A rage so fierce it felt like an earthquake shaking his insides took hold of him. ‘Don’t,’ he said in a voice like a whip-crack, ‘talk to me of him. Ever.’
‘This baby is yours, Leo.’
‘You can’t know that.’
She sighed, leaning her head back against the chair. ‘I do know it,’ she said wearily. ‘Utterly. But if you like I’ll have a paternity test done. I can prove it beyond a doubt.’
He stared at her, shaken more than he wanted to admit or reveal that she sounded so certain. ‘I thought you didn’t want children,’ he said, after a long, taut moment.
‘I didn’t,’ she answered.
‘Then I’m surprised you didn’t just deal with this on your own,’ he snapped.
She put a hand to her throat, the gesture making her seem even more fragile. Vulnerable.
‘Is that what you would have wanted?’
‘No.’ He realised he meant it utterly. A child...his child, if she wasn’t lying. Yet how could he trust a word she said? ‘Why have you come here and told me?’ he asked instead. ‘Do you want money?’
‘No, not particularly.’
He laughed at that—a cold, sharp sound. ‘Not particularly?’
‘I admit having this child will be hard for me financially. But I didn’t come here to ask for a hand-out. I came because I thought you should know. You’d want to know.’
He sank into his chair, the reality of it crashing over him as he raked his hands through his hair. ‘Theos, Margo. This is a lot to take in.’
‘I know. I’ve had three months to process it—’
‘You’ve known for that long and you are only telling me now?’
Colour touched her cheeks faintly. ‘I’ve been very ill. Extreme morning sickness, apparently.’
‘Are you taking medication?’ he asked sharply, and she nodded.
‘It helps a little.’ She sighed and shifted in her seat. ‘The truth is, Leo, I didn’t know how you would respond, or if you’d even see me. And I wanted to tell you in person. But with being so sick I couldn’t face travelling all this way until now.’
He nodded. It all sounded so very reasonable and yet he still felt angry. He should have known. He should have had the choice to be involved from the beginning. And now...?
‘If this is indeed my child,’ he told her, laying his hands flat on the desk, ‘there is no question of my not being involved.’
‘And I don’t mean some weekend arrangement,’ Leo continued, knowing he meant it even though he was still reeling from her news. ‘I won’t be the kind of father who sees his child only on a Saturday afternoon.’
‘No,’ Margo agreed quietly. ‘I don’t want that either.’
He gazed at her narrowly for a moment. He still didn’t understand why she was here. She hadn’t possessed enough honour to be faithful to him, so why would she care whether he knew about his own child or not?
‘I would have expected you to have had a termination,’ he said abruptly. ‘Or, if you wanted the child, to pass it off as this other man’s.’
She winced at that. ‘Clearly you don’t have a very high opinion of me.’
‘And you think I should?’
‘No.’ She let out a little defeated sigh. ‘No, I don’t.’
‘So why didn’t you do either of those things, Margo?’
It was the first time he’d said her name since he’d seen her again, and it caused him a sudden, surprising flash of pain. He clenched his hands into fists, then deliberately flattened them out, resting them again on his desk.
‘Because I am not, no matter what you think, completely without morals,’ she replied with a bit of her old spirit. ‘I want my child, and I want my child to know its father.’ She took a deep breath. ‘And more than that I want my child to have a loving, stable home. A home where it knows it’s safe, where its parents are, loving and protecting. Always.’
Her dark brown eyes seemed to glow with an inner fire, an utter conviction.
‘And how,’ Leo asked after a pause, ‘do you suppose that is going to work?’
‘That’s the other thing I want,’ Margo said, still holding his gaze, her eyes like burning coals in her pale face. ‘I want you to marry me.’
* * *
In another situation, another life, Margo might have laughed at the way Leo’s expression slackened with surprise. He hadn’t been expecting that—and why would he? The last time he’d seen her she’d sent him away with a scornful rejection, told him lies of infidelity that she’d known would make him hate her. And here she was now, with a proposal of her own.