Scandal: a secret baby!
Read all about Italian billionaire Rigo Marchesi’s secret love child with London actress Nicole Duvalle. The biggest bombshell to hit the Marchesi Group could destroy CEO Rigo’s latest business deal. Unless the rumors that the baby scandal will have a fairy-tale ending are true?
This reporter has the inside scoop on their top secret wedding. From Nicole’s couture dress to their sizzling clinch outside the honeymoon suite. The chemistry might be real, but the question on everybody’s lips is:
Is this a union of convenience, or one of love?
Nicole paced from one side of Rigo’s open-plan office to the other. Her fists clenched by her sides as she weighed up the options in her head.
Plan A was to walk out of there without another word to Rigo Marchesi or his goons. She could take her chances with the press and beg for privacy—or, more likely, just give up on her dreams of ever having a normal life again. But her daughter would grow up knowing that her mother had tried her best.
Plan B… Well, Plan B was to take every moral she had and throw it out of the window.
She sat down on the nearest armchair and tried to clear her thoughts.
Strangely, she wished her mother were here to guide her through this. No, she corrected herself, she wished that her mother cared enough to try and help. But Goldie Duvalle was a law unto herself, breezing in and out of her daughter’s life in between marriages and even then only when she wanted something.
The last time she had seen her mother had been the day she’d told her that she was pregnant. Cold anger made her fists clench tight by her sides, her insides tightening at the memory of having her last thread of hope pulled out from under her. Her mother was not an option—not unless she needed some contacts for a magazine spread.
With her own upbringing to go by, maybe she had been fooling herself to think she could offer her daughter a normal life. Her erratic childhood had been the furthest thing from normal you could get. It seemed that scandal was just destined to follow her around everywhere that she went.
She looked around, feeling small and alone in the iron-and-marble-dominated office space. Anna had fallen asleep in her stroller by the window.
Rigo entered the office with a dull thud of the heavy panelled door behind him. His usually perfectly groomed dark hair was ruffled, and that same formidable expression on his face made her confidence waver.
He stood still, looking around him. ‘The child?’
That one question caught her off guard. She frowned, gesturing to where the stroller sat by the window, her daughter now sleeping peacefully inside.
‘She won’t wake if we speak?’ he asked.
Nicole shook her head once, trying not to soften at his apparent concern. ‘She’s a deep sleeper, thankfully. She should be fine.’
Rigo nodded brusquely, his eyes lingering on the pale pink blankets for a moment before turning back to her. His eyes held the strangest combination of anger and some other unknown emotion.
They stood there for a moment, facing each other in complete silence, before Rigo finally spoke.
‘Let me make it clear that I had nothing to do with that meeting.’ His jaw was tight as he held her gaze in earnest. ‘The board members were growing impatient and decided to act against me. I’m sorry you were put through that.’
She hadn’t expected an apology. It kind of threw her. ‘I told you I wouldn’t sign anything without the test.’
‘You did.’ He breathed out heavily..He walked past her, moving across the large office to his desk. He gestured to a leather wingback chair, motioning to her to sit, and taking a seat behind the desk once she had.
With his hands clasped in front of him he looked instantly more powerful and infinitely less approachable. The formidable CEO, taking care of yet another item on his agenda. He was powerful and unyielding, and yet right now he looked off-balance somehow.
‘I have received a phone call from the laboratory,’ he said calmly. He tapped his thumb absentmindedly on the desk. He looked at her. ‘The test results reveal a positive DNA match.’
Nicole stared back at him for a moment, unsure of what to say in response to this sterile, emotionless statement. ‘I see,’ she said quietly, watching as his thumb continued to move of its own volition, beating a steady rhythm.
‘That is all you have to say?’ he asked.
She shrugged, biting down on her lower lip. ‘I already knew what the result would be.’
He leaned back in his seat and watched her thoughtfully for a moment before speaking. ‘I chose not believe your claim based on what I believed to be the facts, Nicole. Now that I know I was mistaken… Well, our current situation is regrettable.’
It was like speaking with a corporate drone. Was it simply ‘regrettable’ that he’d missed the first six months of his child’s life? Nicole thought of the countless milestones that had come and gone, the days and nights full of laughter and tears. It seemed as if an entire lifetime had passed between them since the day he had made his regrettable choice.
Anger flared in her chest as she took in his solemn expression.
Rigo continued, oblivious to her inner turmoil. ‘The media’s attention is an immediate concern for us both, but I feel that we can come to an agreement to work it to our advantage.’
She crossed her arms, amazed that he was still talking business when he had just found out he had a daughter. ‘I’ve told you already. I won’t lie to the press to save your public image.’
‘I am not asking you to lie,’ he countered. ‘Now that I know she is mine, I do not plan to deny the fact. Publicly or otherwise.’
There it was. The words she had hoped to hear a lifetime ago. Only instead of feeling relief that her daughter would have some sort of relationship with her father, all she felt was cold, icy fear.
She stood up, taking a few paces away from him. ‘First of all, she is not yours,’ she said breathlessly, turning back to face him. ‘You are biologically her father, but the rest you have to earn. I am not asking for anything right now other than your help in getting the press off my doorstep.’
He didn’t speak. He just watched her with that same intensity she had come to recognise was naturally him.
Nicole crossed her arms, looking down at him. ‘There is no obligation for you to play a part in Anna’s life if you don’t want to.’
‘We both know that my walking away isn’t an option here.’
She didn’t know if that meant he didn’t want to walk away or that he knew it wouldn’t look good. She had a hard time believing that it was completely the former.
‘I would be happy for you to play a part in her life. But if you go public as her father you know that I will be hounded by paparazzi for the rest of my days. Pictures of her will be used to pad out every tabloid on the planet. Is that what you want?’
‘You don’t want to lie, but you don’t want me to tell them the truth?’ He sat back, his eagle eyes surveying her with keen interest. ‘It seems we have run out of options, then.’
‘All I’m asking from you is media protection,’ she said calmly. ‘I know such things exist with your kind of power.’
‘Protective orders are flimsy and easily overturned. The photographers would still come for pictures of you. The story is out there and she will always be a child of scandal. It will stick to her like glue.’
‘There has to be a way…’ Nicole felt herself weaken with the weight of his words. He was right, of course. The damage had already been done. Scandals like this never truly disappeared.
Had she really been so naïve as to think that he could somehow magically make it all go away? She had brought her daughter into this world and made a vow never to let the same things happen to her that she had suffered herself as a child. Being hounded by cameras at the school gates and constantly playing a part for the media. She had grown up far too quickly as a result. How could she let her daughter suffer the same?
Rigo cleared his throat, standing and coming around to perch against the side of his desk. ‘There is a way, Nicole. One I’m prepared to offer so that we might work the media to our mutual advantage.’
‘How on earth could we do that?’ She looked at his serious expression, feeling utterly defeated. She had only made things worse by running away and hiding. Anything she did now would just be damage control. A normal life wasn’t something the secret child of a billionaire could ever hope for, was it?
Rigo’s voice was cool and businesslike. ‘The fastest and most effective way to turn a story on its head is to give the media an even bigger story to salivate over.’
‘What could be bigger than this?’ She frowned.
‘A wedding. To be more precise, our wedding.’
Nicole was silent, hardly believing what he was saying. If she had heard him correctly that was absolutely ridiculous and not a real solution at all.
‘You want to pretend that we’re married?’ she said incredulously. ‘That wouldn’t do a thing—everyone would know it was a sham.’
‘I am not suggesting a sham.’ He looked down at her, some unknown emotion blazing in his eyes. ‘Nicole, the only way to end this scandal once and for all is for me to prove that I have not abandoned my child and her mother. To make a grand production of how wrong the media has got it. And the best way for me to do that…is for you to actually become my wife.’