Authors: Susan Mallery
A little kiss...a big mistake
Weeks into their two-year marriage of convenience, Devlin Hunter can think of nothing but making love to his wife! Despite the rules of their arrangement, even Noelle can't ignore her devastatingly sexy millionaire boss who offered her unborn baby a home and a name. But she has to, because when their time is up, she'll be a single mom...unless she can make the romance-phobic bachelor an offer he can't refuse.
Revisit a Susan Mallery fan favorite in this special release of
Having Her Boss's Baby
CIRCLE OF FRIENDS:
Part 2 of 6
What started as a marriage proposal for the sake of the baby is turning into something more for Noelle Stevenson. Getting pregnant was a surprise, but the bigger shock is her changing feelings for Dev. She was all for a two-year marriage of convenience, but when Dev kissed her, the game changed. Now she's made him an offer she's hoping he can't refuse.
Can I be your wife in that way, too?
Dev Hunter heard the question Noelle just asked, but he couldn't believe it. Sex, she was talking about them having sex. Theirs was a marriage of convenience, for the sake of the baby.
“I like to think we're becoming friends, which is an odd thing to say, considering the fact that we're married, but this is an odd situation. I don't want you to break your promise to be faithful and I don't want you to do without.”
She was supposed to be the innocent in all thisâhow the hell had she figured it all out?
“A generous offer, but not one you need to make,” Dev said gruffly.
“Really?” Noelle smiled. “So you're just going to ignore that part of your life? It's not like the need goes away. My parents have been married more than twenty years and they're still hot for each other.” Her smile turned into a grin. “When I was a teenager, I was so uncomfortable, knowing they did that. I mean, they're parents. But now I see their intimacy as a really good thing. It helps keep the relationship strong.”
He had no idea what to say to her.
Noelle pulled her knees to her chest. “I'll admit my lone experience wasn't anything I'd want to repeat, but you said it could be better and I trust you. So if you're interested, I'm willing.”
There were two spots of color on her face, but otherwise she seemed completely calm and in control. Amazing, he thought, still stunned at her courage and honesty.
“Unless you don't want me,” she added, as she ducked her head.
Not want her? “Noelle, don't go there,” he told her. “Wanting has nothing to do with it.”
“Then it's because I'm pregnant. Does that gross you out?”
That made him smile. Nothing about her “grossed him out.” She only had to be breathing for him to want her. “You being pregnant isn't an issue.” He felt uncomfortable and wasn't sure why. A beautiful woman was offering herself to him. Shouldn't that be a
It was, except he wasn't sure it was right for her. She'd only been with one guy and he'd been Dev's brother. The situation was twisted in ways he couldn't describe.
There was also his concern about what would happen after. If they did become lovers. The women he let into his life understood the rulesâno permanent entanglements. Despite the two-year contract they had, he wasn't sure Noelle could be his lover and walk away.
She stood. “I can see you're not ready. That's fine. I'll wait. But the offer remains open.”
Then she walked out.
He was left with an aching need and no clue as to what to say. What the hell was wrong with this picture? What was he supposed to do now? Go after her? Pretend they'd never had this conversation? He'd been left hanging in the wind by a twenty-year-old innocent.
If this had happened to anyone else, he would think it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen.
in the unusual position of being nervous about walking into his own house. Ever since he and Noelle had had what he thought of as the “sex talk,” he'd half expected to find her waiting for him wearing a big, red bow and nothing else.
While nearly every part of his brain and body would kill for such a thing to happen, the lone sensible cells still functioning pointed out that there were massive problems to be had should he and Noelle become lovers.
She was pregnant by his brother. She had neither the temperament nor the experience of his usual temporary women and might not fully understand the rules. This was supposed to be a sensible arrangement in the best interests of Noelle and the baby. He was confident there was no way to justify an intimate relationship as beneficial to either.
That said, he couldn't help wanting her. Worse, the longer he knew her and learned more about who she was, the
he wanted her. He'd had relationships that started out with great promise only to fade into nothing very quickly. With Noelle, it was the opposite. He hadn't had any expectations about her when they'd first made their arrangement, but the more he was around her, the more he admired and respected her.
Nearly a week after their uncomfortable conversation, he walked into the kitchen, once again braced for overt seduction or more questions, only to find her dancing in front of the stove, while a country song played on the radio.
Last night she'd been swaying to classical, the night before she'd been bebopping to music from the 1940s. Noelle had many qualities, but she was never boring.
“Hi,” she called when she saw him, then reached for the remote to the Bose system and turned down the volume. “Dinner will be ready in about ten minutes, if you want to go change.”
She smiled as she spoke, then crossed to where he stood, placed one hand on his shoulder and brushed her mouth against his.
The kiss was light, nearly impersonal and left him panting for more. Then she turned back to the stove.
“I'm making chicken Marsala. I found a bottle of Marsala in the pantry, which is good because I couldn't buy it. This is my mom's recipe and it's fabulous, so I hope you're hungry.”
He stood riveted to the floor. If he didn't know better, he would swear he was being seduced by his own wife, who wasn't even old enough to buy cooking wine.
“Starving,” he muttered, not quite meaning the food. “I'll go get changed and be back in five minutes.”
“Good.” She beamed at him, then cranked up the volume on the radio and resumed her dancing in front of the stove.
An hour later, they'd finished dinner and cleaned up the kitchen together. That was their new pattern. He wasn't sure when he'd decided to pitch in, but now every night he cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher while she wiped off the counters and the stove.
“Do you have homework?” he asked when they were finished.
She shook her head. “I'm all done for the day. I'm sure there will be more tomorrow. What about you? Anything from the office?”
“No,” he said, then wished he hadn't. Time suddenly seemed to hang heavily on their hands.
“Then I have something I'd like to discuss.”
As she spoke, she led the way to the family room. Dev thought briefly about ducking into his office, but he refused to be intimidated by the thought of a personal conversation. As long as the topic wasn't sex, he would be fine.
Noelle plopped onto the sofa, her long bare legs stretching out in front of her as she rested her heels on the coffee table. She wore shorts and a tank top, which left far too much skin bare. Her hair was loose, her toes painted pink and her smile just welcoming enough to make his blood heat.
“I've been thinking about what we talked about before,” she said when he'd settled at the far end of the sofa.
He held in a groan.
“Is it Jimmy?” she asked. “Because I was with him?”
He had the realization that she was never going to let the topic go. Apparently the only way to stop talking about why they weren't having sex was to just go ahead and have it. Under any other circumstances, he would have given in.
“Jimmy is a factor,” he admitted. “I still think of you as Jimmy's girl.”
She nodded slowly. “I think if he hadn't died, you would have been more comfortable letting that relationship go. As it is, I'm the last person you know who was close to him. If you change that by getting close to me yourself, you lose that connection.”
Her insights surprised him. “I hadn't put the concept into words, but you're right.”
“So if you were to get involved with me, you'd be hurting your brother,” she said.
He hesitated. He could sense danger down this conversational path, even though he couldn't see it. “I wouldn't say hurting,” he told her. “The situation raises some questions.”
“You know I'm not in love with him,” she said.
He swore silently. “Yes, I know. Neither of us know what would have happened if Jimmy hadn't died.”
He knew he would have forced his kid brother to do the right thing and marry Noelle, but he had his doubts about how long the relationship would have lasted.
She sighed. “This must be so hard for you,” she said. “I only knew Jimmy a few months, but he's been a part of your world for twenty years. You're dealing with his loss and my pregnancy and me. I don't mean to pressure you, Dev. I don't want to make you uncomfortable. Considering the circumstances, I think we're doing really well.”
“I do, too,” he said. “And you're not making me uncomfortable.”
She smiled. “Good to know.” Her smile faded. “On the intimacy thing, I like you. I'll admit to some curiosity. Your reputation precedes you, which is intriguing. Honestly, your idea of being faithful and celibate for the next two years is really noble, but not very practical. I hate the thought of you suffering because you feel it's the right thing to do. I wouldn't normally be pushing on something like this, but there is a time factor. I'll be showing soon and I'm not sure we need my growing pregnancy as a complication.”
Honest to God, he didn't know what to say. Even as a blush stole up Noelle's cheeks, she kept her gaze fixed firmly on his face. She might be embarrassed, but she wasn't backing down. How was that possible?
As for responding to her statement/offerâhow? Of course he hated the idea of doing without for so long. Of course he was tempted by her words, her body and everything else about her. He had a feeling he could be beaten and left for dead on the side of the road and he would still want her.
But there were things to consider. Her innocence and the circumstances. Unfortunately, blood was heading south, leaving his brain in a deficient state, his cognitive abilities fading fast.
“I just...” He cleared his throat. “There are complications already,” he muttered as he rose. “You're going to have to trust me on that. I, ah, I have some work I need to deal with.”
And with that pitiful excuse, he left the room.
* * *
more days before making her move. She told herself it was to give Dev time to figure everything out on his own, but in truth, she needed to think things through and gather her courage.
The entire situation was outside of her comfort zone, not to mention her experience level. Maybe she should just let it go. But a little voice in her head said that if she wanted to make her relationship with Dev stronger, this was what they needed. Making love would bond them and they would need that connection when the baby came.
There was also a part of her that was wildly curious about those differences he'd talked about and the things he knew that Jimmy hadn't. How would the experience be with him? How would he touch her and hold her and kiss her?
They'd already had that one great experience in the car. She'd found herself melting in his embrace and that was just a kiss. What would happen if things got serious?
She asked the question as she stood in front of her dresser and considered her seduction options. Because that's what she'd decided to doâseduce her husband.
She'd scanned a couple of books on the subject in the bookstore, secretively pulling the volumes from their proper place, then darting over to the classic literature corner where she could read in peace. Of course she hadn't totally been able to concentrate, what with her guilt and embarrassment on the subject.
To make up for that, she'd spent twice as much money on several cookbooks and then had ducked back to her car, hoping no one had seen her.
Now she was armed with a little information and a lot of questions, along with a vague idea of how to seduce a man. Unfortunately she didn't have any practical experience to add to the mix.
One of the books suggested showing up naked in bed. Noelle knew that the earth's rotation would have to change direction before she had the courage to try that. But the showing up in bed part of the idea had some merit. Somehow slipping between Dev's sheets and waiting silently seemed a whole lot easier than talking about what she was trying to do. Her mother had always told her, when in doubt, try the direct approach. Not that her mother had ever imagined a situation like this, Noelle was sure.
Okay, so she would boldly climb into his bed...while he was in the bathroom, of course. She didn't want him to know she was there until it was too late.
That problem solved, she turned to the next pressing issueâwhat to wear. She didn't have any sexy lingerie. While she had a couple of cute sets of summer pj's, she wasn't sure they set the right tone. Which left her with one short, pale pink nightgown. It was sleeveless and covered in tiny white flowers and came to the middle of her thigh.
She undressed, then pulled on the nightie. Next she brushed her hair, then her teeth, then changed into a pair of high-cut bikini panties instead of her regular bikini panties. After that, she ran out of things to do, so she left her bedroom and walked down the hall to the master suite.
She could hear the shower running in the bathroom so she stepped into the quiet, darkened room and headed directly for the bed.
Dev had already pulled off the heavy bedspread. The TV in the armoire was tuned to a twenty-four-hour news channel. She found the remote and turned off the TV, then faced the bed.
It was huge and high and her stomach flipped over as she stood there staring at the vast expanse of mattress. Could she really do this?
Her courage nearly failed her, but she forced herself to move steadily forward until she could put her hands on the smooth sheets. It was now or never, she thought, wishing she had more experience or was more convinced that Dev really wanted to make love with her.
Maybe he'd turned down all her offers because he didn't find her sexy enough. Maybe the pregnancy thing, or the fact that she'd slept with his brother, freaked him out more than he wanted to admit. Maybe that incredible kiss in the car had been about guilt or pity or...
She'd been so caught up in her worrying, that she hadn't heard the water turn off or heard Dev get out of the shower and dry off. But he must have because she heard him say her name and when she turned he was standing in the doorway to the bathroom and wearing nothing but a pair of silky-looking boxer shorts.
His dark eyes gave nothing away and she had no idea what he was thinking. She felt exposed and stupid and near tears as she confessed all.
“I read a book at the bookstore on how to seduce a man. It said to just get into your bed, naked. I couldn't do the naked part. It's really not me, and we don't know each other that well. So I had to find a nightgown, but I don't have sexy lingerie and until I got here I hadn't thought about the fact that you're probably not doing anything with me because you don't think of me that way. I'm not like those other women, and I'm pregnant and...”
She'd run out of words, which could be a first, but she didn't think that mattered right now. Fear and embarrassment and a sense of vulnerability welled up inside of her until she could only turn and run for the door.
Except she didn't get that far. Somehow Dev got from the bathroom doorway to her side before she could move and then she was in his arms and he was kissing her all over her face.
“It wasn't that I didn't want you,” he breathed as he pressed his mouth to her cheeks, her eyelids, her nose and her chin.
“Then what was it?”
“Hell if I know.”
He claimed her lips with a deep, passionate kiss that chased all rational thought from her mind. The fears faded, the questions were no more. She gave herself up to the pressure and the minty taste of his tongue as it circled hers and plunged in deeper.
As she angled her head to let him claim her, she placed her hands on his shoulders. His skin was warm and smooth. Muscles rippled as she slid her fingers down his back, then up again.
He cupped her face, as if he felt the need to hold her in place. Had she been willing to break the kiss, she would have told him that she wasn't going anywhere. Instead she tried to show him with her body by leaning against him and by her kiss. She thrust into his mouth and explored him until she felt herself wanting more.
Need grew inside. At least she was pretty sure it was need. Her breasts ached and the feel of the cotton gown on her bare breasts was both erotic and uncomfortable. There was a heaviness between her legs. Her thighs trembled and her skin seemed too tight for her body.
Without warning, Dev stepped away. Before she could protest, he caught her in his arms and carried her the few feet to the bed. There he lowered her onto the cool sheets, then settled next to her, leaning over her as he once again rained kisses on her face.
She touched him. His shoulders, his arms, then the breadth of his chest. His skin was smooth to her touch, but not soft like her own. He was all hard planes and unyielding strength. He felt different than Jimmy had. Jimmy had been skinny and...well...different.