Brazilian's Nine Months' Notice

By: Susan Stephens

CHAPTER ONE

 HAVING THE NIGHT off from her job as chambermaid to attend the wedding of her best friend in Scotland should have been a cause for celebration. A racing heart made that impossible, because Lucas Marcelos would almost certainly attend the wedding too, which meant no swerving from the truth.

 Luc...

 Would she ever learn?

 No, Emma concluded, staring into the mirror in the ladies room at her rabbit-in-the-headlights face. Her stomach clenched at the thought of meeting up with the man who had fathered her unborn child. There was no doubt. She had taken a pregnancy test three times. It was only a couple of weeks since she’d left London and the bed of the hotel owner and infamous bad boy of gaucho polo, Lucas Marcelos—too early for doctors or scans, or even the physical signs to make themselves felt, other than tender breasts and some nausea, which, she had no doubt, would ramp up when she faced Luc.

 The self-professed playboy was hardly going to leap with joy when he heard her news. He certainly wouldn’t show the same warm charm he had in London. A man as wealthy and successful as Lucas was bound to be suspicious of her motives. He would be even more suspicious if he knew how elated she’d been when she had discovered she was pregnant.

 Emma’s main worry wasn’t for herself. She wondered if Luc would make a good father for her baby. They hardly knew each other, and what she did know about him hardly pointed to him being a family man.

 One step at a time, she told herself firmly, checking the dress that had seemed perfectly fine when she had first walked into the cloakroom and now seemed too tight. Luc was a close friend of the groom so he was bound to be here. The groom, Tiago Santos, was marrying one of Emma’s closest friends, Danny Cameron. When Luc could spare the time from his chain of super-luxury hotels, both men played gaucho polo for the world-famous Thunderbolt polo team. If Luc didn’t show up he would be the only member of team Thunderbolt not attending the wedding. Emma had recognised several striking faces from the team’s publicity photos. Odds on, Lucas was prowling the party right now.

 She’d been on Luc’s hotel training course in London when the principal of the college had brought her to his attention. Luc’s menacing glamour had caused quite a stir at the annual prize-giving ceremony, where Emma had been singled out for special praise for having an extraordinary grasp of the hotel industry. Because she’d cared for his staff and had seen ways to streamline their jobs, Emma had insisted when Luc had praised her afterwards. ‘You interest me,’ he’d said, his dark eyes mesmerising. She just hadn’t realised how much.

 The instant that faintly amused stare had landed on her awestruck face, she had been lost. She’d always been a romantic and Lucas Marcelos more than lived up to his formidable reputation. He was built like a gladiator, and he did look like a god of the underworld, as some of the more colourful media reports had commented. With his wavy black hair, swarthy complexion, sharp black stubble and hard, driven face, Lucas was a primal force, and his interest had led her to progress to a wholly unrealistic fantasy along the lines of working alongside him and seeing him every day.

 When he had stayed on in London this had seemed almost possible, and she had worked hard to maintain a professional front and impress him. As the days had stretched into weeks, she had allowed herself to believe they could be friends. She had opened up to him about her hopes for her future and her dreams of a career within his company. She had been flattered by his continued interest, she supposed now—too naïve to realise that Luc was a practised seducer who could adapt his technique to suit the situation—or that, for a short time, she had been that situation and her chastity had been a challenge Luc had been determined to overcome.

 It had all come to a head on the night she had learned that her parents had been killed in a police chase. She had been so devastated she hadn’t told anyone. She certainly hadn’t told Luc, as she would have had to explain her parents’ criminal past and her own deep-seated grief, which she couldn’t explain even to herself.

 Her parents had never wanted her, and had always referred to her as their accidental child. That hadn’t stopped her loving them, or pursuing an endless quest to win their love. She had made excuses to herself—her beautiful mother found ageing difficult to handle, while her father, a member of the aristocratic Fane family, must have found the pressure to succeed unbearable. On the night they’d died her tears had been genuine—sorrow for them and the lives they had wasted, and acceptance that her long-held dream to find a way to make them love her, had been lost. She could remember the overwhelming need to be held and loved overcoming her.

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