The Secret to Marrying Marchesi

By: Amanda Cinelli

‘Wait!’ she called, stopping him midstride. ‘We haven’t discussed the details of what will be done if the test is positive.’

Rigo shook his head. ‘If the test is positive...’ he said, looking down again at the picture of the child briefly. Her eyes were a deep cobalt blue. If he wasn’t so sure that he was sterile he might almost call them Marchesi blue.

Nicole was looking at him intently. He tore his gaze away and walked over to open the door, very intent on leaving all of a sudden.

‘It would be nothing short of miraculous,’ he stated plainly. ‘I’m pretty sure a paternity test isn’t going to change what I already know.’

With that, he closed the door behind him.

* * *

The executive boardroom of the Marchesi Group headquarters was on the forty-fifth floor. Nicole sat alone at the end of the black marble conference table while various men and women in designer suits sat around her in complete silence. No one addressed her or looked her way. She suddenly wished she could trade places with Anna, who lay happily chewing on her toes in the stroller by her side.

An elderly white-haired gentleman sat at the top of the table, watching her. Nicole cleared her throat, sitting up a little straighter in her seat. A slim leather folder was laid out in front of her. She hesitated for a moment before opening it, aware that all eyes in the room were suddenly trained upon her. The cheque inside had so many zeroes she felt her breath catch.

The white-haired man sat forward, clearing his throat. ‘As the most senior member of the board present, I am presenting you with our final offer, Miss Duvalle.’

‘This can’t be right...’ she breathed, the figures swimming in her vision.

‘The Marchesi Group is offering you a generous deal in return for your public statement that Rigo Marchesi is not the father of your child.’

‘This wasn’t the deal.’ She began to pick at her nails under the table, a familiar sense of entrapment setting in. This wasn’t a meeting at all. It was an ambush.

‘Understand this, Miss Duvalle. We will not be negotiating the figure on that cheque, so if you want the pay-out I would advise you to take it now.’ The man sat back in his seat, openly surveying the neckline of her blouse.

Nicole crossed her arms over her chest, feeling very small and very alone in the room full of suits. It would be so easy just to do what they asked. To deny the truth and run away would be the easier option in some respects. The truth was inconvenient—just as she and her daughter were. A press release would take less than ten minutes and then she could escape. She could forget all about Rigo Marchesi and start over again somewhere new.

And what would happen when her daughter became old enough to understand? What about when she asked why her father had never played a part in her life? Her daughter would eventually find out that her mother had lied to the world and denied her the right to her true parentage.

She thought of her own mother, of her countless lies and manipulations. All for money. What kind of role model would she be if she lied to her own daughter about something so important?

She took a deep breath. These people wouldn’t cow her. ‘I won’t be signing a thing without speaking to Mr Marchesi first.’

A woman in a beige suit spoke, her hawklike eyes spitting fire across the room. ‘I’m aware that you probably grew up observing a certain level negotiations through your mother. But are you really prepared to go toe to toe with a multi-billion-euro corporation in a courtroom?’

Nicole felt her skin prickle. These people made her feel cheap and utterly worthless.

Suddenly every other person at the table avoided her eyes, seeming very focused on the door behind her.

Nicole turned to see Rigo’s hulking frame silhouetted in the doorway.

She stood, anger steeling her resolve. ‘This is unacceptable. I won’t be bullied.’

‘I did not agree to this meeting, Nicole.’ His voice was deeper than usual, and his gaze dropped momentarily to where Anna was growing rapidly more tired in her stroller. ‘Go and wait in my office, I’ll be there in a moment.’

* * *

Rigo stood dangerously still at the top of the table and waited for Nicole to leave before he spoke. ‘Somebody had better tell me right now why this meeting was arranged without my knowledge.’

Top Books