Who was the father of Yelena Valero’s baby?
Billionaire businessman Alex Rush had no clue the woman he’d once loved was now a mother. And, after doing the math, he discovered Yelena must have already been pregnant – with another man’s child – when she was declaring her love for Alex.
Although he’d tracked her down for an entirely different reason, uncovering the truth became Alex’s top priority. Would seduction bring him closer to Yelena’s secrets, or create even more confusion? Suddenly, determining the paternity of one baby girl could destroy a relationship just about to ignite.
Silhouette Desire ~ North America – June 2010 / Australia/NZ – July 2010
Harlequin Desire ~ re-release October 2017
Alex Rush stood alone in Yelena’s simple, almost austere office, his back deliberately to the door. He knew the huge window, one that took in Canberra’s Parliament House in its commanding August morning glory, haloed his height to strategic effect. He needed all the power and authority his size projected, needed to put her at a mental disadvantage, to show he was in control and calling the shots.
His confidence had briefly bowed to uncharacteristic hesitation before he’d determinedly swept the doubts aside. No time for second thoughts. Yelena and her brother had dug their hole so they only had themselves to blame.
The swift click of heels against tiles broke through his subconscious and in the next instant the door whooshed open with an efficient shove.
To his irritation, his heart rate rocketed, bathing his body in anticipatory warmth.
“Jonathon tells me you asked for me personally, Alex. Mind telling me why?”
He slowly turned, bracing for battle. Yet for all his mental preparation, he was woefully unprepared for the breathless impact seeing Yelena Valero always evoked. The solid, pounding heat, the thud his blood made as it sped through his veins – hot, arousing – like he was teenager again and seeing her for the first time.
Yelena was drop-dead gorgeous. Sure, the fashionistas had declared her too curvy, her hair too wild, her jaw too square, her lips too full compared with her younger sister’s sleekly polished looks. Yet the sight of her always managed to stop his breath.
You’re not seventeen anymore. Yelena dumped and betrayed you, siding with Carlos – the man who’s hell-bent on destroying you. She’s nothing more than a way to make her lying bastard of a brother pay.
A thread of intense fury whipped out, blinding him to everything else. He let it sit there for a heartbeat, tasting the bitterness, almost relishing it, before efficiently stuffing it back into that special place in his mind. Compartmentalizing, his attorney had declared, as if the revelation had deserved a standing ovation.
No-one knew he’d spent years perfecting an air-tight mask of composure. And by God, he wouldn’t lose it now, even though the reckless temptation to reach out and kiss Yelena senseless snaked through his body, forcing his muscles into a tight clench.
“Who let you in my office?” She said suddenly.
“Jonathon.” She fell silent, the stillness lengthening as she blinked slowly, a small furrow creasing her brows. “It’s been a while, Yelena.”
His inane silence filler narrowed her eyes, as if seeking the hidden meaning behind his smooth words.
“I hadn’t noticed.” She stared at her desk then pointedly at him as he remained still, blocking her way.
Not noticed? Fury burnt away the residual lust that had pooled in his brain. He’d done nothing but notice the passage of time since his nightmare had begun. Seven months, one week and four days ago his entire world had crashed and Yelena… well, she’d simply moved on as if he’d been a temporary pit stop on her journey to the top.
Sharp pain shot through his hands and he glanced down. He’d tightened them into fists.
With an inward curse he forced himself to relax, sweeping his gaze down her body, knowing she’d take umbrage with his perusal. From her black high heels, the snug grey skirt and matching jacket loosely tied at the waist, to the fire-engine red shirt that looked so soft his fingers briefly retightened, she was business personified. Her wild hair was smoothly tied back, makeup subdued. Even her jewelry – small gold hoop earrings and a simple chain with the familiar blue eye of Horus – bespoke restraint. So unlike the Yelena he knew, the woman with the wild kisses and hot skin, the sultry take-hold-of-your-groin-and-squeeze laugh.
The one who’d dropped him like a ten ton millstone when he’d been accused of murdering his father.
She scowled and crossed her arms, dragging him back to the present. “Have you quite finished?”
He allowed himself a smile. “Oh, not by a long shot.”
Before she could say anything he stepped aside, leaving her to her personal space. With slow deliberation, he lowered himself into one of her guest chairs.
She settled behind that titanic desk, her eyes on him, a wary cat assessing a potential threat. The privileged, spoilt daughter of Ambassador Juan Ramerez Valero, wary? The thought astonished even as it empowered.
“Nice office.” He flicked his gaze over the room. “Nice desk. Must’ve cost a bit.”
“Of all the experienced reps in Bennett & Harper, why did you ask for me? Wouldn’t our history bother you?”
“Still as blunt as always, I see,” Alex murmured, unsurprised.
She crossed her arms and awaited his answer in loaded silence.
“You’re one of the best,” he stated, deliberately playing to her vanity. “I’ve been watching your campaign for that singer – Kyle Davis, right? Getting the public to do a one-eighty on a tax cheat was impressive. What you can do for me completely outweighs any…” he paused, his gaze feathering across her mouth before going back to her eyes, “past history.”
He knew his subtle ego stroking fell way short when she met his eyes head on, unblinking. He’d never been subjected to her ‘Queen of Silence’ look but he’d seen it focused on others. It was a look meant to fluster and embarrass, usually given after an improper or rude comment. It was all in the steady stare, the slight curve of her eyebrow. And the expectant stillness as cool as the steel from the ancient swords that adorned her father’s study.
Yet he easily held her gaze until she was the one forced to break the silence.
“And what exactly would you be hiring me to do?”
“What you’re renowned for – positive spin. And, of course, discretion.”
“Spin for you?”
“And my mother and sister.”
Yelena remained calm as with one fluid movement, he crossed his ankles, then his arms. A perfect image of untouchable male confidence and control, one that ran roughshod over their furtive weeks of intense pre-Christmas passion as if it’d just been something she’d dreamt up.
The guilt-ridden ghosts of her past reared up under his silent inspection, astounding her. Alex Rush had been completely off-limits. Yet that hadn’t stopped her from falling for her sister’s boyfriend.
She swallowed heavily. Get a grip. He was here for business, nothing more. Whatever they’d shared was temporary. Dead and buried.
“You owe me, Yelena.”
She stared at him, the startling cut stabbing deep. Damn him for going there and putting a voice to her guilt. As she warred with her conscience, he added, “and you know my family, which will make your job easier.”
“Not very well.”
“More than most,” he countered. “And we’re familiar with each other.”
He made the word familiar sound much dirtier than it should. Those arresting, come-to-bed azure eyes, combined with the subtle dip in his voice, did something terrible to her body. Terrible in a wonderful way.
“So your silence means you’re taking my account?” He finally said.
She wrenched her gaze from his and picked up her pen to give her nervous hands something to do.
“B&H would be crazy to turn down the son of William Rush, the founder of Australia’s leading airline company,” she returned calmly. No reason to elaborate, to confirm that her boss had used her partnership application as leverage.
Instinctively her hand sought out her necklace, to rub the Horus pendant dangling there. And just like a magnet, that small movement commanded Alex’s eyes.
She abruptly stilled. Fiddling with that pendant was a nervous tick, Alex had laughingly pointed out years ago. Words can lie but your body can’t. The tick said she was unsure, out of her depth. Conflicted.
His knowing eyes shot to her face and suddenly the memories streamed in, flushing her skin and warming her body in places she’d closed off these last eight months.
“Did you discuss any details with Jonathon?” She said now, firmly pulling her diary across the desk.
“Okay.” She flicked open the diary and scribbled a few notes, then looked up. “I’ll need a few days to get a team together then I can schedule you in for next week-”
“No.” He leaned forward and Yelena only just managed to resist scooting back. Even with her huge desk between them, she still felt… vulnerable somehow. As if there was nothing to stop him from leaning across the oak expanse and kissing her.
Her pulse leapt to life, her breath stuttering for one brief second. Ridiculous. Alex Rush was here as a client. She would put his feather in her professional cap, get her promotion and move on. It wasn’t personal. Not anymore.