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Were her hands still trembling? Or were his?

“Cesare....” He saw how close she was to falling off the precipice. She tried, “We don’t have to marry. We can live apart, but still raise Sam together....”

“In separate houses? In separate cities? Sending a small child with a little suitcase back and forth between two lives? You already said that wouldn’t work. And I agree.” Slowly, so slowly it almost killed him, he pulled her into the circle of his embrace, encircling her like a skittish thoroughbred into an enclosure. His gaze searched hers. “Marry me now. Take my name, and let my son be a Falconeri. I swear to you. On my life. That I will be the father you dreamed he could have.”

She swallowed. “You swore you’d never get married again,” she breathed. “We both know—” their eyes met “—you’re still in love with your lost wife, and always will be.”

He didn’t deny this. It was easier not to.

“But we won’t be lovers,” he said. “We’ll be equal partners.” His fingers stroked her black hair, tumbling in glossy waves down her back. “And together—we’ll raise our son.”

She exhaled, visibly trying to steady herself. “For how long?”

“For always,” he said in a low voice. “I will be married to you...until death do us part.”

Her skin felt almost cold to the touch. He could almost feel her heart pounding through her ribs. “It would be a disaster.”

“The only disaster would be to let any selfish dreams—yours or mine—destroy our son’s chance for a home.” Stroking down her cheek, he cupped her face. “Say you’ll be my wife, Emma,” he said huskily. “Say it.”

Tears suddenly fell off her black lashes, trailing haphazardly down her pale cheeks.

“I can’t fight you,” she choked out. “Not when you’re using my own heart against me. My baby deserves a father. It’s all I’ve wanted since the day I found out I was pregnant.” Her beautiful eyes were luminous with emotion, her body tense, as she stood in his arms in the rose-strewn restaurant of the Eiffel Tower, all the lights of Paris beneath them. “You win,” she said. “I’ll marry you, Cesare.”

* * *

“Do you want me to come up with you?”

For answer, Emma shook her head, though she didn’t let go of Cesare’s hand. She hadn’t let it go for the whole walk home from the Eiffel Tower. Her knees still felt weak. Now, as they stood outside Alain’s gated courtyard, she was trembling. Possibly from the weight of the enormous diamond on her left hand.

Either that, or from the knowledge that she’d just thrown all her own dreams away, her precious dreams of being loved, for someone she loved more than herself: her son.

“Are you sure? Bouchard might not be pleased at the news.”

“It will be fine.” She still couldn’t believe she’d agreed to Cesare’s marriage proposal. He’d loved only one woman—his long-dead wife—and would never love another. Knowing that, how could she have said yes?

But how could she not? He’d offered her everything she’d ever wanted for Sam. A home. A family. A real father, like she’d had. How could she not have made the sacrifice of something so small and inconsequential as her own heart?

At least she didn’t need to worry about falling in love with Cesare again. She’d burned that from her soul. She had...

“You won’t change your mind the instant I let you out of my sight?” he said lightly.

She shook her head.

“I think I’d better stay close, just to be safe.” Cesare’s voice was husky as he carefully tucked her jaunty pink scarf around her black coat. “Bouchard might try to talk you out of marrying me.”

Even though she didn’t love him anymore—at all—having Cesare so close did strange things to her insides. Emma took a deep breath. But she couldn’t let herself feel anything. Not love. Not even lust. Not this time.

She was going to be his wife. In name only. She’d have to keep her distance, while living in the same house.

“Seriously, don’t come,” she said. She looked past the gate at Alain Bouchard’s mansion. “I’d better give Alain this happy news on my own.”

Cesare gave her a lopsided grin that made her heart go thump, thump in her chest. “I’ll get the car, then. Meet you back here in ten minutes?”

“Ten?” she said incredulously.


“Better make it an hour. It’s amazing how long it takes to pack up a baby.”

“Really? He seems small.”

“He is, but he has a lot of stuff.” At his bemused expression, she snorted. “You’ll learn.”

“Can’t wait.” Pulling her close, Cesare looked down into her eyes. Cupping her face, he looked down at her one last time as they stood on the street with the lights of Paris twinkling around them. “Thank you for saying yes. You won’t regret it.”

“I regret it already,” she mumbled, then gave a small laugh to show she was joking, holding up her left hand. “This diamond ring weighs, like, a thousand pounds. See you in an hour.”

Turning, she went through the gate, past the security guard into Alain’s courtyard. One of his personal bodyguards was waiting by the mansion door.

“Monsieur Bouchard is not happy with you, mademoiselle,” Gustave said flatly.

She stopped. “Were you—following me?”

The man jutted his chin upward, toward the house. “He’s waiting for you.”

Emma had meant to tell Alain her news in the most gentle way possible. Instead it seemed he already had a good guess what was coming. Well, fine. She narrowed her eyes. He shouldn’t have had her followed.

Going upstairs, she walked right past Alain’s office, but not before she saw him scowling at his desk. First, she went to check on her baby, and found him sleeping in his crib. For a moment, she listened to his soft breath in the darkness. Tenderness and joy caught at her heart. Smiling to herself, she whispered aloud, “You’re going to have a family, Sam. You’re going to have a real dad.”

Creeping out, she closed the door, and went to the next-door sitting room, where she found Irene Taylor reading tranquilly in an armchair.

“How was everything?” Emma asked.

“Oh, he was perfect. An angel.” Smiling, Irene tucked her book, a romantic novel by Susan Mallery, carefully into her handbag. “Did you have a nice evening?”

Wordlessly Emma held out her left hand. Irene gasped, snatching up her hand and staring at the ring.

“Are you kidding?” She made a big show of rubbing her eyes. “Ah! It’s blinding me!” She looked up at Emma with a big grin. “You sly girl, I didn’t even know you were dating someone.”

“Well—I wasn’t. But Sam’s father came for a visit, and one thing led to another...”

“Oh, how wonderful,” Irene sighed. “True love prevails.”

“Um. Right.” Emma’s cheeks went hot. She couldn’t tell Irene that love had nothing to do with it, that she’d kept her pregnancy a secret and now they were only getting married for Sam’s sake. “Well. I’m leaving for London with him right now. Would you mind helping me pack Sam’s things?”

“I’d love to. All his cute, tiny baby things. And now you’re off to London, swept away to be wed like a princess in a story.” Irene looked wistful. “I hope I find a love like that someday, too.”

Her friend’s idealistic notion of love, the same dreams she’d once had for herself, cast a pall over Emma’s heart. How could she tell Irene that she had nothing to be envious about—that Emma was settling for a loveless marriage so her baby would have a father?

Sam deserves it, she told herself again. She tried to remember the calmness she’d had about her decision just a moment before, when she’d stood in her baby’s room, listening to him sleep. She turned away. “I’ll be back.”

Squaring her shoulders, Emma went down the hall to Alain’s office. She took a deep breath and went in.

Her employer was sitting at his desk. He didn’t look up. When he spoke, his voice was sour. “Have a good time at the Tour Eiffel?”

She was glad he was taking that tone with her. It made this so much easier. “Yes, I had a wonderful evening,” she said sweetly. “Thank you.”

Alain glared at her. “I don’t appreciate you staying out so late. I was worried.”

“I don’t appreciate you having me followed.”

“I wanted to keep you safe.”

“Safe,” she said.

“I don’t trust Falconeri. You shouldn’t, either.”

“Right. Well. I’m sorry to tell you, but I have to turn in my notice.”

Alain’s eyes widened. He slowly rose to his feet. “What?”

“And by notice, I mean I’m leaving right now.” Her cheeks flamed. “I am actually sorry to do it to you, Alain. It’s not very professional. In fact it’s completely rude. But Cesare and I are going back to London with the baby....”

“He’s stringing you along, Emma, toying with you! I can’t believe you would fall for his lines. He’ll leave you high and dry when...”

Tags: Jennie Lucas Billionaire Romance