That runaway train barreled across uneven ground, far off the track, hurtling Pia right along with it.
And the funeral garb felt fitting, really, as she sat in one of the many brightly lit sitting rooms with Ares after the doctors were done with her, awaiting the results.
He stood by one of the open, arched windows that were really doors, looking out at the dark expanse of the ocean. The air this far south was thicker. It insinuated itself against her skin like a caress—but she told herself it was only the humidity. She sat, very primly, on the sofa and tried to keep herself calm.
The door opened after what seemed like several eternities. Possibly more. All passed in the same tense silence.
Ares turned and the doctor bowed low. “Congratulations, Your Highness,” the man said. “You are indeed the father.”
Pia couldn’t seem to look away from Ares’s face. That arrested expression. Something cold and bleak in his gaze.
It made her heart flip over, then sink.
But the doctor wasn’t finished. Because of course he wasn’t finished. Pia braced herself.
“They are both male,” the doctor said.
There was a short, electric pause.
“Both?” Ares asked, his voice a slap.
Neither the doctor nor Ares so much as glanced at Pia, and still she felt as exposed and vulnerable as if she’d been stripped naked and pinned to the wall.
“Both?” Ares asked again.
And the words Pia knew were coming sounded to her like bullets when they came, as inevitable and terrible as they’d been when she’d heard them for the first time.
“Yes, Your Highness.” The doctor bowed lower. “It is my great honor to inform you that you have been blessed with twins.”
THERE WAS NOTHING but white noise in Ares’s head.
A long, sort of flat-line noise that he was fairly certain signaled his own end.
For what else could it be?
He couldn’t make the words make any sense. The doctor retreated and Ares stared at Pia as if he could see through that black dress she wore. As if he could see inside of her, where there were twins. Boys.
Ares’s head pounded like a terrible hangover, when he couldn’t recall the last time he’d drank to excess. His throat felt dry and scratchy, as if he’d caught a virus and was on the verge of tipping over into misery. He thought it was possible that he shook, too, though he couldn’t tell whether that was in him or around him—and he couldn’t seem to catch his breath long enough to truly make the determination.
What did it matter what shook? She was carrying twins.
His twins. His sons. His.
When he finally raised his gaze from her belly and the impossibility—two impossibilities—she carried even now, Pia was still sitting there on the ancient settee that had stood precisely where it was now as long as anyone could remember. Her legs were demurely crossed at the ankles. Her hands were folded neatly in her lap. She gazed back at him, her eyes big and gray and solemn, and fixed on him in a manner that made him...restless.
“Some people might be offended by your reaction,” she said quietly, into all that white noise and shake inside him. “But I’m not. My own reaction to the news was very much the same.”
“Twins,” he managed to say, though his tongue felt tied in knots. “Twins.”
She had the grace to look faintly abashed. “You claimed you couldn’t have impregnated me with one baby. You were certain. I didn’t see what throwing the reality that it was twins into the mix would accomplish.”
Ares couldn’t argue with that, which made him even more... Whatever he was. He ran a hand over his face, wincing when his palm hit his lip. He’d already forgotten that her older brother had punched him. Matteo, he’d learned on the flight, when he’d finally read the informational one-sheet his aides had prepared for him before the funeral. Matteo Combe, president and CEO of Combe Industries...though the tabloids were having a field day with the punch he’d thrown, even calling him unfit for his own office.
It seemed quaint, almost. A remnant of a former life.
A life where Ares could not possibly have been facing down the fact he’d gotten a woman pregnant. With twins.
“Well,” Pia said, a bit too brightly. “Perhaps you had better explain to me how you think this imprisonment is going to work.”
“How far along are you?” he heard himself ask.
She blinked, then tilted her head slightly to one side.
“I remember you, Pia,” Ares retorted, his voice tight. “But I failed to mark that particular night down in my diary.”
“Six months,” she replied, the lack of inflection in her voice an indictment all its own.