Nico splashed Scotch into a crystal glass, waiting for an answer that didn’t come.
“Damn it, Massimo? Is she?”
“Yes. And no.”
Nico ground his teeth. “And?” He gulped the Scotch.
“She’s pregnant. Saw the doctor yesterday.”
“Pregnant?” He began to cough and spit Scotch.
“Who’s the lucky father?” His strangled voice was barely audible.
“Not sure. Apparently, before she met you, she told everybody she wanted to have a baby on her own, to be a single mother of choice.”
“What the hell is that?”
“Some crazy American-women idea. Her parents weren’t for it. Her father went into quite a sulk when he found out she’d bought eight vials of sperm from a sperm bank. So, she broke her appointment to be inseminated, took a leave of absence, and flew to Italy.”
And tried to seduce a gigolo.
A hard band closed around Nico’s lungs.
“Did she get pregnant in Italy? Or after Italy? How far along is she?”
“The detective couldn’t say. He’s happy to keep digging though. Likes the money. It was getting late, so I thought I should call—”
“Thanks. I’ll let you know,” Nico mumbled a few more questions. Then he jotted Cara’s full name and address and all her phone numbers in a little black notebook and slammed his phone shut.
For a long moment, he stared at the phone numbers, not really seeing them as he considered calling one of them on the long shot she’d answer.
No, she was a lawyer. Better to show up without giving her any warning. That way she wouldn’t have time to build up her defense.
Pregnant? Vials of sperm?
Had she known who he was and set him up?
He went to the tall window of his bedroom. In the moonlight, he could see the swans gliding peacefully together on their glimmering pond.
Was he the father? Why had she called him yesterday? To inform him? To blackmail him?
Had her parents pressured her into giving up on the sperm-donor idea? Had they talked her into getting pregnant the old-fashioned way? Had that been the real purpose of her vacation? Her real purpose in that bar?
How many men had she slept with before him?
He stared at the swans, his emotions tearing at him. How could he have let himself believe that at least for a short space of time, she’d cared about him for himself alone, cared enough to sacrifice her own feelings for the higher good of his family?
Hell. What a fool he was to have thought she might love him.
Wearily, he turned away from the swans. Their loyalty made him angry somehow. He had to banish all softness, all notions of enduring love and romance. He had a duty to his family. He also had a duty to his unborn child—if he had one.
Bottom line: was he the father?
He felt betrayal and something even worse.
Damn her to hell and back.
If Cara had manipulated him, if she intended to use this pregnancy to hurt his family, to use their child for financial gain…
He’d see her in Dante’s inferno first.
Regina smiled. She would have a baby to love, a baby who would be just hers, someone who couldn’t abandon her, someone who would need her for a long, long time.
Nico had called her back, too. Again and again. But he’d sounded so urgent and upset she hadn’t been able to force herself to return his calls.
She would; she even wanted to.
She’d been trying to work up her nerve to do just that. She sat on the couch listening to his messages again, each one colder than the last, while her lifelong feelings of abandonment resurfaced to make her think that perhaps he’d never really truly cared for her in the first place. She decided that maybe a nice, long bath would relax her and make calling him easier.
Pregnant. Nico’s baby.
In her bathroom, she stripped and studied her breasts and stomach with a critical eye. Although she wasn’t showing, she felt so totally changed. Already she loved this baby so much. And yet…
All her life she’d tried to be strong and independent. Now she felt just the opposite—one big reason she dreaded telling Nico about the baby. She didn’t want him to think she expected anything from him, and still…
Truly, she wanted to reassure him that she was perfectly able to raise their child alone even though the very thought of doing so alarmed her.
He was her baby’s father. And she loved him. And the baby would love him. It was stupid, idiotic, hormonal, whatever. But she felt a strange, new, wonderful vulnerability and at the same time, a crushing sense of dependency.
Their baby needed a mother and a father.
Hello! This is the modern world. What happened to the idea of being a single mother by choice?
Nico owed his family. There was no room in his complicated life for her. She knew that. Just as she knew she couldn’t fit into his world any more than he could fit into hers.