The Secret to Marrying Marchesi

By: Amanda Cinelli

‘We both know that my walking away isn’t an option here.’

She didn’t know if that meant he didn’t want to walk away or that he knew it wouldn’t look good. She had a hard time believing that it was completely the former.

‘I would be happy for you to play a part in her life. But if you go public as her father you know that I will be hounded by paparazzi for the rest of my days. Pictures of her will be used to pad out every tabloid on the planet. Is that what you want?’

‘You don’t want to lie, but you don’t want me to tell them the truth?’ He sat back, his eagle eyes surveying her with keen interest. ‘It seems we have run out of options, then.’

‘All I’m asking from you is media protection,’ she said calmly. ‘I know such things exist with your kind of power.’

‘Protective orders are flimsy and easily overturned. The photographers would still come for pictures of you. The story is out there and she will always be a child of scandal. It will stick to her like glue.’

‘There has to be a way...’ Nicole felt herself weaken with the weight of his words. He was right, of course. The damage had already been done. Scandals like this never truly disappeared.

Had she really been so naive as to think that he could somehow magically make it all go away? She had brought her daughter into this world and made a vow never to let the same things happen to her that she had suffered herself as a child. Being hounded by cameras at the school gates and constantly playing a part for the media. She had grown up far too quickly as a result. How could she let her daughter suffer the same?

Rigo cleared his throat, standing and coming around to perch against the side of his desk. ‘There is a way, Nicole. One I’m prepared to offer so that we might work the media to our mutual advantage.’

‘How on earth could we do that?’ She looked at his serious expression, feeling utterly defeated. She had only made things worse by running away and hiding. Anything she did now would just be damage control. A normal life wasn’t something the secret child of a billionaire could ever hope for, was it?

Rigo’s voice was cool and businesslike. ‘The fastest and most effective way to turn a story on its head is to give the media an even bigger story to salivate over.’

‘What could be bigger than this?’ She frowned.

‘A wedding. To be more precise, our wedding.’

Nicole was silent, hardly believing what he was saying. If she had heard him correctly that was absolutely ridiculous and not a real solution at all.

‘You want to pretend that we’re married?’ she said incredulously. ‘That wouldn’t do a thing—everyone would know it was a sham.’

‘I am not suggesting a sham.’ He looked down at her, some unknown emotion blazing in his eyes. ‘Nicole, the only way to end this scandal once and for all is for me to prove that I have not abandoned my child and her mother. To make a grand production of how wrong the media has got it. And the best way for me to do for you to actually become my wife.’

* * *

Rigo watched as the colour drained from Nicole’s face. She wasn’t wearing a scrap of make-up, the dark waves of her hair were tied at the base of her neck, and yet she still looked effortlessly elegant. She was frowning at him, her brown eyes wide with shock.

Not the reaction he had expected.

‘You can’t be serious,’ Nicole whispered.

Rigo crossed his arms, looking down at her pale face. ‘That’s not what a man expects to hear when he has just proposed marriage.’

‘You haven’t proposed anything. You’ve just thrown another deal at me. One that I am not prepared to accept under any terms. I’d rather take the money and run.’

‘I assure you that I am completely serious. And this isn’t just about business—not now that I know I am a father.’ He almost stumbled over the simple word—a word he had never intended to label himself with. ‘Nicole, like it or not, you and I and Anna are now irrevocably linked together. I am simply suggesting that we make that link public and permanent so that we might solve all our problems at once.’

‘I can’t believe that you are actually prepared to marry me to save your precious business.’ She let out a single shocked burst of laughter.

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