I woke to a pounding headache and churning in my stomach. I’d never had a hangover, but I understood that those were the signs. Then again, perhaps it was from the roller coaster ride I was on last night that ended in humiliation.
I laid in bed playing out the entire night before in my head. Chase arriving looking so powerful and handsome in his dark slacks, crisp white shirt, and a coat. It wasn’t much different from the suits he wore at work except he didn’t wear a tie, giving him a more relaxed look.
Did he often ride in a limo or did he do that for me? And the champagne! Hangover notwithstanding, I loved the feel of the bubbles and giddiness the cold drink gave me. At the same time, I had to blame the drink for lowering my inhibitions and had me kissing him and then letting him take me to his place. Although, I might have done that completely sober too. Chase was a potent man that made my body burn just by looking at him. What a cruel trick for Cupid to play on me. The one man who made me feel like a woman turned out to be like all the rest. I really thought he saw me differently. Yes, he was attracted to me, but he hadn’t been lewd about it. Because he praised my work, I’d thought he saw me as more than just my body. Boy had I been wrong.
Even so, I couldn’t deny how good it felt when he touched me. I remembered how his lips sucked on my nipples, sending such powerful sensations through my body. I remembered the intensity of his dark eyes as he took my virginity. And then it all went to hell. I didn’t understand why he was so mad about my inexperience. I couldn’t have been his first and probably wouldn’t be his last virgin.
I’d been humiliated that he’d been able to tell that I was a virgin. And then I was angry that he’d call me out on it while also suggesting I was using my sexuality to get something from him. I growled in frustration. Men were so aggravating. They were the ones always trying to give me something in return for a bit of me, not the other way around.
With that said, the actual sex part was the most powerful and exciting experience of my life. Once the pain of his entry subsided, the feel of him sliding in and out of me was incredible. And for a moment, I saw him lost in his own sexual haze as he sought pleasure. The normally broody and controlled Chase had been a slave to his own need.
Too bad it ended so badly. Today I was left with a headache and upset stomach, and my hips were sore, as was my girlie bit. Was the humiliation worth it? How about my internship? I had to consider he was going to let me go and then what would I do? My only options were to go home and beg my family to take me back or return to Glen. Both those thoughts made me feel worse than the hangover.
Maybe instead of letting me go, Chase would simply move me to a different department and assign a new supervisor. Although I hated the idea of bribing him as it would turn me into exactly what he accused me of being, perhaps I could use our encounter to ensure he didn’t let me go.
My life had been on the upswing. How had it gotten so off kilter?
All weekend, I hid in my tiny studio apartment. Even when Alex called to invite me to Central Park, I declined even though I really wanted to go. I could use a friend, but I was afraid she’d be able to tell what happened. While she didn’t seem particularly impressed with Chase, he did have power over her too, and she’d end up having to be loyal to him.
By the time Monday morning came, I was certain he was going to send me away, and I looked forward to it because I wasn’t sure I could face him. It took all the strength I had to walk into his office. Fortunately, he wasn’t there.
I sat at my desk to complete the last few data reports he’d wanted. I printed them out, then turned off the laptop and cleaned off my desk. I picked up the reports at the printer near Alex’s desk and then put them on Chase’s desk. There. I was done. Then I waited.
Chase entered a half hour later. “Sorry I’m late. I had a meeting with my lawyer this morning.” His voice was formal, and he didn’t look at me as he strode to his desk. He looked at the reports I set there, then put them aside. Finally, he looked up at me. “Is there a problem?”
I studied him, wondering if he’d forgotten Friday night. Maybe I dreamt it. “I’m hoping you’ll reassigned me, but suspect you’re going to terminate my internship.”
He frowned. “Is that what you want?”
I shook my head. All I wanted was to be able to make my way in the world without so much difficulty and drama.
He watched me for a moment and then said. “I do have a… proposition for you.”
My stomach rolled and my heart dropped. He really was the same as all the others. I didn’t come to New York to be a kept woman.
He came around his desk and leaned against it. “First, are you alright?”
I frowned. “Sir?”
“I was a little rough the other night. Did I hurt you?”
I was surprised he cared, considering how mad he’d been. “I’m fine.”
“Good.” He took a breath. “My father recently changed the game for my brothers and me. He seems to think it would be good for us to settle down.”
I hadn’t met Chase’s father, but Alex had mentioned something about the brothers being unhappy with something he’d done recently.
“Normally, I’d ignore him. I’m perfectly content in my life. But he’s attached our inheritance and the control of the company to our starting a family.”
I nearly laughed. Rich people’s families were as dysfunctional as poor people’s. But I still didn’t see what this had to do with me.
“I’ve made this company my life, so I need to play his game, which means I need a wife.”
My brows shot up as I began to understand what he was going to propose. At least, what I thought he was going to propose.
“You need money and resources. I think we can help each other,” he said.
“You want me to marry you so you can get the company?”
He nodded. “In return, you’ll have a place to live, an allowance, access to my network and resources, and ten million dollars to do with as you wish when it’s all said and done.”
Holy smokes. Ten million dollars! I couldn’t even imagine that much money. At the same time, he was doing exactly what every other man with power over me had done. The difference was the payoff.
“You accused me of seducing you for money or marriage, and now you’re here offering me money to marry you.”
He had the decency to look chagrined, when he said, “Yes.”
“Is there anything else I have to do besides marry you?” I couldn’t believe I was actually asking this. I should have been telling him to go to hell.
“You have to have my child.”
I choked. “What?” I thought the marriage thing was crazy, but having his baby was nuts. Did this sort of thing happen a lot with rich people?
“When the agreement is done, you walk away with ten million to do what you want. You won’t be a poor woman anymore,” he said as calmly as if he was asking me to sort data on a spreadsheet.
His eyes narrowed as he cocked his head. “No?”
I shook my head. Did he really think a woman would walk away from her child? “I’m not so proud that I’d turn down being your wife, but I’m not having your baby and I’m especially not leaving one to you to raise.”
His jaw tensed. “You say that like you think there’s something wrong with me or that I wouldn’t be a good father.”
I couldn’t stop the laugh from escaping. “Do you hear yourself? You’re hiring me to play your wife and sell you a baby. You don’t want either. They’re just pawns in a game, so no, I don’t think you’ll be a good husband or father.”
“And you’re willing to walk away from ten million dollars because of that.” His face hardened. I wondered if anyone ever said no to Chase.
“Yes. I know what it’s like to live in a world where people don’t care about you. If you think I’m going to subject another person, a child… my child… to that, you’re crazy.”
“The child will have the best of everything. Nannies, tutors, resources.”
“What about love, Chase? No amount of money would induce me to have a child grow up feeling abandoned by his mother and raised by a father who didn’t really want him.” I picked up my purse. I had no idea what I where I was going to go, but I couldn’t stay here.
“What would it take?” he asked.
I turned to him. “What?”
“What would it take to induce you?”
I gaped at him. Was he really going to push this? I began to see just how important this was to him.
He slid his hands into his pockets, a relaxed move that belied the tension in his face. “What if you stay? You can raise the child. We’ll live as a family. You’ll have some limitations on what you can do that you wouldn’t have if you took the money and left, but if it’s important to you, we can continue the arrangement.”
“What if you meet a woman you do want to marry? Then what?”
He shook his head. “Won’t happen.”
“What if you meet one you want to fuck?” I surprised myself using such a vulgar word. “Is that part of the arrangement too? That I have to take care of your manly needs?”
“Fucking is part of baby making,” he quipped.
“After that. When we’re pretending to be a happy family.” The other night, I thought I’d die if he didn’t touch me. Now I was repulsed by the idea.
“I like to fuck, Sara, but I’m not like Hunter. I can go without. What I can’t miss is running this company someday. If you don’t want me to fuck you, I won’t and I won’t fuck anyone else either.”
I hated to admit it, but I was beginning to think I could agree to this crazy plan. The idea of security wasn’t enough to make me hand over a child to a man like Chase, but if I could stay and be a mom, maybe I could do that. With a child, I’d finally have someone to love who’d love me back for me, not just because of my body. I pictured taking my baby to the park, teaching it how to read, and watching it play sports. All I had to do was turn my life over to Chase for the next eighteen years.
He must have noticed I was wavering. “You’d have the security you want, Sara. I may not be marriage material, but I won’t hurt you. You and the child will have everything you want or need. All you have to do is follow a few rules and your challenges in life are gone.”
The mention of rules made me flinch. My parents had rules. Glen had rules. Would Chase end up being controlling like them? He certainly was the type of man who could.
“What do you say, Sara? Will you be my wife and the mother of my child in return for having the money and support you need?”
“Yes.” God help me.