Taming Natasha Page 51

He looked up—annoyed at first. Then he focused and smiled at her. “Hi. I didn’t expect to see you today.”

“Annie’s watching the shop.” She knit her hands. “I needed to see you.”

“I’m glad you did.” He rose, though the music was still filling his head. “What time is it anyway?” Absently he glanced at his watch. “Too early to ask you for lunch. How about some coffee?”

“No.” Even the thought of coffee made her stomach roll. “I don’t want anything. I needed to tell you….” Her fingers knotted. “I don’t know how. I want you to know I never intended—this isn’t intended to put you under obligation….”

The words trailed off again, he shook his head and started toward her. “If something’s wrong, why don’t you tell me?”

“I’m trying to.”

He took her hand to lead her to the couch. “The best way’s often straight out.”

“Yes.” She put her hand to her spinning head. “You see, I…” She saw the concern in his eyes, then everything went black….

She was lying on the sofa, and Spence was kneeling beside her, chafing her wrists. “Take it easy,” he murmured. “Just lie still. I’ll call a doctor.”

“No. There’s no need.” Carefully she pushed herself up. “I’m all right.”

“The hell you are.” Her skin was clammy under his hand. “You’re like ice, and pale as a ghost. Damn it, Natasha, why didn’t you tell me you weren’t well? I’ll take you to the hospital.”

“I don’t need the hospital or the doctor.” Hysteria was bubbling under her heart. She fought it back and forced herself to speak. “I’m not sick, Spence. I’m pregnant.”


“What?” It was the best he could do; he sank back onto his heels and stared at her. “What did you say?”

She wanted to be strong, had to be. He looked as though she’d hit him with a blunt instrument. “I’m pregnant,” she repeated, then made a helpless gesture. “I’m sorry.”

He only shook his head, waiting for it to sink in. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.” It was best to be matter-of-fact, Natasha told herself. He was a civilized man. There would be no accusations, no cruelty. “This morning I took a test. I suspected before, for a couple of weeks, but…”

“Suspected.” His hand curled into a fist on the cushion. She didn’t look furious, as Angela had. She looked destroyed. “And you didn’t mention it.”

“I saw no need until I knew. There was no point in upsetting you.”

“I see. Is that what you are, Natasha? Upset?”

“What I am is pregnant,” she said briskly. “And I felt it was only right to tell you. I’m going away for a few days.” Though she still felt shaky, she managed to stand.

“Away?” Confused, afraid she would faint again, furious, he caught her. “Now just a damn minute. You drop in, tell me you’re pregnant, and now you calmly tell me you’re going away?” He felt something sharp punch into his gut. Its name was fear. “Where?”

“Just away.” She heard her own voice, snappish and rude, and pressed a hand to her head. “I’m sorry, I’m not handling this well. I need some time. I need to go away.”

“What you need to do is sit down until we talk this out.”

“I can’t talk about it.” She felt the pressure inside her build like floodwaters against a dam. “Not yet—not until I…I only wanted to tell you before I left.”

“You’re not going anywhere.” He grabbed her arm to pull her back. “And you damn well will talk about it. What do you want from me? Am I supposed to say, ‘Well, that’s interesting news, Natasha. See you when you get back’?”

“I don’t want anything.” When her voice rose this time, she couldn’t control it. Passions, griefs, fears, poured out even as the tears began. “I never wanted anything from you. I didn’t want to fall in love with you, I didn’t want to need you in my life. I didn’t want your child inside me.”

“That’s clear enough.” His grip tightened, and he let his own temper free. “That’s crystal clear. But you do have my child inside you, and now we’re going to sit down and talk about what we’re going to do about it.”

“I tell you I need time.”

“I’ve already given you more than enough time, Natasha. Apparently fate’s taken a hand again, and you’re going to have to face it.”

“I can’t go through this again. I won’t.”

“Again? What are you talking about?”

“I had a child.” She jerked away to cover her face with her hands. Her whole body began to quake. “I had a child. Oh, God.”

Stunned, he put a gentle hand upon her shoulder. “You have a child?”

“Had.” The tears seemed to be shooting up, hot and painful, from the center of her body. “She’s gone.”

“Come sit down, Natasha. Talk to me.”

“I can’t. You don’t understand. I lost her. My baby. I can’t bear the thought of going through it all again.” She tore herself away. “You don’t know, you can’t know, how much it hurts.”

“No, but I can see it.” He reached for her again. “I want you to tell me about this, so I can understand.”

“What would that change?”

“We’ll have to see. It isn’t good for you to get so upset now.”

“No.” She swiped a hand over her cheek. “It doesn’t do any good to be upset. I’m sorry I’m behaving like this.”

“Don’t apologize. Sit down. I’ll get you some tea. We’ll talk.” He led her to a chair and she went unresistingly. “I’ll only be a minute.”

He was away for less than that, he was sure, but when he came back, she was gone.

Mikhail carved from a block of cherrywood and listened to the blast of rock and roll through his earphones. It suited the mood he could feel from the wood. Whatever was inside—and he wasn’t sure just what that was yet—was young and full of energy. Whenever he carved, he listened, whether it was to blues or Bach or simply the rush and whoosh of traffic four floors below his window. It left his mind free to explore whatever medium his hands were working in.

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