Now, standing in the enormous white marble bathroom of the penthouse, it was hard not to linger over the memory of the lovemaking that had caused all that sweat on her skin. As she washed away the traces of his many kisses, the sweet ache of her well-used body remained. She shivered, no longer just warmed by the steamy water but by the memory of how ruthlessly he’d taken her virginity.
Then she straightened beneath the hot water, as everything she’d done last night reasserted itself in her memory. Including the fact that they’d made love with no protection whatsoever.
What the hell had she been thinking?
“Oh, no,” Laney whispered. Closing her eyes, she leaned her forehead against the cool tile.
She was a good girl who’d always followed the rules. She knew the potential ramifications of getting pregnant—how could she not? Her parents, high school sweethearts, had already broken up before her mother discovered she was pregnant. Her father had done the dutiful thing and married her, only to discover that they couldn’t live together without loud arguments. He’d promptly found work on an oil rig that required long months away in the Gulf of Mexico—it paid well, plus he got time away from his wife. The marriage had bumbled along until Laney was ten, when her father was in a horrific accident on the rig, which caused him to lose his sight and the ability to walk. When his broken body was returned to New Orleans, it was the last straw for her mother.
Rhonda Henry had announced she’d had enough of sacrificing herself for other people. Dumping her husband and child on her mother-in-law’s doorstep, Rhonda had hitched a ride with her musician boyfriend, heading west for love, fame and fortune in California. But love swiftly disappeared, and fame and fortune never came. Her mother had comforted her disappointment at first with alcohol, then worse things, until years later she’d died of an overdose on a beach near the Santa Monica Pier.
It had all started with Rhonda accidentally getting pregnant. If not for that, maybe her mother would be alive now, and her father strong and unhurt. If not for Laney being born.
Now she’d taken such a risk!
Stupid. So stupid. She covered her face with her hands. How could she have done it?
Especially knowing that she was certainly going to get fired today?
Turning off the water abruptly, Laney got out of the shower and wrapped herself in a towel.
She wiped the steam off the mirror. Her chin lifted as she looked at the reflection of her own dark, haunted eyes, at her wet hair that looked black cascading down her shoulders.
Whatever Kassius had said last night in the heat of the moment, fairy tales didn’t come true. Princes didn’t marry housemaids. Handsome billionaires didn’t marry ordinary-looking personal assistants.
She would just have to go home and figure it out.
Home. A lump rose in Laney’s throat as she thought of her father and grandmother. It had been two years since she’d seen them. She’d been away for too long, trying to earn enough money to support them all. But without her job here in Monaco, how would they all survive?
Taking a deep breath, she started to comb her wet hair. She’d just have to be strong, that was all. Maybe she’d get lucky. Maybe she could talk to Mimi. Convince her to forgive.
She reached for the oversize white robe on the back of the door. Kassius’s robe? It hung huge on her, dragging on the floor, making her feel like a child dressed up in grown-up clothes. The sleeves hung well over her hands. She rolled them up, then pulled the belt as tightly around her as she could before she went to the kitchen.
“Good morning.” Kassius looked at her appreciatively. “I like you in that.”
Her cheeks colored. “Thanks. Is that coffee?”
He gave her a sudden grin. “Made it myself.”
“Really?” she said, musing how the comtesse wouldn’t have known how to pour water from the tap. “Yourself?”
“It’s New Year’s. My housekeeper has the day off. I’m not totally incompetent. I can make coffee, eggs and toast.”
“No sarcasm, please. Not until you taste this.” Pouring her a cup, he said, “Cream or sugar?”
He added two lumps of sugar and a good amount of cream then watched her as she drank it.
Her whole body relaxed with a sigh. She said honestly, “The best coffee I’ve ever had.”
“I thought so,” he said smugly. “Now go sit down.”
A moment later, he brought out two plates with buttered toast and scrambled eggs. Sliding a plate in front of her, placed his own across from her at the dining table.
She took a bite of the food and was astonished.
“This is delicious.”
“Of course it is. I’m good at everything.”
He took a bite of toast. “You’re pretty good yourself.” Their eyes met across the table. “I’ve never met a sexier woman in my life.”
That reminded her. She bit her lip unhappily. “Last night, we had sex...without protection.”
“Yes,” he agreed, taking a bite of scrambled eggs. He didn’t look at all sorry about it.
“Was I drunk? Were you?” She put down her fork. “To risk getting pregnant by someone I barely know...”
“If you feel you’d like to know me a little better—” his gaze fell to her breasts, then he gave her a smoldering smile “—we could go back to bed.”
Her cheeks went hot as she looked down and saw the top of the oversize robe was gaping widely, showing far more of her chest than was decent. She yanked the robe up higher. “How can you joke?”
His expression changed. “Joke?”
“I can’t believe I risked getting pregnant when I’m about to be unemployed!” She clawed back her wet dark hair, blinking back tears as she raged, “How could I have been so stupid!”
He looked at her skeptically. “Are you seriously worried about losing your job? You can’t tell me you’ll miss Mimi.”
“You have nothing to worry about.” His voice was distinctly chilly as he abruptly rose from the table. “I’ll go with you to Mimi’s.”
“You will?” Hope suddenly rose in her. “You’ll talk to her? Try to convince her to keep me on?”
“No. It’s better to end this quickly.”
Better to end this quickly. Her hope faded, and she felt a little sick inside. Bad enough that she’d slept with him without protection. But would she now discover he’d just been slumming with a one-night stand and had taken her virginity as a momentary amusement? Had all his talk about marriage and children been a lie, or a whim, already forgotten?
Kassius being who he was, and Laney being—well, who she was—how could it be otherwise?
Hiding her deep hurt and regret, she looked down at the white robe. “What should I wear? This?” She lifted her arm, with the oversize sleeve hanging past her hand, to point at the gold ball gown still crumpled on the floor from the night before. “Or that?”
His sensual lips quirked. “You pick.”
She sighed, then grumbled, “Robe, I guess.” Finishing the coffee and food, she said sullenly, “Thanks for breakfast.”
As she rose to leave, he followed her. She turned to him, desperate for the awkwardness to end. “You don’t need to walk me down. There’s really no need.”
“Oh, but there is.” He shrugged. “Anyway, I need to talk to Mimi.”
Now he was done taking her virginity, did he want to make romantic plans with her soon-to-be-former boss? Laney’s scowl deepened. “Fine.”
Silence fell as they got in the elevator and pressed the button for her boss’s floor. She couldn’t help comparing this ghastly morning-after situation to last night, when they’d steamed up the mirrors, unable to keep their hands off each other.
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. Even now, when she was horrified and furious at herself, she could understand why, after being sensible and quiet her whole life, she hadn’t been able to resist him. Kassius had made her feel beautiful. Desired. She’d been swallowed up by ecstasy, devoured by the pleasure of the moment.
But now the moment was over. As soon as she was fired and had packed her things, she’d return to New Orleans. Soon, this night—the most amazing night of her life—would be nothing more than a distant memory.
Unless she was pregnant.
The elevator doors opened with a ding.
“After you,” Kassius said, holding the door.
As she walked down the hall toward the comtesse’s suite, she heard his cell phone ring, and his footsteps slowed behind her. She kept walking.
Could she be pregnant?
What if she was?
Her lips curved softly at the idea of having a baby of her own to love, to hold in her arms...a child with Kassius’s dark eyes...
No. She couldn’t let herself think that way. She was unlikely to be pregnant, and that was a good thing. It would be a disaster right now. A baby was a serious responsibility, and she had nothing to offer. She didn’t have money, a proper career, a husband. She didn’t even have a real relationship with the baby’s father.
All she really knew about Kassius Black was that he was a dangerously sexy billionaire who, for one magical night, had turned her from a servant into a fairy-tale princess in a golden gown. Remembering the way he’d made her feel last night, when she’d nearly wept with ecstasy in his arms, she couldn’t even regret losing her chance at ten million dollars. Because in an important way, he’d changed her life. By seducing her, he’d proven she was desirable, and could feel desire. He’d opened her eyes.