When she could lift her head and breathe again, she felt his hard, critical gaze boring into the small of her back. She straightened to her full height and turned slowly to face him.
“You’re as white as a sheet,” he said without a trace of sympathy.
He opened a cabinet and got out a glass. Then he went to the refrigerator and poured her a glass of icy water.
He gave her the glass, and she sipped the cool liquid gratefully.
She should tell him about the baby now. But she couldn’t. Not like this. Not when he was so angry.
“Why are you here? Why are you so upset?” she whispered.
He turned back to the refrigerator and yanked off E-321’s profile with a vengeance. “Why am I here?”
He wadded up the profile and threw it at her.
When it bounced at her feet, she jumped.
“You’re pregnant. That’s why.”
She sucked in a breath. “You knew even before I was sick. You knew!”
“You’re hardly in a position to accuse me.”
Cornered, her legal mind went on full attack. “That’s privileged, private information. I haven’t even told my mother yet. You have no right—”
“No right?” Like a predator closing in for the kill, he stalked her.
She skittered backward until her butt hit the cabinets and his tall, muscular body in designer charcoal loomed over her, blocking her escape.
“Who the hell’s the father, damn it?”
She looked up at him, and her tongue froze against the roof of her mouth.
He gripped her shoulders so tightly she felt each finger bruising her flesh.
“Is it mine? Or is it the damn sperm donor’s? Or some other man’s? Did you call me to blackmail me?” The fingers mashed harder, cutting her.
“Blackmail? No! No! No. How can you think…”
She felt as if she were dying inside. She didn’t want him here. Not like this.
“Then who’s the father?”
She knew she should lie. If he thought she was as low as he was accusing her of being, she should definitely lie. She was a lawyer. Surely she should be able to make up a plausible story that would rid her of him forever.
“Why don’t you just tell me the truth for once?” he said.
“You aren’t going to like this.”
His hands dug even deeper. “Is it mine?”
Aware of those rough fingers and of the muscle ticking along his hard jawline, she fought for every breath.
“Nobody has to know,” she whispered.
“What? Nobody has to know? That’s your answer?”
If she’d struck him, he couldn’t have looked more stunned. “I know,” he said. “I know.”
“I wasn’t planning to blackmail you. I just wanted to tell you. That’s all. I swear.”
“I—I…” She broke off. “Because it’s yours.”
There was no trace of tenderness or even humanity in Nico’s face. She’d seen such cold implacability in the courtroom many times. It always spelled doom. No matter what she said, he wasn’t going to believe her.
“I’m telling you the truth. That’s the only reason I called.”
His eyes narrowed until all she could see was glittering blue slits of fire behind his black lashes. “Well, you’re not blackmailing anybody because you’re going to marry me, you little fool.”
“Impossible. You told me we could never be together.”
“That was before you became pregnant with my child.”
My child, too! she wanted to scream.
“What about Viola? Your family? Your mother?”
“They will have to accept it, as I have to accept it. A higher duty calls.”
“You’re a prince. I want you to marry Viola. You have to marry her.”
“And have my child grow up a bastard in America, raised solely by a woman like you, never knowing him and all the while knowing he’ll always feel abandoned by me, his father, knowing, as well, you could use him and threaten to sell your story for your own gain. No! What would that do to him, to have his father abandon him to a mother like you?”
Stung, she almost wept. “I would never do that!”
He stared at her for a long moment. “Did you know who I was that first day? Did you do this deliberately?”
“I don’t need you or your title or your money. I’m an attorney. I have my career—”
He laughed. “Some career. You were fired from Merrit, Riley & Whitt. Two days ago.”
“How do you know that?”
“Money buys a lot of answers. Being a lawyer, you should know that.”
“I’ll have you know there are privacy laws in this country.”