Mistress By Proxy (Boss of Seduction)

Page 29

“What is your mother like?” she asked. In response to his startled expression she explained, “I knew your father so well, and he barely spoke of her. I’m curious. What was she like when you were growing up?”
“My mother?” He laughed with a tinge of bitterness. “Isobel Sabatino is strong, capable, decisive, and no one dares cross her. She would have made a great CEO, but my grandfathers are what you’d callold school. They’d never allow a woman to run the company.”
Bianca’s jaw dropped. “That’s awful. Did your mother want the job?”
He shrugged. “She hasn’t said it in so many words, but I am quite certain she coveted the position. Being denied her greatest desire is probably the reason she’s so bitter.” He picked up another slice of pizza. Before taking a bite, he added, “John wasn’t around when I was growing up. She raised me without any help from him.”
“That must have been difficult for her.”
He nodded while chewing. He dropped the half-eaten slice on top of the box and wiped his fingers on a paper napkin. “She left the care-taking part to the nannies, but she taught me a great many things about life.”
Bianca leaned forward, eager to learn more. “What did she teach you?”
“She taught me to take what I want and to steel myself against the opposition. She taught me to put on a brave face so my enemies don’t get the satisfaction of seeing they hurt me.” Christian leaned back against the bottom of the couch she’d put in her office for those late nights when she needed a quick nap. “My mother made sure I knew from the start that I’d been born to fulfill a certain destiny. I was born to be the CEO of her father’s precious company, and she never let me forget it for a second.”
“How could anyone do that to a child?”
“Agreed. I wouldn’t allow a child of mine to go through what I did.”
“Is that why you don’t want children?” Heat fused her cheeks when he looked surprised by the question. Quickly she added, “Sullivan told me you don’t want to be a father.”
“Guess I need to have a talk with Sullivan about boundaries.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean to get him in trouble. He’s been such a great help to me here. Forget I said anything.”
“If you don’t want me to call him on the carpet, tell me something. Be honest.”
She nodded, eyes wide. “What do you want to know?”
“Tell me if I’m wrong, but I have the feeling you are the type of girl who wants marriage, kids, and a white-picket fence, the whole nine yards.”
She got up and moved around the room, feeling a bit boxed in all of a sudden. How could she answer his question without telling him her big secret? They weren’t involved. He didn’t need to know. “I would love to share my life with someone special, but it doesn’t necessarily have to end in marriage.”
“Now you’ve surprised me. I was positive you are the kind that believes in soul mates and happily ever after.”
“That only exists in fairy tales. I’m old enough to understand nothing lasts forever, and as you’ve already pointed out I’ve lost a lot of people.” She stood before the tall windows and gazed at the skyscrapers reaching high into the blue sky. “Sometimes I’m sure I can’t bear losing another single person. But it’s inevitable, isn’t it? Maybe I’m cursed. That might explain why everyone I’ve loved has died.”
Stealthy, he moved in silence on black socks and placed his hands on her shoulders before she realized he was on his feet. “I’m sorry you had to go through that,” he said. “I’m sorry you’ve suffered repeated loss. No one should lose so much at such a tender age. If there was anything I could do for you...”
“I’m sorry about your childhood, too. It must have been lonely.”
She couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to have the weight of his entire family on his shoulders, all their high expectations. The pressure alone would have been enough to break most people. Now she understood why Christian was the kind of man who could turn away from his father and not seem to care the man had died.
“What about children?” he asked. “Don’t you want children?”
Tears pricked the backs of her eyes, and she blinked rapidly. “I am not planning to have any, no.”
“That could change.”
“It won’t.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I can’t have children,” she blurted out. She turned to look him in the eyes, and his hands dropped from her shoulders. Missing the warmth, her skin felt chilled where he’d been touching her. She shrugged and repeated, “I will never have a child of my own.”
He placed a kiss on her forehead. “I’m sorry.”
“Why?” She folded her arms. “Because I’m a woman you assume Ihaveto have children to be fulfilled? Maybe I want a career. Did you ever think of that?”