Dante Claiming His Secret Love-Child

By: Sandra Marton
CHAPTER ONE




DANTE Orsini was in the prime of his life.

He was rich, powerful and as ruggedly good-looking as a man could hope to be. He worked hard, played hard, and on those rare nights he went to bed alone, he slept soundly until morning.

But not tonight.

Tonight he was dreaming.

In his dream he walked slowly along a narrow road. It led to a house. He could hardly see it because of the heavy mist that hung over everything, but it was there.

His footsteps slowed.

It was the last place on earth he wanted to be. A house in the suburbs. A station wagon in the driveway. A dog. A cat. Two-point-five kids.

And a wife. One woman, the same woman, forever…

Dante sprang up in bed, gasping for air. A shudder racked his big, leanly muscled body. He slept naked, kept the windows open even now, in early autumn. Still, his skin was slick with sweat.

A dream. That’s all it was. A nightmare.

The oysters last night, maybe. Or that brandy right before bedtime. Or…he shuddered again. Or just another resurfacing of that long-ago memory of what had happened when he was just eighteen, stupid and in love.

In what he’d thought was love.

He’d gone steady with Teresa D’Angelo for three months before he’d so much as touched her.

When he finally did, one touch led to another and another and another….

Christmas Eve, he’d given her a gold locket.

She’d given him news that almost brought him to his knees.

“I’m pregnant, Dante,” she’d whispered tearfully.

He’d been stunned. He was a kid, yeah, but he’d still known enough to use condoms. But he loved her. And she’d wept in his arms and said he’d ruined her life, that he had to marry her.

He would have.

He would have Done The Right Thing.

But fate, luck, whatever you wanted to call it, intervened. His brothers noticed how withdrawn he’d become. They sat him down, saw to it that he had enough beer to loosen him up a little and then Nicolo asked him, point-blank, what was going on.

Dante told them about his girl.

And the three of them, Nicolo and Raffaele and Falco, looked at each other, looked at him and said, was he out of his freaking mind? If he’d used protection, how could she have gotten knocked up?

She had to be lying.

He went after Falco because he’d said it first. When Rafe and Nick repeated it, he went after them, too. Falco grabbed him in an arm lock.

“I love her, dammit,” Dante said. “You hear me? I love her and she loves me.”

“She loves your money, dude,” Nicolo had said, and for the first time in days Dante had laughed.

“What money?”

Falco let go of him. And Rafe pointed out that the girl didn’t know he wasn’t loaded. That even way back then, all four Orsini brothers had thumbed their noses at their old man’s money and power and everything that went with it.

“Ask around,” Falco, the oldest of them, said bluntly. “Find out how many other guys she’s been with.”

Dante lunged for him again. Nick and Rafe held him back.

“Use your head,” Nick snapped, “not that divining rod in your pants.”

Rafe nodded in agreement. “And tell her you want a paternity test.”

“She wouldn’t lie to me,” Dante protested. “She loves me.”

“Tell her you want the damned test,” Rafe growled. “Or we’ll tell her for you.”

He knew Rafe meant it. So, with a dozen apologies, he’d suggested the test.

Teresa’s tears had given way to fury. She’d called him every name in the book and he’d never heard from her again. Yeah, she’d broken his heart but she’d also taught him a lesson that still came back to haunt him when he least expected it.

Like that ridiculous dream.

Dante took a couple of deep breaths, sank back against the pillows and folded his arms behind his head.

Marriage? A wife? Kids? No way. After years of trying to decide what to do with his life, of coming close to losing it a couple of times in places no sane man should have been, he’d finally sorted things out. Now he had everything a man could possibly want: this penthouse, with the morning sun pouring through the skylight above his bed. A cherry-red Ferrari. A private jet.

And women.

A wicked grin lit his hard, handsome face.

More women, sometimes, than a guy could handle and all of them beautiful, sexy and not foolish enough to think they could con him into anything more permanent than a relationship—and, God, he hated that word—a relationship of a few months duration.

He was between women right now.

Taking a breather, Falco had said wryly. True. And enjoying every minute of it. Like the blonde at that charity thing last week. He’d gone to what should have been a dull cocktail party. Save the City, Save the World, Save the Squirrels, who knew what? Orsini Brothers Investments had bought four tickets, but only one of the brothers had to show his face.

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