‘No, there’s no joke,’ he said slowly. ‘We’re launching a new magazine and I liked the look of your résumé.’
Her eyes widened, and then filled with defeat. But only for a moment. ‘It was your idea to set up this interview? You own MacIver?’
He nodded. Then she turned right round, shamelessly flaunting her pregnancy.
‘Seems like we’re both catching up with the news,’ he said.
‘I didn’t come here to shoot the breeze with you, Raffaele, so let’s get that straight. If this is another attempt to humiliate me, then you’re even sicker than I thought.’
‘OK, I deserve that.’
‘You don’t deserve to breathe the same air as me!’
‘I apologise,’ he began carefully. ‘I should never have asked you to leave Hydros the way I did.’
‘Apology rejected. Your word isn’t worth a damn to me right now. In fact—let’s not pretend—we’re only having this conversation because of who my father is.’
‘Who is he?’ he asked softly.
‘You knew him a hell of a lot better than I did.’
He straightened up. ‘Did you know you were Giancarlo’s daughter when you landed that commission?’
‘What difference does that make?’ she said.
‘None. You’re right.’
She glared at him, and in those few seconds he took in the sweep of her hair over her brow, the unflinching, unapologetic stare, and it all fell into place. She might not look much like Giancarlo, but his spirit burned in her.
His eyes fell to her stomach. He swallowed.
‘Congratulations. How far along are you?’
Her eyes flicked down to the side. He saw a small movement in her throat as words hesitated on her lips. He looked at the shapeless dress, the outline of her bump, her breasts—large and heavy. She was pretty big, now that he really looked at her.
He looked again. Wait a minute. Maybe she was as much as six months pregnant? No, that could not be possible! That was not possible. She’d said it was safe! She’d told him so. Hadn’t she?
She couldn’t possibly be.
‘Is that…my baby that you’re carrying?’
He heard the crack in his voice at the same time she did and it shocked him as much as it shocked her. Her eyes flew to his, but he bit the emotion down, furiously.
‘Answer me,’ he repeated.
There was no apology now.
She stared—defiant, mute. Finally… ‘Yes.’
Yes? His heart thundered into his throat.
‘You didn’t take precautions?’
Her eyes widened, she bared her teeth.
She stepped towards him like a fury. ‘You mean you didn’t take precautions! You! I’m not the one with the reputation.’
‘You told me it was safe,’ he said, as quietly as he could, almost choking on the white-hot rage that was building inside him.
She put her hands on her hips and shook her head. ‘Don’t blame me! You got me pregnant. Not the other way round.’
‘I didn’t know I was getting you pregnant, for the love of God! I thought it was safe. You…’
But he couldn’t quite remember anything other than the passion and the pleasure. Couldn’t actually recall her saying anything. Or him. This was bad. Too, too bad.
‘Well, you did! And nothing you can say makes the slightest difference now. You’re blaming me—just as I expected. I’m getting out of here. This conversation is going nowhere.’
Raffaele turned his head. The door was closed but even from where he was standing he could see heads bobbing up like meerkats, staring to see what the new boss was doing with the visitor.
‘You can bet this conversation is going somewhere. We’ll finish it at my house. Give me your bag.’
‘Are you insane?’
‘Pass me your bag and then we’re going to walk quietly and calmly out to the front, where my car is waiting. I’m not discussing my private business in here with the world watching.’
‘I’m sorry, I don’t think you understand. What I choose to do has nothing to do with you.’
His jaw was almost locked down. ‘It has everything to do with me!’ he hissed. ‘This has everything to do with me! When were you going to tell me? Ever? Never?’
‘However,’ she said, as if he hadn’t even spoken, ‘if you’d prefer me to shout across the room that the father of my child is preventing me from going about my business, I don’t have a problem with that.’
Father of my child…
He took that like a punch in the guts. Actually flinched.
‘Do not play games with me, Coral,’ he said, forcing himself to breathe deeply, to calm down.