A sharp pain struck Claire’s chest like Thor’s hammer, radiating outward. She was certain it was the feeling of her heart breaking. How could she have loved a man who could be so cruel? She didn’t really know him at all. All his smooth words and charming smiles had completely disarmed her.

 “I thought we really had something special between us, Luca. But if you—” Her voice cracked with emotion as she fought to hold back tears. She didn’t want him to see her cry. “If you are willing to accuse me of something that terrible and then cast me aside so easily, then I was wrong. About everything.”

 “I’m sorry to disappoint you.”

 His arrogant, ambivalent tone made her angry. It was one thing for him to be so convinced that he didn’t believe her without proof. It was another to be downright cruel. She wasn’t going to let another man treat her like less than she deserved. Luca was the one who taught her that, ironically enough.

 Claire gathered up all her nerve, straightening her spine and looking him hard in the eyes like she had that first day at his lawyer’s office. “You’re only disappointing yourself, Luca, because you’re a coward.”

 “A coward?” He nearly roared the words at her, but she refused to take a single step back.

 Instead, she moved closer. “Yes, a coward. You’re too scared to go to the doctor and find out the truth about your sterility. You’d rather throw away everything we have, accuse me of being a whore and a liar than face the reality of your condition.”

 “Why would I be scared to do that? The worst they can tell me is what I already know.”

 “No, it’s not. The worst thing they can tell you is that you’ve been wrong all this time. Because then you’d have to come to terms with the fact that you’ve been living half a life for all these years for no reason. You’d know for certain that you wasted over a decade where you could’ve found someone to love and started a family instead of being Mr. Busy CEO all the time. You’ve been hiding behind your desk instead of living your life.”

 Luca raised his arm, pointing toward the front door. “You take your venomous lies and get out of here before I call security and have you thrown out.”

 “You couldn’t force me to stay one minute longer.” Claire turned on her heel and marched back to the entryway where she scooped up her coat. “Since you’re so certain this child isn’t yours, I’m going to presume that you won’t be dragging me to family court to get custody of this one.”

 “Nope,” he snapped. “Not interested.”

 Claire tried not to react to his indifference. Not because of herself, but because of her child. She already felt a sense of protectiveness for it. The last thing she wanted was for the baby to feel as if the father didn’t love it from the day they found out he or she existed.

 “Fine. Then do me a favor and try not to be interested in Eva, either. If you don’t want both your children, we don’t want or need you in our lives at all,” Claire said.

 She flung open the front door and marched out, slamming it behind her with all the Mama Bear fury she could muster. It wasn’t until she’d gotten on the elevator and the doors had safely shut that the anger subsided. With it gone, a rush of tears she couldn’t stop flowed free.

 How could she have gotten exactly what she wanted and lost everything she needed at the same time?

 * * *

 A beam of sunlight came through the window and shone across Luca’s face. It roused him from his uncomfortable position on the leather couch in his living room. After a furious battle with a bottle of Scotch, he’d passed out there the night before.

 He pushed himself up to a seated position and winced as the movement sent a sharp pain through his head. Bending over, he clutched his forehead and groaned. It was like a vise was clamped down on his skull, turning tighter with every movement and sound.

 As pieces of the night before came back to him, he realized that even the agony of his head was miniscule in comparison to the ache of loss and disappointment that had settled in his chest.

 Their angry words echoed in his head. The positive pregnancy test, the hopeful, the devastated, then the angry expressions on Claire’s face, and then the slamming door flipping through his mind like a broken slide projector.

 When he finally looked up, he spied the shattered remains of his cell phone. After Claire left, he’d reached for the closest thing he could lay his hands on and chucked it at the closed door of his apartment. He’d felt little satisfaction as his cell phone collided with the door and splintered across the marble entryway floor. Today, on top of everything else, he’d need to contact his assistant and have her order him a new phone.

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