All the same, she had to try and put a little faith in him. He was the father of her child. But then, her own father was the worst liar of all. He’d lied to her mother on her deathbed, promising to care for their children, never to leave them. That had been the biggest lie of all.

 The only men she trusted were her brother and her grandfather. It had broken her grieving heart to learn recently that her grandfather had had his own dark secrets.


 If it hadn’t been for his death, she would never have slept with Christian. She’d bumped into him in the House of Mondelli headquarters after she’d had a meeting with the fashion director about a campaign she’d been hired to shoot. Christian had turned up to take her brother out but Rocco had been in New York.

 She’d been in a bad place, she could see that now, trying to cope with her grief but not having a clue how to manage it. She’d never known pain like it. It still had the power to lance her.

 Christian had presented the perfect opportunity for a night out where she could forget her pain for one evening, so she’d talked him into going out with her instead. Not for a minute had she imagined she would fall into bed with him.

 But she had done just that and now she had to pay the consequences.

 And so did Christian.

 She might never be able to trust him but she’d had enough faith, whatever her state of mind, to lose her virginity to him. That had to account for something.

 She wished he would say something. His frame was still but his eyes were alert. She couldn’t read them. Couldn’t read him.

 ‘When news of the pregnancy comes out the press are going to swarm all over it. I’ve lived through one scandal and I can’t go through that again on my own. I just can’t.’ Simply imagining going through it all again made her hands go clammy and her stomach churn. How clearly she remembered those awful days when the paparazzi had laid siege to Villa Mondelli, leaving her a prisoner in her own home. She’d never been so scared and alone in all her life. ‘If I know I can rely on you for support when I need it, and later on when our baby needs it, I might be able to sleep again.’

 Christian’s throat rose before he twisted onto his side and grabbed his bourbon and glass. He poured a hefty measure and offered it to her.

 She shook her head.

 ‘Of course not,’ he muttered, taking a large swallow of it. ‘You’re pregnant. Did you not drink today?’

 ‘I had a small champagne during the toasts but that’s all.’

 He got to his feet and headed back to the window, peeking through the curtain.

 ‘Will you support me?’ she pressed. For her own peace of mind she needed to know. If he refused she didn’t know what she would do other than fall into a crumpled ball. Or maybe join a convent.

 No. She wouldn’t do either. For the sake of the life inside her, she would endure.

 ‘Will you support our baby and be its father?’

 * * *

 The ringing that had echoed in Christian’s ears since Alessandra’s pronouncement that she was pregnant subsided.

 He gazed at her belly, still flat under the lilac of her dress, not a hint that within it lay the tiny seed of life.

 The life they had created together.

 His baby.

 He was going to be a father.

 As this knowledge seeped through him, he thought of his own father, a man who’d left before Christian had been old enough to memorise his features. He had no memories of him, no possessions to place a tangible hold on him. Nothing. Not even a photograph. His mother had burned them all.

 If there was one thing he knew with bone-deep certainty, it was that he didn’t want a child of his being raised without a father to look out for him or her.

 From infancy it had been just him and his mother, a woman whose bitterness ran so deep it seemed to seep from her pores. His father had turned his back on them both and in turn had created the woman she’d become.

 Christian would not be that man.

 He raised his gaze from Alessandra’s belly to meet her eyes, a sharpness driving in his chest to see all the fear and uncertainty contained in them. Despite the braveness she strove to convey, her hands trembled, her teeth driving in and out of her plump lips as she awaited his response.

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