Carrying her Brazilian boss's baby!
For chambermaid Emma Fane, her best friend's winter wedding promises to be the perfect distraction for her troubles. Until, heart racing, she spies Lucas Marcelos—infamous lothario and father to her unborn child!
Lucas may have lost his head over innocent, spirited Emma for one glorious night, but he won't lose his heir! He lures her away from snowy Scotland back to sultry Brazil. But Emma is no man's mistress. It only took one night to change their lives, now they have nine months to face the consequences...
A passionate read for Christmas nights!
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Susan Stephens is passionate about writing books set in fabulous locations where an outstanding man comes to grips with a cool, feisty woman. Susan’s hobbies include travel, reading, theatre, long walks, playing the piano, and she loves hearing from readers at her website. www.susanstephens.comExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Having the night off from her job as chambermaid to attend the wedding of her best friend in Scotland should have been a cause for celebration. A racing heart made that impossible, because Lucas Marcelos would almost certainly attend the wedding too, which meant no swerving from the truth. Luc...
Would she ever learn?
No, Emma concluded, staring into the mirror in the ladies room at her rabbit-in-the-headlights face. Her stomach clenched at the thought of meeting up with the man who had fathered her unborn child. There was no doubt. She had taken a pregnancy test three times. It was only a couple of weeks since she'd left London and the bed of the hotel owner and infamous bad boy of gaucho polo, Lucas Marcelos—too early for doctors or scans, or even the physical signs to make themselves felt, other than tender breasts and some nausea, which, she had no doubt, would ramp up when she faced Luc.
The self-professed playboy was hardly going to leap with joy when he heard her news. He certainly wouldn't show the same warm charm he had in London. A man as wealthy and successful as Lucas was bound to be suspicious of her motives. He would be even more suspicious if he knew how elated she'd been when she had discovered she was pregnant.
Emma's main worry wasn't for herself. She wondered if Luc would make a good father for her baby. They hardly knew each other, and what she did know about him hardly pointed to him being a family man.
One step at a time, she told herself firmly, checking the dress that had seemed perfectly fine when she had first walked into the cloakroom and now seemed too tight. Luc was a close friend of the groom so he was bound to be here. The groom, Tiago Santos, was marrying one of Emma's closest friends, Danny Cameron. When Luc could spare the time from his chain of super-luxury hotels, both men played gaucho polo for the world-famous Thunderbolt polo team. If Luc didn't show up he would be the only member of team Thunderbolt not attending the wedding. Emma had recognised several striking faces from the team's publicity photos. Odds on, Lucas was prowling the party right now.
She'd been on Luc's hotel training course in London when the principal of the college had brought her to his attention. Luc's menacing glamour had caused quite a stir at the annual prize-giving ceremony, where Emma had been singled out for special praise for having an extraordinary grasp of the hotel industry. Because she'd cared for his staff and had seen ways to streamline their jobs, Emma had insisted when Luc had praised her afterwards. 'You interest me,' he'd said, his dark eyes mesmerising. She just hadn't realised how much.
The instant that faintly amused stare had landed on her awestruck face, she had been lost. She'd always been a romantic and Lucas Marcelos more than lived up to his formidable reputation. He was built like a gladiator, and he did look like a god of the underworld, as some of the more colourful media reports had commented. With his wavy black hair, swarthy complexion, sharp black stubble and hard, driven face, Lucas was a primal force, and his interest had led her to progress to a wholly unrealistic fantasy along the lines of working alongside him and seeing him every day.
When he had stayed on in London this had seemed almost possible, and she had worked hard to maintain a professional front and impress him. As the days had stretched into weeks, she had allowed herself to believe they could be friends. She had opened up to him about her hopes for her future and her dreams of a career within his company. She had been flattered by his continued interest, she supposed now—too naive to realise that Luc was a practised seducer who could adapt his technique to suit the situation—or that, for a short time, she had been that situation and her chastity had been a challenge Luc had been determined to overcome.
It had all come to a head on the night she had learned that her parents had been killed in a police chase. She had been so devastated she hadn't told anyone. She certainly hadn't told Luc, as she would have had to explain her parents' criminal past and her own deep-seated grief, which she couldn't explain even to herself.
Her parents had never wanted her, and had always referred to her as their accidental child. That hadn't stopped her loving them, or pursuing an endless quest to win their love. She had made excuses to herself—her beautiful mother found ageing difficult to handle, while her father, a member of the aristocratic Fane family, must have found the pressure to succeed unbearable.
On the night they'd died her tears had been genuine—sorrow for them and the lives they had wasted, and acceptance that her long-held dream to find a way to make them love her, had been lost. She could remember the overwhelming need to be held and loved overcoming her.
Pretend love was better than no love at all, and Luc was a master of seduction. She had been so glad of it that night. He had woken her to pleasure so extreme she'd found she could forget everything. And so the fantasy had progressed for one more night. Lucas Marcelos had then been her adoring lover, and she had been his treasured love. She had even asked him at one point where they would go from there. Luc had looked at her with surprise, and then he'd shrugged. 'We could have an affair, if you like.'
Her dreams had shattered. And then he'd laughed, as if such things were all too easily arranged. She had waited until he'd been asleep and had slipped out of his bed, making the long trek home to Scotland, thinking that would get her head straight. In going back home, she'd hoped to find some trace of a happy memory with her parents, but there had been no trace. There had been nothing to find. So she'd got a job here and started to rebuild her life. She had never thought to see Luc again, but now he was back in her life, for however short a time, she would have to tell him about the baby.
At least she was back in touch with reality now, Emma reflected as she smoothed the fine silk dress over her still-flat stomach. Lucas was a devastatingly handsome billionaire. She was a chambermaid in training. There was no common ground between them. And skulking in the ladies room wasn't the answer. She had to face him. With her life as it stood now, she couldn't afford to waste any more time on hopeless causes. She'd feel better when she explained how happy she was to be expecting a child, and that she didn't need his help, now or ever.
He probably wouldn't even remember her, Emma reflected as a crowd of women joined her in the cloakroom. As they jostled for space at the mirror she reached for her small pouch of cosmetics and set about improving the things she could. Too much make-up and she'd look as if she'd painted her courage on. Too little and Luc might think her pale and weak. And she would never allow him to think that. Adding some lip-gloss helped, and blusher worked wonders. She was just putting everything away again when one of the women turned to her. 'Hi. Great party, isn't it?'
'Have you seen who's here?' another woman chipped in.
'Lucas Marcelos!' a third exclaimed, faking a swoon as she directed a knowing look at her friends. 'I wonder if any of us will come to his attention tonight?'
Emma was glad of the raucous laughter as it gave her a chance to recover. 'He's here?' she confirmed once they had calmed down.
'And alone,' the first woman confided. Raising a brow, she added, 'Men like him shouldn't be allowed out without a leash. Have you seen him?' She fanned herself. 'He's a licence to sin. Who could blame us if we had to give him a test drive?'
Emma said nothing as the women continued to discuss their sighting of the notorious heartbreaker. Her first impulse was to run as far and as fast as she could. She was pregnant by a rich and powerful man—a man she hardly knew, with a reputation for ruthlessness and womanising. To top that off, she was penniless in a deadend job. A job that would lead places, she was determined, calming herself down, and motherhood didn't come with a handbook, but, like countless women, she would do her best for her child with or without a man's help. She wasn't running anywhere. She would see this out. She had never been a quitter, except for that one night in London when she'd run from the most devastating man she had ever met, because she couldn't bear to be hurt again, but now there was a child to consider, and she would never run away again. Her child wasn't an accident, it was a gift.
Feeling better, she collected up her things. Danny had lent her a beautiful dress to wear, and both Danny and the chief bridesmaid, Lizzie, another of her childhood friends, would be waiting for her, wondering where she was. Smoothing down the dress, she checked her reflection in the mirror one last time. Pregnancy and Lucas was a dizzying combination, but the make-up had helped to conceal her ashen complexion. She just had to get through tonight. She had to find a way to talk to him that kept the facts central and emotion out of it.
She could do this. She turned to say goodnight to the women. 'Have a great party—' And stepped out of the door, straight into the path of Lucas.
Her shocked gaze flashed to his face as he steadied her. Luc's touch was so familiar she felt faint for a moment. It was as if they had never been apart. His dark stare was just as penetrating, his firm mouth still as tempting. Her lips tingled with anticipation, even as her stomach clenched with alarm.
'Are you okay?'
His husky voice caressed her senses. It was the same voice that had lulled and thrilled her while he had directed her pleasure.
'Yes, I'm fine, thank you.' She pulled back to put some space between them. Theorising was all very well, but standing in front of Luc again had completely thrown her. 'Apologies for bumping into you,' she said lightly, relying on good manners to get her through a difficult situation.
'We know each other, don't we?'
He was teasing her. They definitely knew each other. Luc knew every inch of her body intimately. 'I believe we've met.' She cursed her body for its instant response when her aim was to act cool.
Luc's ebony brows swept up, making him look like a Tartar from the plains on a raid. Tall, dark and dangerous, with watchful eyes, he was exactly as she remembered him—except for the clothes. He'd been naked when she'd left him. The formal black tailoring suited him. White shirt, grey silk tie, black diamond cufflinks, accessorised with a killer smile, Lucas Marcelos was every bit the awe-inspiring billionaire, while she was every bit the chambermaid in her borrowed dress. She turned to go.
Luc stepped in front of her. His heat enveloped her. His potent sexuality threatened to seduce her all over again.
'I hope you enjoy your evening, Senhor Marcelos,' she said formally, looking past him towards the ballroom, where the party was in full swing.
'Why did you leave London so suddenly, Emma?'
Why didn't he get out of her way? 'It was time to go.' She kept her tone carefully neutral, wanting to put some distance between them so she could get her head together. This wasn't the time or place to tell him she was pregnant with his child, but the time would come and she wanted to be ready for it. She shrugged. 'I had places to be.' She met his stare levelly, hoping he would leave it there.
Luc didn't leave it.
'I thought you were happy in your job. I thought all my staff was happy?' 'I'm sure they are.'
'But you couldn't have been, or you wouldn't have left.'
Luc's stare had hardened. He expected her to answer, but her heart was beating so rapidly she doubted she could draw enough breath to speak.
'Did you find a better job?'
'Not really,' she admitted honestly, following Luc's stare around their surroundings. She got his message loud and clear. This hotel was lovely for a small town in the wilds of Scotland, but it was hardly on the scale of Luc's fabulous palaces. Maybe he thought their encounter in London had been a tactical move on her part to help her scramble up the career ladder faster, and when that hadn't worked out she'd come back here. Nothing could be further from the truth. She had worried their short-lived affair would compromise her career. Now she knew that sex was sex to Lucas, and had no bearing on his business. To her, sex was a promise and an endorsement of trust—she had thought. Thankfully, she knew better now.
'Did you return to Scotland for the wedding?' Luc enquired, staring at her intently.
'This is my home. I was born in Scotland. I work here. The bride was born here too, which is why Danny chose to get married at this hotel.'
'I heard your cousin Lizzie is the daughter of the local laird?'
'That's right.' She could practically hear the cogs whirring in his mind. If her cousin was the daughter of the local laird, why was Emma scrubbing floors?
Luc's frown deepened. 'So you have the same job here that you had in London?'
'Not quite. I'm still working as a chambermaid,' she confirmed proudly. Her uncle might be a laird, but Emma came from the poor branch of the Fane family, the notorious branch that had resorted to criminal activities rather than taking an honest job. That had never been her way, and, however meagre her wage packet, she had the satisfaction of knowing that she had earned every single penny herself. Circumstances at home might have resulted in her education being patchy, but she was changing that, studying at night, even though there was no hope of progression here. She still had ambitions for a career but had to keep working in the meantime, and now, with a child to consider, she had a real purpose and drive behind that ambition.
'Surely there's no possibility of advancement for you here?' Luc commented, as if he'd read her thoughts.
'No training programme either,' she confirmed, 'but it's a start.' She stared him down, as if daring him to contradict her. This wasn't her forever job. This was a job to help her get back on her feet. But it would seem odd to Lucas that she had come here to work in a hotel that couldn't offer its staff any of the advantages he could.
'You should have stayed in London.'
She recoiled at his tone. What business was it of his? Then she remembered the offer to become his short-term mistress. Did he think that had been a better prospect for her? If he did, he was alone.
That sensible determination wasn't enough to stop her mind taking off in one direction while her wilful body took off in another, and only one of those places was safe.
'You must be paid a lot less here than my company paid you in London.'
'Money isn't everything, Senhor Marcelos.'
'But it helps. And please call me Luc. I think both of us are grown-up enough to handle this situation, aren't we?' His steely stare homed in on her face.
Firming her jaw, she shrugged. 'I like it here. I'm happy here. I've got friends around me—friends who are waiting for me in the ballroom right now. So, if you will excuse me?'
Luc made her a mock bow. 'Forgive me for monopolising you. I will escort you back to your friends.'
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Book Description Harlequin. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 037313388X *BRAND NEW* Ships Same Day or Next!. Bookseller Inventory # SWATI2132282602
Book Description Harlequin, 2015. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P11037313388X