So was it any surprise that the plan had come to him half formed as soon as he’d found out this morning? Now it only needed to be enacted—quickly, quietly, incontrovertibly.
He took her hand in his. Her fingers were freezing. Instinctively he tightened his grip and rubbed this thumb over her knuckles.
‘Darling,’ he muttered roughly. ‘I’m so pleased.’
Startled, she choked on a gasp. He leaned close and kissed her temple, so his head hid her suddenly astounded—and angry—expression.
He had absolute faith in the discretion of his physician, but Dr Russo was also his brother’s doctor. Patient confidentiality might not hold when it was the Crown Prince asking questions. Eduardo had to sell this as a love match—starting now.
When he drew back a flush of colour had returned to her cheeks, but she still looked so slim and vulnerable.
He knew she wasn’t. Those apparently skinny biceps could support her entire body weight, and her legs could wrap around a man and lock him in close. She was strong, powerful, and he wanted to kiss her properly—her mouth, her body. Latent and unwelcome desire rippled in his gut—like a beast beneath the surface of an eerily still lake.
‘You are in good health?’ Dr Russo turned to Stella.
Eduardo listened impatiently as the doctor asked her preliminary questions. He wanted the man to do his job, but he also wanted him gone so he could ensure his control over Stella and this situation.
‘Do you have any idea of the date of conception?’
Precisely. But Stella didn’t answer.
Eventually Eduardo did. ‘Possibly late July.’
There was a startled look in the doctor’s eyes as he worked out how far along Stella must be, but the man was wise enough not to comment. He kept asking his routine questions. ‘You’ve had no morning sickness?’
‘No symptoms at all. I have an irregular cycle,’ she said in a strangled voice. ‘Apart from that I’ve always been very healthy.’
‘From your army medical file it seems that indeed you are,’ the doctor said jovially, apparently ignorant of the tension swirling in the room. ‘So there’s nothing else—no family history that we ought to be aware of?’
Her eyes dropped. Inside his, her hand had curled into a fist.
‘Stella?’ Eduardo prompted, and felt her shiver alongside him.
But she shook her head.
‘Good.’ The doctor smiled. ‘I’m sure you would like privacy to celebrate, so I will leave you with some information for you to read together at your leisure.’
A pamphlet didn’t seem much for something so important. ‘Shouldn’t you do more tests?’
‘I will arrange a scan to be done on the mainland next week,’ Dr Russo answered. ‘For now I’m confident that Stella can continue with her normal routine.’
Something flashed in her eyes. She knew she was never doing her ‘normal routine’ again. Eduardo knew that her dismissal from the army rankled, but it was convenient.
‘You may, of course, also continue normal sexual relations,’ the doctor added as he closed up his briefcase.
Eduardo felt her fist clench again—in revulsion? Was she afraid of him? Was that why she’d run away that day? Why she’d looked so terrified at the pregnancy result?
He gritted his teeth and maintained his smile. ‘Thank you, Doctor. I will be in touch.’
The doctor lifted his bag and his smile grew impossibly wider. ‘Congratulations. This is a wonderful thing for San Felipe. The bells will be ringing loudly in a few months’ time.’
Indeed they would. But first Eduardo had to ensure the legitimacy of the next royal heir.
He released Stella’s hand to escort the doctor to the door, closing it firmly after the man. Then he turned and leaned back against it, waiting for her next move.
‘I’m not marrying you,’ she said firmly, rising from the chair to stand in the centre of the room.
‘No?’ He lifted away from the door and walked towards her. He was pleased to see her trembling had ceased. ‘Tell me your plan.’
She stared up at him, not stepping back even when he stepped too close. Her serious eyes were fixed on his. Both her hands had fisted now. By sheer force of will he kept his own hands at his sides, not lifting his fingers to rub at the skin she’d marked that day on the beach. And as he looked down at her defiant stance the desire that had felled him that day returned in full force.
Even for him it had been shocking. He was known for his adrenalin addiction—his spontaneous decisions and risk-taking. In truth his risks were never that great, because he was too constrained by responsibility, but to have taken a woman he’d only just met...to have seduced her within minutes in broad daylight...? He’d not done that even in his most hedonistic university days.