‘Okay.’ She looked surprised, even a little winded, by his vehemence. And he was surprised too. He’d never wanted children. Had never anticipated getting married or having a family. Having those ties that bound and choked. And yet…if, by the hand of Providence, Laurel was pregnant with his baby, there was no question what he would do. He would marry her.

Not that he intended to tell her that now. She looked shell-shocked as it was.

‘So…’ Laurel licked her lips. ‘What would happen, then? If…?’

‘We’ll discuss that if and when it occurs,’ Cristiano answered swiftly. Laurel was still looking flummoxed.

‘And for the next two weeks…?’

‘You stay with me.’

She cocked her head, a question in her eyes that he knew she didn’t dare ask. And he decided to leave the question as to what the nature of their relationship would be unspoken and unanswered. He’d made a decision not to sleep with her, yes, but he wasn’t about to reveal that information. He wasn’t at all sure if he’d stick to that decision.

Cristiano reached for his mobile phone and thumbed a few buttons. ‘I will arrange for the necessary wardrobe, cosmetics and stylists.’

Laurel’s mouth dropped open. ‘What?’

‘You have no clothes.’

‘You just got me some clothes, and I have more back at my hotel—’

‘Appropriate clothes,’ Cristiano amended. ‘As my…companion, you need to be dressed and styled in a certain way.’

Laurel’s mouth pursed. ‘Like a doll, you mean.’

‘No, like an elegant, beautiful, accomplished woman. The only kind I have on my arm.’

She laughed at that, a hard note to the sound. ‘So those supermodels are accomplished?’

‘In their own way.’ Admittedly, intelligence or wit had not been high on his list of desirable qualities for a sexual liaison. ‘I can hardly have you traipsing about in a dress like the one you wore last night,’ he added.

She flinched and looked away. ‘You seem to like reminding me of that.’

‘“Like” is not the word I’d use.’

‘Isn’t it?’ She swung back to challenge him with a glare. Heat flared deep inside again. He didn’t usually like to be questioned or challenged, but something about Laurel’s attempts to stand her ground, the innocent bravery of it, made him admire her as well as want her. Both emotions were inconvenient at the moment.

‘I accept that you were playing a part,’ he said levelly. ‘Or something like that. And I will find out why soon enough.’

‘Will you?’ she scoffed.

‘Yes,’ Cristiano said, and his voice vibrated with the force of his feeling. No matter what the next two weeks held, he fully intended to get to the bottom of the enigma that was Laurel Forrester. ‘I will.’

CHAPTER EIGHT

CRISTIANO WAS AS good as his word. Within an hour of the calls he’d placed, people started arriving—women dressed all in black, with heels higher than the ones Laurel had worn last night, carrying expensive-looking garment bags, glimpses of silk and satin visible on the padded hangers.

A team of white-coated beauticians came in as well, wheeling in cases and equipment and making Laurel blink. She’d never had so much as a manicure in her entire life, and it looked as if they were setting up an entire beauty salon in her bedroom.

She glanced at Cristiano; his expression was impassive, almost bored, as he watched the parade of experts march in. But when he caught her eye he gave her the tiniest glimmer of a smile which, inexplicably, made her heart lift.

‘I know you’re about to tell me how ridiculous this all is,’ he said in a low, lazy voice. ‘But why don’t you enjoy being pampered for a bit?’

There were a lot of reasons why she shouldn’t enjoy anything about this. He was making her over because she wasn’t good enough. She didn’t even want to be here. And as for the chance that she was pregnant…

Well. There was nothing she could do about any of it. One of the army of women pressed a glass into her hand and, bemused, Laurel glanced down at the green drink.

‘What…?’

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