With a curse, he leaned back against the couch and stared up at the ceiling. He’d lost it last night. That was very unlike him. He was always so in control, but Claire’s betrayal had pushed him over the edge. After she left, all he could hear was his blood rushing through his veins; all he could see was tainted with the red hue of his emotions.

 His child! She claimed to be pregnant with his child. Luca could hardly believe it when the words came out of her mouth. Not even the pregnancy test could convince him. How could he trust Claire’s declaration that it was his baby? He couldn’t. Not when he knew that it was impossible.

 But did he really know?

 As usual, morning and sobriety had brought everything into question. Not even the Scotch could drive Claire’s words from his mind. She’d called him a coward because he hadn’t been tested in all these years. He’d never really looked at it that way. Why did getting a slip of paper from the lab make a difference? It was just the final nail in the coffin he couldn’t bear to seal. The radiation treatments destroyed his chances of fathering a child. End of story. It didn’t matter how much he might want another child or how badly he wanted to believe her.

 She had to know that he wanted another child. There was no other reason why she would come to him with a story like that. She’d found his weakness and did her best to exploit it.

 Even as the thought rolled around in his foggy, hung-over brain, Luca knew it was wrong. Everything he’d said or done last night was contrary to what he knew to be true about Claire. It was like a monster had been unleashed inside him the moment she tested his beliefs. Once it got out, there was no stopping the flow of vile words from his mouth.

 Disgusted with himself, he pushed up from the couch and stumbled into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. That would help clear his thoughts, even if he feared it would make him realize his actions last night were that much more despicable.

 He busied himself with his chore and sat down at the breakfast bar. Staring at the tile backsplash, he remembered the topic of Jessica coming up. He had tried and tried to put that whole situation out of his mind. That was why he hadn’t told Claire about it at first. Of course, his mother didn’t have any problem with sharing. Had the story his mother told her inspired Claire to come up with the lie about the baby? Or had the past simply poisoned his view of the present?

 One thing he knew was that Claire was right when she said she wasn’t Jessica. He knew that even as he accused otherwise. The two women were nothing alike. Jessica had been smart, but ambitious. They’d been compatible in bed, but he knew she wanted more. He’d wanted it, too, at first, but reality sunk in and he realized he’d never give her the family she wanted. So he’d retreated. “More” wasn’t on the table. He ignored her texts and calls for a few months and finally she faded from his life. Until she showed up at the door very pregnant with “his” baby.

 In the end, it had all been a hurtful lie. She wanted Luca back, wanted him to marry her. Apparently she wanted it badly enough to poke holes in all the condoms they used together, not knowing he was sterile. When that didn’t work, she deliberately got pregnant by an Italian guy she met at a bar right after they broke up in the hopes she could pass it off as Luca’s. It was incomprehensible. He never would’ve thought Claire would stoop to Jessica’s level.

 That’s when the sobering thought crossed his mind—she wouldn’t.

 Claire believed what she was saying, whether it was true or not. But Claire had also told him she hadn’t been with a man since Jeff. That didn’t leave a lot of options, although it certainly explained the confused and betrayed look on her face when he rejected the idea of the baby being his.

 He couldn’t help it, though. That baby couldn’t be his. It just couldn’t.

 But if it was...he’d made a huge, inexcusable and maybe unforgivable mistake.



 Luca looked up from his brand-new smartphone when the nurse called his name. His stomach ached with dread. This was a moment he’d avoided for ten years. He’d almost called and canceled this appointment three times. The only reason he didn’t was because he knew he’d have to face Gavin eventually.

 His friend had listened sympathetically while he told him his sad tale. But instead of taking his side, he’d surprised Luca by pretty much saying the same things Claire had said. That he was a chicken. That his hurtful accusations were unfounded. Gavin had finished the conversation by telling him he needed to visit the doctor. Until he was tested and knew for certain that the baby couldn’t be his, he needed to hold his tongue. He’d already said a lot he’d regret if he was wrong.

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