“I don’t think I got the memo.” She gave a pale version of her usual teasing smile, but at least she was no longer on the verge of tears.

He hoped. “We agreed this morning.”

“That was not agreement, that was you saying it did no good.”

“I am right.”

“You have what can be an annoying tendency to think you are.” But she nuzzled his neck and he was not too worried.

“What can I say? I usually am.”


She pulled back and gave him a gloating glare. “Ah, so you admit to at least some small level of infallibility.”

“Naturally.”

“You’re so darn arrogant.” She shook her head in bemusement. “Why do I find that charming again?”

“You tell me.”

“I plead the Fifth.”

“We are in Greece,” Zephyr pointed out, “not the U.S. The Fifth Amendment does not apply here.”

“I bet the Greek constitution has some similar guarantee against having to testify against themselves for their citizens.”

“We are getting off topic here.”

“You’re right.” Piper gathered her thoughts. “Why, if you trust friendship so much, do you think a marriage based on it would fail?”

“I did not say I believed a marriage between us would fail utterly, but it would fail to make you happy.” And ultimately, that had decided him against the prospect.

“Why? Would you plan to sleep around after?”

“No. I could give you fidelity.” Of that, he had no doubts. “However, I could not give you something you’ve made clear is of equal importance to you.” Long before their discussion of love at dinner the other night, he had known she was still waiting for her fairy-tale ending complete with love ever after and Prince Charming.

He was a former street rat, no prince, and love was not, and never would be, on his agenda.

“You’re talking about love again, aren’t you?”

“Yes. Can you honestly say you would have considered a marriage proposal without it?”

She bit her lip and looked away, shaking her head once in negation.

“As I thought.”

“So, where does that leave us?”

“I do not know.” If she was pregnant with his child, he would try to convince her to accept his proposal, regardless of her finer feelings.

He knew his inner ruthlessness would show itself and he could not even be sorry about that. If she carried his baby, neither of their dreams took precedence. They would do what was best for their child.

He would never allow a child of his to be anything but absolutely certain of its place in his life. Unlike both his mother and father, Zephyr Nikos would consider his role as parent the most important one he would ever hold.

He did not know how to be a father, but he and Neo had self-educated themselves in business and that had been an eminently successful endeavor. With the same work and dedication, he could learn how to be a dad as well. Unlike when he was a teenager, he did not have to rely on used books, and firsthand experience at ground level.

He could afford to consult the most eminent minds in the field of child development, read the best books on the subject and do whatever else was necessary to be the best parent possible.

Zephyr had never done things by halves and becoming a parent would be no exception.

“I don’t want to take an over-the-counter pregnancy test,” Piper said after several quiet moments of her head resting on his shoulder again.

“So, we will wait until we return to Seattle and make an appointment with your doctor. We are only scheduled to be here three days.”

“They’ll feel like an eternity.”

He could not disagree.

The contractor arrived the next morning and between the four of them, they kept extremely busy laying the groundwork for preliminary plans to be drawn up. Jean-René flirted shamelessly with Piper, making her smile when that worried expression slid into her eyes.

Zephyr did not worry about the other man, knowing he adored his French wife and would never consider betraying her. Besides, Zephyr had made it patently clear that he and Piper were together.

On their last night, they climbed the stairs after a lively postdinner discussion over whether or not to place the main resort near the current villa, or nearer the accessible beach on the northern shore of the island. Piper was in favor of the beach, but the contractor liked the idea of taking advantage of already existing power and water access.

Jean-René had played devil’s advocate, arguing both for and against each of the locations.

Zephyr had made the final decision, going with the beachfront scenario. Guests would appreciate the easy access to the ocean and while the view might not be quite as majestic, it was still magnificent. Besides, it would give him and Neo and their future families privacy when they were on the island.

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