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He gave a low laugh. “Ah, you really do think I’m a coldhearted bastard.” He held out her glass, filled with wine a deeper red than roses. “That’s not what I want.”

“Then, what?”

He just looked at her with his dark eyes. Emma’s heart started pounding.

Her hand shook as she reached out for the glass. She realized she was in trouble. Really, really big trouble.

He held up his own wine. “A toast.”

“To what?”

“To you, cara,” he murmured.

He clinked her glass and then drank deeply. She looked down at the glass and muttered, “Should I wonder if this is poisoned?”

He gave a low laugh. “No poison, I promise.”

“Then, what?” she whispered.

Cesare’s dark eyebrow quirked. “How many times must I say it? I want to have dinner. And talk.” He picked up the menu. “What looks good?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Not hungry? With a menu like this? There’s steak—lobster...”

“Will you just stop torturing me with all this romantic nonsense and tell me why you’ve brought me here?”

He tilted his head, looking at her across the table, before he gave a low laugh. “It’s the roses, isn’t it? Too much?”

“I’m not one of your foolish little starlets getting tossed out after breakfast, sobbing to stay.” She narrowed her eyes. “You never try this hard. You never have to. So it must be leading up to something. Tell me what it is.”

Cesare leaned forward across the candlelit table, his dark eyes intense. Her whole body was taut as she leaned toward him, straining to hear. He parted his sensual lips.

“Later,” he whispered, then relaxed back in his chair as if he had not a care in the world. He took another sip of wine and looked out the huge wall of windows overlooking the lights of Paris, twinkling in the twilight.

Emma glared in helpless fury. He clearly was determined to take his own sweet time, to make her squirm. Fine. Grabbing her glass, she took a big gulp of the wine. Since she’d moved to Paris, she’d grown to appreciate wine more. This was a red, full-bodied Merlot that was equal parts delicious and expensive. Setting down her glass, she looked around them.

“This restaurant is kind of famous. It’s hard to even get reservations here. How on earth did you manage to get the whole place?”

He gave a low laugh. “I pulled some strings.”


“It wasn’t easy.”

“For you,” she said darkly, “everything is easy.”

“Not everything.” He looked at her across the table. His eyes seemed black as a midnight sea. Then he looked past her. Turning around, she saw the waiter approaching their table.

“Monsieur?” the man asked respectfully. “May I take your order?”

“Yes. To start, I’d like...” Cesare rattled off a list that included endives, foie gras, black truffle sauce, venison and some kind of strange rose-flavored gelatin. It all sounded very fancy to Emma, and not terribly appetizing.

“And for madame?”

Both men looked at her expectantly.

Emma sighed. “I’m afraid I don’t much care for French food.”

The waiter did a double take. So did Cesare. The scandalized looks on both male faces was almost funny. Emma stifled a laugh.

“Of course you like French food,” Cesare said. “Everyone does. Even people who hate Paris love the food.”

“I love Paris,” she said. “Just not the food.”

“I can give madame some suggestions from the menu...” the waiter tried.

She shook her head. “Sorry. I’ve lived here for almost a year. Trust me, I’ve tried everything.” She looked at him. “What I would really like is a cheeseburger. With French fries. Frites,” she amended quickly, as if that would make her order sound more gourmet, which of course it didn’t.

The waiter continued to stare at her with a mix of consternation and bewilderment. In for a penny, in for a pound....

“And ketchup.” She handed him the menu with a sweet smile. “Lots and lots of ketchup. Merci.”

The waiter left, shaking his head and muttering to himself.

But Cesare gave a low laugh. “Nice.”

“Shouldn’t I order what I want?” she said defensively.

“Of course you should. Of course a nice American girl, on a romantic night out at the Eiffel Tower, would order a cheeseburger with ketchup.”

“Romantic night?” she said with a surge of panic. He gave her an inscrutable smile. To hide her confusion, she looked out the window. “I can still enjoy the view.”

“Me, too,” he said quietly, and he wasn’t looking at the window. A tingle of awareness went up and down Emma’s body.

“This is my first time inside the Eiffel Tower,” she said, trying to fill the space between them. She gave an awkward laugh. “I could never be bothered to wait in the lines.”

“Doesn’t Bouchard ever give you time off?”

She glanced at him with a snicker. “You’re one to talk.”

He had the grace to look discomfited. “I was a difficult boss.”

“That,” she said succinctly, “is an understatement.”

“I must have been an awful employer.”

“A monster,” she agreed.

“You never even got to see inside the British Museum.” He had a hangdog look, like a puppy expecting to be kicked. “Or take a picture of Big Ben.”

She squelched an involuntary laugh, covering it with a cough. Then sighed.

“Perhaps you weren’t entirely to blame,” she admitted.

He brightened. “I wasn’t?”

“I blamed you for not having time to tour London. I swore Paris would be different. But even though Alain has bent over backward to be the most amazing employer I could possibly imagine...”

Cesare’s expression darkened.

“...I still haven’t seen much of the city. At first, I was overwhelmed by a new job in a new city. Then I had the baby, and, well...if I have extra time, I don’t tour a museum any more than I go on a date. I collapse in a stupor on the couch.” She sighed, spreading her arms. “So it seems I’m full of excuses. I could have climbed the Eiffel Tower before now, and brought Sam with me, if I’d made it a priority. Instead I haven’t been willing to wait in line or pay the money.”

“What if I promised you’d never have to do either, seeing the sights of London?”

She tried to laugh it off. “What, there’s no line to see the Crown Jewels anymore?” she said lightly. “It’s a free ride for all on the London Eye?”

He took another sip of his wine, then put it back down on the table. His dark eyes met hers. “I want you both to come back to London with me.”

She set her jaw. She’d been afraid he’d say that. “There’s no way I’m leaving my job to move back to London with you. Your interest in Sam will never last.”

“You have to know I can’t abandon him, now I know. Especially not in Bouchard’s house.”

“I thought you said you didn’t bear Alain any grudge.”

“I don’t. But that doesn’t mean I’ll let him raise my son.” The votive candle on the table left flickering shadows on the hard lines of his handsome face. He said quietly, “Bouchard wants you for himself, Emma.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said uncomfortably, then recalled her own recent concerns on that front. “And anyway, I don’t see him that way.”

“He wants you. And he already knows that taking care of Sam is the way to your heart.” His voice was low. Behind him, she could see the sparkling lights of Paris in the night. “As you yourself said—Sam deserves a father.”

“Yes, he does,” she said over the lump in her throat. “An actual father who’ll love him and kiss his bruises and tuck him in at night. A father he can count on.” Looking up at him, she whispered, “We both know you’re not that man.”

“How do you know?”

The raw emotion in Cesare’s voice made her eyes widen. She shook her head.

“You said yourself you don’t want a child. You have no idea what it means to be a parent....”

“You’re wrong. I do know. Even though I’m new at being a father, I was once a son.” He looked away. “We had no money, just an old house falling down around us. But we were happy. My parents loved each other. And they loved me.”

She swallowed. “I’ve never heard you talk about them before.”

“There’s not much to tell.” His lips twisted down at the edge. “When I was twelve, my mother got sick. My father had to watch her slowly die. He couldn’t face life without her, so after her funeral, he went drinking alone on the lake at night. The empty boat floated to shore. His body was found the next day.”

“I’m sorry,” she choked out, her heart in her throat. “How could he do that—leave you?”

“I got over it.” He shrugged, his only sign of emotion the slight tightening of his jaw. “I was sent to a great-uncle in New York. He was strict, but tried his best to raise me. I learned English. Learned about the hotel business. Learned I liked hard numbers, profit and loss. Numbers made sense. They could be added, subtracted, controlled. Unlike love, which disappears like mist as soon as you think it’s in your arms.”

Tags: Jennie Lucas Billionaire Romance