That statement broke Bianca’s heart. He looked terrible like he hadn’t slept a wink since she’d left. There were purple shadows beneath his eyes. Had he returned to working ridiculously long hours? Without her there to stop him, he would probably work himself to death.
Katie noticed changes in Bianca and credited them to her time in New York with Christian. One of the biggest changes Katie pointed out was that Bianca had learned to sayno. She didn’t let people use her as a doormat anymore. When a neighbor tried to take advantage of her good nature and dump three kids on her for the day without prior notice, Bianca put her foot down. She’d told the woman she would be happy to watch them once in a while as long as she didn’t have anything else going on and it was planned ahead of time or if it was an emergency.
Thanks to Christian she was stronger, but she was miserable. She’d lost her appetite and had to force herself to eat for her baby’s sake. She saw his handsome face everywhere she looked. So it wasn’t a total shock when she opened her door to find him... until she realized she wasn’t dreaming. It was really him. In the flesh.
He handed her a folder filled with a lengthy document. “Sign it.” Still bossy, he handed her a pen and gave her a softly spoken command. “Sign the papers and the magazine is yours. I want you to have it.”
Hope deflated. Was he trying to buy her again?
“I don’t want the mag—”
“Yes, you do. I know you do.” His jaw tightened. “If you don’t take it, I swear I will dismantle the whole damn thing. All your hard work will be gone in the blink of an eye. Your employees won’t have jobs. I don’t want the bloody magazine. Take it.”
She took out the document and scanned it while drifting back into her friend’s flat. Christian followed her inside. She heard the door close behind them as she read through the important parts. He was trying to trick her again. The document wasn’t just about the magazine. It also offered her the stock John had left her and a sizable amount of money.
She shoved the papers back into the folder and pushed it into his hands. “Maybe I’d agree to take the magazine because it was John’s and he wanted me to have it. But I will not take the stock. That belongs to your family.”
“When I found out my father left his stock to you, I wanted to strangle you both.” He shook the folder at her. “With this stock you’ll have as much as a family member, more than some. You’ll almost have as much stock as I do. You’ll be equal with my mother, and that’s why she was so angry.”
Bianca shrugged. “Then you shouldn’t want me to have it.”
“I didn’t.” He pulled a small box out of his pocket. “I didn’t want a stranger to have that much stock, but I do wantmy wifeto have it. I want my wife to be an equal to me in every way.”
He dropped down on one knee.
Part of her was horrified by what was happening, but the rest of her inwardly leaped for joy. She’d imagined this moment in a thousand daydreams. He opened the black velvet box and showed her the most beautiful ring she’d ever seen. Different than the ring he’d given her for show when they were pretending to be engaged, a classic princess cut diamond had been placed in a platinum setting.
“I know I hurt you,” he said. “But I plan to make it up to you even if it takes the rest of my life. I love you, Bianca, with all my heart. Will you please do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
An invisible dagger thrust into her heart as a realization hit her hard. “You know, don’t you?” Her eyes narrowed on his face. “You know about the baby?”
Slowly, he stood until he was hovering over her again. “What did you just say?”
Either he hadn’t known about the baby or he was the world’s greatest actor. She wasn’t sure which. How could she ever believe him now? She couldn’t marry him without knowing if he loved her or just wanted their child to be legitimate. She couldn’t marry him without trust.
He grasped her by the shoulders, but he didn’t hurt her. Even in anger he was gentle and kind. He willed her to look at him. “Are you pregnant?”
“As if you don’t know.”
“I didn’t know... until now.”
“Then why are you here all of a sudden wanting to marry me?”
“How could you keep my child from me? You were mad that I didn’t tell you about a stupid inheritance, but you were going to keep my own flesh and blood from me?”
She didn’t like the way he looked at her, betrayal burning deep in his eyes. He was right. What she’d done to him was worse than what he’d done to her. “I was going to tell you,” she said in her defense. “I was waiting for us to be alone, but the Carstairs showed up. Then I found out you’d lied to me, manipulated me.” She threw her hands into the air. “You told me you didn’t want children. What was I supposed to think?”
For a few minutes neither of them spoke.
Christian snapped the ring box closed and dropped it on the floor. He dug into his pocket. He pulled out a receipt and pushed it into her hands so she could inspect the date. “See there?” He underlined the date with his finger. “I bought the ring the week before the Carstairs showed up. My plan was to take you out for a nice dinner, maybe some dancing, and then I would propose while riding through Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage.”
Warmth filled her.
He really did love her.
She blinked back tears. “You were going to propose before the Carstairs dropped in and spoiled everything?”