“Did you get it in writing? Honestly, Christian, you can’t tell when someone is playing you for a fool. She wants you to chase after her and beg her to take you, your fortune, and John’s stock.”
“She doesn’t want the inheritance.” Christian sighed. “And she doesn’t want me. For the first time in my life… I love her, Mother.”
“I know you think—”
He launched to his feet. “Get out! I want you to leave New York, go back to your home in Greece, and don’t return. I won’t cut you off because you are still my mother, but I don’t ever want to see you again.”
She paled. “You don’t mean that.”
With a heavy heart, he stood directly in front of the woman who’d given birth to him. “You were forced to marry a man you didn’t love. I know you were alone and unhappy. Naturally, you’d make everyone around you miserable, even the child you claimed to love more than anything.”
She placed a hand on his, but he moved away.
“I did love you,” she said. “I have always loved you. But I had to raise you alone, and it was hard on me.”
“To be fair, the nannies raised me. You checked in once in a while, patted me on the head, and went to your fundraisers.”
He started to leave.
The sound of uncontrolled sobs stopped him.
“Do you think I wanted your life to be like that?” In an uncharacteristic move, she threw her purse on the floor. “My father made it clear he didn’t want a weak grandson. He was afraid you’d take after John and be useless to the family. I prayed I’d have a girl because I knew my father wouldn’t care how I raised her. But I had a beautiful little boy. He let me love on you, cuddle you, read and sing to you... until you turned four.”
“What happened then?” Christian asked even though he felt he already knew the answer.
She took a shaky breath. “He gave me a list of what to teach you and how to do it. I was to be strict yet fair. When you cried and I ached to hold you, I had to send a nanny in, and it was your grandfather that fired them. Not me. He didn’t want you to get attached to anybody.”
“Why didn’t you stand up to him?”
“I did.” A sad smile halfway tilted her lips. “On your sixth birthday, I threw you a lavish affair. We had pony rides, a clown making animal balloons, and lots of treats and fun stuff to do. I invited every child close to your age in town so you’d have friends to play with.”
He nodded slowly. “I remember that.”
“Your grandfather took me to the hospital late that night and had me put in the psych ward. He was a powerful man. No one questioned him when he told them I was having a nervous breakdown. I was released after three days, but he made it clear he could put me away forever in an institution if I didn’t follow his instructions.”
Christian growled. “If that old man wasn’t ninety, I would punch him so hard—”
His mother wrapped her arms around his waist for a rare hug. “Forgive me for not finding the courage to do this every day while you were growing up.” She wept against his chest while he patted her on the back. “Go after her,” his mother said. “If she is a good person and you truly love her, then go after her.”
An emotional lump clogged his throat, and a muscle throbbed in his cheek. “She doesn’t want to see me again, and I don’t blame her. I did a terrible thing. I should have told her the truth.”
“It was my fault, not yours. Tell her that. I’m the one who insisted on contesting the Will.”
“But I lied to her. I tricked her into moving here by offering her something that was legally hers already.” He raked a hand through his thick hair. “I took her to bed and didn’t tell her even then. That’s what she won’t forgive. Never.”
“Never is a long time.”
“After Thomas Carstairs used money and power to control her, she vowed not to let another man do that to her again. But I did. I used her love for the magazine to control her. Now she hates me. I can’t get in a time machine and undo what I did. Believe me, she will never forgive me.”
He exited the conference room before his mother could construct a logical rebuttal. He knew Bianca well enough to know she’d meant what she’d said to him, every word. She didn’t want him in her life. He needed to accept defeat. Bianca was lost to him forever.
For the next three weeks Bianca worked hard to forget Christian Sabatino existed, which wasn’t easy considering he kept popping up in the news. One morning his gorgeous face stared up at her from the newspaper. She’d refused to read the article, but Katie made sure she knew Christian had broken her ex-husband’s nose. Bianca couldn’t help the pride that nibbled away at her anger. Maybe Christian had real feelings for her after all.
“How could you let that hunky man get away?” Katie had asked.
A few days later Bianca turned on an entertainment-gossip show in time to see a story on Christian. According to unnamed sources he was dumping the successful magazine,Love Life. A reporter asked him why he’d give up an investment that continued to make money. They showed a quick flash of him saying, “I don’t believe in love. Not anymore.”