The most shocking thing was that he might want those things now. He wanted Bianca to be a permanent part of his life. An affair with her didn’t appeal to him anymore. He wanted her legally bound to him. He wanted to make it difficult for her to leave him.
But how could he convince her to agree? The panic in her eyes when he voiced his changing views on marriage didn’t bode well for him. Ironic, the man who had prided himself on never being snared by a woman wanted to do the snaring now.
Christian got out of bed and pulled his boxers on. “I am not like most men. Agreed?”
“Agreed.” Her smile looked a bit like a smirk to him. “What’s your point?”
He went to her and put his arms around her waist. “And you are not like most women. Agreed?”
“I’m my own person, yes. Again I ask, what’s your point?”
“If we got married, our marriage would be one of a kind like us. Even if every other marriage in the world fails, that doesn’t mean ours would. Maybe we’d start a trend in successful marriages.”
Still frowning, she shook her head. “People change the second the ring goes on their finger. They stop trying.”
“Didn’t you say your parents had the greatest love story of all time?”
“My father died one year into it. They didn’t have time to become disillusioned or cheat or find new inventive ways to hurt each other.”
Christian made a mental note to track down her bastard ex-husband and beat him to a bloody pulp for all the damage he’d done to her. She looked ready to bolt. Christian decided to start back-peddling before he scared her off completely. “Relax,” he said. “I don’t want to get married tomorrow or even next year or the year after that. I just want to know the door is open a crack if I want to give it a try.”
Some of the fear left her eyes. “There’s so much I don’t know about you.”
He lifted her hand and kissed the inside of her arm just above the wrist. “You probably know more than you think you do. For instance, I know you enjoy eating yogurt in the morning. You bite your lip when you’re worried, and your nose scrunches up when you smile. It’s adorable. You also collect strays because you have a big heart.”
A cute shade of pink tinted her cheeks.
He prodded, “What do you know about me? Come on. You must have learned something from living with me.”
“Well, you get grouchy when you don’t eat regularly, so Anya always slips a granola bar into your suit jacket pocket. Sometimes when you’re working, you hum without realizing it.” Her crystal blue eyes focused on the ceiling while she struggled for a third thing. She snapped her fingers. “Got it. You pick Baby up and stroke his fur and talk to him when you think you’re alone.”
His jaw dropped. “You know about that?” He’d been so careful not to be seen by anyone. He shrugged. “What can I say? The hairy rat has grown on me much like his owner.”
“Glad to hear it. I was worried I might come home one night to find him missing.”
“I would never do that to you. It’s obvious how much the little monster means to you.” One of her words stuck in his head. A slow grin spread across his face. “Wait a second. You called this your home. Is that how you really feel?”
He held his breath for a moment, willing her to confirm.
Instead, she asked, “What was your problem with marriage before, and what’s changed now? Sullivan swore you were the last man who would ever get married. Why did he think that if it’s not true?”
Feeling at a disadvantage in his boxers, he put his trousers and shirt back on. “I fell in love with this older woman when I was nineteen. She seemed to genuinely care for me, but my parents hit the roof when I proposed. My mother offered her a hefty check to dump me, and she took it.”
“Hang on. That wasn’t the worst of it.”
Needing a strong drink to finish the story, he went to his den. He was aware of her bare feet following a couple steps behind. After pouring amber liquid into a glass, he offered it to her. She declined with a shake of her pretty head. He swallowed half the contents in a large gulp. To him, sharing a traumatic moment withanyonewasn’t easy. Telling it to Bianca felt like pushing a boulder up the side of a mountain.
“I went to confront her,” he finally said. He cleared his throat, growing more nervous by the second. “Part of me was sure she was innocent. Or maybe I was just desperate to believe. I found her in a motel room with my father.” He paused, and his lips compressed into a tight line. “They were in bed.”
He went on. “She laughed at me for being dumb enough to think she loved me when she was only after the money. My father at least had the grace to get dressed for the conversation. She stayed in bed, clearly naked beneath the sheet, and she told me my father had offered to set her up in a nice condo, give her all the spending money she wanted, and she didn’t have to marry him.”
“Thank you for sharing that with me. I get it now, why you had issues with your father and why you didn’t want marriage. But I don’t get what’s different now.”
“I just don’t like hearing you say you wouldnevermarry me.”