‘I will, of course, insist on a paternity test once the child is born, but for now I will accept what you say as the truth. I pray for your sake it is the truth, Katherine! That said, there is something that I need to make perfectly clear to you.’

Stalking across the room to the huge window that shared the same panoramic views as his own office, Luca did not have to dwell for long on what he wanted to say.

‘There is no way that you are going to raise my child single-handedly, without my help. It is an unthinkable idea! Preposterous, in fact!’ As he turned to face her again, his jaw resolute, Luca witnessed the indignant surge of heat that poured into Katherine’s cheeks.

‘There is something that you ought to know too,’ she declared with a frown. ‘I’m not unhappy that you want to take your share of responsibility in raising this baby—in fact, I am relieved to hear it! But I’m not going to let you get all heavy- handed with me about it either! I’ve looked after myself for a long time now, and if you try to ride roughshod over my wishes I’ll simply walk away and you’ll never hear from me or the child again!’

So infuriated was Luca by Katherine’s threat that before he’d realised even what was in his mind, he strode across the room to where she sat and roughly hauled her to her feet.

Her pupils dilated in shock. They were both breathing hard, but it was he who recovered first. How dare she have the audacity to threaten him with walking away when it was his baby that she carried? The idea that the one thing he had longed for above all else—a child—might be taken away from him before the infant was even born was like being threatened with a painful, slow death after all that he had endured. Blue eyes blazing, Luca brought his face just inches away from Katherine’s—and for once the sight of her beautiful features and the seductive scent of her body did not have its usual powerful, bewitching effect on his libido.

‘How dare you? How dare you throw such a threat in my face? I will forgive you for it just this once, because you clearly know no better, but make it a second time and I will drag you through every court in the land if I have to! And once the child is born I will be the one who has sole custody of his welfare. Mark my words, cara mia! I do not say them idly! Persist in this disagreeable vein and you will soon come to bitterly regret your foolishness in issuing me with such a warning!’

Her tender flesh throbbing with discomfort from where Luca’s hard fingers had seized her arm, Kate felt her legs all but turn to jelly at the fury in his voice. This wasn’t how she’d imagined him receiving the news of her pregnancy—becoming instantly possessive and threatening to haul her through the courts for sole custody should she dare to even suggest she might walk away and raise the child by herself! She had only said that because he had sounded so domineering, and a fear had suddenly consumed her that he might not turn out to be the man she’d yearned for him to be after all.

Guessing that her colossal mistake with Hayden had had a lot to do with her fear, she wondered if she could ever truly accept the possibility of a healthy relationship with a man? Something told her that Luca was decent—kind, even—but a man did not become as successful and powerful as he was without having a streak of ruthlessness. Right now she needed to concentrate on the serious prospect of having his baby—a baby Kate already loved with a passion that she could hardly believe. For that reason, if nothing else, they simply had to reach some kind of mutual understanding and respect for each other’s wishes when it came to how he was going to be raised.

‘Please let go of my arm.’ Her gaze met Luca’s with quiet, dignified resolve, but she was a hair’s breadth away from tears. ‘You’re hurting me.’

Glancing down at her limb, as if only just becoming aware he was gripping it so tightly, he released it with a dark, unreadable look in his eyes. Letting fly a passionate Italian curse, he stalked away. Kate wasn’t sure if it was she he was mad at or himself.

‘I didn’t know that you’d react like this,’ she told him honestly, her voice not quite steady. ‘There are plenty of men who’d run a mile if they found out they’d made some girl they’d only spent one night with pregnant! For all I know this could have been the worst news for you to hear if you were in a relationship with someone!’

‘Well—’ he grimaced, one corner of his mouth twisting ironically, ‘—luckily for you, Katherine, I am not in a relationship with anyone at the moment. And even if I were I would still claim responsibility for this child if it is mine, and I would definitely want to help raise it! Do not make the mistake of judging all men by the poor example of your ex-fiancé!’

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