He slowly shook his head. “I think,” he said quietly, “you might be the one woman who truly doesn’t care about that. And it would be best for our son. So what is your answer?”
I remembered the darkness I’d fallen into the last time Alejandro wanted me—then stopped wanting me. I’d never let myself be vulnerable to him ever again. I couldn’t. He’d almost destroyed me once. I could never live through that again.
Sooner or later...he’ll take your child and toss you in the gutter, like you deserve.
I couldn’t give him control over me, ever again. I couldn’t be tempted. My only hope was to get away. My only hope was...
Oh, heaven...what time was it?
“I need to...” As I saw the time on the dashboard of the limo, my heart nearly burst in panic. “Stop the car!” I leaned forward desperately toward the driver. “Let me out!”
Looking confused, Dowell pulled over on the side of the busy road.
“What are you doing?” Alejandro demanded, looking at me as if I was crazy. I felt crazy.
I unbuckled our baby, who’d just stopped crying and was looking drowsy. “Miguel needs a walk to help him sleep....”
“Is that a joke?”
I didn’t answer. Cradling our baby, I stepped out on the sidewalk in front of Kensington Palace, and started running into the park, toward the playground. Toward Edward.
THE PRINCESS DIANA PLAYGROUND was in the corner of Kensington Gardens, just north of the palace. It was still early, and the playground had just opened, but in the midst of August holidays it was already starting to fill with children of every age, laughing and whooping as they raced toward the teepees and leaped on the ropes of the life-size pirate ship. It was a magical place, as you might expect of a children’s playground, near a palace, based around a Peter Pan theme and named after a lost princess.
But I was here desperate for a different kind of magic.
Edward St. Cyr had protected me more than once. We’d first properly met three years earlier, when I’d been walking up from the Tube late at night and I’d passed a group of rowdy teenagers on Kensington High Street. I’d been weighed down with groceries, and tried to keep my head down as they passed. But some of the boys had followed me up the dark street, taunting me crudely. As one started to knock the grocery bags out of my hand, there’d been a flash of headlights on the street and the slam of a car door, and suddenly a tall man in a dark coat was there, his face a threatening scowl, and the young men who’d scared me fled like rabbits into the snow. Then he’d turned to me.
“Are you all right, miss...?” Then his expression had changed. “But wait. I know you. You’re Claudie Carlisle’s cousin.”
“You’re all right now.” He’d gently taken my trembling hand. “I’m Edward St. Cyr. I live a few streets from here. May I give you a ride home?”
“No, I couldn’t possibly. I...”
“I wouldn’t mind a walk myself,” he said briskly, and with a nod to the driver of his Rolls-Royce, he’d insisted on walking me home, though it took ten minutes.
“Thank you,” I’d said at the door. “I never meant to impose....”
“You didn’t.” He’d paused. “I remember what it’s like to feel alone and afraid. Will you let me check on you in the morning?”
I’d shaken my head. “It’s truly not necessary.”
“But you must.” He’d lifted a dark eyebrow. “If for no other reason than it will annoy your cousin, whom I’ve despised for years. I insist.”
Now, as I looked out at Kensington Gardens in the distance, I saw the paths where we’d once walked together, he and I. He’d been kind to me. We’d been—friends.
Or had we? Had he always wanted more?
I’m tired of waiting for you to forget that Spanish bastard. It’s time for you to belong to me.
I shivered. When we left Mexico yesterday, I had been prepared to make any sacrifice to save my baby from Alejandro. Even if the price would have been going to bed with a man I did not love.