He was going to tell her father! He was determined to ruin her life forever!
“I have only recently learned that your daughter is pregnant with my child.”
Oh, my God! He’d said the P-word! Daddy!
I will be the bad daughter forever now! Thanks to you, Prince…no…Principe Don Nico Carlo Giovanni Romano! Even if I do become Principessa Donna Regina Carina Romano di Tomei!
How had she remembered all those names?
Rage must have sharpened her memory.
Time spun backward. Regina was suddenly three years old again. She’d just dropped a jar of peanut butter her father had forbidden her to touch onto the floor. The shattering glass had awakened Susana in her crib, and she’d started crying. Her father had gone to get the baby before returning to the kitchen. Then, as he’d cradled Susana lovingly in his arms, he’d called Regina all sorts of horrid names. Or, in her shame, she’d imagined that he had.
Regina shut her eyes against the awful memory and sagged against the wall. Prince Nico paused and shot her a significant look. Not wanting him to see her vulnerability, she stood up taller and straighter and drew in a calming breath. And then another.
“No, I’m not a sperm donor. I met your daughter in Italy. Love at first sight.”
Love. For a second, all she registered was Nico’s chiseled male beauty and the intense blue of his eyes. Her entire being blazed. Some incredibly stupid part of her almost believed he was telling the truth, that he’d truly found something rare and beautiful in their brief affair, as she had.
No, she hadn’t! And it was impossible that he had, either! He was furious with her. As she was with him—due to his absolutely despicable, totally unforgivable, arrogant behavior of the past five minutes. He was manipulating her and her father. She couldn’t possibly ever love such a man!
“You know how it is when something like that catches you by surprise.” Nico’s white smile flashed.
Why had the devil given him the sexiest smile in the universe?
She squeezed her eyes shut and fought against the memory of their passion. Surely that had been the devil’s work, as well.
“Yes, sir. It was like being hit with a thunderbolt.”
It had been exactly like that. Was he mocking her?
“Yes, I would like to meet Susana and the children.”
Regina’s throat tightened with grief and rage and some wild, unnamed emotion that made her feel faint and lost, almost sick again. Nico’s sweet lies had exposed that awful, barren place that would be her heart if he really hated her forever.
How humiliating to still want him! To still love him!
With a choked cry, Regina ran to her bedroom, locked her door, tore off her robe and began yanking clothing out of her closet in an attempt to find something to wear.
Through the thin walls, she heard the rest of the conversation.
“I would like to meet all of you as I hope to ask you formally for her hand in marriage.”
“Bastard,” she breathed. Then she threw a hanger at the wall.
Then Nico hung up, strode to the door and yelled through it. “You’d better hurry. Your father has most graciously invited us to dinner.”
“Damn you,” she muttered in a low, inaudible voice.
“Tonight. Seven o’clock. I told him I’d buy wine. You have fifteen minutes. Do you need any help?”
Like a child having a tantrum, she tossed the outfits she didn’t want to wear into a heap on the floor. Then she stomped up and down on them.
“Fifteen minutes,” he repeated. “If you’re not dressed, you’ll go naked. Your choice.”
One glance in the mirror at her nude body and her pale unmade-up face had her gulping in air at a frantic pace. For one second, she entertained the notion of marching into the living room stark naked.
What if she kissed him? Or grabbed his big member? Would his arrogant fury explode into something entirely different? If she threw her arms around him, would he pick her up and carry her to the bedroom? Would sex burn away the hate and open the door to love?
But what if he turned away in disgust?
Shaking, she sank down on the little velvet stool in front of her vanity to apply her makeup.
Why couldn’t she have been dressed and gorgeous when he’d arrived instead of being pale and wet headed and wearing her oldest robe? With an effort, she began to concentrate on making the most of her limited time. She even curled her lashes and was pleased with her reflection when she twirled in front of her mirror after he knocked on her door ten minutes later.
Not that wanting to be especially beautiful tonight meant anything. It didn’t. But when she opened her door and waltzed into the hall in her low-cut swirly green dress and heels, with her shining hair curling about her face, it pleased her no end when his eyes stalled on her red mouth and then again her breasts. She heard the sharp intake of his breath and fought the urge to smile.