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‘You looked beautiful this evening.’

Chiara lay awake for some time. She blamed the baby for starting its nightly Samba routine, but really it was due to everything that had happened that day.

That morning, waking up in the overcrowded room she’d shared with all those girls, she’d never have guessed she’d be ensconced in Nico’s luxury apartment in Rome by midnight. After having attended her first high-profile social event as a married woman.

In a way, she could admit that she was relieved Nico had found her, because telling him about the baby had been weighing on her mind more and more. And now it was done. The only thing she had to come to terms with now was how her life would fit in with his.

Did they have any kind of a future at all? Would Nico ever make love to her again? A shiver went through her, just remembering what it had felt like to stand next to him in the confined space of the lift. She was so aware of him. Would it ever diminish?

But as much as she craved his touch again she also feared it, because their wedding night had broken her apart—so much so that she’d had to put thousands of miles between them. If he touched her again, how would she be able to hide what she was feeling?

Her pregnancy didn’t help matters. She felt as if a layer of skin had been removed, baring her emotions even more.

Chiara put her hand on her belly and felt the baby kick. She couldn’t stop a smile, even though she didn’t feel like smiling. She hoped for their baby’s sake that there was some kind of a future for them.

She just couldn’t fall for him... Because if she did making a life with Nico would be excruciating. He was not a man who would ever love her back.

His attitude to his mother was chilling, even if she could understand how resentful and hurt he must have been after being abandoned by her. When Chiara had heard the pain in his voice earlier she’d wanted to soothe it. And that scared her because she should be remaining detached.

Then the baby kicked again and Chiara cursed herself for being selfish. As long as Nico loved their child, that was all that really mattered. She didn’t want her child to experience what she had—feeling less than, or not enough. And that would be her priority—this baby. Bringing it safely into the world and ensuring that he or she felt loved and wanted, no matter what was going on between her and Nico.

* * *

‘Do you want to know if it’s a boy or a girl?’

The doctor looked from her to Nico and Chiara held her breath. She was flat on her back on a table, her belly exposed and smeared with cold jelly. They’d just been reassured that everything was fine with the baby. And now there was this question.

Chiara said, ‘I don’t care as long as it’s healthy.’

She looked at Nico, who had been transfixed by the image on the screen ever since it had appeared. He looked pale. Then he said, ‘I’d like to know.’

He looked at her. ‘If that’s okay?’

Chiara figured that for a man who ran a huge global enterprise, comprising myriad businesses and thousands of employees, it made sense for him to leave little to chance.

She shrugged. ‘I don’t mind.’

The doctor pressed down again on Chiara’s belly and then she said, ‘Okay, I just wanted to be sure... I’m delighted to tell you that you’re having a baby girl.’

An instant sob of emotion came out of Chiara’s mouth before she could stop it as she looked at the screen and saw the tiny heartbeat pounding away. Her daughter. She put a hand to her mouth.

It took her a second to realise that Nico hadn’t said anything, and when she looked at him his expression was shuttered. Instantly she felt trepidation.

The doctor seemed to sense their need to absorb this alone and wiped the gel off Chiara’s belly and pulled her robe down. ‘I’ll be outside when you’re ready, but be reassured that all is well. Congratulations.’

The doctor left and silence filled the small room. Chiara pulled the robe down over her belly a little more and sat up. Nico was still standing beside the bed, dwarfing the small space.

Chiara forced herself to look at him. His expression was still a little shell-shocked.

A bitter sense of disappointment made her belly sink. ‘You don’t want a daughter.’

He seemed to come out of the reverie he’d been in and he looked at Chiara. He frowned. ‘No... I mean...yes. I just hadn’t really thought about it in terms of a he or a she yet. And now...’

He sat down on the chair looking a little bewildered. It was the first time Chiara had seen any kind of chink in his indomitability.

‘Are you disappointed? Would you have preferred a boy?’

Of course he would, crowed an inner voice, he’s an Alpha male!

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