‘So we are in agreement?’

 ‘Yes. We are in agreement. I will marry you.’

 It was Christian’s turn to exhale. Who would have thought he would feel relief to hear a woman agree to marriage?

 ‘It would be best to marry as soon as we can—before you start showing.’

 ‘I don’t want to arrange anything until I’ve spoken to Rocco.’

 The mention of her brother’s name hit him like a blow: the metaphorical elephant in the room spoken aloud.

 ‘We will speak to him together.’

 ‘It will be best if I speak to him alone. He’s my brother.’

 ‘And he’s one of my closest friends. He’s not going to be happy about this.’

 ‘I would prefer it if he gave us his blessing but if he refuses...’ She sighed, a troubled expression crossing her features.

 ‘We will wait until he returns from his honeymoon,’ Christian decided, although his guts made that familiar clenching motion they did whenever he thought of what his friend’s reaction would be.

 Rocco would never forgive him.

 He didn’t blame him.

 Whatever was thrown his way, he would take. It would be no less than he deserved.

 He remembered the first time he’d met Rocco, Stefan and Zayed during his first week at Columbia. He’d never left Athens before that, never mind Greece. New York had been a whole new world. He’d felt out of his depth on every level, especially when comparing himself to his new friends’ wealth and good breeding. He’d had neither and hadn’t been able to understand why they’d accepted him as one of their own.

 Even now, a decade on when his own wealth rivalled the best in the world, he still struggled to understand what they’d seen in him.

 He was Christian Markos, born a gutter rat without a penny to his name. She was Alessandra Mondelli, born into one of Italy’s premiere families. She had class and breeding. She could be a princess.

 In a perfect world she would marry someone from a similar background. Someone worthy of her.

 All the same, they might be from disparate backgrounds but on marriage they had common ground: relationships were not for either of them. In that one respect they were perfect for each other. She would never need him or require more than he could give.

 And he would never need her.

 Messy, complicated emotions would never infect their marriage.

                       CHAPTER FOUR

 ALESSANDRA PRESSED THE button allowing Christian into the building and took deep breaths to compose herself.

 It would be the first time she’d seen him in ten days.

 They’d spent a couple of days together in Milan, seeing her doctor then a private obstetrician. Both had confirmed that she and the baby were in excellent health. She’d known in her guts everything was well but hearing it vocalised had lifted a weight she hadn’t been aware of carrying until it was gone.

 A scan had been taken, a copy of which they had both taken before Christian had left. She’d spent hours gazing at that picture, making out the tiny head and limbs, so imperceptible she had to rely on memory from where the nurse had pointed. Sometimes, gazing hard, everything inside her would constrict, her throat closing so tight that she had to swallow to loosen it. Her beautiful baby. Her and Christian’s beautiful baby.

 She hadn’t see him since, all their communication coming via daily text messages and phone calls, during which he filled her in on all the wedding plans. He wanted a Greek wedding so it made sense for him to organise it. She didn’t think she would have been able to handle getting involved anyway. She was having a hard enough time coping with the magnitude of what she’d agreed to.

 She’d known Christian since she was twelve and Rocco had brought the Brat Pack—as she privately called her brother and his little gang of university friends—home for a week-long holiday at the family villa. But she didn’t know him.

 He drank bourbon rather than his national drink of ouzo. He was a snazzy dresser. His brain was lauded around the world. He was completely self-made. He liked rock music. He’d slept with a quarter of the world’s most beautiful women, the others being shared out between her brother, Stefan and Zayed. He was used to getting his own way. And that was it. The rest was a mystery. She was marrying a stranger.

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