“Goodbye,” I whispered.
Then I climbed into the limo, where the driver waited with my door open, and he closed it behind me.
“Enjoy a tender farewell?” Alejandro was already in the backseat, on the other side of Miguel, who had woken and was starting to whimper.
“Something like that,” I muttered, trying to surreptitiously wipe my tears.
“I was surprised. It’s not like you to let me walk off with—” His voice cut off as he saw my face. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I said. Turning to my baby, I pressed his favorite blanket against his cheek and tried to comfort him. Tried to comfort myself. My baby’s tears quieted and so did his quivering little body, as he felt the hum and vibration of the car’s engine beneath him. His eyelids started to grow heavy again.
“What did she say?” Alejandro said. Frowning, he looked closer at my face. “Did she...”
There was a sudden hard knock on his window. Miguel’s little body jerked back awake, and his whimpers turned to full-on crying. Alejandro turned with a growl.
Claudie stood by the limo, her eyes like fire. “Open this window!” she yelled through the glass.
Alejandro’s expression was like ice as he rolled it down a grudging two inches. She leaned forward, her face raw with emotion.
“We could have ruled the world together, Alejandro, and you’re throwing it all away—for that little whore and her brat!”
Alejandro said softly, his face dangerous, “If you ever insult either my son or his mother again, you will regret it.”
Claudie looked bewildered. To be fair, she’d insulted me for so long she’d probably forgotten it wasn’t nice.
“But Alejandro...” Her voice had a strange begging sound I’d never heard from her. “You’ll never find someone with my breeding, my beauty, my billions. I love you....”
“You love my title.”
Her cheeks flushed red. “All right. But you can’t choose her over me. She’s...nothing. No one.”
I swallowed, blinking fast.
“Blood always tells,” she said. “She’s not good enough for you.”
Alejandro looked quickly at my miserable face. Then he turned back to Claudie with a deliberate smile.
“Thank you for your fascinating opinion. Now move, won’t you? I need to take Lena shopping for an engagement ring.”
“You’re—what?” Claudie staggered back. I gasped. Miguel was crying.
The only one who looked absolutely calm was Alejandro. Turning away from her, he sat back in the plush leather seat, and said to Dowell, “Drive on.”
Claudie stared after us, looking stupefied on the sidewalk, and almost forlorn in her tight club dress and bedraggled mascara. Looking back at her through the car window, I felt a strange wave of sympathy.
Because I, too, knew what it felt like to be left by Alejandro Navaro y Albra.
“You didn’t have to be so cruel,” I whispered.
“Cruel?” he said incredulously. “You defend her, after the way she treated you?”
“She’s still my cousin. I feel sorry for her....”
“Then you’re a fool,” he said harshly.
I stroked my crying baby’s cheek. My lips creased sadly. “Love makes us all fools.”
“She doesn’t love me. She doesn’t even know me.”
“That’s what you said to me, too,” I said softly. I met his gaze. “I wonder if any woman will ever truly know you.”
For an instant, I thought I saw hunger, even yearning in his dark eyes as he stared down at me. Then the expression shuttered, leaving me to decide I’d imagined it. But even then, he continued to look at me, as if he couldn’t look away.
“What are you staring at?” I put my hand to my messy ponytail, feeling suddenly self-conscious. “I must look a mess.”
“You look...” His eyes slowly traced over my hand, up my arm, to my neck, to my lips. “You look like a woman who cares more about her baby than a fortune. Like a woman who works so hard and so well—for free—that she’s beloved by the entire household staff. You look,” he said softly, “like a woman who feels sympathy, even for the coldhearted creature who tried to destroy her.”