The Secret to Marrying Marchesi

By: Amanda Cinelli

Nicole walked to the kitchen counter and began digging down to the bottom of her handbag. Her fingers finally closed on the object she sought, and she turned back to meet his cold gaze once more.

‘I’m telling you that you were wrong, Rigo.’ She held out the photograph. ‘Anna is your daughter and here is the proof.’


RIGO LOOKED AT the woman standing before him. She was so different from what he remembered. Gone was the carefree, uninhibited temptress and in her place was this formidable tigress of a brunette, wearing torn jeans. He always went into negotiations prepared, with adequate knowledge of his opponent. But it seemed that his previous knowledge no longer applied.

He took the photograph from her, holding it between his hands as she watched him. The picture was of a baby with soft brown curls and fair skin. He looked back down at Nicole.

‘This is not proof of anything.’

Hurt flashed across Nicole’s pale features for a brief instant before she shook her head and snatched the photograph from his hands. ‘I don’t know what else to say. I have been completely honest with you from the start. I told you that I was pregnant, and I didn’t cause a scene when you chose not to be involved.’

Rigo bit his lip with frustration. She was determined to stay her course. That much was becoming brutally clear. He had known she was an actress as a child, but he had never expected her to be this stoic in her performance.

‘You make me out to be such a villain in this production of yours,’ he said, keeping his tone deliberately calm.

‘Rigo, right now all I’m asking of you is that you use your power and influence so that I can go back home with my daughter and never bother you again.’

‘And am I to presume you don’t want a single penny from my heartless hands?’

She sighed audibly. ‘Ask yourself this. Why would I wait almost six months of my child’s life before leaking a story if I was so desperate? It doesn’t make sense.’

She looked so maternal right now, so innocent. It was likely she meant to look that way—to play the victim. He shook off the feeling of unease after seeing the photograph of the child. He was here to finish this.

‘You’re right. It doesn’t make sense.’ He shrugged. ‘But I am not in the least bit inclined to make sense of what goes on in your brain. Whether or not you leaked the story is of no consequence to me right now.’

‘You just want me to clear your name.’ She bit her lip. ‘I can’t do that, Rigo. I won’t lie.’

Rigo fought the urge to growl. ‘Nicole, I might be able to gag the media and prevent further stories, but I can’t undo the damage that has already been done. The public cannot be gagged. And the only way to stop them talking is for the scandal to be disproved.’ He paused for effect, watching as her eyes narrowed. ‘I am willing to increase the offer that was made to you today by twenty per cent. I’m asking you to do the right thing for everyone involved.’

All trace of softness seemed to disappear as she took a deep breath, shoving both hands into the pockets of her jeans. ‘As much as I want my privacy back, I can’t compromise my integrity and tell a lie that will affect my daughter forever. I vowed that I would never come to you, Rigo, and I haven’t until now. But right now her privacy means a lot more to me than my pride.’ She looked at him, her caramel-coloured eyes wide and deathly serious. ‘Do a paternity test. If it proves negative I will make whatever statement you like.’

‘I fail to see the point in performing a test when I already know what the outcome will be.’ He fought the urge to raise his voice. Performing a test would mean more time, and every day this scandal was out there was another day of plummeting shares.

‘If you are completely sure that she is not your daughter, then you have nothing to lose.’ Her voice was quiet.

‘Fine—I will arrange for the damned test. But, Nicole, once the negative result is confirmed, you will make a statement to the press.’

‘If it’s negative, you have a deal.’ She nodded.

‘Good, then we’re done here.’ He made to move towards the door.

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