“No!” Letty shouted. Her eyes blazed. “If you ever go behind my back like that again, I will never talk to you for the rest of my life. Do you understand? Never.”
“Okay, okay,” he grumbled. “But he’s your baby’s father. You should just marry him and be happy.”
That left her speechless for a minute.
“Just be packed by the time I return,” she said finally, and she went out into the gray, rainy September morning. She picked up her last check at the diner—for a pitiful amount, but every dollar would help—and said farewell to her fellow waitress Belle, who’d moved to New York from Texas the previous Christmas.
“Anytime you need anything, you call me, you hear?” Belle hugged her fiercely. “No matter where you are, Rochester or Rome, remember I’m only a phone call away!”
Letty didn’t make friends easily, so it was hard to say goodbye to the only real friend she’d made since she’d left Fairholme. The thought of going to yet another new apartment in a new town where she didn’t know anyone, in hopes of starting a job that might not even exist, filled her with dread. She tried to smile.
“You too, Belle,” she managed. Then, wiping her eyes, she said goodbye to everyone else at the diner and went back out into the rain to deposit her check at the bank and get two one-way bus tickets to Rochester.
When Letty got back home, her hair and clothes were damp with rain. Her father wasn’t at the apartment, and his suitcases were empty. All their belongings were still untouched, exactly where she’d left them.
She’d just sort through everything herself, she thought wearily. Once she’d figured out how many boxes they’d have to leave behind, she’d call the junk dealer.
Of the eight billion dollars her father’s investment fund had lost, three billion had since been recovered. But the authorities had been careful not to leave him with anything of value. Their possessions had been picked over long ago by the Feds and bankruptcy court.
What was left was all crammed into this tiny apartment. The broken flute her mother had played at Juilliard. The ceramic animals Constance had painted for her daughter as gifts, starting with her first birthday. The leather-bound classic books from her grandfather’s collection, water-damaged, so worthless. Except to them. Her great-grandfather’s old ship in a bottle. Her grandma Spencer’s homemade Christmas ornaments. All would have to be left.
We’ll get through it, Letty told herself fiercely. They could still be happy. She’d raise her baby with love, in a snug cottage overlooking a garden of flowers. Her son would have a happy childhood, just as Letty had.
He wouldn’t be raised in some stark gray penthouse without a mother, without love...
Letty started digging through the first pile of clutter. She planned to stay up the whole night scrubbing down the apartment, in hopes their landlord might actually give back her security deposit.
Hearing a hard knock at the door, she rose to her feet, overwhelmed with relief. Her father had come back to help. He must have forgotten his key again. Sorting through their possessions would be so much easier with two of them—
Opening the door, she gasped.
Darius stood in her doorway, dressed in a black button-down shirt with well-cut jeans that showed the rugged lines of his powerful body. It was barely noon, but his jaw was dark with five-o’clock shadow.
For a moment, even hating and fearing him as she did, Letty was dazzled by that ruthless masculine beauty.
“Letty,” he greeted her coldly. Then his eyes dropped to her baby bump.
With an intake of breath, Letty tried to shut the door in his face.
He blocked her with his powerful shoulder and pushed his way into her apartment.
SIX MONTHS AGO Darius had wanted vengeance.
He’d gotten it. He’d ruthlessly taken Letitia Spencer’s virginity, then tossed her out into a cold winter’s night. He’d seduced her, insulted her. He’d thrown the money in her face, made her feel cheap.
It had been delicious.
But since then, to his dismay, he’d discovered the price of that vengeance.
In Darius’s childhood, back on the Greek island where he was born, his grandmother had often told him that vengeance hurt the person who committed it worse than the one who endured it. When the kids at school mocked his illegitimate birth, sneering at his mother’s abandonment—Even your own mitéra didn’t want you—his grandmother had told him to ignore them, to take the high road.
He’d tried, but the boys’ taunts had only grown worse until he was finally forced to punch them. They’d all been bloodied in the fight, but especially Darius, since it had been one against four.
“So you see I’m right,” his grandmother had said gravely, bandaging him afterward. “You were hurt worse.”