‘I would never abandon our child,’ he said harshly. ‘I’ve lived without a father; I know what it’s like to wonder where you’re from. I will never let our child wonder who I am.’

 ‘My father said that to my mother. He promised he would love and care for us but he broke it—he broke the promise he made to a dying woman. He abandoned me. He abandoned Rocco.’


 ‘I am not your father. What he did was despicable. After the way my own father abandoned me, I would never give up my own flesh and blood.’

 ‘I have to trust that you won’t be like either of our fathers but I find trusting people, especially men, very hard. If I stay single, then I can nominate the guardian of my choosing.’

 If fire could have shot from eyes then what burned from Christian’s would have had her in flames.

 ‘I will never allow that,’ he ground out. ‘I would fight for our child through every court in every land.’

 The tension that had been cramping Alessandra’s belly throughout the conversation loosened a touch.

 She believed him.

 Their child would have a father. A proper father.

 She just had to hope her trust in this respect wasn’t misplaced. For her child’s sake, she had to try.

 ‘I’m sorry for being melodramatic. I just need to be sure. We both need to be sure. If we marry then that’s it—we’re married. For better or worse. And, if I agree, I want you to promise that you will be discreet in your affairs.’

 His head twisted at her abrupt change of direction. ‘My affairs?’

 ‘I’m not stupid,’ she said with what she hoped sounded like nonchalance. If she was going to marry him, she would do it with her eyes open.

 Christian was an attractive man—oh, to hell with such an insipid description, he was utterly gorgeous. He had the most beautiful eyes she’d ever seen in a man, a real crystal-blue that made her think of calm, sunlit oceans. When he fixed them on her, though, her internal reaction was turbulent; a crescendo of emotions she struggled to understand.

 The way he’d made her feel that night...

 He was used to women throwing themselves at him. She wasn’t so naïve as to believe marriage would tame him. Theirs was not a love match. ‘Our loyalty will be primarily to our child but I do not want the humiliation of your liaisons being paraded on the front pages of the tabloids. All I ask is that from now on you choose your lovers wisely.’

 He inhaled sharply before expelling the air slowly. If his jaw became any more rigid she feared it would snap. ‘Anything else?’ he asked icily.

 She refused to drop her gaze. ‘Only that if we marry I won’t be taking your name.’

 Now she knew how it must have felt like to be glared at by Medusa. Forget mere fire; she could feel her blood turn to stone under his deadly stare.

 ‘Why. Not?’ he asked through gritted teeth.

 ‘Because I like my name and I don’t want to have to start all over again. I’ve spent the past seven years building my career but it’s only been in the last few that my name has become famous for my work rather than my heritage and past exploits.’ Alessandra wasn’t prepared to fool herself. She might be famous at the moment for her photography but she didn’t have the longevity that would still make her name roll off fashion editors’ lips if she took months off. Her work as a photographer could quickly be forgotten, others taking her place.

 More importantly, although this was something she chose not to share with Christian, figuring she’d pushed him far enough as it was, she didn’t trust that their marriage would survive. If she was a betting girl, she would give them until their baby’s first birthday. By then, Christian would be clamouring for his freedom.

 ‘You can keep Mondelli as your business name but in our personal life you will be Markos.’

 ‘Do not tell me what I can and can’t do. Marriage will not make you my keeper.’

 ‘I never said it would. However, one of the main factors in us marrying is to promote stability and unity. Sharing a surname is a part of that.’

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