The color drained out of Lacey’s cheeks. “What are you talking about? I’m not going to Athens.”
“Of course you are.” John glared at her. “What’s my other option? Leave her here with you?”
She bit her lip. “I thought…”
His jaw tightened. He knew exactly what she’d thought. “You thought I’d leave my child. Like my parents left me.”
A shadow passed over her face. During their weekends at his Greek villa, she’d asked about his childhood once, and he’d laughed off his loneliness as a boy, trying to make it a joke, an amusing story.
But Lacey hadn’t been fooled, then or now. Imagining he saw sudden pity in her eyes, he savagely wished he’d never told her.
“You’re right,” she said slowly. She ran a hand over her forehead. “I should have known. You’ll never leave her.”
Her voice was flat, strained. As if being forced to share their baby, to travel to Athens on his private jet and be close to John again, was some kind of death sentence.
I proposed because I loved you, she’d said. He felt another twist of pain inside his chest. He remembered how he’d felt when she’d asked him to marry her last year. For one split second, he’d been thrilled. It had been like Christmas and his birthday at once.
Then he’d remembered how it would inevitably end. And he’d forced himself to be coldly rational.
Refusing her proposal, he hadn’t intended to end their love affair. Not yet. He’d hoped to spend more time with her. Months. Years, perhaps. But she’d tossed him aside so easily. Without a second glance.
John looked at her in the dark penthouse suite. Her haunted face was lit by the glow of opalescent moonlight from the windows.
“Do you still hate me so much?” he said in a low voice.
She looked up. “Hate you?”
“I can see it in your face, Lacey. I can hear it in your voice. Perhaps you loved me once. But now you wish I was ten thousand miles away.”
Her expression changed as her white teeth nibbled worriedly against the tender skin of her bottom lip. Such a small movement. And yet it caused a pulse of heat through him, a prickle of sweat forming against the hard muscles of his body.
His body suddenly reminded him that, since she’d left, he’d taken no other mistress to his bed. Being chaste had been a new and profoundly unpleasant experience, one he hadn’t experienced since he was a teenager.
He’d had opportunities of course. But he hadn’t wanted to. He’d only hungered for the woman he couldn’t have.
And now she was finally within reach. Was it any wonder his whole being was pounding with need?
“I don’t hate you,” she said slowly. “And I don’t regret that you found out. Because you’re right. Taffy needs a father.” Then Lacey’s beautiful face crumpled. “But what will I do?”
“You’ll come live with me,” he said harshly.
“Athens?” She shook her head hard. “My life is here. My company is here.”
“You’ll give that up. I’ll provide for you both.”
Lacey looked at him in shock and then gave a harsh laugh.
“Oh, right. Give up my company. Fire all my employees and tell my hard-won clients to take a hike. Leave my friends and my home. And for what? So I can be your kept woman in Greece, isolated and alone like a princess in a tower?”
Staring down at her, John knew he was in for a hard fight. One he might not win. Unless he played dirty.
A sudden idea trickled through John’s brain and then exploded with powerful force.
Why hadn’t he seen it before?
He’d always known he couldn’t be stupid enough to marry for passion. He’d planned to marry some sweet, simple, old-fashioned girl in a sensible union.
But fate had swept those plans aside.
He had a daughter. Taffy’s security and happiness now meant more to him than his own.
And since Lacey was the center of Taffy’s world, she also had to be the center of his. If John wanted to give his daughter his name and a stable, permanent home, he had to do the same for Lacey.
He had to marry her.
John’s gaze fell from Lacey’s luminous brown eyes to her full, sensual lips. To her warm creamy-coffee skin and her generous curves beneath her white cotton sundress.
And there would be other benefits to marriage. His hands tightened.
He could have Lacey in his bed. Now. Forever.
“Not my kept woman,” John said huskily, his dark eyes piercing hers. “You’re going to be my wife.”
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