A Clandestine Corporate Affair(4)

Nathan’s jaw tensed. “Just tell me this,” he said under his breath. “Is he mine?”

Oh, boy. How many times had she imagined this moment? What she would say if ever faced with this situation. She had rehearsed the conversation a thousand times, but now that the moment was here her mind was totally blank.

“Answer me,” he demanded, sounding far too much like her father.

Did you really sneak a bottle of my good scotch into the school dance? Answer me, Ana Marie Birch!

She had no choice but to tell Nathan the truth, but all she could manage was a stiff nod.

Nathan cursed, anger flashing in his eyes, holding her arm so tight he was cutting off the blood flow to her fingers. In all the time she’d been with him, she’d never seen him so much as raise his voice. His outrage was probably just a knee-jerk reaction. He was upset because she hadn’t told him, but would ultimately be relieved when she assured him he had no responsibilities in regard to her son. Financial or parental. He might even thank her for being so reasonable and honoring his wishes. Then he would leave, and hopefully she would never have to see him again.

Of course there was another possibility. One she’d found too disturbing to consider until now. Or maybe she’d just refused to let herself go there. What if he wanted to be a part of Max’s life? What if he wanted visitation and a say in the decisions? What if he tried to take Max away from her?

The thought made her clutch her son closer to her chest, which of course made him wiggle in protest. For nine months he had been her entire life. The only person who truly loved and needed her. She refused to let anyone, especially a man like Nathan, who didn’t have time for a girlfriend much less a son, take that away from her.

“Should I assume,” Nathan asked through gritted teeth, “that you never intended to tell me?”

“To be honest,” she said, lifting her chin with a defiance that was meant to hide the fact that inside she was terrified, “I didn’t think you would care.”


He had a son.

Nathan could hardly wrap his mind around the concept. And Ana was wrong. He did care. Probably too much. The instant he saw her talking to Beth his heart slammed the wall of his chest so hard it stole his breath, and when their eyes met he’d experienced such a bone-deep need to be close to her, he was down the stairs and striding in her direction before he could consider the repercussions of his actions.

After he ended their affair, he must have picked up the phone a dozen times that first week, ready to tell her that he’d made a mistake, that he wanted her back, even though it would have been the end of his career at Western Oil. But he had worked too damned hard to get where he was to throw it all away for a relationship that was doomed from the start to fail. So he had done the only thing he could. He’d gotten over her…or so he thought. Now he wasn’t so sure.

She tried to jerk her arm from his grasp and her grimace said he was hurting her. Damn it. He released his grip and clamped a vice down on his temper. He worked damned hard to maintain control at all times. What was it about her that made him abandon all good sense?

“We need to talk,” he said in a harsh whisper. “Now.”

“This is hardly the place,” she said.

She was right. If they disappeared together people were bound to notice. And talk.

“Okay, this is what we’re going to do,” he said. “You’re going to say goodbye to Beth, get in your car and drive home. A few minutes after that I’m going to slip out. I’ll meet you at your condo.”

Her chin rose a notch. “And if I say no?”

She was trying to be tough, trying to play the spoiled heiress card, but he knew better. He knew that deep down the defiant confidence she flaunted like some badge of honor was nothing more than a smokescreen to hide the fact that she was as vulnerable and insecure as the next woman.

“Not advisable,” he said. “Besides, you owe me the courtesy of an explanation.”

Even she couldn’t deny that, and after a brief pause she said, “Fine.”

What else could she say? She may have been stubborn and, yes, a little spoiled, but she was an intelligent woman. She walked away, clutching her son—their son—unsteady on the grass in her ridiculously high-heeled boots. Hooker boots, his brother Jordan would have called them. Not the typical attire for an heiress, and even less appropriate for a mother, but she never had been one to play by the rules, which was what had drawn Nathan to her in the first place. Her confidence and her spunk had been an incredible turn-on, especially when he was used to dating “proper” women. The kind who would keep him grounded, who wouldn’t tempt him from within the safe place he’d carved out for himself and back into the dark side. But she hadn’t been nearly as wicked as she wanted people to believe. In fact, she’d coaxed him farther out into the light than any other woman had managed.

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