Alexandra stifled her urge to offer sympathy. Dimitri got nothing from her from this point forward. Nothing.
“Talk out here, Allie. You don’t want your circumstances bandied about any more than Dimitri does. If pictures of you make it into the scandal rags here, your mother may not have a heart attack, but the hissy fit she’ll throw won’t be much of an improvement and it will all come down on your head.”
Madeleine glared at her husband, but agreed. “Hunter’s right. If you are going to talk to this swine it might as well be here where no sleazy journalists are waiting to quote an overheard conversation or take damaging pictures.”
Dimitri’s patience was wearing thin and Alexandra could feel his anger mounting. Some things, it seemed, had not changed. She could still read him like the other half of herself. She found the thought so disturbing, she buried it immediately.
“You’re right. Mother is already prepared to disown me and make up some story about my early demise. We’ll talk here.”
She would have mistaken the breath Dimitri expelled as a sigh of relief, but she no longer believed he was capable of feeling enough vulnerability to be relieved.
With a few dire warnings to Dimitri and concerned looks at Alexandra, Madeleine allowed Hunter to lead her from the terrace after turning on the small gas outdoor fireplace. The sound of metal sliding against metal indicated one set of doors closing. A minute of silent waiting and the second set of doors closed from the inside of the apartment. As the vertical blinds slid across the doorway and then turned to create a visual barrier against the rest of the party, Alexandra felt trapped.
She was alone with a man she used to love—a man she no longer trusted.
Dimitri didn’t speak. He didn’t move. He just stared at her and then at the football-size bump that indicated their baby living and growing beneath her heart. Tension arced between them and she became aware of the feel of his hard, muscular chest against her side.
“Put me down.”
He seemed to snap out of a trance and his gaze shifted to hers. “Your eyes are golden. They used to be green.”
“Even at night?”
“The lights were dim, or off.”
“You cut your hair.”
She shrugged. He, of all people should know her natural hair color. He’d been the only one to see it in the last six years since she’d had her first bleach job and landed her first modeling contract.
“I like it.”
That made her angry. He had no right to like anything about her anymore. He was a married man. “I don’t care.”
His eyes narrowed and his mouth set in a firm line.
She refused to cower before the signs of his anger. “As fascinating as this discussion is, I thought you had more important issues you wanted to talk about.”
He nodded. He gently lowered her into a wicker armchair before seating himself in its twin on the other side of a small wicker and glass table. Both were well away from the broken whiskey glass and first-aid supplies, but near the fireplace whose gas lit flames generated some heat.
Contrarily, she missed the warmth of his body as a slight autumn breeze caught the strands of her chin-length hair and lifted them to chilling effect. She shivered.
“You are cold. We should talk inside.”
Where someone might hear? “No. It was just a breeze.”
He shucked out of his coat and tucked it around her shoulders before she knew what was happening. She tried to shrug it off, but he held it in place by the lapels. “Do not be stubborn.”
His nearness was doing something to her hard won emotional distance so she agreed in order to get him to back off. It didn’t do a lot of good. The coat carried his scent and warmed from his body, it was like having his arms closed protectively around her. Stifling the image that thought provoked, she focused on getting down to business.
She smoothed her oversized, sage green cable knit sweater over the baby, reminding herself that possession was nine-tenths of the law and no one could deny that right now, she was the one in possession of their baby. “What is it exactly you think we have to talk about?” she asked, going on the offensive.
He looked her in the eye, his blue gaze dark with purpose. “I want my child.”
HE wanted her baby.
She had suspected it since her call to the Paris apartment, but hearing him say it was like being tossed into a black hole and having all the air sucked out of the universe at one time.
She put her hands protectively over her tummy as if by doing so she could somehow prevent him from carrying through on his monstrous plan. “You can’t have him.”
“You say him. Do you mean to say you know he is a boy?”
Should she lie? Would he fight any less ruthlessly for a daughter? The implacable expression on his face said not.
“How do you know?”
“I had an ultrasound at four months.”
An expression of dawning understanding came over his hardened features. “That’s why you called the apartment.”
She refused to answer.
His hands fisted against the Italian suit wool covering his thighs. “You were going to tell me our baby was to be a boy.” He sounded astonished by the fact.
Why shouldn’t he be? He’d treated her like the lowest of the low, denied his paternity, ditched her to marry another woman and evicted her from their apartment like a bad tenant ninety days past lease. And she’d called to tell him the sex of their child. How stupidly sentimental could any one woman be?
An expression like grief passed over his face, though what he had to grieve about, she could not imagine. “And you spoke to Phoebe.”
Why bother answering? He knew the details already.
“You refused to tell her where you were.”
“Do you blame me?”
His jaw clenched. “Funnily enough. Yes. I can blame you. Phoebe begged you to tell her where you were and you refused. I’ve spent months of fruitless searching and hired no less than five world-class detective agencies, only to be told by all of them that Xandra Fortune ceased to exist.”
“They were right.”
“Yet, here you are.”
“No. Here you see Alexandra Dupree. I will never be Xandra Fortune again.” She would never allow herself to be vulnerable to the man she had loved as Xandra again, either.
“You told me you were an orphan.”
She felt her mouth twist cynically. “No. That is what your agency told you when you had me investigated as a suitable candidate to be your lover. I just never denied it.”
“You created an entire persona for yourself.”
“You lied to me every day of our association.”
Association? Was that anything like a relationship gone sour? “I did not lie to you.”
“You let me call you Xandra.”
“Many models use a working name.”
“Only you lived a life completely separate from this reality I now find in a New York apartment. That woman, Madeleine, she is your sister?”
“Yes. Hunter is her husband.”
His brows rose in mockery. “I had figured that out.”
She clenched her fists so she wouldn’t hit him.
He laughed, but it was a sound without mirth. “Don’t try it. Your sister already slapped me.” He lifted his plastered hand as a silent indicator of that wound. “I’m in no mood to sustain further injury.”
“Poor you,” she jeered.
“Keep pushing it and my temper will override my patience.”
Remembering the inimical fury he’d exhibited the day she told him of her pregnancy, she shivered. “I used to think you were such a cool guy, no scenes, no temper tantrums, all sleek sophisticated Greek male.”
“Do not forget rich.”
“I don’t care about your filthy money. I never did.”
“Yet it will be difficult for you to win against it, should you attempt to withhold my child from me.”
Fear tried to take hold, but she refused to give into it. “You don’t scare me. This isn’t Greece. You can’t take my baby away from me just because you’re rich and male. United States family law is heavily balanced in the mother’s favor.” She’d looked into it as soon as she’d hit New York. She’d known even then that if Dimitri ever decided to claim her child, she would be facing difficulties ahead.
“Perhaps, but can you afford the constant legal battles? The draining expense of hiring top-notch lawyers to plead your case.”
The picture he painted was a bleak one. “I’ll do whatever it takes to keep my child.”