A Dark Sicilian Secret(9)

“I didn’t abduct him. I carried him, gave birth to him, loved him—”

“Good. And now you can love him from the comfort and security of my home in Sicily.”

“I will not live in Sicily.”

“Fine. You can come and go, and visit us whenever you’d like, but the courts have agreed that based on your erratic behavior, and your inability to provide financially for the child, Joseph will make his permanent home in Paterno with me.”

“But I have provided for him! I’ve always managed—”

“With my help, yes. You forget, cara, that the courts are fully aware that I provided you with a home, a job and child care. They understand you couldn’t have survived without me.”

Her hands balled into fists. “That’s not true. I was fine. We were both doing fine!” “So you say.”

She fell back against the seat. “You tricked me.”

“I did what I had to do to be with my son.”

“And now that you have him?”

“He’ll live in Paterno at my family home.”

“What about me?”

“You will live with us until he’s eighteen and then when he leaves for university, you can go, too. You’ll be free to travel, buy a new home, start a new life, but until then, you will live with us in my home.”

Jillian dug her nails into her palms. “I’m a prisoner?”

His gaze settled on her pale face, studying the high cheekbones, straight nose, full lips and strong chin. “Absolutely not. You’re free to come and go, but Joseph will remain with me, to be raised by me.”

“So he’s the prisoner?”

“He’s an infant, and my son. He needs guidance, and protection.”

“From your enemies?”

He regarded her steadily. “I have no enemies.”

“Except for me,” she said beneath her breath.

“You didn’t used to be.” He spoke the words just as softly, and her color stormed her face, staining her cheeks a hot pink, a clear indication that she also remembered how responsive she’d been in his bed.

A translucent bead of water fell from a tendril at her brow to her temple. With an impatient swipe of her fingers she knocked the water from her face but not before he noticed how her hand trembled.

She was flustered. Good. She should be. He was furious. Beyond furious. Jillian had hidden her pregnancy, until she had accidentally bumped into one of his employees while taking the baby for a walk. On hearing the news, he’d worked out the dates and rung her immediately. Jillian had the gall to first deny the baby was his, and then when he demanded a DNA test, she ran from him, keeping his son from him for nearly the entire first year of Joseph’s life.

Jill should be punished. And there would be consequences.

“In fact, I can still see you at the wheel of my new Ferrari in Bellagio,” he added. “You loved driving it, didn’t you? But then you loved everything about our time together at the villa in Lake Como. Including spending my money.”

“You make it sound like I had a thing for your money.”

“Didn’t you?” he countered, signaling his driver to move on.

“No!” she answered fiercely, as fresh pink color darkened her cheekbones, highlighting the shape of her delicate face. “Your money meant nothing to me. It still doesn’t.”

“So you didn’t enjoy the private jet, the villa, the servants, the car?”

“Things don’t impress me,” she threw at him, averting her head once more, giving him a glimpse of her neck and nape.

Her skin was pale, creamy, flawless, and his gaze traveled slowly over her, studying her elegant features and the mass of blond hair that hung in damp loose waves over her shoulders. The blond hair color was something new as well.

“I see. You were there for me.” He studied her lazily, as though trying to decide if he liked her better as a glossy chestnut brunette or this California beach-girl blonde, but his lazy, relaxed demeanor was a façade, because on the inside he was wound hard, and tight.

Never in his life had he been played the way she played him. Never. It still astonished him. Jill Smith had seemed so innocent. Sweet. Pure. God, he’d misjudged her. But now he knew, and he’d never be foolish enough to make that mistake again. “You cared for me.”

She met his gaze directly, her chin lifting. “I did care for you.”

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