Her skin bloomed pink. Her eyes flashed fear and challenge. ‘You think I’m playing games? I’ve had more than enough of you and the Di Viscontis’ games for one lifetime. So if you think I’m going to dance to your tune, you can think again.’
She lifted her folder from the desk and threw her raincoat over her arm.
‘I’ll call you when I’m ready to talk.’
‘I think you’ll find that your plans might have changed. You’re not leaving my sight until I get to the bottom of this.’
‘I’m wondering why you think I’ll listen to a word you’ve got to say.’
Her defiance was unbelievable. Every fibre of his being thrummed with adrenalin. Every muscle tensed as she stood facing him, fighting him.
‘You’ll listen because we’ve got a pretty big problem to solve—and I don’t hide away from problems.’
‘You see that is why—that is exactly why—I didn’t come near you. Because this is not a “problem”—it’s a child!’
She put her hands on either side of her stomach, and as the fabric pulled back he could see exactly how big she was. How big the baby was. How many months had it been growing in her stomach while he was obliviously getting on with his life?
‘My child!’ she went on. ‘And I will not have you or anyone else talking about this as if it’s a “problem” or not wanted. Because this baby is wanted. By me. And that’s all that matters.’
‘Keep your voice down!’
‘Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do!’
Two spots of colour had sprung to her cheeks and her voice rose as she spoke. He’d need to keep her calm or she might do something stupid. He’d already seen her temper in full flow.
‘You’re flying off the handle,’ he said, as calmly as he could. ‘What I am trying to say is that I will stand by my responsibilities. I will do the right thing. You’re not on your own.’
‘Well, forgive me if I jumped to the wrong conclusion. I wonder what could have possibly made me think otherwise?’
‘I’m jumping to some conclusions myself. You turn up here—at my magazine—looking for a job, out to here with my child—or so you say—having had with no intention of telling me! Just what goes on in your head?’
‘If I’d known this place was anything to do with you I would never have set foot in it.’
‘Well, thank God for that, then. Otherwise I might never have known!’
‘I hardly think you can claim any moral high ground. Your family is rotten to the core.’
‘Correction. It’s your family. Which I’m sure the DNA test will confirm. I’m only a member of that family through bereavement and a legal process, remember?’
‘What DNA test? I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.’
‘Yes, you do. And you will. Believe me. And then I’ll take whatever action is necessary. You’ve already proved you’re untrustworthy, so you’d better get ready for court. I’m no Giancarlo Di Visconti, cara. I’m a Rossini, and if that’s my child it’s going to be one too. Capisce?’
He knew he was overplaying his hand, but how dared she? How dared she think that she was the only one who mattered here? From this moment onwards they would be playing by his rules.
‘What are you trying to say?’ she said, the slow dawn of horror now rising over her face.
‘I’m saying that you will not leave my sight until I know if that child is mine. And if it is it will be brought up properly—as a Rossini. Not in some bohemian bedsit in London while you wait on tables for a living.’
‘You might need tests, but I don’t. I’m perfectly aware of the fact that I’ve got the world’s worst father. But it’s something I want to forget. Did I come running for his name or his money when I found out? No! And I don’t want yours either!’
‘If that baby is mine you don’t have a choice!’
‘My baby doesn’t need a father,’ she said. ‘Certainly not one like you.’
She had no idea—truly, no idea what she was saying. Didn’t she realise that a father’s role was to protect and cherish and keep his wife and child safe? Had she any idea what world she was walking into as a Di Visconti, pregnant with a Rossini baby? In Italy there would be a media frenzy to end all others. And as for Salvatore…
There was absolutely no other option than to take control of the situation. If he was the father, his life changed from this moment on. For ever.
He paced towards her. She stood proud, her head back, flushed and feminine, fierce. But she was vulnerable. Completely vulnerable. He could see it in the tremble of her lip and the flicker of fear in her eyes.