Christian didn’t answer, keeping his gaze fixed evenly on Rocco.
‘You said neither of you meant it to happen, so I will ask you one more time: was she just a one-night stand to you?’
If Christian intended to elaborate on his one-syllable answer, his words went unsaid when Rocco’s arm shot out like a bullet.
‘Rocco, no!’ But her scream came too late to prevent her brother’s fist connecting with Christian’s nose, a resounding crack bouncing off the walls on impact.
Christian dropped to the floor with a thump.
Immediately Alessandra fell to her knees beside him. Vivid red blood seeped from his nose.
‘What did you do that for?’ she said, switching to Italian, half-shouting, half-screaming, not looking at Rocco, too busy checking Christian’s vital signs. The pulse in his neck pumped strongly, the only blessing she could cling to. She looked up at her brother, who stood frozen. ‘Don’t just stand there—call for an ambulance.’
Rocco’s broad chest heaved, his face a couple of shades paler than it had been when she’d walked into his office. ‘He doesn’t need an ambulance. He’s already coming round.’
He was right. Christian’s lips were moving.
‘At least get some ice,’ she snapped, somehow holding back the tears.
Not sure if she was doing the right thing or not, she carefully lifted Christian’s head and placed it on her lap. Being as gentle as she could, she ran her fingers over his hair, not knowing or caring if she was comforting him or herself. Of all the scenarios that had played itself out in her head, this was not an outcome she had prepared for.
She should be getting used to that.
‘Are you still here?’ she snarled at her brother. ‘He needs ice.’
‘He needs castration.’ He swore loudly. ‘You’re my sister and he’s a playboy—’
‘And you’re a hypocrite!’ she interrupted. ‘The majority of the women you’ve slept with have been someone’s sister. He’s your best friend and you’re just as big a playboy as he is.’
‘Not any more, I’m not—and I’m not oblivious to those other women being someone’s sister, but you are my sister.’
‘No—I was your sister. After what you’ve just done, I will never call you my brother again. I’ll walk myself up the aisle. Now, get an ice pack and then you can get the hell out of my life.’
* * *
Through the ringing in his ears Christian heard the sound of muffled talking. Arguing.
Was that Alessandra speaking so emotively?
Through the lancing pain in his face came the realisation that, yes, it was Alessandra—that it was her warm lap supporting his head, her gentle fingers lacing through his hair, her normally calm, husky voice pitched at a much higher octave than he had ever associated it with.
Footsteps left the room, the door slamming with a close.
He winced as the sound reverberated through his pounding head.
Well, that had gone better than he’d anticipated.
BACK IN ALESSANDRA’S APARTMENT, Christian lay on the sofa, holding the ice pack in place to the bridge of his nose.
Eyes closed, he heard Alessandra pour fresh coffee out; listened as she padded over the thick rug and placed their drinks on the glass table in front of him.
Gabrielle had brought the ice pack to him, Rocco himself having disappeared from the building.
His old friend had seen straight through their deception, exactly as he’d known he would.
‘You let him hit you, didn’t you?’
He opened his eyes to find Alessandra glaring down at him. She’d changed into a short black skirt, the faded jeans she’d been wearing having been covered in his blood. Her golden legs were bare. Gorgeously bare.
He straightened and put the ice pack down beside his mug.
‘Are you going to answer me?’
‘Yes, I let him hit me.’