“You are wrong to treat her so badly,” his father said behind him. “All she’s done is love you and try to bring us together.”
Kassius put his phone in his pocket and faced him with a cold sneer. “Love? What do you know about that?”
“I know how it feels to lose it.” His father looked at him with tears in his eyes. “I know how it feels to make one bad choice that ruins everything. When Emmaline told me to leave and not come back until I was free, I tried so hard to do it. I told myself I could make up for all the lost years. But the truth is that time is all we possess. Time and love. Choose carefully.” His voice broke. “Before you throw it away.”
Kassius shook his head coldly.
“My business manager informed me you already canceled the loan you were going to take on this villa. You might have managed to keep this place for now, but I have taken over your bankrupt company and I’ll be selling it off for parts. Along with everything else I’ve taken from you. This villa will be small comfort to you when...”
Kassius’s eyes widened. “What?”
“I give it to you freely,” his father said quietly. “The last thing I possess. I built it for your mother, after she died. You are all that we have left. The last memory of our love. Cash, this villa is yours.”
For a moment, Kassius couldn’t find a voice to answer. Kuznetsov simply giving him the villa was the last thing he’d expected. The last thing he’d wanted.
“Keep it while you can,” Kassius bit out, turning away. “My lawyers will be in touch.”
Outside the villa, dark clouds had covered the sun. From far away, he heard a low rumble of rolling thunder as a cold wind rose from the sea. He turned his face up to the first drops of rain, relishing the feel of it on his hot skin.
As ordered, his men had taken his wife away in the limo and he was left with the sports car, the key beside it. He was grateful to be the one driving the two-seater, since with the rear-wheel drive and performance tires, it could be a little dodgy on slick, wet roads. He wouldn’t want Laney to be taking any risks—
Then he remembered Laney was no longer his problem, since he was never going to see her again. He’d never even see his son born. A pang ripped through his heart. He was leaving her and the baby.
Just like her mother had done to her.
Just like his father had done to him.
Kassius took his phone out of his pocket, testing himself against the savage temptation. He couldn’t call her. He couldn’t. That would be breaking his vow. Revealing his own weakness. He couldn’t be weak. He couldn’t break his word.
Like a miracle, his phone suddenly rang in his palm. He saw his bodyguard’s number and snatched it up. “Yes?”
“Boss, we’ve had an accident,” Benito said hoarsely. “A truck collided into us on the road. Police and ambulance just got here. Lamont’s dead...that flask smelled of alcohol. I think it slowed his reflexes...”
Kassius gripped the phone. “Let me talk to Laney.”
There was a long silence. “I can’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“The truck plowed into her side. I wasn’t touched. She and Lamont got the worst of it.” The man’s voice was a whisper. “They’re loading her into a helicopter to take her to the Hôpital Princesse Florestine. They’re not sure...” His voice broke. “I’m sorry, boss. They’re not sure if she and the baby will make it.”
Not sure she and the baby will make it...
A haze went over Kassius’s eyes. A memory of everything Laney had tried to do for him...trying to love him, to convince him to love her, to even love himself. Trying to make him a better man.
And for that he’d ripped out her heart and sent her and his child away, unknowingly to their deaths...
He staggered against his car. He dimly noticed that his father had followed him out of the villa and now stood beside him in the rain, staring at him with wide eyes.
“Boss?” His bodyguard sounded panic-stricken.
“The main hospital in Monaco?” Kassius whispered.
“Take the north road. Get here as fast as you can.”
Turning from his father, Kassius flung himself into the car. Starting the engine, he drove as fast as he could, focusing with hellish intensity on the drive beneath the rain, pushing the sports car to the limit. He crossed the border into Monaco and then roared up to the hospital, parking beneath the portico, leaving his car helter-skelter in front with the door still open.
He ran inside, and his shout carried up and down the hallway. “Where is she? Where is my wife?” he cried. “Where is my son?”
“Monsieur, calm down!”
“Please, monsieur, this is a hospital! Show some respect!” the nurses tried to hush him.
“Where is she?”
“If you don’t stop yelling, we’ll have you thrown out of this hospital!”
Kassius saw the nearest nurse motion to a hospital security guard, who came forward. He gritted his teeth. Where was Benito when he needed him? Where was Laney?
He took a deep breath, trying to force himself to remain calm when he felt like screaming and grabbing the nurse by her scrawny neck and forcing her to cough up the information he needed. Wiping his eyes hard, he spoke over the jagged razor blade in his throat. “Please,” he said tightly. “My wife was in a car accident on the coast. She is thirty-six weeks pregnant. I was told she was brought here via helicopter...”
“Ah... Her.” The nurse looked up at him with pity in her eyes. “I’m sorry, monsieur,” she said quietly. “You’re too late.”
“TOO LATE?” A man’s voice roared suddenly behind Kassius in French. “You tell him this in the hallway?”
Kassius whirled around and saw his father, who must have broken speed records to follow him to the hospital, standing furiously beside him.
The nurse stiffened. “Monsieur?”
Boris had fury in his dark eyes. “Are my daughter-in-law and grandson dead?”
“Lower your voice, this isn’t—”
“They were brought here. You either let my son see his wife or get a doctor out here to explain—now!”
Scowling, the nurse retreated to the desk and checked her computer. Kassius waited, breathless with hope that she’d say it had all been a mistake. She’d tell him that Laney was absolutely fine, and the baby doing perfectly well, and Benito had simply made a mistake...
But the woman’s eyes only clouded as she saw something on her computer that made her give a brisk nod. “It is just as I thought.” Looking at them, she hesitated, biting her lip. “If you please, messieurs, go wait in the waiting room, and I will get a doctor to discuss—”
If Kassius had to wait another second to hear if Laney and his child lived or died, he thought he would collapse. He already felt like he was on a thin margin. To his surprise, he felt his father’s hand on his shoulder, giving him strength.
“We’re not moving until we know where she is,” Boris said forcefully.
The nurse glanced around as if she wished desperately there was someone else they could speak to. Then she sighed. “Your wife is in surgery,” she said reluctantly. “That is why I told you it was too late. They are performing a caesarean in an attempt to save the baby...”
An attempt? Just an attempt? “Then she is—”
“That is all I can tell you. Now go—” She pointed firmly toward the large nearby room filled with plain white plastic chairs and televisions blaring the news from Paris. “I will send the doctor to speak with you.”
Waiting in the Princess Florestine Hospital waiting room, waiting to hear if his wife and child would live or die, felt like the most agonizing hell of Kassius’s life. As he sat down heavily in a flimsy plastic chair, questions pounded through his head.
How badly had Laney and his son been injured? Were they dying? Could his wife already be dead?
They are performing a caesarean in an attempt to save the baby.
In an attempt.
Leaning forward in his chair, Kassius put his elbows on his knees. He folded forward in his grief and fear, covering his face with his hands.
“She’s a fighter, son.” He felt his father’s hand rest comfortingly on his shoulder. “She loves you with all her heart. She’ll fight to stay with you.”
“Why would she?” Pain gripped Kassius’s heart. “I told her I never wanted to see her again. I was so angry with her for talking to you. I saw it as a betrayal. I told her I was divorcing her and sending them away.” He looked at Boris bleakly. “You heard me.”
He heard his father’s ragged intake of breath. “You were angry. She knew you didn’t mean it.”
“She knew I did.” Misery swamped through him, shame and anguished grief. He’d threatened to abandon her and the baby and start a new family. Oh, my God! He clawed back his dark hair. In this moment, he would have given every penny of his fortune to know they were safe. He would have given his life to be able to hold her in his arms and tell her he loved her!
He loved her.
Kassius’s lips parted silently. His heart was beating so fast it felt like it was rattling inside his rib cage. He loved her. And it was only now, when he was so close to losing her, that he realized it. He loved her...