There were a dozen threats he could make to ensure her agreement. He bit them all back. He felt bad enough as it was without adding more ill deeds to the slate against him. There was one more thing he could add, though...
‘I won’t change my mind but you can go ahead and sleep on it,’ he said. ‘While you’re lying in your bed thinking, consider the ramifications if you decide not to take me up on my proposal. If you marry me, scandal averted. If you don’t, the press will crucify you and drag your brother and the entire House of Mondelli through the mud with you. Do you really want to go through all that again? Do you want Rocco to go through all that again?’
She stilled, stormy eyes locked on his.
‘Do you want all the speculation over who the father is? The old scandal being raked up as the world wonders if you’ve been playing around with another married man?’
‘But I never...’
He hated to see the hurt and bewilderment that flashed across her features but he had no choice. For their child’s sake he would deploy every weapon in his arsenal to get her agreement. ‘You know that and I know that. The rest of the world will believe what it wants to believe and, as it’s doing so, the world’s eyes will be on you.’
‘You know how to play dirty,’ she said hoarsely, her chest heaving.
‘I could never have left Greece without learning how. If you refuse, you will have to deal with the press and the world’s attention on your own. I will make no acknowledgement until our baby is born.’
Her throat moved as she swallowed, her eyes blazing their loathing at him. ‘Do not think you can blackmail me, Markos.’
‘I don’t want to blackmail you,’ he said, wondering why the sound of his surname being spat from her delicious, plump lips landed like a barb in his chest. ‘But you leave me no choice.’
She backed to the door and gripped the handle. ‘I’m going to my room now. I’ll give you my answer in the morning.’
‘There is only one answer.’
‘You can still wait on it.’
HIS HEAD THUMPING, Christian entered the magnificent dining room where breakfast was being served. Alessandra was already there. So too were Stefan, Zayed and a handful of other guests who’d stayed the night rather than retire to their yachts or have their helicopters collect them.
It was little comfort that every person in the room looked exactly how he felt. Skata. Like crap.
He might not have been able to get himself as drunk as he’d wanted but his body was punishing him regardless for the quantity of alcohol he’d consumed.
Alessandra’s gaze darted to him. Anyone looking at her could be forgiven for thinking she had a hangover too. Only he knew the dark rings under her bloodshot eyes were caused by a different reason.
He doubted she’d had any more sleep than the snatches he’d managed.
Even so, she still had that certain charisma that she carried like a second skin; her hair, left loose to tumble halfway down her back, as glossy as ever.
He took the seat next to Zayed, who was clutching a black coffee as if his life depended on it, and poured himself a cup of his own. He shook his head as a member of staff asked what he’d like to eat.
All he wanted at that moment was hot, sweet caffeine. And a dozen painkillers.
No sooner had he taken his first sip than Alessandra rose, murmuring something to Stefan, who gave a pained laugh and immediately rubbed at his temples.
He waited long enough not to rouse any suspicion, making innocuous hangover talk with his buddies, before saying he was going for a lie down.
Alessandra’s room was in a different wing from where he and his uni friends always slept when they stayed at the villa. He hadn’t realised he knew exactly which room was hers until he knocked on the door. After a minute of no response, he nudged it open. It was empty.
Moving stealthily so as not to attract attention, he slipped out of the villa and into the gardens.