Neither did she.
She had to let this go. The disappointment over her failed marriage may linger forever, but now that she was pregnant, the murky past was overshadowed by brighter possibilities. A baby, a pure little life undisturbed by history, didn’t deserve to know the brutality one human being could inflict on another.
Trevor may have defeated her spirit once. But she could break this pattern of fear. No matter how vulnerable it made her, the defensive walls she clung to must fall. Though she wasn’t clear on how to accomplish the fearlessness she envisioned for herself and her child, she believed her new determination was a good beginning.
The tears stopped. She reached for a fifth tissue and noticed a strange lightness within. She felt better, like she’d actually be okay.
As she blotted her face, the diamond on her finger glinted, a gentle wink. It was nothing more than a prop, a glittering shield to hide her pregnancy symptoms.
Yet somehow the physical solidness, the weight of it on her finger and the screen of protection it offered gave her comfort. She could be sick to her stomach, dizzy, or burst into tears…and it was all right. No need for excuses, or to pretend she was something she wasn’t. The jewel symbolized a safety net that would catch her if the weight of her reality became too heavy to bear.
She heard a noise outside the bathroom door.
“You okay in there?” Logan’s concerned voice penetrated the drone of the plane’s engine.
“Never been better.” Ironically, it was true.
She didn’t dare look in the mirror. She blew her nose one more time and then opened the door. As if falling to pieces in an airplane bathroom and sobbing for ten minutes was perfectly normal.
When she stepped out, Logan assessed her. Seeing deep grooves crease his forehead, she assumed she must look awful. She brushed past him.
“Want to talk about it?” he asked.
“Can we talk about food? I’m starving.”
“Is that all?”
His gaze was probing. “You sure?”
After he had her fed and content, she drifted off to sleep. At one point her head dropped forward, her hair sliding over her face like a variegated blonde curtain.
Worried she’d wake with a stiff neck, Logan crossed the aisle with a pillow. He lifted her face gently and tucked the pillow between her head and the window casing. He lowered the shade and let her sleep. She obviously needed it.
Her makeup was streaked from tears. He wanted to hold her, watch her sleep in his arms. His gaze drifted to her finger.
A thrill of triumph went through him. She still wore the ring, which sparked a reckless hope he had no business considering right now. As long as he didn’t say anything to make her run for cover, he stood a chance.
While he had a decent well of patience, he was no saint. He wasn’t a man to wait for what he wanted. With her, he had no choice. He sent her a look that carried the burden of his wordless thoughts. One that would’ve sent her into surefire flight-mode had she been awake.
Restlessness was a shadow he couldn’t shake. He wondered how long his wait for her would be. Or if it would ever end.
He knew she was good. That’s why Logan was paying her twice the rate he’d shell out for another instructional designer and trainer to assist in presenting his system.
But Logan had no idea Allison could wow an audience—him included—for three hours straight. Despite her minor upset on the plane, she stood by his side looking flawless. She gave a world-class presentation she must’ve spent weeks preparing. Every frame of the slideshow was a work of graphic art genius. Every statement she offered to back up his theories and claims showed her masterful knowledge of his system and salesmanship. Her well-timed wit sent chuckles rolling through the panel. Her smiles were infectious. Her personality dazzling.
She was in rare form, and she made it look effortless.
Logan was blown away.
So was the panel, because when the presentation concluded, their influential audience asked her as many questions as they asked him. She deferred to him often, but they fielded inquiries as a team. No one could’ve invented a more ideal partner for him. Like gift-wrapped perfection on Christmas morning.
Turned out she was right, the ring was unnecessary…as far as her health was concerned. She never gave a sign she was exhausted or uncomfortable or sick. And hot damn, she was a trophy in her red skirt-suit that molded to her curves, made more voluptuous by her pregnancy.
He wasn’t sure whether to gloat or be offended by men’s appreciative glances. Those glances weren’t as irritating as the outright lecherous stares, when the less discreet men in the room undressed her with their eyes. And whatever the hell else they were doing in their imaginations that put perma-grins on their faces when they spoke to her.
Their indecent attention was more pronounced at the gala hosted by Senator Coffee at his McLean, Virginia, estate outside of D.C. Logan had been invited there after the presentation, the perfect opportunity to pitch his system. Allison had instantly agreed to go with him. She knew how to work a marketing angle—and a room—as well as he did. Or better, by the looks of things.
From his position at the senator’s well-stocked bar, he watched her charm middle-aged opportunists. She seemed enamored with every guy who started a conversation with her. They stood too close, touched her too often. He wanted to shove into the circle of testosterone surrounding her and claim her like a damn Neanderthal.
He tossed back his scotch, set the glass down hard.
I could buy and sell any one of them ten times over . The self-righteous assertion annoyed him even more. He wasn’t the type of guy who needed reassurances.
“Can I get another drink over here?” he barked.
The bartender approached, bottle in hand. He pulled out a twenty, stuffed it in the tip jar and emptied this glass faster than the first.
Logan had experienced jealousy before. But nothing that compared to this gut-clenching, white-hot possessiveness that could make a man physically ill and half-insane.
Worst part was that if Allison knew what was going on in his head, she’d walk right out his door. If he showed any sign of possession or domination, she’d be gone.
Not an option.
So he suffered in silence. He needed to take his eyes and mind off her long enough to throw out some sales pitches, his whole reason for being here.
A familiar face approached the bar. Logan recognized the man from their presentation. He mentally snapped his fingers—the defense minister from Brazil.