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Page 6 of Be Mine (Holland Springs 6)

Like hell he was. He was the exact opposite of a snob. He got his hands dirty, both literally and figuratively. He’d spent the majority of his childhood living in a drafty cottage, never knowing if he would have enough to eat. It had taken the goodwill of his grandfather to send him to Eton. His own father certainly wouldn’t. He’d been too busy pretending he didn’t have a son, or a wife for that matter. The only time he would show up was on Boxing Day, as if that particular holiday reminded him of his duty to those less fortunate.

But he wouldn’t share any of that with Bella. She didn’t deserve to know. Hell, she’d probably tell him it was his own mother’s fault for having spread her legs for a man who promised nothing in return.

He crossed the small distance between them and grabbed her chin, forcing her to look at him. “You know nothing of me, and after today, you’ll know even less.”

Her golden eyes rounded, and a flash of pain made him gentle his grip. “I know enough,” she whispered. “I know that I made a mistake coming here with you.”

Hurt slashed through him at her easy rejection. It shouldn’t, but it did, and it was the only reason he had for goading her further.

“Aye.” He dipped his head. “But how beautiful you were when you came. You were so eager for me… for my cock.”

“You’re a pig,” she said, her mouth trembling. “I hate you.”

“No, you don’t,” he said and kissed her.

Her hands came between them and pushed him away. She wiped off his kiss with the back of her hand. “I don’t know what I saw in you.”

It was a justifiable reaction to his asinine behavior. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his trousers. “You saw what you wanted. And I did as well.” What was wrong with him? She’d done nothing, nothing at all, to warrant such treatment. So what if she wanted to watch a stupid news channel? “Christ.” She flinched. He took his hands out of his pockets and reached for her again, like he’d done a thousand times in the past two days. “I’m sorry, love.”

For some reason known only to God, she allowed him to take her in his arms and hold her tight. “Please forgive me.” He led her to the sofa, the one they’d broken, and sat down with her in his lap.

“I don’t think we’re meant to be,” she said, but he didn’t take it as an insult.

He stroked her hair and then undid her bun. Silky strands the color of caramel fell around her shoulders. “I think we were what the other needed.”

She made a noise at that, but didn’t reply.

“If anything should come from this weekend together, please know two things.” He gazed into her beautiful eyes. An image of them in a reckless, heated moment flashed, and he swallowed. “Whatever choice you make, I’ll support you, financially, of course, either with paying for a procedure or child support. Two, I programmed my number into your mobile should you need to contact me.”

“Isn’t that gentlemanly of you,” was all she said before she stood. He watched her glance around the room, settling herself it seemed, before her golden eyes met his.

“Don’t worry about the sofa or the bill for the room, I’ll take care of those, too.”

She nodded, wrapping her arms around her middle. “You think of everything, don’t you?”

“I take care of my responsibilities,” he said evenly.

“Just what every woman wants to hear,” she said, grabbing her purse and walking to the door.

He almost stopped her, almost jumped to his feet and—well, what exactly, he wasn’t sure. The door closed behind her.

The sense of relief at her departure that should have arrived never did. Instead, the ache in his chest grew. If he didn’t know better, he would have thought she’d taken his heart with her.

Chapter Three

Present Day

“Whatever you need, Bella,” her brother, Gabriel, began, squeezing his wife’s hand. “Summer and I are here for you. You can move in with us, if you want.”

Bella looked away from their concerned, sympathetic faces. She’d thought it would be easier once her brother knew, but honestly, it was worse.

“That’s nice of you, but I—I have other plans,” she said, unable to say the words for the baby. She was pregnant, almost four months, in fact.

Worse, she was pregnant by a man she didn’t like. Or really know. Or one who even lived on the same side of the ocean. For months, she’d tried to tell herself that she’d be okay.

Only, nothing was okay.

There was no one else she could talk to, not Daisy or her other best friend, Haven. She was too embarrassed. No, not embarrassed. Ashamed. Completely ashamed.

She was the daughter of a preacher. She was constantly in the public eye of Holland Springs, working at The Center with women who were in her very position… She closed her eyes.

Everyone would be so disappointed in her.

Giving in to Liam and spending the weekend with him had been the ultimate of mistakes. She’d known better, but her inner rebellion had gotten to her. Her stupid insistence to throw all caution and good judgment to the wind had come back to bite her in the butt.

Her consequence would be showing in a few weeks, no matter how loose she wore her clothing, and then everyone would know. She would have to face them all, make explanations, and most of all, disappoint the rest of her family and friends.

Tears pricked at the back of her eyes as she opened them, and her nose got all stuffy.

“Have you told Mom and Dad, yet?” her brother asked.

The baby would be a welcomed blessing in her family… if she didn’t have a miscarriage. Sharp claws of fear shot through her, reaching toward her stomach. She wrapped her arms around herself, as if to prevent the fear from touching the baby inside of her.

“No, not yet,” she whispered, refusing to cry. Taking a deep breath, she turned her attention back to her brother and sister-in-law and smiled. “Liam invited me to Scotland to talk about things.”

Summer gave her a small smile. “I’m proud of you for telling him. I know it was hard.”

“He took the news better than expected.” A complete lie. Liam still didn’t know. She hadn’t told him. Her plan was to show up on his doorstep and tell him in person. Not that she expected him to be excited or even want his child.

I take care of my responsibilities.

She shivered.

“Bella?” Gabriel asked. His dark blue eyes narrowed. She’d always had a hard time lying to him, which is why she almost never did. She loved her big brother, and he loved her right back. He’d always looked out for her and her friends. Heck, he looked out for everyone.

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