Her secret, his love-child

Advertising Download Read Online


He nodded. “Well, you can set your mind at ease. I have every intention of being a part of Samantha’s life.”

Relief swept through Katrina, unknotting muscles she hadn’t even known she’d been holding tight. “That’s great.”

Alex stared at her, face expressionless. For some reason she began to feel uneasy, a restless sensation attacking the base of her spine.

“So we’re in agreement, then?” he asked. “We have to do what’s best for Samantha?”

There was an odd note in Alex’s voice she couldn’t quite decipher. It made her unease quickly expand into out-and-out wariness. “Of course. That’s why I came back.”

“Good,” Alex said, breaking in to her thoughts. “Then the only logical course of action is for the two of you to move in with me.”

Katrina blinked. Dragged in a breath. Blinked again. Surely she hadn’t heard him right? Because she thought he’d just said… Well, she thought he’d just said… She shook her head.

“I insist.” His tone was smooth, but underlined by steel.

TINA DUNCANlives in trendy inner-city Sydney with her partner, Edy. With a background in marketing and event mangement, she now spends her days running a business with Edy. She’s a multitasking expert. When she’s not busy typing up quotes and processing invoices, she’s writing. She loves being physically active, and enjoys tennis (both watching and playing), bushwalking and dancing. Spending quality time with her family and friends also rates high on her priority list. She has a weakness for good food and fine wine, and has a sweet tooth she has to keep under control.

HER SECRET, HIS LOVE-CHILDTINA DUNCAN

~ CLAIMING HIS LOVE-CHILD ~

HER SECRET, HIS LOVE-CHILDCONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER ONE

‘“HELLO,Alex.” Is that all you have to say to me after disappearing to God knows where for months on end?’ Alex Webber demanded.

He regretted the words instantly, not only because he had an audience but because they also demonstrated a rare loss of control on his part.

But that was hardly surprising, was it? He’d been caught way off-guard by Katrina’s sudden appearance. Bursting in on him uninvited was not her style at all but, more importantly, she’d been missing for months.

Katrina Ashby shrugged her shoulders, sending her caramel-blonde hair rippling around her leather-clad shoulders. ‘I suppose I should have added,how are you?’

Alex clenched his hands into fists. Although he wasn’t a violent man, and had never lifted a finger against a woman in his life, he wanted nothing more than to stride across the room and shake Katrina until her teeth rattled.

After all of this time, how dared she turn up like this, out of the blue, and say, ‘Hello, Alex,’ as if nothing had happened?

His insides contracted on a burst of anger as week upon week of frustration imploded inside him. At the same time, other parts of him were swelling as another far more primitive form of frustration made itself known.

Forget shaking her until her teeth rattled, Alex conceded. What he really wanted to do—even though he shouldn’t—was to pull her into his arms and kiss her until she wrapped her arms around his neck and sighed her surrender into his mouth.

Aware they had an interested audience—several board members were openly gawping, others surreptitiously looking backwards and forwards between them behind the cover of hands and folders—Alex did neither.

‘Out!’ he commanded.

Body rigid and teeth clenched, Alex remained where he was as the board, five men and two women, rose hastily to their feet and competed for who could reach the door first. They knew their boss well. He rarely lost his temper, but, when he did, it was usually a major eruption. Able to read the danger signs, each and every one of them was eager to get out of the firing line.

When the door closed behind them, Alex moved purposefully towards Katrina. She didn’t back away from him. She stood her ground and gave him look for look, with a glint of challenge in her eyes he hadn’t seen before.

‘I asked you a question,’ he asked silkily when he stopped in front of her.

She angled her chin into the air. ‘And I answered you. Hello, Alex. How are you?’

‘I’ll tell you how I am.’ He stepped closer until theywere almost touching. He could smell the scent of her perfume—a gift he’d had his PA send her for her birthday shortly before she’d vanished—and could see the little specks of golden-brown in her cat-like green eyes. ‘I’m furious!’

She cocked her head. ‘Why?’

‘Why?’Alex thought the top of his head might explode; he could actually feel the blood pumping at his temples. He grasped her shoulders and put his face close to hers. ‘Because you disappeared without a trace, that’s why!’

She smiled. ‘Without a trace? Isn’t that the name of an American TV show?’

‘Katrina!’

Her smile faded. ‘I didn’t disappear, Alex. I just decided to go away for a while, that’s all.’

Katrina had always been the cool, collected type—except when they’d been in bed together. Then she’d been wonderfully abandoned, returning kiss for kiss, touch for touch and pleasure for pleasure with a passionate intensity that blew his mind and everything else.

Normally, he liked the fact that she was so self-contained, but today her calm demeanour annoyed the hell out of him.

‘Without telling me where you were going or how long you’d be gone for?’ Alex prompted through gritted teeth.

‘I told the people who mattered,’ she said softly.

Alex exhaled sharply, his teeth snapping together. ‘And you didn’t consider including me in that group?’

Her gaze remained steady on his. ‘No. I didn’t.’

Alex struggled to keep his anger contained. He knew he was overreacting badly but he couldn’t seem to help himself.

‘Why not?’ he bit out.

‘Why should I tell you?’ she shot back at him, that new challenging light in her eyes making them appear greener than usual.

His fingers flexed, digging into the soft leather of her jacket. ‘Because you owed it to me,’ he grated, the answer dragged from somewhere deep inside him.

Alex wasn’t sure what angered him more: the fact that she had run out on him, or that she was the one to have betrayed him.

Of all the women he’d been with over the years, Katrina was the last one he would have picked to put him in this position.

‘Owed itto you?’ Her eyes flashed like quick-silver and the tip of her index finger dug into the centre of his chest, as if she was trying to bore a hole through to the other side. ‘I don’t owe you a thing, Alex. Not a single thing. And don’t you forget it!’

Alex was stunned by her reaction. The Katrina he’d known would never have spoken to him the way this Katrina just had.

Pressure built inside his head until once again Alex thought the top of his head might explode.

Dragging in a breath, he fought for control.

He hated losing his temper. It reminded him of his father’s monstrous behaviour, and the last thing he ever planned on doing was following in James Webber’s footsteps!

He pulled her closer. Their bodies brushed and a surge of electricity powered through him. ‘You’re wrong about that. You owe me, all right. We were lovers, damn it!’

‘Lovers?’She barked out a laugh, but there was no amusement in it. ‘Don’t you mean I was your mistress?’

Although she’d never said so, Alex had sensed on more than one occasion that Katrina hadn’t been entirely happy with the role she’d played in his life. Like most women, she’d wanted a wedding ring and children, despite the fact he’d warned her up front that neither of those things was on offer.

They weren’t on offer to any woman. And never would be.

‘I’m not going to argue semantics with you. The point is we were together for almost a year. If that doesn’t earn me the right to be told you were leaving Sydney, then what does?’

Katrina tried to shrug out from under his touch. When he refused to let her go she glared up at him. ‘The operative word iswere, Alex: wewerelovers. We’re not any more. The last time I saw you, you told me our relationship was over. Or have you forgotten that?’

‘No, I haven’t forgotten.’

He hadn’t forgotten a thing.

Not what she tasted like.

Or smelled like.

Or how she looked when she fell apart in his arms.

And certainly not what she’d told him on that last fateful day they’d been together. Each and every word was indelibly carved into his brain as if someone had put them there with a hammer and chisel.

Releasing Katrina, Alex stalked to the window where he stood staring out at the Sydney skyline, fists shoved deep in his trouser pockets, tension drawing his shoulders up towards his ears.

‘You had to know that wasn’t the end of it,’ he said quietly. ‘You were pregnant, for goodness’ sake!’

‘What’s that got to do with anything?’ she asked, stillsounding as cool as a cucumber, her eyes boring a pair of twin holes between his shoulder blades.

‘What has that got to do with anything…?’ Alex spun around to face her, blue eyes wide and incredulous. His fists clenched and unclenched against the silk lining of his pockets. ‘Did you really think you could drop that kind of bombshell and not expect me to contact you again?’

She cleared her throat, and for the first time since bursting unannounced into the boardroom she didn’t look quite so sure of herself; the challenge in her eyes was replaced by uncertainty. ‘I’m not sure what to say. You were so cold that day. I honestly thought I’d never see you again.’

‘Of course I was cold. I was in shock, damn it!’

‘And do you think I wasn’t?’ Katrina demanded, voice rising.

Her words hung in the air like the residue of rifle fire, bouncing off one wall and then another.

Her mouth twisted. ‘Oh, that’s right!’ She slapped an open palm against the centre of her forehead. ‘How could I forget? You claimed you weren’t the father.’

She looked at him as if she half-expected him to contradict her.

Alex stared stonily back, his silence answering for him.

‘How can you believe that? We made love all the time. I could have become pregnant on any of those occasions, and you know it.’

‘Aren’t you forgetting one little thing?’ he asked, dangerously quiet.

‘And that is?’

‘Protection,’ he issued in a hard voice. ‘I took care of our precautions. Too many women have tried tocatch themselves a rich husband by getting pregnant deliberately.’

That was obviously what Katrina was trying to do. But what made it worse, so, so much worse, was that she was trying to do it with another man’s child.

She had to be.

Because Alex had an even better reason than the precautions he’d just referred to for believing the child wasn’t his—a reason that was so strong it put that belief almost beyond question.

Her treachery bit deep, gouging at him with hungry teeth.

It had been there like a thorn in his side, slowly leeching its poison into his system and raising all sorts of questions in his mind.

When she’d taken him to the heights of passion had it merely been a means to an end? Had she been there with him on the journey, feeling what he was feeling, or had she been putting on an act while her brain had clinically thought about her forthcoming plan?

The realisation that what he had thought was real and beautiful might just have been a sham left him feeling empty inside—and angry outside.

She gasped. ‘Are you accusing me of being a gold-digger?’

He shrugged. ‘If the shoe fits.’

‘Well, the shoe doesn’t fit. I wouldn’t have you even if…even if…’ She waved her hands through the air. ‘Even if you were served up to me on a platter with a million-dollar cheque in your mouth!’

Alex laughed; he couldn’t help it. The suggestion was so ludicrous he couldn’t believe she’d actually had the gall to make it.

She lunged at him, hand arcing through the air. ‘You cold-hearted…!’

Alex caught her hand and forced it back to her side before pulling her close. He’d never seen her lose her temper before. Her eyes were glittering with emerald fire, streaks of colour striping razor-sharp cheek bones. An incredible energy was emanating from her, so powerful he felt he could reach out and touch it with his hands.

A surge of lust—a lust he knew he should not be feeling—sent his blood roaring through his veins. He put his face close to hers. ‘Don’t push me, Katrina. I’mthisclose—’ he held up thumb and forefinger with barely a hair’s breadth separating them ‘—to doing something we’ll both regret.’

‘Don’t push you?’ she shouted, eyes so wide they dominated her face. ‘Are you out of your mind? It’s the other way around—don’tyoupush—’

Alex silenced her with his mouth.

He hadn’t planned on doing it; it just happened.

He kissed her savagely, his mouth hard and uncompromising.

Katrina stiffened until it felt as if he was holding an ironing board in his arms; her hands were like steel braces pressing forcefully against his chest. Alex fed a hand into her hair and cupped the back of her head, the other clamping around her waist at the base of her spine.

She tasted sweet, like the nectar from sun-warmed peaches, and as intoxicating as the finest wine. Something stirred inside him, something he hadn’t felt since he’d last been with her. Something that not one of the women he’d slept with in the last seven months had evoked in him.

His mouth softened on hers and he began kissing her as if those months had never existed. As if she’d never told him she was pregnant and he’d never told her it was over.

His head spun.

His body stirred.

He was rock hard in under three seconds flat.

Katrina was the only woman who’d ever been able to do that to him. After all this time, and everything that had happened between them, Alex hadn’t expected her appeal to still be so strong. But her effect on him was as powerful as it had ever been, if not more so.

Heart pounding, he ran the tip of his tongue over her lower lip then nibbled on it with his teeth, his hands relaxing until he was cradling her against him.

And slowly, oh, so slowly, the resistance melted out of her body. She sighed, her hands clutching at his shirt front, her lips softly parting.

Then she began kissing him back.

His kisses grew hotter and more demanding, his lips devouring hers, his tongue thrusting into her mouth to savour her inner sweetness. Heat seeped into his bloodstream until he felt saturated with raw desire. The world spun out of control, taking his sanity with it.

He was vaguely thinking about locking the door and carrying her to the long boardroom-table when Katrina began pushing against his chest again.

‘Stop it, Alex!’ she gasped, dragging her mouth out from under his. She was breathing so fast she could barely get the words out. ‘Stop it! I don’t want this.’

Alex lifted his head and stared down at her.

Her eyes were wide, the golden-brown specks gleaming, her mouth moist and kiss-swollen. A hecticflush had coloured her cheekbones, and scented heat was radiating off her skin.

She looked the way she’d always looked when they made love, and the familiarity of it sent a wave of satisfaction through him.

‘Yes, you do.’ He smudged his thumb across her lower lip. ‘Do you think I didn’t notice the way your eyes ate me up when you burst in here? And just now you were with me kiss for kiss. You’re hungry for me—go on, admit it.’

Alex wasn’t quite sure why it was so important that she admit she still wanted him, but it was. Important enough that a clamouring sense of urgency to hear her say the words was rising up inside of him.

Katrina tore herself out of his arms and stalked across the room, putting the length of the boardroom table between them. ‘That…that kiss was a mistake,’ Katrina said, wringing her hands together in front of her as if wringing a tea towel she was trying to extract water from. ‘It shouldn’t have happened.’

Alex opened his mouth to challenge the truth of that statement but just as quickly closed it again.

Katrina was right.

Itwasover between them.

It had to be.

Why was he thinking any differently?

Because he wasn’t thinking with the head, he admitted grudgingly.

He dragged in a breath. ‘I couldn’t agree more,’ he replied coolly.

She blinked at him. ‘You…you agree?’

He nodded. ‘Of course. I kissed you merely because I was trying to prove a point.’

Her mouth compressed into a straight line. ‘And what point is that?’

‘You claimed you wouldn’t take me even if I was served up to you on a platter,’ he drawled softly, refusing to admit the comment had dented his ego. ‘That kiss just proved you’d take me any way you can get me. Only I’m not buying.’

‘Why you arrogant, egotistical playboy!’ she spluttered, green eyes flashing fire at him. ‘Might I remind you that I was the one who stopped just now, not you?’

Alex was once again surprised by her outburst. Katrina had lost her temper twice since she’d arrived, something he couldn’t recollect her doing even once in the almost-twelve months he’d known her.

‘I’m not going to debate that with you. Now, you obviously came here for a reason. Maybe it’s time we stopped talking about the past and got to the point of this meeting. Because, frankly, I don’t understand what you’re doing here.’

A mixture of emotions flashed across her face so fast he couldn’t register what each one was. Her breath hissed out of her mouth. Without another word, she spun on her heel and stalked towards the door.

Alex frowned. ‘Come back here, Katrina. This meeting isn’t over. It’s not over until I say it’s over.’

She threw him a scathing look over her shoulder and wrenched open the door, disappearing through it before he had a chance to stop her.

Alex lunged after her, then slowed when he heard the murmur of voices. He frowned. It sounded as if Katrina was talking to his PA, Justine.

He was at the door when he almost collided with Katrina, who was coming back into the room.

She was carrying something.

Alex looked down automatically.

He stiffened. The air locked tight in his lungs, his heart knocking against his breast bone as if it was trying to shatter it. His body moved from stiff to rigid in the blink of an eye, as if he’d just been spray-painted with quick-drying cement.

Staring up out of what he now realised was a carry cot was a tiny, gurgling baby.

He looked up. ‘What the—?’ Alex dragged in a ragged breath, his eyes narrowed on her face. ‘I—You—’ He snapped his mouth closed, dragged in another breath and then accused harshly, ‘You had the baby!’

Katrina frowned. ‘Of course I had the baby.’ She looked down and her mouth softened. ‘Meet your daughter. Her name is Samantha.’

 

Katrina had never seen Alex speechless before, but that was certainly what he was now. His sensual mouth was working but so far no sound had emerged. At least, nothing intelligible. His blue eyes were fixed with piercing intensity on their tiny daughter, as if he’d never seen a baby before.

‘Well, aren’t you going to say something?’ she asked anxiously, her hands shaking so much she thought she might drop the cot and its precious contents.

Alex lifted his head slowly, his gaze refocussing on her. ‘I didn’t know you’d had the baby,’ he said, sounding dazed.

Katrina frowned. She put the cot down on the end of the table before turning back to Alex. ‘That’s the second time you’ve said that. Of course I had the baby. Why are you so surprised?’

He blinked and the dazed look slowly cleared. ‘When you disappeared the way you did, I presumed you’d decided to abort the child.’

‘What…what did you say?’ she asked in a voice that was little more than a whisper.

Alex shrugged. ‘It was the only reason I could think of to explain why you packed up and left the way you did.’

‘You have to be kidding?’ Katrina burst out incredulously. She’d never lost her temper as many times as she had during this meeting. But she’d spent months stewing over the way Alex had treated her, and he was doing the same thing again now: pushing all of the right buttons to send her anger into overdrive. ‘I can think of a dozen reasons, and not one of them would bethat.’

‘Then why?’

‘You didn’t think I might have needed a friend right about then?’ When he stared at her blankly, she gritted her teeth. ‘I was twenty-two, Alex. Pregnant and alone. The man I loved had just accused me of trying to foist another man’s child on to him. What did you think I was going to do—carry on as if everything was normal?’

His mouth curled. ‘You’re not going to try that old chestnut, are you?’

She blinked at him. ‘What old chestnut?’

He waved a hand. ‘Love. You just said that you love me. This is the first I’ve heard of it.’

Her heart resounded in her chest with the same boom as rolling thunder. ‘I saidloved, Alex. Past tense. And I didn’t tell you how I felt because it was clear you didn’t love me. Or want my love.’ She laughed harshly, mocking her feelings and the dream that one day he would love her in return. ‘Don’t worry. I realise now thatit was all an illusion. The man I thought I loved didn’t really exist. He was obviously just a figment of my imagination, because he would never have treated me the way you have.’

‘And how have I treated you?’ Alex demanded in a cool voice.

She wrung her hands together again. She’d been determined to keep calm during this meeting but her anxiety and distress were getting the better of her. ‘For one, he would never have accused me of aborting our child without telling him!’

‘I’m sorry,’ Alex said stiffly. ‘It sounded like the most logical explanation.’

‘Well, it wasn’t. I needed to be with someone who genuinely cared about me. Someone who would give me emotional support instead of blaming me for the situation, like you did.’

He frowned. ‘So you went to stay with a friend?’

She nodded. ‘Just for a couple of weeks. Until I found somewhere else to live.’ She gave him the kind of look that could curdle milk. ‘I had no intention of staying in an apartment being paid for by you. So much for your claim that I’m a gold-digger!’

His remark had been totally uncalled for. She hadn’t been happy about him renting an apartment for her in the first place. It was only when Alex had explained that its location meant they could see more of each other that she’d given in.

Alex stared at her through narrowed eyes. ‘What friend?’

She angled her chin upwards. ‘I don’t think that’s any of your business, do you?’

His mouth hardened. ‘Just tell me one thing.’

‘And what’s that?’

‘Was it a man?’

‘No, it wasn’t a man. What makes you ask that?’

He shrugged. ‘It makes sense.’

Katrina frowned. ‘It might make sense to you, but it doesn’t to me.’

His piercing blue eyes bored into hers. ‘I would have thought it made perfect sense for you to stay with the father of your child for the duration of your pregnancy.’

She gasped and pressed a hand to her chest, where her heart was frantically beating. ‘What did you say?’

Alex threw a cold glance at the cot. ‘Whoever fathered that child, it wasn’t me,’ he said in a voice that rasped like sandpaper down her spine.

Katrina’s stomach churned, her heart kicked, and it was all she could do to remain standing upright.

She was so angry and hurt that she wanted nothing more than to spin on her heel, stalk out the door and never see Alex again.

If it wasn’t for Samantha, she would have done exactly that. But her daughter’s needs had to come first—and she needed both of her parents.

‘Sheisyours,’ she finally gritted out.

‘No. She’s not. I always made sure we were protected.’

‘Not always.’

‘OK. So I forgot—once,’ Alex dismissed.

She sucked in a lungful of much-needed air and glared at him. ‘That’s all it takes. Besides, all forms of contraception have a failure rate, including condoms. And, since I didn’t sleep with anybody else, it’s physically impossible for anyone else to be the father.’

Alex frowned. Katrina could tell by the way he waslooking at her that the cogs of his mind were grinding as he assessed what she’d just said. Finally, face hardening, he said, ‘I don’t believe you. The child is not mine. And I will expect you to sign something attesting to that fact.’

Katrina folded her arms defiantly. ‘I’m not signing anything.’

‘Oh yes, you are. The document will list a number of conditions: one, you will never approach me regarding the child again. Two, you will never ask me for money. And three, you will never publicly try to claim I am the father of your child.’

Katrina was so stunned all she could do was stare and keep on staring.

‘When the document is ready, you will sign it,’ Alex continued in the same harsh voice.

Katrina surged to her feet, limbs shaking, hands clenched into fists. She’d never felt so insulted in her life—unless she counted his earlier accusation about secretly aborting their child!

Angry—furious, more like it—Katrina stared him in the eye and resisted the urge to smack him across his handsome face.

‘Thatis not going to happen.’

Without saying another word, she scooped up the carry cot and stormed out of the boardroom.

CHAPTER TWO

ALEXfrowned as he watched Katrina march out of the room. ‘Katrina! Come back in here.’

Alex narrowed his eyes as he waited, in no doubt that she’d reappear at any moment. He’d always found her… Well, the truth was he’d always found her rather biddable. She’d always fallen in with his plans, even when he’d known she wasn’t entirely happy with them. She’d always said yes, even if it had meant changing her schedule to fit in with his.

Put simply, like every other woman who’d shared his bed, she had never once said no to him.

Any minute now, she would reappear. He would reiterate his intentions. She would leave…and it would all be over.

The thought should have pleased him. But somehow it didn’t.

The thought of never seeing Katrina again, never tasting her again, left him feeling oddly unsettled, although he couldn’t imagine why.

Forcing the thought aside, Alex scowled.

Realising that Katrina should have reappeared by now, he sprang towards the door.

A quick scan of Justine’s private office showed no sign of either Katrina or the carry cot. He strode to Justine’s desk. She was on the phone and acknowledged him with a slight smile and a raised eyebrow.

Too impatient to wait, Alex snatched the receiver out of her hand and dropped it unceremoniously into the cradle.

Justine gaped up at him. ‘What did you do that for?’

Alex could understand her surprise. In the three years she’d worked for him, he’d never done such a thing. ‘Where’s Katrina?’

‘She left.’

‘What do you mean she left?’ Alex roared, his insides contracting on a wave of frustration.

Justine blinked up at him. ‘Well, she came out and said goodbye, and then she left.’

The words hit Alex in the centre of his back as he left the room and began sprinting down the corridor towards the lift. By the time it offloaded him in the vast foyer on the ground floor, there was no sign of her.

He raced to the exit and lost precious seconds waiting for the glass doors to slide open. Like the lift, they appeared to be moving in slow motion.

Out on the pavement, Alex looked left and right, then scanned the other side of the road.

There was no sign of Katrina.

Alex swore, astounded Katrina had run out on him for a second time. People just didn’t do that to him.

Alex returned inside, stopping beside the security guard standing inside the doorway. His name tag read David Greenway.

‘David, did you see an attractive woman come through here a few minutes ago? She has caramel-blonde hair and green eyes. She was wearing a black leather jacket. You couldn’t miss her.’

David Greenway’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he swallowed. ‘I’m sorry, sir. We get a lot of people through here.’

Alex clamped his teeth so tightly together he thought they might shatter. He was about to turn away when he thought of something. ‘She was carrying a baby in a cot.’

‘Ah.’ The security guard nodded eagerly. ‘Yes, I remember her now.’

‘Did you see which way she went?’

David nodded. ‘She flagged down a taxi virtually right outside the door.’

‘Damn.’ Alex stared down at the tips of his shiny black shoes and then up again. ‘Did you see what company?’

‘As it happens, I did. It was Lime Taxis.’

‘Well done, David. Well done,’ Alex said, patting him on the shoulder and hurrying away.

Back in his office Alex pressed the speed-dial button for the Royce Agency, the private-detective firm he’d engaged on numerous occasions to do background checks on prospective employees and upgrade the security in his homes and offices.

He’d also engaged the agency to find Katrina. It was the first time the outfit had failed him, which was why they had continued to search for her free of charge.

He was put through to Royce, the owner, straight away.

Briefly and concisely, Alex outlined what had happened.

‘Lime Taxis, you said?’ Royce confirmed. ‘The information is going to cost you.’

‘I don’t care how much it costs,’ Alex grated. ‘Find her.’

He’d spent seven months kicking his heels, wondering where Katrina was and what she was doing.

His interest hadn’t been in the least personal, of course. The minute he’d discovered she was trying to foist another man’s child on him, he’d known their relationship was over. But he had felt it wise to keep an eye on her so that the situation didn’t explode in his face.

But Katrina had hidden herself well. He had no intention of letting the same thing happen again; he wanted the experts on the job while her trail was still hot.

‘OK,’ Royce said. ‘I’ll call you back as soon as I have the information.’

‘Make it fast.’

Alex paced his office like an animal trapped in a much-too-small cage. When his mobile phone rang, Alex almost broke the thing in his eagerness to answer. ‘Royce?’

Royce got straight to the point. ‘The taxi dropped her off at an apartment in Waverton. Here’s the address.’

Alex scribbled the information down on his notepad. Before ending the call, he said, ‘I want you to send someone over to the apartment to watch Katrina. They are not to let her out of their sight. I want to know where she goes and who she sees. And I want a report on who she’s staying with. Got it?’

Alex didn’t wait for a reply. Despite the fact Royce and his people had failed to find Katrina, they were still good operatives. The best, in fact. He had no doubt his request was already spinning into action.

Ripping the page from his notepad, Alex shoved it in his pocket and left the office.

‘I’m going to be out for the rest of the day,’ he said, striding past Justine’s desk without pause.

‘But you have appointments all afternoon,’ Justine called after him.

‘Cancel them,’ Alex flung over his shoulder. ‘I have more important things to attend to!’

 

Katrina was scrubbing the stove top when the doorbell rang. There was something therapeutic about making the white enamel gleam. She always cleaned when she was upset or had some serious thinking to do. And right at this moment she could tick the box against both of those things.

The doorbell pealed again.

‘Coming,’ she called, dropping her cloth then pulling off her green rubber-gloves and flinging them down on the edge of the kitchen sink.

Hurrying to the door, she pulled it open.

She was quite unprepared to find Alex standing on the doorstep.

For one stunned second all she could do was gape up at him like a stranded fish. Then she dragged in a breath, regathered her wits and tried to slam the door in his face.

She was too late.

An expensive black leather shoe wedged itself between the door and the jamb. Then a strong, long-fingered hand curled around the edge of the door and began pushing it open.

Katrina leant against it with all her weight, but it was useless. She was no match for Alex’s size and strength. It was like an ant trying to push over an elephant.

Recognising that she was wasting her time, Katrina stepped away from the door so fast that Alex practically fell into the apartment.

After staring at her long and hard, he looked around.

‘You livehere?’

The slight emphasis he’d given the last word managed to convey exactly what he thought of the apartment. Her hackles, which were already sticking up like the needles on a porcupine after their earlier meeting, bristled some more.

Katrina followed his gaze. She had to admit the carpet needed replacing. It was threadbare in places and stained in others. The walls were also long overdue for a coat of paint.

Peter had apologized for the condition of the unit, but he’d over-extended himself when he’d bought it and was struggling to meet the mortgage repayments.

Katrina had jokingly said it was OK because it didn’t show up her furniture. It would be generous to call her stuff ‘second hand’. She was probably its third or fourth owner, each piece displaying a series of dents and scratches from each of its previous lives.

But so what?

If he looked hard enough, Alex would notice what was really important. And that was that she kept the place immaculately clean and tidy.

She tossed her head, angled her chin into the air and said coolly, ‘Yes, this is where I live. Sorry if it’s not up to your high standards, but we can’t all be as rich as you. What are you doing here, Alex? How did you find me?’

‘I’m here because you ran out on me before we finished our conversation,’ he said through clenched teeth. ‘As to finding you, that was easy. You were seengetting into a Lime Taxi. Discovering where it had dropped you didn’t take long.’

‘That’s an invasion of privacy. They had no right to tell you where I’d gone.’

‘Tell that to someone who cares.’ Alex slammed the door behind him and moved determinedly towards her.

Katrina, who had managed to stand her ground at the bank earlier in the day, backed away from him.

His eyes were a glittering, angry blue, his jaw squared with the same emotion. He also looked impossibly, wickedly handsome, and the closer he moved into her personal space the more she was aware of him.

Her heart and her pulse rate both picked up rhythm.

Her back came up against the wall that divided the small living area from the even tinier kitchen. She pressed against it, as if she could somehow go through the painted brick to the other side.

Alex planted a hand against the wall on either side of her head, effectively trapping her.

His heat and his smell were all around her.

Anxiety and awareness coursed through her, making her tremble.

‘That’s the second time you’ve run out on me. And the last. Understand?’ Alex said in a dangerously soft voice, his breath wafting across her face.

‘I didn’t run out on you,’ she said, angling her chin into the air. ‘I walked.’

He growled something completely incomprehensible under his breath. ‘Don’t split hairs. Why did you leave?’

She snatched in a breath. ‘I left because I didn’t like what you were saying.’

‘So why didn’t you just tell me that?’

‘I did. I said I wasn’t going to sign your stupid document. And I’m not,’ she added for good measure. ‘I haven’t changed my mind.’

He bared his teeth in the parody of a smile. ‘You will if you know what’s good for you.’

The threat stirred her anger to life. She welcomed the emotion because it banished her awareness of him.

‘No, I won’t.’ She dug the point of her index finger into the centre of his chest. ‘Because Samisyour daughter.’

He froze, face twisting. ‘Stop saying that. It’s not true!’

Her anger evaporated as if it had never existed. Her heart stilled then took off at a gallop. A shiver made its way down and then up her spine, setting her teeth on edge.

For the first time, she appreciated just how much Alex didn’t want it to be true.

She frowned. Surely this was more than just the normal reaction of a playboy who didn’t want to be tied down? She could practically feel the anxiety seeping out of his pores into the air surrounding them.

Something else was going on here, although she didn’t have a clue what it was.

‘Yes, Alex. It is.’

‘It’s not. It can’t be.’ Alex couldn’t hide the desperation in his voice. It was clear he was in some form of denial, which meant he was in for a rude awakening.

‘I’m afraid it is.’ She paused for a moment before playing the ace she’d hoped wouldn’t be required. ‘And I can prove it.’

He raised a dark eyebrow. ‘And just how do you plan on doing that?’

‘A DNA test will prove Sam’s paternity.’

Alex was such a logical, facts-and-figures kind of guy. He would have no choice but to believe scientific evidence.

The suggestion had clearly shocked Alex. He was staring at her as if she’d just grown three heads.

While she waited for him to say something, Katrina couldn’t stop her eyes from running over him.

There wasn’t a man alive who looked as good in a suit as Alex did. All of his clothes were handmade and fitted him like a glove. He was tall and lean, with broad shoulders, a muscled chest and long, powerful legs. The dark fabric accentuated his black hair and piercing blue eyes.

He looked elegant and sophisticated and very, very male.

Heat stirred low in her pelvis. She was nowhere near as immune to him as she liked to think she was. He’d been right when he said her eyes had eaten him up as soon as she’d burst into the boardroom. They were eating him up again now. She couldn’t seem to help herself.

And she didn’t understand why.

The way he’d treated her should have killed all of the feelings she had for him. And it had—at least on an emotional level. She hadn’t been lying when she’d told Alex she didn’t love him any more.

Because she didn’t. If anything, the reverse was true.

But, on a physical level, it was a different matter entirely.

Physically, she was as attracted to him as the day they’d first met.

She’d pushed open the boardroom door, taken one look at Alex and now the burn was back.

Just like that.

‘Are you serious about this?’ Alex asked, interrupting her thoughts.

Katrina dragged her eyes back to his face, hoping he hadn’t noticed the way she’d been staring at him. ‘Frankly, I’d rather not have to go through the humiliation of everyone knowing that you think I sleep around. But if it’s the only way you’ll accept the truth then I’m more than willing to go through with it.’

‘In that case, I’ll arrange the test.’ His expression gave nothing away. If he had doubts, he wasn’t showing them. He glanced at his watch. ‘There’s no time like the present. The sooner we get this farce over with, the better.’

 

Alex didn’t say a word as the doctor swabbed the inside of the baby’s cheek then put the spatula in a thin glass testtube and marked the outside with a bar-coded sticker.

‘How soon can we have the results?’ he demanded as Dr Kershew extracted a fresh applicator.

‘It will take forty-eight hours,’ Doctor Kershew replied. ‘Open up.’

Alex opened his mouth. The doctor repeated the process on the inside of his mouth.

Other books
never have i ever by clearwing, august
the power of silence by carlos castaneda
small changes by marge piercy
saint's gate by carla neggers
the prince of midnight by laura kinsale
un artista del hambre by franz kafka