The June sun had set, streaks of red crossing the darkening sky, as they arrived at the Campania Hotel in New York.
John couldn’t stop looking at Taffy as he pushed the stroller into the elegant, high-ceilinged lobby. The baby had fallen asleep in his chauffeured Rolls-Royce on the drive to midtown. Every time he looked at his daughter, his heart twisted in his chest.
Especially when he thought of all the time he’d already missed, all the months she hadn’t had a father to love and protect her. His hands tightened on the stroller handle. Never again.
“Slow down,” Lacey said, struggling to keep up. “Are you trying to outrun me?”
Gritting his teeth, John slowed the pace of his long stride, so that Lacey, who was almost a foot shorter, could keep up as they got into the elevator.
Looking down at her ethereal beauty, he hated her. Almost as much as she’d apparently hated him, to punish him this way. All for turning her down when she’d demanded marriage on a stupid whim.
Of course he’d refused. With good cause.
Marriage wasn’t to be taken lightly. It was about family. It was called settling down for a reason. He couldn’t marry Lacey. They were too much alike: ambitious and selfish. He needed a sweet, simple girl of good family, who would focus on caring for their children and home. They’d have a sensible, enduring marriage. Exactly the opposite of what his own parents had had.
John’s father, Vasilis Drakos, had divorced his first wife when his mistress, Dimitra, had become pregnant with John.
By all accounts, his parents’ love affair had been scorching and thrilling. But their marriage had been doomed from the start.
Perhaps they’d once loved each other, but by the time John was five, the relationship had dissipated to cutting remarks and avoiding each other, and also avoiding their son, whom they left to indifferent servants.
The only one who’d truly cared for John, ironically, was Eleni Drakos, his father’s first wife. The childless woman, discarded by his father, had been kind to him as a boy. She’d listened to John’s troubles, sent care packages and letters to his boarding school, and gifts for his birthday. Feeling disloyal, John had often wished she could have been his mother, instead of the coldly glamorous, absent Dimitra.
And he’d known, when he grew up, he’d marry someone like Eleni. A woman who was kind and warm. Not some woman who thrilled and dazzled him. Because thrills faded. Magic died.
And his romance with Lacey had been all about magic and thrills. Like him, she’d had no desire to settle down.
Equally ambitious in their careers—she in her New York design business, he in the international conglomerate he’d inherited from his father—they’d both worked hard and played harder, traveling the world on his private jet, enjoying fine meals at Michelin-starred restaurants and attending formal galas that ended, as everything did, with hot sex.
Then, out of the blue, she’d asked him to marry her.
He’d been astounded. So he’d told Lacey the truth: she’d make a terrible wife.
And as thanks for his honesty, she’d disappeared from his life.
Now, as the elevator door slid open, John glanced at her coldly. He opened the door to the hotel’s penthouse and motioned Lacey into the luxurious suite.
She walked ahead of him, and his gaze unwillingly traced her curves. He hadn’t been able to forget her. In spite of her sudden irrational decision to propose.
Except Lacey was never irrational, he thought suddenly. About anything. Or destructively vengeful. She must have had a reason.
John sucked in his breath.
“You knew you were pregnant,” he said hoarsely. He looked at her in his hotel suite. “I thought it was a whim. But you already knew about the baby, didn’t you? That’s why you proposed.”
Lacey slowly turned. Behind her, the New York skyline sparkled in the night through the wall of windows. She looked at him.
“No.” Her dark eyes were luminous in the shadowy penthouse. “I proposed for a different reason.”
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