She didn’t bother to hide her scorn. ‘Money.’ The only thing he enjoyed more than bedding women.
His blue eyes flashed sharply. ‘No. A legacy. But even if I didn’t have the wealth I would still want us to marry. I know what it’s like growing up without a father and I will not have my child go through that. I want my child to have my name and know he—or she—is mine.’
How did he do it? No wonder he was reputed to be one of the greatest financial minds in the world. Money was what Christian dealt with every day, a world-renowned financial genius advising all the major corporations in all the different sectors.
She’d spent days agonising over all the possible details. He’d grasped the situation and dissected all the permutations in an instant. Having only known him as her brother’s friend, she’d never appreciated this side of him before.
She appreciated it even less now.
‘You can still be a father to our child without marriage.’
‘And you can still be a single mother without any support other than financially,’ he said, a warning note coming into his voice.
‘I’ve already told you, I don’t need or want your money.’
He inhaled a long breath. ‘I’m trying to do what’s right here. I don’t want to force your hand but I have to think of our child. He or she deserves stability—marriage gives that. Or is your freedom more important?’
Christian watched Alessandra suck her cheeks in at his remark. He didn’t blame her. Right then he was prepared to say whatever it took to get her to agree.
Theos, an hour ago the thought of marriage would have made him run all the way to Hong Kong but now here he was, virtually coercing her into marrying him.
‘That’s not fair,’ she said hoarsely.
‘Life isn’t fair.’ He knew that all too well; it was the whole reason he was demanding this from her. ‘Marriage needn’t be a prison for either of us. You can carry on with your career.’
‘How generous of you. You’re welcome to carry on with your career too.’
He ignored her sarcasm, understanding the place of fear it came from. If he felt his world had just turned on its axis he could only imagine how it must be for her. She had to carry their baby into the world.
It was their baby he was thinking of. Christian had grown up knowing somewhere out there was the man who had fathered him but who wanted nothing to do with him, his own son. He had never understood why. He still didn’t.
It had taken many years for him to accept his father’s abandonment as a simple fact of life but as a child it had been a painful knowledge. He would never put his own child through that. His child would grow up feeling loved and secure with two parents who both wanted nothing more than to love and protect him or her.
Looking at Alessandra rest a protective hand against her still-flat stomach, he could see how deeply she already felt for their child.
Their child. His responsibility. Their responsibility, to be shouldered together.
‘When we marry the world will see a united couple...’ he started.
‘Don’t talk as if it’s a done deal. Marriage changes everything. It’s not just two people signing a piece of paper and exchanging a bit of jewellery. There are legal implications.’
‘And it’s those legal implications I want. I want our child to know their parents loved them enough to create a stable family for them.’
‘This is too much.’ She got to her feet. He experienced a sharp pang to see her tremble, to witness her keeping it all together, just as she’d done at her grandfather’s funeral.
She carried herself so tall it was easy to overlook that she was a slip of a woman. Her glossy hair was sprawled over her shoulders, her golden skin pale.
The last thing he wanted was to hurt her but within him lay a deep-rooted certainty that this was the right path for them. It was the only path.
‘I need to sleep on this,’ she said, her honey eyes brimming with emotion, her usually accent-less English inflected with her Italian heritage. ‘I can’t agree to marriage just because you’ve clicked your fingers. You might change your mind. I’ve sprung this on you. Everything will look different in the morning.’