Martino Galeazzi had given me the most precious gift when he'd gotten me pregnant five years ago, but he'd ripped my heart out at the same time. Having him back in my life wasn't something I had been prepared for. Trust didn't come easily to me, not even when someone starts messing with my life. Martino had let me down once before. No matter how much I desired him, could I trust that he would keep the promises he kept making or was he going to rip my heart out again and take my son?
I took me five years to realize how badly I'd messed up with Ryan Jones and to accept that he might be the one man who wasn't after me for my money. Now, I had a lot to make up for. Earning his trust again and getting him to forgive me meant I needed to man up and admit what I had done. It wasn't easy admitting I'd become so jaded that I hurt the man and almost lost my chance at the family I dreamed of. Now that Ryan and my son were back in my life, there wasn't anything I wouldn't do for them, even die protecting them.
We had that one time together, but I wanted more. I wanted forever.
~ Martino ~
"They look happy."
Ryan Jones glanced at me over his shoulder. "Why shouldn't they be?"
"I was just making a statement, Ryan." I was never going to win with this guy. I'd been trying for a month now to break the ice, and he either ignored me or spat venom at me. It was getting aggravating. "It's been a while since I've seen my brother this happy."
I was a little jealous.
"It looks good on him." I shoved my hands into my slacks, not sure what else to say to keep Ryan talking to me. The tension between us was almost visible. It had been that way since he opened his eyes for the first time when he was in the hospital. He'd been surprised to see me and then pissed, and he'd been pissed ever since.
Ryan had every right to be angry with me. I'd fucked up five years ago, and everyone knew it, me most of all. I'd just been so screwed up at the time, messed in the head, my heartbroken, feeling betrayed. Unfortunately, Ryan had been totally innocent in the situation, but I'd taken it out on him anyway.
I was paying for that mistake now.
My gaze strayed to the little four-year-old little boy who looked so much like my childhood pictures, he could have been me. He even had my brown eyes.
I had a son, one I hadn't even known about a month ago. Sure, Ryan had told me he was carrying my kid five years ago, but I hadn't believed him at the time. I had assumed he was lying to me just like my ex-husband had lied to me when he said he was pregnant. I thought Ryan had been trying to trap me into marriage like Steward had done.
Boy, was I wrong.
A month ago, I not only found out that Stewart had never even been pregnant, but Ryan had been telling the truth, and the child he carried was mine.
Talk about a total mind fuck.
"Are you and Arty going to the zoo and the park tomorrow?" I asked.
"Yes," Ryan said sharply.
"Do you mind if I go?" As much as I wanted to spend time with Ryan and Arty, getting to know them both, I wasn't going to push my presence on them. I would only go if Ryan agreed to it.
Ryan glanced over at me, looking me up and down and curling his lips back as if he was looking at something distasteful. "I guess you can go. I'm sure Arty would like it."
"And you?" It was stupid to ask, but I found myself doing it anyway. "How do you feel about me going?"
Ryan shot me a look that left me no doubt to exactly how he felt about me being anywhere near him, and it wasn't a pretty look. I tried to keep my heart cold and still, but my stomach was churning with anxiety and frustration.
I nodded curtly to Ryan and, without saying a word, moved over to stand behind the couch my parents were sitting on. Maybe it was time I cut my losses and went back to the East Coast. I certainly wasn't making any headway here.
My gaze went to Arty again. I couldn't leave him. Even if Ryan wanted nothing to do with me, Arty was still my son, whom I very much wanted to get to know. I'd just have to see about planning my get-to-know-you sessions when Ryan wasn't around.
I had no idea how to do that.
I had no idea how to do any of this. I'd never even been around little kids before, and it wasn't like I could buy my son's affections. Ryan made me sign that stupid parenting agreement before I was even allowed to see him. From the way Arty kept looking at me with a confused little frown, I doubted he even knew who I was.
Going back east might be easier on all of us. Despite the parenting agreement, no one could refuse me providing financially for my own flesh and blood. I could set something up so that Arty had everything he could need in life and then simply disappear from his life before he ever figured out who I was.
I tried not to let my morbid thoughts bring me down any farther than I already was. Still, the longer I stared at Arty, the harder it was to remember I needed to make the right decision for him, whatever that was.
I stayed quiet as I watched everyone around me smile and make plans I wasn't really invited to. Sure, they talked about Arty being there and me being there and all of us having a good time at the zoo tomorrow, but I could tell that I was an afterthought.
I felt as if I was always an afterthought. Frank was the oldest, and Gianni was the baby. I had a severe case of middle child syndrome and had since Gianni was born. I tried not to let it affect me and my dealings with my siblings, but sometimes I felt as if my envy of them and their positions in the family bled through.
I waited until the others had gathered around the couch before walking into the kitchenette to order some drinks and snacks. When they arrived, I pulled the cart into the room and pushed it over to the small dinette set.
"I got some snacks."
I stood back while everyone got up and came to the table. I stopped Mama before she reached the table and kissed her on the cheek. "I have some things I need to go do. I'll see you later."
"Oh, do you have to go now?"
Mama's smile faded. "Well, if you must."
"I'll be back later." I shot Arty one last look—a long look—and then walked out of the penthouse suite. I turned and pressed the button for the lobby, and as I did, I saw Ryan watching me. The door closed before I could figure out the look on his face.
Just as well.
I was fucked up before Ryan came into my life, and I'd been fucked up ever since. I didn't have anything to offer him except my money, and he didn't want that.
I didn't know whether to be relieved or more frustrated than I already was.
The ride down to my floor went faster than I would have liked. I straightened my tie and smoothed down the lapels of my suit just as the doors opened. I ignored the interested looks I received from those I passed. I wasn't interested.
It had been a long time since I'd been interested in anyone.
I walked down the corridor to the hotel room I'd rented for the last few weeks. I was getting tired of living out of a hotel suite. For the money I'd paid for the damn thing since I'd been here, I could have put a down payment on a condo. Which was not a bad idea, especially if I was going to be here more than once to see my son, and I was. Maybe.
I let myself into the suite and walked directly over to the decanter on the sideboard. I pulled the top off and lifted the decanter, prepared to make myself a drink, but then I stopped. I was going to have a drink to try and drown my sorrows instead of trying to stick with the plan I'd come up with in my head.
That was stupid.
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