How many men had she slept with before him?
He stared at the swans, his emotions tearing at him. How could he have let himself believe that at least for a short space of time, she’d cared about him for himself alone, cared enough to sacrifice her own feelings for the higher good of his family?
Hell. What a fool he was to have thought she might love him.
Wearily, he turned away from the swans. Their loyalty made him angry somehow. He had to banish all softness, all notions of enduring love and romance. He had a duty to his family. He also had a duty to his unborn child—if he had one.
Bottom line: was he the father?
He felt betrayal and something even worse.
Damn her to hell and back.
If Cara had manipulated him, if she intended to use this pregnancy to hurt his family, to use their child for financial gain…
He’d see her in Dante’s inferno first.
Regina smiled. She would have a baby to love, a baby who would be just hers, someone who couldn’t abandon her, someone who would need her for a long, long time.
Nico had called her back, too. Again and again. But he’d sounded so urgent and upset she hadn’t been able to force herself to return his calls.
She would; she even wanted to.
She’d been trying to work up her nerve to do just that. She sat on the couch listening to his messages again, each one colder than the last, while her lifelong feelings of abandonment resurfaced to make her think that perhaps he’d never really truly cared for her in the first place. She decided that maybe a nice, long bath would relax her and make calling him easier.
Pregnant. Nico’s baby.
In her bathroom, she stripped and studied her breasts and stomach with a critical eye. Although she wasn’t showing, she felt so totally changed. Already she loved this baby so much. And yet…
All her life she’d tried to be strong and independent. Now she felt just the opposite—one big reason she dreaded telling Nico about the baby. She didn’t want him to think she expected anything from him, and still…
Truly, she wanted to reassure him that she was perfectly able to raise their child alone even though the very thought of doing so alarmed her.
He was her baby’s father. And she loved him. And the baby would love him. It was stupid, idiotic, hormonal, whatever. But she felt a strange, new, wonderful vulnerability and at the same time, a crushing sense of dependency.
Their baby needed a mother and a father.
Hello! This is the modern world. What happened to the idea of being a single mother by choice?
Nico owed his family. There was no room in his complicated life for her. She knew that. Just as she knew she couldn’t fit into his world any more than he could fit into hers.
But hormones don’t listen to reason. Their siren song is more ancient and truer than any new social idea.
So, a conflicted Regina, the modern woman and the ancient, ran her tub full of water and then lay down to soak and hoped she’d relax.
Like a child, she batted at the bubbles floating on top of the water. Then she sang, as she always did, off-key. Finally, when she was hoarse, she soaped a leg and lifted her razor.
An hour later, the water was cold, her bubbles were gone, and she was still without a single solution to her life’s riddles.
Suddenly, a loud banging at her front door shook her out of her reverie. Terrified, she leaped out of the bathtub. When the banging persisted, she sat back down and turned on the hot water full blast.
“Stubborn idiot!” she whispered. “Go away!”
The knocking stopped, and she sighed in relief until her cell phone began to ring.
She sat up again.
So much for peace and relaxation.
Her cell phone stopped and then her home phone burst to life.
What was going on?
Her family! She was filled with panic at the thought of a car crash or a heart attack. Then she imagined Joe, backing out of the driveway in his van and running over Gina, who was never where she was supposed to be. Regina shot out of the tub and toweled herself dry.
She put on her thick, terry-cloth robe and ran into the kitchen to find her phone.
“Answer your damned door,” Nico yelled.
Oh, my God!
She’d left her garage door open, so, of course, he’d seen her car. He’d probably heard her run into the kitchen, too.
Heart racing, she tiptoed to the front door and cracked her shade, gasping when she saw a white stretch limousine gleaming in her driveway.
Although Nico wore a charcoal suit and tie that probably cost a small fortune, he looked as fierce and frightening as a warrior prince from another age on a rampage.
Frantic, she let go of her shade. When it crashed noisily against the window, she screamed.
When big brown knuckles rapped on the windowpane so vigorously she was afraid the glass would shatter, she jumped away. Then, gathering her courage, she clutched her robe tighter and yanked her shade back up again.