Authors: Elizabeth Lennox
She spun around on the thick grass, not even ware that it was perfectly manicured without a dandelion in sight. All she saw was this great big man who thought that a shameful relationship was the best she could get, and worse, the best he could offer. “The house isn’t the problem! The implication of what the house represents is the problem. You thought I would be happy to be your mistress? To hang out here, waiting patiently for your time and attention. That’s the problem, Damon. You thought I was mistress material and nothing more.”
She shook her head when he started to argue with her. “Don’t even try to say that you’ve already proposed. You didn’t propose, you demanded that I marry you but that was only because of the baby that we only found out about this morning. No! Before we knew that this baby existed, you only wanted me on standby and were willing to pay me a very large salary, housing included, for my services. Do you understand how it makes me feel t o know that you think of me as a wh…”
“Don’t you dare say that word,” he interrupted, furious now because she was right. He’d messed up. Unknowingly, but he’d been wrong nonetheless. He hated being wrong and normally, he could fix anything. Hell, ordinarily he didn’t mess up. In business, he never made a mistake. He took advantage of other peoples’ mistakes. Women had never been a problem and Damon always knew exactly how to handle each of them until Gabriella came long looking all cute and sexy with her curves and her freckles. This woman threw all the rules out the window and made him start from scratch. She didn’t fit into the box he’d made for the women in his life and it drove him crazy trying to figure her out.
But he wouldn’t allow her to use the word ‘whore’ in reference to what they have together. This wasn’t like that. It wasn’t even like any of the relationships he’d had in the past. What it was, he couldn’t figure out but he was going to have her in his life. Out of everything else, that was the one takeaway.
He looked down at her angry face, still amazed at how beautiful she looked with her cute little red nose and weepy, furious eyes glaring up at him.
With a deep breath, he looked up at the sky, then back down at her. “I apologize. My only excuse is that I didn’t know you well. I thought you would like this house and it would be a good option for both of us to see each other whenever possible. I don’t want you to be a kept woman which is why I had Donna set up the second office for you across the hallway from mine. I don’t want you to quit your job unless you want to. I just thought it would be easier for both of us.”
When she didn’t say anything, and he even spied a bit of her anger seeping away when her shoulders relaxed somewhat, he continued although he knew this comment might backfire on him. “This house will be better for the baby,” he said, his muscles tensing because she probably didn’t care about the baby at all. “I get a lot of death threats in my line of work. My guards have already surveyed this property and they know how to set up adequate security. I’ll try and keep the news of the baby a secret for as long as possible, but the journalists are bound to figure it out sooner or later. Most likely sooner since they follow me around like rats,” he said with disgust. “As soon as they discover that you are pregnant, you and the baby will be in danger. I can protect you here.”
He waited while she absorbed those words, bracing for her assertion that they should terminate the pregnancy if it put her in danger. Her eyes were round with worry and she stepped forward. His stomach clenched in anticipation of her argument but she surprised him once again.
“You’re in danger?” she whispered, her hand touching him gently. “Who would want to kill you?” She hated the idea of anyone trying to harm him. All her anger and humiliation completely dissipated with the possibility that she could lose this man before she even really knew him.
“I’m pretty brutal in business, Gabriella,” he said softly, more affected by her gentle touch and her worried eyes than he wanted to admit. Why wasn’t she yelling about her own protection? Why wasn’t she demanding that they abort the baby so that she wasn’t in danger? It threw him off that her first reaction was for his safety and not her own.
“How many?” she asked, her hand rubbing down his chest to his stomach.
Damon clenched his stomach muscles, willing his body to ignore the lust pouring through him with that simple, caring touch. “I get about four or five.”
She sighed, nodding her head as she took in the realization that four or five people each year thought about killing this magnificent man. She might think it, but only in the abstract he’s-driving-me-crazy kind of thought. Actually writing down her intentions and coming up with a plan or a specific way of accomplishing that thought wouldn’t ever occur to her. “Four or five a year doesn’t seem so horrible. I know lots of people who might be irritated with me. Probably more than four or five.”
He hesitated, but he didn’t want to lie to her, even if it was by omission. Something inside of him wanted their relationship to be honest. And she needed to understand the danger before she committed to this relationship. He’d care for his child no matter what, and he’d always protect her. But if she decided to live away from him, he would accept that. He wouldn’t like it, but he could understand if a person didn’t want to live their life in fear. “Four or five a month, Gabriella. Sometimes more depending on what’s happening in my business or where I am in the world.”
She gasped and shook her head. “That’s crazy!”
He nodded, agreeing with her assessment completely. “Most of the people who threaten public figures are certifiably crazy. I’m a very public figure as well as a wealthy man with powerful connections. That means that death threats come with the territory.” His hand covered hers on his stomach involuntarily.
Gabby watched him carefully, trying to discern if he was just trying to scare her. But everything about him seemed so sincere so she doubted he was lying or even exaggerating. She wrapped her arms around his waist, laying her head against his chest. “I’m sorry you have to live like this.”
His arms went around hers automatically, enjoying her soft body and tender words. “You can help by moving into a place that can be better protected. You don’t have to give up your cottage,” he said, his voice husky in reaction to her concern. He’d learned to live with the threats so they didn’t bother him. He basically ignored them unless his security team came to him with a genuine threat. And even then, it was their job to protect him so he generally merely altered his schedule slightly so they could increase their protection until the threat was decreased or taken care of. “If you don’t like this house, I’ll find you another that you will love. Just say the word.”
She sighed and shifted so that her forehead was against his chest. She then stepped out of his arms and nodded. “As I said, I love this house. I just didn’t like the implication of what you were saying to me. But if this house will protect you better, and this baby, then we’ll move in immediately.”
Damon’s whole body breathed a huge sigh of relief. “Thank you,” he said. “I’ll make sure you don’t regret it.” He was going to take her into his arms and kiss her, but she stepped backwards quickly.
“We’re not sleeping together though.” She would be firm about that. She wasn’t going to be his mistress. That was the line in the sand she was drawing and she wouldn’t budge on that issue. The house was big enough for both of them to live in without running into each other.
Damon almost laughed at her challenge. “Let me get this straight. You’re moving in, today if possible, but you won’t share my bed.”
“That’s right,” she said, nodding for emphasis.
Damon smiled at her adorable stubbornness. Now that the issue with the baby was settled, and he would make sure that it stayed settled, and she would be living here and protected by his security team, Damon could see the humor in her position. She really thought they could live together and not share a bed? Or even have sex? The bed wasn’t the only place upon which he was going to try and seduce her. Hell, any flat surface would do right now.
He would certainly enjoy the challenge. She wanted to pretend she wasn’t affected by him? He’d show her exactly how deep he suspected this desire for each other would go. It might burn itself out, but he didn’t mind being burned over and over again until it died down.
If Gabby had known what she was getting into when she agreed to move into this marvelous house with Damon, she would have hidden in her little cottage and never come out.
She’d drawn a line in the sand with her claim that she wasn’t going to have sex with Damon, but the man didn’t make it easy on her. He demanded that she sleep in the master bedroom and no amount of arguing could convince him that she would be perfectly happy sleeping in one of the other eight bedrooms. So he moved into the second largest bedroom which also had a private bathroom, but the man didn’t seem to think that he needed to completely dress before he came down for his morning coffee. Or any time for that matter.
He woke early every morning to work out and Gabby finally understood where all those incredible muscles came from. He ran for over an hour on the treadmill each morning. After that, most mornings he spent another forty five to sixty minutes doing weights. Several times a week, he also worked out with a trainer at his office doing various kinds of martial arts. Why he did that when he had a full security team of strong, powerful men that consisted of ex-military men or former FBI agents, she had no idea. Suffice it to say that those buff muscles didn’t come naturally. She calculated that the man worked out approximately sixteen to twenty hours a week.
And not a single moment of those workouts could be considered slack time. She became exhausted just watching him. When he was on the treadmill, he constantly increased the speed until he was basically sprinting. And not just for moments but for long periods of time. When he lifted weights, his muscles and veins bulged out with the effort. She only watched one of his martial arts training sessions because it was just too horrifying. It looked like both men were in a fight to the death and it was traumatic to watch.
He rose just before five o’clock in the morning, worked out and was in the office by seven-thirty or eight o’clock. He worked until six or seven each evening, then entertained at social functions, went to charity events or attended dinner parties several nights a week. The man didn’t get to sleep until about midnight every night.
It was exhausting living with him!
By the first weekend, she slept until nine o’clock in the morning, just trying to catch up on the sleep she’d lost from trying to keep up with him and she didn’t even work out as hard as he did. She was satisfied with an easy three or five mile run and her weight routine consisted of half-heartedly lifting weights only a fraction of the size he used.
The first few mornings when she’d joined him, he wouldn’t let her work out. It wasn’t until she’d visited the obstetrician and the doctor had okayed Gabby’s workouts, then he would let her exercise. Damon’s preferred method of dealing with pregnancy was for Gabby to stay in bed and read while Gabby wanted to continue with her routine, just being more careful. Thankfully, her doctor affirmed that Gabby’s idea was better. Exercising was fine, as long as she continued to do what she’d been doing previously and drank lots of water.
The socializing part was almost as difficult. Damon introduced her to everyone but wouldn’t give them an explanation to her role in his life. She’d asked him to simply define her as his friend. He refused to call her anything until she agreed to marry him, upon which time he would introduce her as his fiancée. Since Gabby refused to accept his proposal and he refused to introduce her as a friend, their standoff left everyone wondering and gossiping about what their relationship really was.
Damon didn’t care in the least. In his opinion, the rest of the world could just wallow in their curiosity and he didn’t owe anyone an explanation. His private life was no one else’s business.
Gabby agreed, but it made for some awkward conversations when he wasn’t in the group.
The night that she finally got to meet Damon’s brother was interesting. Damon brought it up casually on the Wednesday morning of their second week together. When he asked if Yuri could come over for dinner on Saturday night, Gabby was surprised that he even wanted to introduce her to his brother.
Saturday night arrived and Gabby was a nervous wreck. She changed her clothes four times before finally deciding on a black turtleneck sweater and black slacks. She felt sophisticated and yet casual, as if she weren’t trying to impress anyone even though she desperately wanted to impress Damon’s brother.
Damon wore a pair of jeans and a loose red shirt, not even tucked in at the waist. She was surprised because Damon was always so put together whenever someone else was around.
Yuri was a complete surprise. She was expecting a similar person to Damon, but the man who showed up was nothing like his brother.
After the two men hugged each other and joked about something in Russian that Gabby didn’t understand, he turned to face Gabby with his arm around the smaller man. “Yuri, I’d like you to meet Gabriella Smith,” Damon said by way of introduction.
Gabby couldn’t believe that these two men were related. Where Damon was tall, dark and today she thought of him as obnoxious, Yuri was about an inch taller than she was, thin with black hair and thick glasses. He looked like the stereotypical college student, although a bit older than normal. Perhaps he was more like the movie image of a teaching assistant, which was his current status while he worked on his dissertation.
Other opposites she observed, where Damon was aggressive and charming, Yuri initially came across as shy and nervous. He wore a corduroy jacket and a white shirt with a light blue, ragged scarf around his neck to ward off the evening chill. His jeans were clean, but frayed at the cuffs and his shoes had definitely seen better days. While Damon looked put together and immaculate even with his shirt un-tucked, Yuri looked as if he’d picked up his outfit from his laundry basket fifteen minutes before he was scheduled to arrive.