The Secret to Marrying Marchesi

By: Amanda Cinelli

The man at the top of the table sat forward. His uncle Mario was a white-haired oaf in his late fifties, with a penchant for contesting his nephew’s authority at every turn. ‘We have already got agreement from the rest of the board. You have been outvoted in your plan. Swift, heavy-handed action is in the best interests of the company.’

Rigo cleared his throat, eyeing the leather-bound folder on the table and closing it with a loud snap that resounded across the table. ‘This will not be buried with legal settlements.’

A brave PR executive spoke up. ‘You know that this company’s past makes it far more vulnerable to the media. Your father always made it clear that private indiscretions cannot be allowed to fester.’

Rigo felt his patience snap. ‘My father is no longer CEO of this corporation. I am. Everyone who is not a member of the board leave the room. Now.’

He turned to the window, taking three deep breaths as the men and women quickly scurried from the room. This afternoon had pumped his adrenaline into overdrive—and only half of it had to do with suddenly finding out about this clandestine meeting.

He turned to face his uncle, the only board member present. ‘You don’t have the power to make my decisions for me, Mario. If you wanted my job you could have fought for it.’

‘I value my free time far too much.’ Mario rolled his eyes. ‘This is a straightforward pay-off, Rigo.’ He stood up, stalking towards him. ‘This woman is slandering the Marchesi name out there and jeopardising the entire Fournier deal, for God’s sake.’

‘It’s not slander,’ Rigo stated gruffly, hearing the words echo in his mind as he said them. ‘I had the DNA analysis confirmed twenty minutes ago. The child is mine.’

Mario was silently stunned for a moment, his mouth agape. ‘You agreed to a paternity test without alerting the legal team?’ His eyes bulged. ‘Are you completely insane? Even your grandfather wasn’t that stupid.’

Mario didn’t seem in the least surprised at the news itself—which was more than could be said for Rigo. He was still absorbing the information. His brain was working overtime, examining the revelation that, against all the odds, Nicole had been telling the truth. He had never once wavered in his certainty that she was lying. He’d long ago taken very permanent measures to make sure he would never be put in this position again. And yet here he was.

His uncle cleared his throat, looking pointedly at the leather folder. ‘Marchesi men have all committed some indiscretions, Rigo. It seems it is a family weakness. My advice is to not let this get in the way of resolving the matter. Everyone has a price. Find hers.’

* * *

Nicole paced from one side of Rigo’s open-plan office to the other. Her fists clenched by her sides as she weighed up the options in her head.

Plan A was to walk out of there without another word to Rigo Marchesi or his goons. She could take her chances with the press and beg for privacy—or, more likely, just give up on her dreams of ever having a normal life again. But her daughter would grow up knowing that her mother had tried her best.

Plan B... Well, plan B was to take every moral she had and throw it out the window.

She sat down on the nearest armchair and tried to clear her thoughts.

Strangely, she wished her mother were here to guide her through this. No, she corrected herself, she wished that her mother cared enough to try to help. But Goldie Duvalle was a law unto herself, breezing in and out of her daughter’s life in between marriages and even then only when she wanted something.

The last time she had seen her mother had been the day she’d told her that she was pregnant. Cold anger made her fists clench tight by her sides, her insides tightening at the memory of having her last thread of hope pulled out from under her. Her mother was not an option—not unless she needed some contacts for a magazine spread.

With her own upbringing to go by, maybe she had been fooling herself to think she could offer her daughter a normal life. Her erratic childhood had been the furthest thing from normal you could get. It seemed that scandal was just destined to follow her around everywhere that she went.

She looked around, feeling small and alone in the iron-and-marble-dominated office space. Anna had fallen asleep in her stroller by the window.

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