Jewel Henley shifted on the hospital bed, one hand curled around her cell phone, the other hand pushing aside hot tears. She had to call him. She had no choice.
Having to depend on the man who couldn’t get her out of his life fast enough after their one-night stand wasn’t a prospect she relished, but for her baby, she’d do anything. Swallow her pride and try to let go of the burning anger.
Her free hand dropped to rest on the burgeoning swell of her belly, and she felt the sturdy reassurance of her daughter’s kick.
How would Piers react when she told him he was going to be a father? Would he even care? She shook her head in mute denial. Surely, no matter his feelings for her, he wouldn’t turn his back on his child.
There was only one way to find out and that was to push the send button. His private phone number was already punched in. She may have been fired from her job, but for some reason, she’d held on to the phone numbers she’d been provided upon her hiring.
And still she couldn’t bring herself to complete the call. She let the phone drop to her chest and closed her eyes. If only there weren’t complications with her pregnancy. Why couldn’t she be one of these beautiful, glowing women who were pictures of health?
Her thoughts were interrupted when her door swung open and a nurse bustled in pushing a cart with the computer she used to log her charts.
“How are you feeling today, Miss Henley?”
Jewel nodded and whispered a faint, “Fine.”
“Have you made arrangements for your care after your release?”
Jewel swallowed but didn’t say anything. The nurse gave her a reproving look.
“You know the doctor won’t release you until he’s satisfied that you’ll have someone to look after you while you’re on bed rest.”
A sigh escaped Jewel’s lips and she held up the phone. “I was just about to make a call.”
The nurse nodded approvingly. “Good. As soon as I’m done I’ll leave you alone to finish.”
A few minutes later the nurse left, and once again Jewel lifted the phone and stared at the LCD screen. Maybe he wouldn’t even answer.
Taking a deep, fortifying breath, she punched her thumb over the send button then closed her eyes and put the phone to her ear. There was a brief silence as the call connected, and then it began to ring.
Once. Twice. Then a third time. She was preparing to chicken out and cut the connection when his brusque voice filled her ear.
It came out more of a growl than anything else, and she quickly lost courage. Her breath came stuttering out as more tears welled in her eyes.
“Who is this?” he demanded.
She yanked the phone away and clumsily jabbed at the buttons until the call ended. She couldn’t do this. Issuing a silent apology to her unborn baby, she decided that she’d find another way. There had to be something she could do that didn’t involve Piers Anetakis.
Before she could dwell too long on such possibilities, the phone pulsed in her hand. She opened it automatically, a second before she realized that he was calling her back.
Only her soft breathing spilled into the receiver.
“I know you’re there,” Piers barked. “Now who the hell is this and how did you get my number?”
“I’m sorry,” she said in a low voice. “I shouldn’t have bothered you.”
“Wait,” he commanded. Then there was a long pause. “Jewel, is that you?”
Oh God. She hadn’t counted on him recognizing her voice. How could he? They hadn’t spoken in five months. Five months, one week and three days to be exact.
“Y-yes,” she finally said.
“Thank God,” he muttered. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Just like a damn female to disappear off the face of the earth.”
“Where are you?”
The questions came simultaneously.
“Me first,” he said imperiously. “Where are you? Are you all right?”
She laid there in stunned silence before she gathered her scattered wits. “I’m in the hospital.”
“Theos.” There was another rapid smattering of Greek that she couldn’t have followed even if she understood the language.
“Where?” he bit out. “What hospital? Tell me.”
Completely baffled at the turn the conversation had taken, she told him the name of the hospital. Before she could say anything else, he cut in with, “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
And then the line went dead.
With shaking hands, she folded the phone shut and set it aside. Then she curled her fingers around the bulge of her abdomen. He was coming? Just like that? He’d been looking for her? None of it made sense.
Then she realized that she’d never told him the most important piece of information. The entire reason she’d called him to begin with. She hadn’t told him she was pregnant.
Five Months Earlier…
J ewel paused just outside the perimeter of the outdoor bar and stared over the sand-covered floor to the blazing torches lining the walkway down to the beach.
Music played softly, a perfect accompaniment to the clear, star-strung night. In the distance, the waves rolled in harmony with the sultry melody. Soft jazz. Her favorite.
It was pure chance that had directed her to this tiny island paradise. A vacated seat on a plane, a bargain ticket price and only five minutes to decide. And here she was. A new place, a vow to take a few days for herself.
Not being completely impulsive, the first thing she’d done when she’d arrived was to find a new temporary job, and as luck would have it, had learned that the owner of the opulent Anetakis hotel was going to be in temporary residence here and needed an assistant. Four weeks. A perfect amount of time to spend in paradise before she moved on.
The opportunity had almost been too good to be true. Along with a generous salary, she’d also been given a room at the hotel. It had the makings of a marvelous vacation.
“Are you going out or are you going to spend such a lovely night indoors?”
The vaguely accented male voice brushed across her ears, eliciting a trail of chill bumps down her spine. She turned and was forced to look up for the source of the huskily spoken words.
When she met his eyes, she felt the impact clear to her toes. Her belly clenched, and for a moment it was hard to breathe.
The man wasn’t just gorgeous. There were plenty of gorgeous men in the world, and she’d met her share. This one was…powerful. A predator in a sea of sheep. His eyes bore into hers with an intensity that almost frightened her.
There was interest. Clear interest. She wasn’t a fool, nor did she indulge in silly games of false modesty.
She stared back, unable to wrest herself from the force of his gaze. Black. His eyes were as black as night. His hair was as dark, and his skin gleamed golden brown in the soft light of the torches. Firelight cast a sheen to his eyes, shiny onyx, glittering and proud.
His jawline was firm, set, a strong tilt that denoted his arrogance, a quality she was attracted to in men. For a long moment he returned her frank appraisal, and then his lips curved upward into a slight smile.
“A woman of few words I see.”
She shook herself and mentally scolded her tongue for knotting up so badly.
“I was deciding on whether to go out or not.”
He lifted one imperious brow, a gesture that seemed more challenging than questioning.
“But I can’t buy you a drink if you remain inside.”
She cocked her head to the side, allowing a tiny smile to relax the tension bubbling inside her. She wasn’t a stranger to sexual attraction, but she couldn’t remember the last time a man had affected her so strongly right off the bat.
Awareness sizzled between them, almost as if a fuse had been lit the moment he’d spoken. Would she accept the unspoken invitation in his eyes? Oh, she knew he’d asked to buy her a drink, but that wasn’t all he wanted. The question was whether she was bold enough to reach out and take the offer.
What could a single night hurt? She was extremely choosy in her partners. She hadn’t taken a lover in two years. She just hadn’t been interested until this dark-eyed stranger with his sensual smile and mocking arrogance came along. Oh yes, she wanted him. So much so that she vibrated with it.
“Are you here on holiday?” she asked as she peered up at him from underneath her lashes.
Again his lips quirked into a half smile. “In a manner of speaking.”
Relief scurried through her belly. No, one night wouldn’t hurt. He’d leave and go back to his world. Eventually she’d move on, and their paths would never cross again.
Tonight…tonight she was lonely, a feeling she didn’t often indulge in, even if she spent the majority of her time in isolation.
“I’d like a drink,” she said by way of agreement.
Something predatory sparked in his eyes. A glow that was gone almost as soon as it burst to life. His hand came up and cupped her elbow, his fingers splaying possessively over her skin.
She closed her eyes for a brief moment, enjoying the electric sensation that sizzled through her body the moment he touched her.
He led her from the protective awning of the hotel into the night air. Around them the warm glow of torches danced in time with the sweet sounds of jazz. The breeze coming off the water blew through her hair, and she inhaled deeply, enjoying the salt tang.
“Dance with me before we have that drink,” he murmured close to her ear.
Without waiting for her consent, he pulled her into his arms, his h*ps meeting hers as he cupped her body close.
They fit seamlessly, her flush against him, melting and flowing until she wasn’t sure where she ended and he began.
His cheek rested against the side of her head as his arms encircled her. Protective. Strong. She reached up, sliding her arms over his shoulders until they wrapped around his neck.
His words flowed like warm honey over jaded ears. It wasn’t the most original line, but that was just it. Coming from him, it didn’t sound like a line, but rather an honest assessment, a sincere compliment, one that maybe he’d ordinarily be unwilling to give.
“So are you,” she whispered.
He chuckled, and his laughter vibrated over her sensitive skin. “Me beautiful? I’m unsure of whether to be flattered or offended.”
She snorted. “I know for a fact I’m not the only woman to have ever called you beautiful.”
“Do you now?”
His hands skimmed over her back, finding the flesh bared by the backless scoop of her dress. She sucked in her breath as his fingers burned her flesh.
“You feel it too,” he murmured.
She didn’t pretend not to know what he meant. The chemistry between them was combustible. Never before had she experienced anything like this, not that she’d tell him that.
Instead she nodded her agreement.
“Are we going to do anything about it?”
She leaned back and tilted her head to meet his eyes. “I’d like to think we are.”
“Direct. I like that in a woman.”
“I like that in a man.”
Amusement softened the intensity of his gaze, but she saw something else in his expression. Desire. He wanted her as badly as she wanted him.
“We could have that drink in my room.”
She sucked in her breath. Even though she knew what he wanted, the invitation still hit her squarely in the stomach. Her br**sts tightened against his chest, and arousal bloomed deep.
“I’m not…” For the first time, she sounded unsure, hesitant. Not at all the decisive woman she knew herself to be.
“You’re not what?” he prompted.
“Protected,” she said, her voice nearly drowning in the sounds around them.
He tucked a finger underneath her chin and forced her to once again meet his seeking gaze. “I’ll take care of you.”
The firm promise wrapped around her more securely than his arms. For a moment she indulged in the fantasy of what it would be like to have a man such as this take care of her for the rest of her life. Then she shook her head. Such foolish notions shouldn’t disrupt the fantasy of this one night.
She rose up on tiptoe, her lips a breath away from his. “What’s your room number?”
“I’ll take you up myself.”
She shook her head, and he frowned.
“I’ll meet you there.”
His eyes narrowed for a moment as if he wasn’t sure whether to believe her or not. Then without warning, he slid a hand around her neck and curled his fingers around her nape. He pulled her to him, pressing his lips to hers.
She went liquid against him, her body sliding bonelessly downward. He hauled her against him with his free arm, anchoring her tight to prevent her fall.
He licked over her lips, pressing, demanding her to open. With a breathless gasp, she surrendered, parting her mouth so his tongue could slide inward.
Hot, moist open-mouthed kisses. He stole her breath and returned it. His teeth scraped at her lip then captured it and tugged relentlessly. Unwilling to remain a passive participant, she fired back, sucking at his tongue.
His groan echoed over her ears. Her sigh spilled into his mouth.
He finally pulled away, his breaths coming in ragged heaves. His eyes flashed dangerously, sending a shiver over her flesh.
Then he shoved a keycard into her hand. “Top floor. Suite eleven. Hurry.”
With that he turned and stalked back into the hotel, his stride eating up the floor.
She stared after him, her body humming and her mind in a million different pieces. She was completely shattered by what she’d just experienced.
“I must be insane. He’ll eat me alive.”
A low hum of heady desire buzzed through her veins. She could only hope she was right.
She turned on shaking legs and walked slowly into the hotel. It wasn’t that she was being deliberately coy by putting her mystery man off. Mystery man…She didn’t even know his name, but she’d agreed to have sex with him.
Then again, it had a certain appeal, this air of mystery. A night of fantasy. No names. No expectations. No entanglements or emotional involvement. No one would get hurt. It was, in fact, perfect.
No, she wasn’t being cute. But if she was going to go through with this, it would be on her own terms. Her dark-eyed lover wouldn’t have complete control of the situation.
With more calm than she felt, she went up to her room. Once there, she surveyed her reflection in the bathroom mirror. Her hair was slightly mussed and her lips swollen. Passion. She looked as if she’d had an encounter with the very essence of passion.