Seduced by the Billionaire, Book 3
It’s love or nothing…
All Amandine Monroe ever wanted was to fit in with her glamorous and wealthy in-laws and live happily ever after with her irresistible billionaire husband Gavin Lloyd. Three years after the wedding, she’s still nowhere near fitting in with her in-laws, and Gavin has given her everything—except his heart.
When she finds out she’s pregnant, she decides she can’t raise her child in a home devoid of love. If she can’t have Gavin’s heart, only a divorce will do.
Possessive and driven, Gavin won’t let the only woman he truly cares for walk away without a fight. He demands full custody of their child or a chance for them to reconcile.
Saving their troubled marriage will require more than expensive gifts and a second honeymoon. If Amandine and Gavin can’t overcome their pride and private fears, they’ll have to let go of each other forever…
Previously published as Redemption in Love.
Amandine Monroe Lloyd sat with her legs pressed together and ankles crossed in Dr. Silverman’s office. The good doctor had a prosperous practice in Los Angeles, catering to the significant others of the rich and famous. The waiting room was decorated in soothing sage and creamy yellow, just like the office. Instead of posters warning women about the dangers of various illnesses, the clinic walls had tasteful prints of modern art, the kind that people in Amandine’s husband’s social circle would easily drop a few million dollars to own. If they had been the originals, of course.
Until her marriage, she’d never been able to afford a gynecologist who had a private practice, much less one as high-class as Dr. Silverman’s. She squirmed in her seat. Her pink chiffon Oscar de la Renta dress and matching Manolo Blahnik stilettos cost more than what most people made in a month and should have been enough to make her feel like she belonged in the office. But they were something her personal shopper—one her husband had hired—had bought to ensure she looked the part of Mrs. Gavin Lloyd. She would never have spent that much on something she’d end up wearing only once or twice, but her shopper bought something new every other day. Maybe the woman was trying to compensate for the fact that Amandine didn’t want her clothes custom-tailored in Europe like Gavin.
She studied the little pots of aloe on the window sill, counting their spiky leaves. What could be taking Dr. Silverman so long?
A few minutes later, the doctor walked in and took her seat at the desk. In her early forties, Dr. Silverman was model-thin and short—shorter than Amandine’s five-five—with a friendly face and warm green eyes. She wore a white doctor’s lab coat over a peach tunic and a skirt as brown as her hair. Her shoes were sensible pumps, unlike Amandine’s impractical stilettos.
“Congratulations again.” She handed Amandine a discreet ivory envelope made of expensive paper. There was nothing on the outside except the clinic’s logo. “Here’s the sonogram so you can share it with your husband. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.”
“Thank you.” Amandine put it in her purse, her hands less than steady. She and Gavin had never discussed having children. But it’d been three years since they’d gotten married, so wasn’t it about time they thought about the next generation?
Okay, so their third anniversary was tomorrow. Almost three years.
“By the way…” Amandine began.
Dr. Silverman put her hands together. “Yes?”
“Does it matter that we used birth control all this time?”
“What do you mean?”
“Is the baby”—Amandine put a hand on her belly—”going to have a problem because of that?”
“Not at all. Don’t worry. No birth control works one hundred percent of the time. But that doesn’t mean that pregnancies occurring during usage aren’t viable, or that your baby will run a higher risk for any particular condition.”
“The most important thing for you right now is to relax, eat healthy and do some light exercise three to four times a week,” the doctor said, ticking off the points on her fingers. “The receptionist will give you a booklet with everything you need to know. It has two copies of Nutrition, one for you and one for your staff. I’m sure your cook can come up with something acceptable based on my recommendations. If you need more information or have any other concerns or questions, feel free to contact me at any time.”
“Thanks.” The reassurance made her feel a little better. Gavin paid a hefty fee every year to ensure that Amandine could remain a patient at the private concierge service clinic, and unlike some physicians, Dr. Silverman really was available at all times via phone, email or text.
“I want to do another exam in two weeks. Please see the receptionist to schedule your next visit.”
Amandine walked out of the office and into the waiting area. Her best friend and personal assistant Brooke de Lorenzo rose from the comfortable white leather couch. She had on an eye-popping outfit, as usual; this one consisted of a sleeveless magenta top, a teal mini-skirt and a golden loop belt. The top was slightly loose, but the skirt was tight enough to show off her butt, the “spoils of the gym” as she called it. Big gold hoops dangled from her ears, her short sassy bob framing a pretty face. Her black platform boots moved silently over the carpeted floor as she approached, two bags hanging from one of her shoulders.
“Everything good?” she asked, her eyes level with Amandine’s. The two of them were the same height, and today so was their footwear.
“Great. When do you want your next appointment?” She pulled out a tablet.
“Two weeks from now.”
She conferred with the receptionist and nodded. “Okay. Ten o’clock.”
The receptionist tried to hand Brooke a card with the time written on it, but she waved it away. “Got it.” She flashed the fancy tablet and put it in one of the bags.
Brooke and Amandine walked into the elevator together. “I should call Gavin.” Amandine wanted to tell Brooke the news, but of course her husband should be first.
“Okay.” Brooke waited until they reached the lobby, then dialed his number and handed the phone to Amandine.
“You know you don’t have to do phone duty, right?” Amandine said, pressing the stylish gadget to her ear and walking toward her car.
“Gotta earn my keep.”
“I keep you plenty busy with more important things. Like organizing yet another charity function.” Amandine hated fundraisers, but it was something she realized she needed to do as Gavin’s wife. She wasn’t an art teacher anymore.
Gavin picked up on the fifth ring. “Hey, sweetie,” he said.
“I’m in the middle of something. Is it urgent or can I call you back?” he asked, speaking fast.
Did her pregnancy qualify as “urgent?” It might be better to wait until he had some time to digest the news. “Later is fine. Call me.”
She handed the phone back to Brooke with a sigh. “He’s busy.”
“He’s always busy. You should’ve told him you want to talk now.” Brooke peered at Amandine. “If you’re calling him, it must be important.”
“It’s okay.” She should’ve known better than to call during the workday.
Brooke took the driver’s seat of the pearly Mercedes coupe Gavin had bought for Amandine on her last birthday and put on a pair of oversized sunglasses. They were shaped like butterfly wings. “I’ll drive. You just relax.”
“Thanks,” Amandine said, shoving some more conservative shades onto her own face. Brooke was one of the best drivers she knew. That was the only reason she’d been able to convince Gavin not to hire a chauffeur.
“So what is it? Not cancer or anything, right?”
Amandine choked, then started coughing. “Of course not. Why would you even think—?”
“Don’t give me that. You looked totally shell-shocked coming out of the doctor’s office.” Brooke’s short but artfully manicured green fingernails tapped the steering wheel. “And you hardly ever call Gavin at work.”
Amandine hesitated, then blurted, “I’m pregnant.”
“Wow! Seriously? Congratulations! I didn’t know you guys were planning to start a family.”
“He wasn’t.” She’d been wanting a family, a couple of children at least to fill their huge mansion, but somehow it had never come up. “I mean, we weren’t.”
Amandine looked at the semi-congested road ahead and sighed. “I’m just a little worried is all. Gavin’s never said he wanted kids.”
“You should think about what you want, too. That’s what being a couple means, right?” Brooke made a deft turn onto a smaller street with fewer motorists and accelerated. “Anyway, it’ll probably work out.”
“How? Gavin hardly ever has time to spend with me anymore. How will he make time for a child?”
“He’ll figure it out. Children have a way of changing your priorities.” Brooke paused. “You know Sandy and Eugene?”
“Sure. They had a girl last year.” Amandine had sent a large basket of baby goods, with the help of her shopper, Josephine, who’d gone wild in various boutiques, selecting all sorts of cute little things. The woman knew quality, and Amandine had wanted the best for Brooke’s older sister’s first-born.
“Okay, you can’t tell anybody, but…they were thinking about separating.”
Shock shot through Amandine. “Are you serious? They seem so in love.”
“Sandy’s not the type to air her dirty laundry in public, but believe me, they were having problems. Fighting about all sorts of stupid stuff all the time…they’d just about decided it wasn’t worth it, even though a divorce would’ve killed the parents.”
“It must’ve been pretty serious for Sandy to risk disappointing your father.”
Brooke glanced heavenward. “Oh my god, you have no idea.”
Brooke and Sandy’s father had raised his two daughters alone after his wife’s death, working himself to the bone to provide for them. Amandine had spent some time with him when all of them were younger. Though he was one of the nicest people she knew, in some ways he was also one of the most conservative. He wanted his family to be together and happy, and for his elder daughter to divorce would have been a huge blow. Amandine had a feeling that Eugene’s parents were similar.
“Anyway, the pregnancy changed everything. All of a sudden all the little stuff just didn’t seem that important in comparison to this new life and they, you know, kind of re-set their relationship for the sake of the child. And it worked out.” Brooke’s lips twisted in a wry smile. “I imagine they took their counseling and stuff more seriously too, once there was more at stake. So Gavin might do the same, feeling all responsible and fatherly. Which of course means he’ll be home more.”
“Or he’ll just hire an army of nannies.”
“He’ll probably do that too, but his family’s really big on children. All those family gatherings? I can’t imagine Gavin being any different. You see how he treats his nephew, making time for him no matter what.”
“That’s true.” Gavin adored his nephew and spoiled the boy rotten whenever he got the chance. Why would he love his own child any less?
“Who knows? Maybe he’ll indulge the kid so much you’ll end up wanting to kill him for undermining your authority.” They both laughed as Brooke brought the coupe to a stop in front of the heavy wrought-iron gates that marked the entrance to Gavin and Amandine’s estate. She entered the security code into a number pad and placed her thumb against the fingerprint scanner. The gates slid open as the security system accepted her access credentials, and the Mercedes started the long winding drive to the main door of the mansion.
Amandine thought, Wouldn’t that be great? She’d rather have Gavin be a doting, overindulgent father than a neglectful one. That way their child would know it was loved unconditionally. She wouldn’t mind playing bad cop and taking responsibility for disciplining the kid.
“Smile and have happy thoughts.” Brooke stopped the car in front of the pale cream marble steps that led up to the main doors. White ionic columns topped by Corinthian capitals stood sentry on either side. “I sent Luna a text, so I’m sure she’s got something nutritious already made. I’ll put the car in the garage and meet you in the dining room. Don’t forget; you’ve got a meeting with the Art4Kids Foundation board at 2:30.”
* * * * *
Around midnight a black Bentley pulled to a stop in front of the mansion and Gavin emerged from the rear. “Thanks, Thomas.”
“My pleasure, sir. Good night.”
Gavin watched as the car traveled along the long looping driveway and disappeared around the curve that led to the garage in the back. Thomas worked a hectic schedule to accommodate Gavin’s even crazier one. But in the eight years he’d been on the staff he’d never once complained about the hours. Fortunately for everyone, Thomas had an understanding wife who appreciated the generous pay and benefits that allowed her to be a stay-at-home mom.
Gavin remembered that the youngest of their three children was autistic. Thomas should get a big Christmas bonus and raise for the next fiscal year. He’d earned it, and his family would put it to good use.
Only one lamp was lit by the door. There used to be more lights in the evening, but Amandine had thought it wasteful.
“Darling, we can afford it,” Gavin had told her.
“Still… Let’s not be frivolous with electricity.”
So one light it was. He didn’t mind. Whatever made her happy was fine by him.
He unlocked the door. Their housekeeper, Luna, didn’t come out to greet him. She never stayed past dinner-time unless he or Amandine specifically requested it. He walked up the winding steps to the master bedroom suite on the second level, his dress shoes clattering on the cool marble floor.
The master bedroom suite was what had sold Gavin on the mansion five years earlier. The room was big, with three ceiling fans and windows that looked out to the green and lush garden surrounding the house. He’d had the walk-in closet and bathroom redone before moving in. After the marriage, he’d told Amandine to redecorate if she wanted, but she’d declined, saying everything was already perfect.
A night-light provided just enough illumination for him to see inside the bedroom. Amandine was curled up in bed, her breathing deep and even. She looked so small and vulnerable in sleep. Carrying his shoes, he walked across the freshly waxed hardwood floor carefully, trying not to wake her up. He slipped inside the big walk-in closet, shed his clothes and went into the bathroom to brush his teeth.
As the pungent taste of mint coated his tongue, he suddenly realized he’d never gotten a chance to call Amandine back. He’d wanted to know why she’d called even though she’d said it wasn’t urgent. Damn it. He rinsed his mouth. Too late to talk now. He should’ve stopped the meeting for a few minutes and spoken with her. As his wife, she deserved it.
He wouldn’t have time to linger around in the morning. His first appointment was at seven thirty sharp, and she seemed to be sleeping in these days.
He crawled into bed, and she moved over and curled against him. She was all softness and fresh apple, and his cock swelled. It’d been close to two months since they’d had sex. Damn it, he wished it weren’t so late so he could seduce his wife. And he wished he didn’t have to work so much, so he could spend more time with Amandine, but he needed to watch over everything at work to ensure nothing unexpected happened. Then there were the charities and foundations he supported. Thankfully Amandine had taken over many of them, but that still didn’t free him from the hours he needed to devote to them.
Her left hand rested on his bare chest. The sapphire and diamonds on her finger gave a muted sparkle in the night light. They looked good on her—perfect actually. The ring had belonged to his grandmother, who had been the greatest love of his grandfather, and it seemed apt that Amandine wore it now. Did she have any idea how much he wanted to spoil and coddle her?
A small frown appeared on her brow, and he kissed it, willing it away. Her happiness was paramount to him, yet no matter what he did, he couldn’t help but sense a vague undercurrent of dissatisfaction from her. However, every time he gently probed, she smiled the maddeningly serene smile of hers and said nothing was wrong…while her eyes grew remote and guarded.
One more hectic day for him, then they’d have their anniversary to enjoy. His schedule was insane right now, crammed with so much work. Still, it was worth it to spend the afternoon and evening of their anniversary together, even though it was a work-day and he rarely took time off. As much as he needed to be in the office, he couldn’t dismiss a sense of unease that his wife was slipping away from him.
If you remembered to do things like call her back, she might not be slipping away. You need to figure out how to make up for not returning that call.
How should he make amends? He scowled as he mentally flipped through his calendar—no free slots for a while. Going to a concert or to an art gallery opening was out.
The second-best thing to offer would be a week-long stay in Paris for her and Brooke. Though the latter was her assistant now, she’d been Amandine’s best friend since forever. Gavin had hired her mainly because Amandine trusted her.
An all-expense-paid trip should make up for whatever slight Gavin had caused earlier that day. Women would forgive almost anything for some luxurious girl time and good shopping. And he was certain Amandine would too…especially when she saw her anniversary present.
“…the chemistry between the two lead characters was absolutely explosive…” — Trips Down Imagination Road
“The characters in this book, I just LOVED. I completely loved Amandine’s character. I thought she was an amazing woman who stood up for what she wanted, and she wouldn’t do anything she didn’t. Granted, Gavin did have a few tricks up his sleeve, but overall I thought she was just great. Now with Gavin’s character, there were quite a few times when I started laughing out loud because of his reaction to certain things.” — Crystal’s Many Reviews