The Secret to Marrying Marchesi

By: Amanda Cinelli

Rigo entered the office with a dull thud of the heavy panelled door behind him. His usually perfectly groomed dark hair was ruffled, and that same formidable expression on his face made her confidence waver.

He stood still, looking around him. ‘The child?’

That one question caught her off guard. She frowned, gesturing to where the stroller sat by the window, her daughter now sleeping peacefully inside.

‘She won’t wake if we speak?’ he asked.

Nicole shook her head once, trying not to soften at his apparent concern. ‘She’s a deep sleeper, thankfully. She should be fine.’

Rigo nodded brusquely, his eyes lingering on the pale pink blankets for a moment before turning back to her. His eyes held the strangest combination of anger and some other unknown emotion.

They stood there for a moment, facing each other in complete silence, before Rigo finally spoke.

‘Let me make it clear that I had nothing to do with that meeting.’ His jaw was tight as he held her gaze in earnest. ‘The board members were growing impatient and decided to act against me. I’m sorry you were put through that.’

She hadn’t expected an apology. It kind of threw her. ‘I told you I wouldn’t sign anything without the test.’

‘You did.’ He breathed out heavily. He walked past her, moving across the large office to his desk. He gestured to a leather wingback chair, motioning to her to sit, and taking a seat behind the desk once she had.

With his hands clasped in front of him he looked instantly more powerful and infinitely less approachable. The formidable CEO, taking care of yet another item on his agenda. He was powerful and unyielding, and yet right now he looked off balance somehow.

‘I have received a phone call from the laboratory,’ he said calmly. He tapped his thumb absentmindedly on the desk. He looked at her. ‘The test results reveal a positive DNA match.’

Nicole stared back at him for a moment, unsure of what to say in response to this sterile, emotionless statement. ‘I see,’ she said quietly, watching as his thumb continued to move of its own volition, beating a steady rhythm.

‘That is all you have to say?’ he asked.

She shrugged, biting down on her lower lip. ‘I already knew what the result would be.’

He leaned back in his seat and watched her thoughtfully for a moment before speaking. ‘I chose not believe your claim based on what I believed to be the facts, Nicole. Now that I know I was mistaken... Well, our current situation is regrettable.’

It was like speaking with a corporate drone. Was it simply ‘regrettable’ that he’d missed the first six months of his child’s life? Nicole thought of the countless milestones that had come and gone, the days and nights full of laughter and tears. It seemed as if an entire lifetime had passed between them since the day he had made his regrettable choice.

Anger flared in her chest as she took in his solemn expression.

Rigo continued, oblivious to her inner turmoil. ‘The media’s attention is an immediate concern for us both, but I feel that we can come to an agreement to work it to our advantage.’

She crossed her arms, amazed that he was still talking business when he had just found out he had a daughter. ‘I’ve told you already. I won’t lie to the press to save your public image.’

‘I am not asking you to lie,’ he countered. ‘Now that I know she is mine, I do not plan to deny the fact. Publicly or otherwise.’

There it was. The words she had hoped to hear a lifetime ago. Only instead of feeling relief that her daughter would have some sort of relationship with her father, all she felt was cold, icy fear.

She stood up, taking a few paces away from him. ‘First of all, she is not yours,’ she said breathlessly, turning back to face him. ‘You are biologically her father, but the rest you have to earn. I am not asking for anything right now other than your help in getting the press off my doorstep.’

He didn’t speak. He just watched her with that same intensity she had come to recognise was naturally him.

Nicole crossed her arms, looking down at him. ‘There is no obligation for you to play a part in Anna’s life if you don’t want to.’

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