Read Pregnancy of Revenge Online

Authors: Jacqueline Baird

Pregnancy of Revenge

 

 

"Are you pregnant, Charlotte?"

 

"Yes, I am," she said bluntly. She was thrilled and excited at the prospect, but also frightened, and she wanted nothing more than for Jake to take her in his arms and tell her it would be all right. But by the look on his face she doubted he would.

 

Jake was madder than hell. It was so obvious she had put him squarely in the frame as the father
..
.but was he? No woman had enraged and inflamed him as comprehensively as Charlotte. He had tried to put her out of his mind, but his body would not let him—a galling admission to make, but not one he intended to act on. He had no intention of being conned by a blue-eyed little gold digger—however desirable, he amended, his hard eyes sweeping back up to her lovely face.

 

Jake stiffened, and he was back to his cool, arrogant best, all trace of emotion gone, more like the Jake she knew so well. "There is nothing ideal about bringing up a child without a father. So we will get married as soon as it can be arranged."

 

 

 

 

ISBN 0-373-12502-X

PREGNANCY OF REVENGE

First North American Publication 2005.

Copyright © 2005 by Jacqueline Baird.

 

All rights reserved. Except for use In any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part In any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.

 

All characters
In
this book have no existence outside the Imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.

This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

 

®
and
TM are trademarks of the publisher. Trademarks indicated with ® are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Canadian Trade Marks Office and in other countries.

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Printed in U.S.A.

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER
 
SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER
ONE

 

'EXCUSE
me, Charlotte.'

Ted Smyth, the owner of the prestigious London art gallery, gave the woman at his side a smile. 'But the prospective Italian purchaser of "The Waiting Woman" has just arrived. I must speak to him and get him to sign on the dotted line.'

'Of course.'
Charlotte Summerville, Charlie to her friends and daughter of the artist whose works were being exhibited at the gallery, watched Ted vanish into the crowd and heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Alone at last.
She glanced longingly at the exit. The bald old man who leered back at her must be the Italian purchaser Ted was chasing, she thought grimly. In fact, the whole event was grim to Charlie. Mingling with the top echelons of the London art world was not her scene, and she wondered how soon she could decently leave. Now would be good, she suddenly decided, and edged through the crowd towards the exit.

 

Jake
d'Amato
exited Ted Smyth's office having concluded a deal on a painting he had been determined to obtain from the moment he had discovered it existed. He had arrived in London a few hours ago from Italy, and gone directly to a business meeting. But as he'd checked into his hotel afterwards he had glanced over a stand of leaflets advertising forthcoming events, and the name Robert Summerville had caught his attention. He had unfolded the pamphlet announcing that an exhibition of the late artist's work was to open that evening, and an image of his foster-sister Anna had assaulted his vision. Filled with cold black rage, he had determined to prevent the showing.

A call to his lawyer had informed him that the artist's estate owned the copyright, and legally he could do nothing. Frustrated, he had
realised
he was too late to stop the portrait going on display, but he had made an immediate call to the gallery owner and reserved the painting.

By the time he had arrived at the gallery he had control of his temper. He knew Summerville had a young daughter, and the executors of his estate were entitled to sell the paintings for her benefit.

But Jake had been surprised to discover from Ted that the same daughter had opened the exhibition. What had really captured his interest was the fact she was not the young girl Anna had described to him as a spoilt little selfish brat, but a shrewd businesswoman. It had been her decision to sell the paintings. Robert Summerville was dead and beyond his reach, but a mature daughter put a very different complexion on the situation.

'So which lady is the artist's daughter?' Jake asked Ted with just the right amount of curiosity in his tone. 'I'd very much like to meet her and offer her my condolences on the sad loss of her father.'

And ask her what she intended doing with the exorbitant amount of money she was going to inherit, if the price of the picture he had just bought was anything to go by, Jake thought cynically. Not that he needed to ask—greed, plain and simple, had to be her motivation. Why else would she expose her late father's lovers to public scrutiny without having the grace to inform them first?

He hated Robert Summerville, although he had never met the man. But at least Summerville had had the decency to keep the paintings a secret. Not so his daughter. Jake could have forgiven a young girl for being influenced by the executors of the estate. In his experience most lawyers would sell their own grandmother if the price was right. But for an adult female to have so little respect for the women involved, and one in particular, Jake found disgusting.

His dark eyes narrowed. He could do nothing about the exposure the painting had already received. But he was going to put the woman down verbally and publicly, so neither she nor the assembled crowd would be left in any doubt as to his low opinion of her.

Charlotte Summerville deserved to be shown up for the avaricious bitch she was.

No trace of his tine feelings showed on his hard dark face as he watched Ted look around and then point to a woman at the far side of the room.

That's Charlotte, the blonde over there in black—standing by the portrait you've just bought, as it happens. Come on, I'll introduce you. I can remove the painting at the same time and have it sent to your home as we agreed.'

Musing on the vagaries of the artistic world, Charlie was totally unaware of the interest she had aroused in one particular male patron of the arts.

In life her father had been a modestly successful landscape artist, and it was only after his death that his private collection of nude portraits had come to light. Suddenly Robert Summerville was famous—or perhaps infamous was a better word, as it was rumored he had been the lover of all the ladies he had painted.

It was probably true. Because, much-as she'd loved her dad, there was no escaping the fact that he had been the most self-absorbed, self-indulgent man she had ever known. Tall, blond and handsome, with enough charm to woo a nun out of her habit, he had lived the life of the bohemian artist to the full. But he had never truly loved any woman.

No—she was being unfair. Her father had loved her, she knew. After her mother had died when she was eleven, her dad had insisted she spend a few weeks' holiday every year with him at his home in France. And he had left her everything he owned.

Charlie had known about one of the nude portraits, but she had discovered the rest when clearing out her dad's studio with Ted. It had come as something of a shock, but no great surprise. That was partly because, on her first visit to her father in France after the death of her mother, she had met Jess, his then lady friend, and liked her. But when Charlie had walked into his studio uninvited one day and found her dad naked with Jess, and saw the portrait he was working on, her dad had reacted with shame and fury. From then on he had always sent his current lover away when Charlie spent time with him.
For a man of his morals to be so protective of his daughter was ironic, to say the least.

Ted had taken one look at the portraits and suggested arranging an exhibition. He'd advised Charlie to open it, to add human interest and help the sale of her father's work even more than his sudden death at the age of forty-six had done.

At first Charlie had flatly refused. She did not need the money. She had earned her own living for the past six years, when after the death of her grandfather she had taken over the running of the family hotel in the Lake District that had been their business and her home for all her life. But she knew thousands of people who did need the money.

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