Duty demanded Max DeLuca take care of pretty and very pregnant Lilli McCall. She was carrying his late brother's baby, and every DeLuca instinct cried out for Max to protect her unborn child. But the cost of bringing Lilli under his roof was Max's carefully controlled emotions. Never had the billionaire experienced such searing passion and such a desire to cherish a woman.
Then Max detected a secret Lilli seemed determined to keep hidden. Would the truth bring him to his knees...or send him running for the door?
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April 07, 2008
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Excerpt from Bedded by the Billionaire by Leanne Banks
"I understand you're pregnant with my brother's child."
Lilli McCall instinctively put her hand over her swollen belly and studied Maximillian De Luca. She'd reluctantly allowed him and his associate into her small suburban Las Vegas apartment. Heaven knew, she'd had several unwelcome visitors since Tony De Luca had died two weeks ago.
She'd spotted the family resemblance between Tony and Max through the peephole of her door--the natural tanned complexion, similar bone structure. Only this man wasn't as pretty as Tony. Tony had been full of easy smiles and charm, and ultimately lies. This man's face was so hard she wondered if it would break into pieces if he smiled.
Tony had told her about his brother, Max. He'd frequently complained that his brother was cutthroat, even with his own family. He'd called him the man of steel, a steel mind and a steel heart.
Lilli had detached herself from Tony for good reasons. She wanted nothing to do with him, his friends or his family.
"Miss McCall?" Max prompted.
Taking a quick breath, she gave a slow nod, willing herself not to be intimidated by the tall man. "Yes, we got involved after my mother died, but things didn't work out between us," she said in a voice she knew was stilted, but she couldn't smooth it for the life of her.
"The details aren't necessary. As you know, my brother died in an automobile accident. He had no will and no provision for children, so--"
"I didn't expect anything from him," she interjected.
He paused, his gaze flickering over her in a considering way again. "Really," he said in a doubtful voice.
His tone jabbed at her. "Really," she said. "Tony was kind to me after my mother died, but it became clear to me that I didn't belong in his world."
"Why is that?"
"I--" She hesitated, her chest tightening as she remembered the fateful night that had made her break up with him for good. "We had different values. I wanted the baby brought up in a different environment."
His gaze fell to her pregnant belly. "You came to that decision a little late, didn't you?"
In more ways than he could know, she thought. "Yes, but I can focus on the baby or on my failures. Focusing on my failures isn't going to help me. So," she said, more than ready for him to leave, "since I wasn't expecting anything from Tony, you don't need to--"
"That's where we disagree," he said and nodded toward the man standing behind him. "Jim, could you give me the paperwork? Lilli, this is Jim Gregory. You may recognize him as someone who has knocked on your door a few times recently."
Lilli tore her gaze away from Max long enough to look at the older man and recognized him. "I apologize," she said. "I live by myself, so I'm not really comfortable opening the door to men I don't know."
"I understand," Jim said and she thought she saw a hint of compassion in the older man's eyes. "Here it is, Max," he said, producing some papers from a manila envelope, along with a pen.
Max took the papers and pen and handed them to
Lilli. "It's a simple document. In exchange for one million dollars now and another million dollars if and when the child reaches the age of twenty-five, you agree to give up any rights to my brother's inheritance. If you should die or fail to raise the child in a responsible manner, you agree to relinquish custody of the child to a suitable guardian of my choice."
Lilli felt her jaw drop to the floor.
"It's all there," Max said. "Let me know if you have any questions."
Lilli stared blankly at the paper and felt her hands begin to shake with anger. Shoving the papers back at him, she stepped backward. "Are you nuts?"
"Should have known," Max said to Jim. "I told you she would want more money."
Stunned, Lilli continued to stare at him. "So you are nuts," she said. "You didn't hear me earlier, did you? I didn't expect anything from Tony. I don't now. And I certainly don't expect anything from you. And if you think for one second that I would let someone I've never met choose who raises my child, you're totally crazy."
"That clause is just to protect the child in the event of your death or in case you develop any dangerous habits." He placed the agreement on top of her mother's marble-top table. "Read it. Sleep on it. I'll negotiate the amount within reason."
She snatched it up to give it back to him again.
He shook his head and held up his hand. "The drama is unnecessary. It costs a lot to raise a child. It will be difficult since you're doing it alone. Think about your child's needs. Do you really want to give up everything this money can buy for your child?" He paused