His eyes met mine. “So you don’t...mind that I’m helping you?”
“No,” I said softly, “I’m glad.”
His expression changed. He started to speak, then turned away, sticking his hand in the water. When the temperature was Goldilocks-acceptable—neither too hot nor too cold—he plugged the drain so the bathtub could fill.
Sitting the baby on the marble counter, I started to pull off his clothes and the clean diaper beneath. “Can you grab his baby shampoo? It’s in my bag. Oh.” I turned. “It’s still in the car—”
With a grin, Alejandro held up the baby shampoo from a nearby drawer, along with a white, fluffy towel. “You mean this?”
“Oh,” I said. My cheeks went hot. “It was nice of your staff to unpack everything for me, but...”
“It’s just strange to have someone going through my stuff.”
“You’ll get used to it. You’ll never have to lift a finger again, unless you want to. Especially with Abuela to oversee everything. She enjoys cooking, cleaning, shopping...” He paused, suddenly looking uncertain. “That is, if you wish that.”
I lifted my eyebrows. “If I?”
Alejandro came closer to me.
“You are the duchess now,” he said. “As far as the castillo is concerned, your rule is now law.”
My cheeks went hot. I licked my lips, tried to laugh as I sat on the edge of the bathtub and checked the water with my elbow. “So you mean I could fire everyone, throw out your tenants, buy Maurine a condo in Barcelona, get rid of all the furniture and paint the walls pink?”
But he didn’t laugh.
“If you like,” he said in a low voice. “Though I’d prefer we keep the staff and tenants. If you decided otherwise, I would need to take care of them some other way.”
“Give them all houses and jobs in Madrid?”
“Something like that.”
This kind of thinking surprised me. Most of the high-powered CEO types I’d seen in New York and London seemed to constantly need to resole their expensive shoes, due to the wear caused by stepping on all the little people. I looked at Alejandro curiously. “You really feel responsible for them, don’t you?”
“Of course. They—” Tightening his jaw, he looked away. “They’re my people.”
“Oh.” I bit my lip. “Maybe you’re not entirely the bastard I thought you were.”
“But I am,” he said in a low voice. He lifted his gaze to mine. “I can’t change who I am.”
Something about the expression of the chiseled lines of his handsome face made me feel all confused and jumbled inside. For a moment, the only sound between us was the water running into the bathtub, and the soft yawns of our baby.
“All right, fine. The staff can stay.” I sighed. “It would probably be easier to just get rid of me, then.”
His lips quirked upward. “Never. Sorry.”
“Miguel is your responsibility. Not me,” I pointed out. “You don’t have to worry about me. I’m not...one of your people.” I looked away. “I can support myself. Just so you know.”
“I do know. I’ve seen your paintings.”
I stiffened. Edward had often patronized my little hobby. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I think you’re talented,” he said softly. He pointed toward the nursery. “Or didn’t you notice?”
Frowning, I went to the door. And I sucked in my breath as I looked around the dark nursery, at the paintings lining the walls.
“You brought them,” I whispered. “All the paintings from Mexico...all the pictures I did of Miguel since he was born.”
“I wanted them here. With him.” He looked at me. “With us.”
A shiver went through me from deep inside.
“You are welcome to paint, or do any work you want,” he said gravely, “but only if it nourishes your soul. And any money you make is exclusively your own.”
“But that’s not right. I don’t expect you to support me, to support all of us—”
“That is my job,” he said firmly, “to financially support you and Miguel and, God willing, other children.”