agreement.”

“You did say. What you didn’t say was what those little stipulations were.”

“I don’t want our child in boarding school or anything like that. I want him or her to have as much of a normal upbringing as possible. No team of nannies, no catering to his every whim. I don’t want a spoiled child, either.”

“Do I seem like I was a spoiled child?”

“Yes.” She replied without missing a beat, and then continued. “I want to continue being active in advocating for children. Maybe organize a charity or something.”

“A wonderful idea. We have several organizations in place and having my princess closely involved would probably do wonders for them.”

“And I don’t… I want my own room.”

He inclined his head. “That is a common practice in royal marriages.”

“I don’t think you understand. I don’t want for us to… I don’t want to have a sexual relationship with you.”

Alison tried to clamp down the wild fluttering in her stomach. She knew Maximo wouldn’t be happy. Hadn’t he referenced their physical attraction as a reason for marriage? But this was what she needed in order to be able to accept his proposal, such as it was.

His kiss had decimated her control, had made her forget who she was, who he was, where she was. Going to bed with him… What would that do to her closely guarded self-control? The thought of surrendering herself like that, of stripping herself bare both physically and emotionally before another human being in that way, terrified her to her bones. Marriage she could deal with, but sexual intimacy was several steps beyond her.

She was attracted to him; unreasonably so. And that only made her more determined to maintain a healthy distance between them. If she didn’t want him like this, if being near him didn’t make her limbs weak and her pulse pound in her chest, at the apex of her thighs, if she didn’t get embarrassingly wet with wanting just from the brush of his mouth over hers, she might be able to simply deal with it. But it was the ease with which he robbed her of her common sense, her ability to think coherently, that had all of her internal alarms going off. He had too much power over her already, and throwing sex in with that big mess of emotions was a recipe for absolute disaster.

“That makes no sense. You can’t deny that we are extremely attracted to each other.”

“Maybe not. But I don’t feel like I can commit to that sort of relationship with you. Things are complicated enough. A marriage in a strictly legal sense I can handle. But I’ve only known you for twenty-four hours and I can’t even begin to consider a sexual relationship with you. And you’re a very attractive man. I’m sure there will always be lots of women who want to…”

“If you’re concerned about my fidelity, don’t be. I was married for seven years and never once did I look at another woman. It was not a hardship for me.”

Maybe not, but Maximo had been in love with his wife. They weren’t in love. Not that she cared. But if she were to sleep with him, she would need to know that he was being faithful to her. And that was just one more reason not to cross that line with him. Even imagining a hypothetical situation where they were intimately involved made her care about who he slept with. It made her feel things like jealousy and insecurity, and other emotions she had no business feeling. If she actually made love with him it would no doubt be multiplied by a hundred, and that was just one of the many things she was trying to avoid.

“I’m not concerned about that. But if we were sleeping together then yes, I would want you to be faithful. You would want the same from me. Emotions would become involved.”

“Not for me,” he said starkly. She knew he spoke the truth. But he probably had lots of sexual experience. Divorcing love from sex was probably second nature to him. For her…she knew instinctively that sex could have a seriously devastating emotional effect on her. She just wouldn’t be able to open herself up like that to someone without becoming involved. It was one of the reasons she’d avoided it for the past twenty-eight years.

The last thing she needed was for him to become a necessity to her, and she knew that if she let herself she could easily melt into Maximo, let his strength hold her up when things were hard. She could grow to depend on him, and she’d spent far too long learning to be independent, to be in control, to take that chance.

“Maybe not. But this is what I want.”

“And you wouldn’t mind if I were having sex with other women?” he asked, his words obviously chosen to elicit a response from her. One they most certainly got, but she wasn’t going to let him know that.

“I wouldn’t care either way. If we aren’t sleeping together then there isn’t a relationship to be faithful to.”

“You may feel differently once we speak our vows.”

“I can’t imagine that I will. What we have in common is the desire to do what’s right for our child. Nothing more. We didn’t even conceive in the way most couples do.”

“But we very easily could have.”

It wasn’t true—she knew it wasn’t—and yet it was far too easy to visualize the image, a picture of her meeting Maximo in a bar, a restaurant, on the street. Of them talking, smiling, laughing. Having dinner together. Going home together. Making love.

No. It was easy for him to assume that might have happened, because he figured her for a normal woman who dated, had casual relationships, had sex. She didn’t do any of those things. And she had never felt lacking in any way because of it. Until now. Now she felt at a disadvantage. How was she supposed to deal with a man like Maximo? A sophisticated, experienced man who probably knew a lot more about women and sex than the average male. And she knew far less about men and sex than the average female.

“Those are my terms, Max,” she said softly. “I can’t marry you if you won’t agree to them.”

“Then I agree to them. I don’t want a martyr in my bed. I’ve never had to coerce a woman into sex in my life and I don’t intend to start doing so with my own wife.”

It was the absolute truth. He wasn’t about to blackmail or beg to get a woman to have sex with him, not even one he desired as much as he did Alison. He hadn’t even begged Selena when she’d moved out of their room. No was no, even from his wife.

He was surprised that Alison was denying them both what they so obviously wanted, but not even a sexless marriage was new to him. He’d been there. He imagined it had been Selena’s way of punishing him for not giving her a baby, although the issue had been with her body and not his. It hadn’t mattered to him. He had never once seen her as less of a woman. But she had been so frustrated with their timed lovemaking that never, ever produced the result she wanted, that she hadn’t even allowed him to touch her in the last six months of their marriage. The last six months of her life.

He knew why Selena had denied him, and he wasn’t sure he hadn’t deserved it. But he didn’t know what Alison’s game was. She was twenty-eight, a career woman, not sheltered or shy in any way. And she was very clearly heterosexual and very clearly attracted to him. So it didn’t make any sense for her to turn down a physical relationship with him. Especially since she obviously wanted him. Women might be able to fake orgasms, but her response to his kiss was very real. There was no way she could have engineered her body’s response to him, and no reason for her to do so.

But if she needed to put up a pretense of morality by insisting she couldn’t sleep with a man she didn’t know, she was welcome to do it. Although he doubted that she would hold on to that stance. The attraction between them was far too strong for that. It was certainly beyond anything he’d ever known in his experience.

She licked her lips and his body ached with the need to taste her sweet mouth again, to move his tongue over hers. He was instantly hard, his body raging with his need.

If she felt half of what he did, and based on that explosive kiss they’d shared in the corridor he was certain that she did, her play at resistance wasn’t going to last for very long. It simply wasn’t possible.

“Are you feeling up to dining with my parents?”

She sucked that sweet lower lip into her mouth and chewed on it thoughtfully. When she released it there were little dents left by her teeth, and he wanted to soothe them with his thumb, his tongue.

“I don’t suppose it’s acceptable to cancel dinner with the king and queen. What would Miss Manners say?”

His lips twitched and she felt an odd sense of gratification over having amused him. “If you’re not feeling well we will cancel.”

Selena would have canceled. His wife had frequently felt under the weather. She had been very delicate, emotionally and physically, and he had looked on it as his duty to protect her, shield her. It would be his duty to do the same for Alison. She was under his protection now. And he wouldn’t fail her.

The look of steely determination that lit Alison’s copper gaze surprised him. “I’ll be fine. I’ve been going to work, cooking my own meals, functioning just fine without being coddled. I’m more than able to meet with your parents.”

A brief spark of vulnerability shadowed her eyes. “What are they going to think about all of this?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know that the nature of our relationship is any of their business.”

“You mean you don’t want them to know how the baby was conceived.”

“They didn’t know about Selena’s fertility problems.”

“I see.” She looked at him, her expression searching. “And you don’t want them to know.”

“It was important to her that no one knew about her infertility. I have honored that.” She had seen it as a failure, one she couldn’t face sharing with the public, or his parents.

“Then I don’t think it’s important for them to know how we conceived the baby.” Alison didn’t really relish having to keep up any kind of facade, but neither did she want to be a part of damaging his late-wife’s memory.

It made her heart break a little to know that she was going to have the dream Selena had been denied, having a baby with Maximo. As much as she would have rather been honest about the nature of her relationship, or lack of it, with Max, she felt she owed the other woman some protection.

“I’ll leave you to shower and get ready. I’ll be back in an hour.”

She watched Maximo, her fiancé, turn and leave the room. A feeling of longing, so intense she felt it physically, filled her. Part of her wanted him, impossibly, irresponsibly, almost as much as the sensible part of her craved distance and protection from him. It was like a tug-of-war, each desire pulling at her from opposite sides. And the sensible part of her had to win. It had to.

 

 

The dining room at the castillo was extremely formal. The high ceilings and ornately framed artwork gave the room a museumlike quality. The long banquet-style table could easily have seated thirty or forty people, and added to the wholly impersonal feel of the room. It made stupid, emotional tears prick at her eyes.

A child couldn’t sit and color at this table. They certainly couldn’t eat milk and cookies and peanut butter and jelly at this table. Finger painting was probably out, too, since it was likely a priceless antique.

Of course, she knew there were other tables in a place this big. Maximo’s quarters likely housed its own dining room. But what this room represented was everything she feared. Not for the first time since she’d said yes to Maximo’s proposal she wondered if she’d made the right choice. It had seemed like it then. His logic had made so much sense. But now…it seemed impossible standing at the entryway to this formal, forbidding room with two equally formal, forbidding people staring at her and Max, his arm clamped tightly around her waist, looming over her.

“Come in and sit down, son.” The king gestured to a place at his right at the head of the table. “We’re both very interested in why you’ve asked to have dinner with us tonight.”

The king was obviously a man of advanced years, but there was nothing frail about him. His hair was silvergray, his skin tanned and healthy-looking, wrinkles almost entirely absent from his face. The queen was beautiful, years younger than her husband, her dark hair drawn back into a tight bun, her face also free of lines. They were both terribly intimidating and neither one of them offered a smile as she and Max moved into the room to sit down at the table.

The only friendly smile on offer came from a young woman who was sitting to the left of Queen Elisabetta. Her full lips stretched into a grin that showed her bright white teeth. With her golden skin, dark hair and shockingly blue eyes, she was one of the most beautiful women Alison had ever seen. A strange feeling settled in the pit of her stomach.

The woman jumped up from her seat when they approached and ran to throw her arms around Maximo. “Max!” she cried. “I’m so happy you’ve come home early!”

“It’s good to see you too, Bella.” He dropped a kiss on the younger woman’s head. “Alison,” he said, tightening his hold on her waist, “this is my younger sister Isabella.”

The suspicious knot that had been tightening in her stomach released its hold on her as soon as he announced his relationship to the very beautiful Isabella. She was relieved, she realized, to find out that she was his sister and not…

She cut off that train of thought before it could go any further. It wouldn’t have mattered if she were a lover or a former lover. It wasn’t her business. And there was no reason for her to care.

“Nice to meet you.” Isabella dropped a light kiss on Alison’s cheek. “I’m so pleased that Max brought a friend with him.” She cast her brother a sly look that seemed to say she had guessed that there was more to the relationship than he’d admitted.

“And these are my parents, King Luciano and Queen Elisabetta.” Maximo gestured to his parents who were still sitting, rigid as stone, at the head of the table.

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Alison said, grateful at least for Isabella’s enthusiastic greeting. “All of you.”

Maximo pulled a chair out for her and she sat gingerly, feeling unbearably self-conscious. It was one thing to stand in front of people in a courtroom—that was her domain. She was confident there. She was in control. Here, she was very much the colloquial fish out of water, and she felt as if she was gasping for air.

Isabella offered Maximo an impish smile. “You didn’t tell me you had a girlfriend, Max.”

Maximo took her hand beneath the table, twining his long fingers with hers and lifting their hands, joined, onto the table. “I was trying to keep it just between Alison and myself until we were certain how serious things were.”

Alison nodded—any words she might have spoken jammed in her tightened throat. She hated this. Hated feeling so out of her depth. But, dear heaven, this was as far outside of her experience as anything could have possibly been. She’d never met a man’s parents; not in this sense. And these weren’t just any parents: they were royalty. And their faces were so stiff she had no doubt they felt she was quite patently beneath them.

“Is it serious?” his mother asked, her eyebrows raised, her lips unsmiling.

“I’ve asked Alison to marry me,” said Maximo simply. It was all the answer anyone needed.

“So soon after Selena’s death?” His father’s tone and expression were rebuking, and Alison felt a knot of guilt tighten in her stomach.

“It’s been two years,” Maximo said, his voice firm, “and I have chosen Alison to be my wife.”

“It would be best,” Elisabetta said slowly, “if you would wait at least a year for the wedding, out of respect to Selena.”

“The three-year mourning period is outdated,” Maximo said. “I have no intention of waiting another year to make Alison my wife. It is not possible for us to wait so long.”

“That’s very romantic of you, Max.” His younger sister looked positively moonstruck over the perceived romance of the whole situation. If only she knew.

“Romance has very little to do with it,” Maximo said, obviously taking no issue with disabusing his sister of her fantasies. “Alison is pregnant. The wedding needs to take place before she starts to show.”

Alison wanted to crawl under the table and die of mortification. She was treated to a very shocked look from Isabella and to a couple of very disapproving glares from the king and queen.

“Has there been a paternity test?” The king gave her an assessing glare that made her stomach roll.

“That won’t be necessary,” Maximo said through gritted teeth. “I am sure the child is mine, and I never want to hear you suggest otherwise again.”

Maximo’s rage shocked her. It wasn’t as though they were a real couple. He didn’t even necessarily like her all that much. It was probably more related to his masculine ego than anything else.

Luciano gave his son a hard glare. “Then there is nothing else to be done,” he said. “We will begin planning the wedding immediately.”

Queen Elisabetta narrowed her eyes, her mouth pursed. “We know nothing about her, Maximo. Is she suitable? Who are her people?”

Alison shifted in her chair, extremely uncomfortable being discussed as though she wasn’t in the room.

Isabella’s blue eyes lit with anger. “What does it matter who her people are, Mamma? If Max loves her he should marry her. That’s the only reason people should ever marry.”

“This is not about you, Isabella,” Luciano said curtly. “But she is right. It is of no consequence who her people are, or where she comes from. She is pregnant with Maximo’s heir and that is all that matters.”

If King Luciano had stood up from his place at the table and walked over to check her teeth she wouldn’t have been surprised. She felt like some sort of royal broodmare. She was acceptable because of the baby she carried. She imagined that if she really had been the woman Maximo loved, if there hadn’t been a baby, the king wouldn’t be so sanguine about the marriage. He would probably take the stance his wife had. If the damage hadn’t already been done she would have been found wanting based solely on her bloodline or her background. She couldn’t help but wonder if that were the situation, if they were in love and she were the woman Maximo had decided he wanted to marry, whose side he would have taken.

She couldn’t imagine Maximo being intimidated by anyone. He would never give in to his parents’ demands simply because he felt pressured to do so. But he had proven that, above all else, he had the ability to be coldly logical if he needed to be. He didn’t want marriage any more than she did, and yet he had immediately accepted that it was the best course of action for the sake of their child. Would he have made the same choice if he felt that marrying the woman he loved conflicted with the best interests for his country?

Oh, what does it matter?

She would never know. She didn’t need to know, or want to know. She didn’t love Maximo. She didn’t have any feelings for him at all. She respected him. Respected his strength, his drive to do the right and moral thing, his love for their unborn child. But that was all.

He moved his thumb over the tender skin of her wrist and a team of butterflies took flight in her stomach, calling her a liar.

So she was attracted to him? It didn’t mean anything. He was an attractive man. And then there were the pregnancy hormones. But that was all it was. And thank God for that.

“I’m glad we can agree on this,” Maximo said, his tone containing a hint of warning that Alison assumed was meant for his mother.

“We will not have you marry in some civil ceremony,” Luciano said, his tone imperious. It was obvious where Maximo had inherited his arrogance from. “You will marry in church, and we will make a formal engagement announcement. We will not treat it like a dirty secret. You are giving our country an heir and we will celebrate that.”

His mother looked as though she had swallowed a lemon. “I suppose a wedding is preferable to the birth of a royal bastard.”

Alison sucked in a sharp breath. It was no less offensive hearing it said now than it had been to hear Maximo say it earlier. And she knew now that he’d been telling the absolute truth about how their child would have been viewed had they not married. And it wouldn’t have just been the people or the media, but his own family who would have branded their child with that label.

“I won’t tolerate hearing our baby talked about like that!” The words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop them. “I won’t allow anyone to hurt my child. Ever.”

Maximo cupped her chin and turned her face to him. “No one will hurt our child, cara. I will not allow it.” He gave his mother a dark look. “This is your grandchild, Mamma. Think about that before you ever say such a thing again.”

He stood, and pulled her gently with him. “Alison and I will have dinner in our room.” His mother looked offended at that, but she didn’t say anything.

Alison elevated her chin, careful not to look defeated in any way. They were just rich, titled snobs. They had no right to judge her. And anyway, she’d dealt with far worse from her own mother. She was hardly going to let venom spewed by a complete stranger make her crumble now.

As soon as they were out in the empty corridor he released his grip on her hand.

“That went well,” she said.

“As well as I expected. My mother loved Selena like a daughter. This is difficult for her.”

“Then wouldn’t it be better if they knew how I got pregnant instead of assuming that…”

“Selena did not wish for my mother to know. She did not want my parents to see her as a failure.”

Maximo began to walk back toward his quarters, and she had to take short, quick steps to keep up with his long strides. “That’s ridiculous. Not being able to have children doesn’t make you a failure.”

“It felt that way to my wife.” He paused for a moment. “My mother introduced us. It was her opinion that Selena was perfect for me. Her family was wealthy and wellknown, she was talented and cultured. In my mother’s estimation she would make a wonderful princess. A wonderful mother. When Selena could not fulfill that part of what she considered to be her requirements, she became very depressed.”

“But that wasn’t the only thing you loved her for,” Alison said softly.

Maximo turned to face her, his mouth pressed into a grim line. “No.”

“I understand why you don’t want it to become public knowledge. I won’t tell anyone.” It might make things easier in a way, although Alison imagined the queen would dislike her regardless, but she just didn’t want to hurt Maximo by dredging up things from the past. And it would hurt him. His expression was always stoic when he talked about Selena, but she had seen glimpses of devastating pain in his dark eyes. And she cared about that. A lot more than she should.

She shouldn’t be able to feel his pain in her chest, shouldn’t ache for him, want to take his hurts and heal them. She really shouldn’t want that at all. But she did. Her heart hurt for him, felt linked to his. Was that because she was pregnant with his baby? It was a link between them that was impossible to ignore. He was a part of her, in a way.

On the heels of that revelation came a slug of panic. She didn’t want to feel so much for him. Didn’t want to feel anything for him beyond a circumspect amount of tolerance.

Once they were back in Maximo’s quarters he led her into a small dining room that looked as if it belonged in a more casual home. A very, very upscale home, but the room was definitely intended for family use, unlike the massive dining hall in the main portion of the palace.

He sat at the head of the table and it seemed natural for her to sit at the other end. It was easy for her to picture a child sitting between them, chubby fingers gripping a cookie, a big smile on their baby’s face. Would their child be fair like her? Or olive-skinned like Maximo? The thought made her stomach tighten painfully, the image of family, their family, so poignant that it touched her more deeply than she’d imagined possible.

This was a new picture, one that was quickly replacing the original images she’d had of life after her baby was born. Now she couldn’t help but see Maximo, his presence there both physically and in the features of their child. The ache that settled in her heart was both sweet and scary at the same time. She shouldn’t want this. But part of her did. Very, very much.

“Anything special you want to eat?” Maximo asked.

He was so handsome. She couldn’t help but notice. With the overhead lighting from the chandelier above the table throwing the planes and angles of his face into sharp relief, making his cheekbones look more prominent, his jaw even more chiseled, he was almost devastatingly handsome. That was a term she’d never understood before this moment. It had never made sense that a person’s looks could devastate. But his could. And did. Because looking at him filled her with so much longing, for things she shouldn’t want, that it made her heart squeeze tight.

“Honestly, all food sounds basically disgusting to me so it doesn’t really matter.”

He nodded. “Then I will have the staff bring what they prepared for my parents.”

A few minutes later a woman came in pushing a trolley that was laden with silver domed trays. She set two in front of Alison, along with another glass of homemade ginger ale.

Alison didn’t even bother to uncover the trays, but went straight for the ginger ale to calm her perpetually unsettled stomach.

“You need to eat,” Maximo said. “You are too thin.”

She paused midsip. “I’m not too thin! I’ve been to see a doctor and he said I, and the pregnancy, were perfectly healthy.”

“Well, it doesn’t seem like you should allow yourself to get any thinner.” Maximo rose from his spot at the end of the table and leaned over to uncover her food. There was pasta with marinara sauce on one and what looked like half of a beautifully roasted chicken on the other. But the sight of poultry turned her stomach.

“I might be able to try the pasta,” she said, shoving the bird away from her.

Maximo sat in the chair next to her, putting the chicken in front of himself.

“Was your wife on a special diet?” She regretted saying anything the moment the words left her mouth. Usually she was very selective about what she said, but she’d had her fair share of outbursts in the past fortyeight hours. Maximo seemed to have that effect on her.

He shrugged slightly. “Vitamins. Any kind of herbal remedy she could think of. Hormones for the IVF. Plus any food rumored to benefit fertility.”

“She really wanted to be a mother,” Alison said softly, guilt and anguish almost stealing her breath. Selena had tried so hard to have Maximo’s baby, had wanted it so badly, and here Alison was, pregnant with his child. And it had been an accident. It seemed like a cruel joke for fate to play on all of them.

“Yes. She did. We tried IVF three times. We were unsuccessful. She had just taken the final negative test a few hours before her death.”

Alison put her hand over his, the gesture intended to comfort. Heat spiraled through her from the point of contact down to her belly. His skin was warm beneath her hand, the hair on his arm crisp and sexy. She’d never imagined that arm hair could be sexy. His was. It reminded her that he was very much a man, and that she was a woman. A woman who was going to marry him in just a few weeks.

She pulled her hand away and set it in her lap, but she could still feel the burn of his skin on her palm. Her heart pounded hard in her chest and an answering pulse pounded in the core of her body, not letting her deny that what she was feeling was definitely arousal. She looked up at Maximo. His eyes were dark, the heat from them searing her, making the flame that had been smoldering in her belly flare up, the fire threatening to consume her at any moment.

She pushed her chair back and stood, desperate to put distance between them. What was it that he did to her that stole all of her ability to think rationally? Being near him, touching him, it took all of that carefully guarded control of hers and stripped it from her, leaving her bare and unprotected.

“I’m tired,” she said. “I need to… I’m going to go to bed.”

A knowing smile curved his lips. “You are so intent on fighting this thing between us.”

“This isn’t what I want, Max,” she whispered, closing her eyes, trying to block out his handsome face.

“Did someone hurt you?” he asked, his voice suddenly hard.

She shook her head. “Not in the way you mean. But I can’t…don’t ask me to do this.”

“I would never force myself on you.”

She knew that. She had no doubts, none at all, that Maximo was a man of his word. A man of honor. But it wasn’t the idea of him forcing himself on her that she feared. It was the fact that force wasn’t necessary. All he would have to do was touch her, kiss her, and she would forget all of the reasons it was such a bad idea to become physically involved with him.

And she was afraid that, like her mother, if she allowed herself to become dependent she would forget how to take care of herself, and if he left she would just crumble.

She and Maximo were getting married to give their child a family. They were committed to being in each other’s lives for at least the next eighteen years. She was already far too dependent on him due to the nature of the situation, and adding feelings, adding sex, had the potential to make it deadly to her.

“I’m tired,” she said again, turning to go.

“Get some rest,” he said, his voice rough, and she wondered if it was due to arousal; the kind that was making her blood thick and her throat tight. “Tomorrow we will be announcing our engagement to the world.”

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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