Claire didn’t take the hint. She followed him through his apartment, a confused frown wrinkling her forehead. “I thought you’d be happy.”

 Luca chuckled bitterly and looked down at the pregnancy test in his hand. He’d made that mistake once; he wouldn’t fall for it again. It was a false hope. Instead, he tossed the test into the trash can. “If I was the father, I would be happy. But like I said, that’s impossible.”


 Claire froze in place, not quite sure she could believe the words he’d just said. “Luca, you are the father. Who else would it be?”

 To be honest, he didn’t really want to consider the possibilities. He was already fighting through this storm of emotions swirling inside him. He didn’t need to add furious jealousy to the list. Luca narrowed his gaze at her. “I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the sterile guy in the room.”

 “Look, I’m as surprised as you are. Between the two of us and our issues, it never crossed my mind that it could happen, but it did. You are the baby’s father. I’ve spent every day and night of the last month with you. The last man I was with before you died a year ago.”

 Luca wanted to believe her. God, he wanted to. Claire had never given him any reason not to believe what she said before. But this story was just too far-fetched. She did a good job seeming sincere, though. “That all sounds good, Claire. You must’ve practiced before you came over.”

 She flinched as though his sharp words were a slap across the face. “Practiced? Do you really think I’m making all this up?”

 He wanted to say no, that he believed her and was happy, but he couldn’t let himself do it. The anger he’d suppressed over the past decade bubbled inside him. There was no one he could blame for the cancer or the treatments. He couldn’t direct that emotion at anyone. Jessica disappeared when the paternity results came back negative, so he never got to say what he wanted to say to her, either. But in that moment, Claire was a convenient target for the disappointments of his life.

 “No,” he replied coolly. “Just the part where I’m the father. What I can’t seem to figure out was where you got the time to sleep with someone else.”

 Luca watched Claire’s face turn red and the vein in her forehead start to pulse. “I didn’t need any time!” she shouted. “I didn’t sleep with anyone but you. How could you accuse me of something like that after what happened with Jeff? I would never ever...” Claire’s voice drifted off as though she couldn’t even finish the sentence.

 Luca knew that accusing her of having an affair was the lowest of low blows, but what other option was there? This wasn’t a star in the east.

 “You know, I’m not Jessica. I understand all that must’ve been awful for you, but don’t take what she did out on me. This is totally different.”

 “Is it?” Luca asked. He wanted it to be different, but he wouldn’t allow himself to entertain such a wild fantasy. He and Claire were through. It pained him, but there was no going back now. He needed to make a clean break and send her on her way before things got even uglier than they already were.

 “Maybe you’re right,” he agreed with bitterness leeching into his voice. “Jessica was happy with just having one of my children. You’re pushing for two. Wasn’t having one of my kids enough? You had to get more out of me?”

 Claire tried not to physically react to his insult. Now she wasn’t just a slut, she was a greedy one? Where had this dark side of Luca hidden over the past few weeks? She thought he was holding back, but she never dreamed that this was what he’d kept from her. “More what? Money? I don’t need your money, Luca.”

 His jaw tightened as he looked her over. “Then what’s behind it? Afraid I might leave you once we got home? Did you think having a second miracle child would convince me to marry you so we could have a happily-ever-after?” He crossed his arms over his chest, challenging her to say otherwise.

 She wasn’t quite sure how to respond. This whole conversation had gone off the rails and there was no way to recover it. “I will admit that I’d hoped we could have a happily-ever-after with our two children, but there’s no scheming involved. It simply is what it is.”

 “Claire, the only thing this is, is over. I knew it was a bad idea to seduce you, but you and your sad eyes and luscious lips convinced me otherwise. I don’t know why I thought that us being together was the best resolution to our situation. Well, no more. You and I are through.”

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