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Tall, Dark & Handsome: The Infamous Italian's Secret Baby / Pregnant by the Millionaire / Liam's Secret Son

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CHAPTER FOUR

‘DO NOT speak! Not one word!’ Gabriel warned harshly as he paced the hallway where he and Bella waited to hear news of his father.

Gabriel had managed to halt his father’s collapse before he hit the floor. Bella had reminded Gabriel that her father was a doctor before rushing off to get him as Gabriel helped Cristo from the room with as little fuss as was possible in the circumstances.

Even so several concerned wedding guests, including the bride and groom, had followed them to hover outside the doorway of the small unoccupied room Gabriel had found to take his father to further down the hallway.

Henry Scott, Bella’s father, had dealt firmly with those onlookers when he joined them a couple of minutes later, by ordering those guests back to the wedding reception and Gabriel and Bella out into the hallway while he examined his patient.

At last giving Gabriel the opportunity to deal with, to think of, the reason for his father’s collapse!

That small boy—Bella’s son—

His son, too…?

Bella flinched as Gabriel stopped his pacing to look down at her with dark, accusing eyes, knowing it would do no good now to deny what had been so patently obvious to Cristo Danti that he had collapsed from the shock of suddenly being confronted by his grandson.

She drew in a ragged breath. ‘His name is Toby. Tobias,’ she enlarged shakily. ‘He’s four years old.’

Gabriel’s hands clenched into fists at his side. ‘Four years and four months to be exact!’

Bella swallowed hard. ‘Yes.’

Those dark eyes glittered menacingly. ‘Where is he now?’

Bella straightened defensively. ‘I took him back to sit with my mother and Liam. I—It frightened him when your father collapsed in that way.’

Gabriel looked at her coldly. ‘Shock is apt to do that to a man who has already suffered three minor heart attacks in the last four years!’

Bella hadn’t known that about Cristo Danti. Not that it would have made a lot of difference if she had known. Neither Gabriel nor his father were part of her own or Toby’s lives.

At least, they hadn’t been until now…

Gabriel, she had no doubt, wanted—no, he would demand—some answers from her concerning that. Just as the look on her own father’s face, as he had looked first at Cristo Danti and then Gabriel, had told Bella he would no doubt like some answers, too, once he had finished examining his patient!

She gave a shaky sigh. ‘I don’t think this is the time or place to discuss this, Gabriel—’

‘The time and place to discuss this would have been almost five years ago when you first discovered you were pregnant!’

‘As I recall you were no longer around to talk to almost five years ago!’

His mouth tightened. ‘It was well publicised that I was in Italy at the time, at the Danti vineyards, recovering from the injuries I sustained in the car crash!’

Bella’s eyes flashed deeply purple. ‘And you seriously think that I was going to follow you there and tell you the news!’

‘You had no right to keep my son’s existence from me!’ A nerve pulsed in Gabriel’s tightly clenched jaw.

She shook her head. ‘You gave up any right you had to know about Toby by the fact that you never phoned me as you promised and only slept with me that night out of jealousy and spite because of your ex-girlfriend’s relationship with Paulo Descari!’

Gabriel’s face darkened dangerously. ‘I—’

‘Could the two of you please save your—discussion—until later?’ Henry Scott had opened the door of the room where Gabriel could see his father lying back on one of the sofas. ‘I think your father has merely suffered a severe shock rather than another heart attack, Mr Danti, but to be on the safe side I would like to get him to a hospital for a check-up.’

‘Daddy…?’ Bella looked across at her father uncertainly.

He gave her a reassuring smile. ‘It’s okay, Bella,’ he said gently. ‘For the moment let’s just concentrate on getting Mr Danti to hospital, hmm?’

Bella didn’t need to be told any plainer that her father had guessed Toby’s relationship to the two Danti men.

What must her father think of her?

More to the point, what must he think of the fact that Gabriel Danti, of all men, was unmistakeably the father of his grandson?

‘I would like to see my son.’

Bella had remained behind at the hotel to put Toby to bed when Gabriel and her father had accompanied Cristo Danti to the hospital. But she hadn’t made any attempt to go to bed herself. Had known—had been absolutely certain, in fact—that Gabriel would return once he had assured himself of his father’s recovery.

It was almost two o’clock in the morning, but nevertheless Bella had been expecting the knock on the door of the sitting-room between the bedroom she shared with Claudia and the one Liam shared with Toby. She had changed out of the dress she had worn to the wedding, and into fitted jeans and a black T-shirt, in anticipation of this meeting.

Gabriel looked grim, to say the least, that scar down his left cheek more noticeable in his harshly set features, his eyes fierce as he looked down at her challengingly.

Bella opened the door wider so that Gabriel could step inside the suite. ‘Toby is asleep,’ she told him calmly as she closed the door behind him before turning to face him.

That scar on Gabriel’s cheek seemed to pulse as he clenched his jaw tightly. ‘Nevertheless, I wish to see him.’

‘How is your father?’

‘Tests have shown your father’s original diagnosis to be the correct one. It was shock that caused my father’s collapse and not a heart attack. He is to remain in hospital overnight for observation, but they expect to discharge him in the morning. Isabella—’

‘Did my father return with you from the hospital?’ Bella had already had one long, uncomfortable conversation with her mother this evening, she wasn’t sure she would be up to another one with her father once Gabriel had left.

Gabriel gave a terse nod. ‘He told me to tell you he will speak with you in the morning.

Her eyes widened. ‘He knew you were coming here?’ Even as she asked the question Bella knew the answer; how else would Gabriel have known which suite to come to in order to see her if her father hadn’t told him?

Gabriel’s mouth thinned. ‘He realised I would want to see my son again before I left, yes.’

Bella flinched every time he said that. No matter what his biological make-up might be, Toby was her son, not Gabriel’s.

She gave a firm shake of her head. ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea—’

Gabriel’s scornful laugh cut across her refusal. ‘Any concern I might have felt for your wishes died the moment I discovered you had kept my son’s existence from me for over four years!’ He made no effort to hide his contempt.

He had a son!

Gabriel still found it incredible that such a person existed. That there was a small, tousle-haired boy in the adjoining bedroom with his dark curls and eyes, and a small dimple in the centre of his still-babyish chin…

Having been denied all knowledge of him for over four years, Gabriel had no intention of letting that continue a minute—even a second—longer!

‘Where is he, Isabella?’ he rasped furiously, her panicked glance towards the door to the right of the room enough for Gabriel to stride towards it determinedly.

‘Where are you going?’

Gabriel ignored Bella’s protest as he gently pushed that door open, recognising the sleeping boy in the first bed as Liam Scott before he turned his attention to the much smaller child in the second bed.

His breath caught in his throat as he looked down at the little boy he now knew to be his own son. Toby. Tobias.

He was beautiful, Gabriel acknowledged achingly. Absolutely beautiful. A perfect combination of his two parents.

Toby had Gabriel’s hair colour and that dimple on his chin that would one day become a cleft exactly like those of his father and grandfather. The smoothness of Toby’s brow and the long lashes that swept his cheeks were his mother’s, as was that perfect bow of a mouth with its fuller top lip.

His!

This beautiful child was of his loins. Of his blood.

Bella could only stand helplessly by as Gabriel dropped to his knees beside Toby’s bed, her protest strangling in her throat as Gabriel reached out a hand to touch the little boy, the stroke of his fingers against one slightly chubby cheek so gentle, so tender, that Toby didn’t even stir.

Her heart felt as if it were breaking, shattering, as she watched the rush of love that softened Gabriel’s harshly hewn features. As she saw that love glowing in his broodingly dark gaze as he continued to stare at his son in wonder.

And she knew without a doubt that the last four years of sharing Toby only with her family were over…

‘I need a drink,’ Gabriel stated flatly some time later when he had reluctantly left his son’s bedside to return to the sitting-room, not waiting for Bella’s reply but moving to the mini-bar to help himself to one of the small bottles of whisky before pouring it into a glass and drinking most of it in one swallow. ‘So, Isabella,’ he stated as he looked across at her grimly. ‘What do you suggest we do about this situation?’

‘What situation?’ she repeated sharply, her stance wholly defensive as she stood across the room.

Gabriel looked at her through narrowed lids. He had made love with this woman a little over five years ago. That lovemaking had resulted in a child. A child whose existence she had deliberately kept from him. For that alone Isabella deserved no mercy from him.

His mouth thinned. ‘The situation that Toby, despite what you may have decided to the contrary, deserves to know both of his parents rather than just one!’

Her throat moved convulsively, but otherwise she maintained her defensive stance. ‘As I have already explained—’

‘As far as you are concerned, I gave up the right to know my own child because you believe I only went to bed with you out of jealousy and spite over my ex-girlfriend’s relationship with Paulo Descari,’Gabriel coldly repeated her earlier accusation. ‘Neither jealousy nor spite were part of my emotions that night, Isabella,’he added curtly. ‘And I certainly wasn’t feeling those emotions at the time of the accident the following day either,’ he bit out deliberately.

Bella moistened lips that had gone suddenly dry as she sensed the leashed violence in him. ‘I didn’t suggest they were, Gabriel. You did.’

He gave a scathing snort. ‘It is impossible not to do so considering Janine’s claims following the accident,’ Gabriel snarled. ‘The official enquiry proved my innocence in the matter. But perhaps you would prefer to believe that I am responsible for the accident that caused the death of two other men, rather than take my word for what happened that day?’

Bella felt the colour drain from her cheeks even as she stared at Gabriel. No, of course she didn’t prefer to believe that Gabriel had deliberately caused the accident that had killed two other men. She didn’t believe it!

Gabriel might be guilty of many things, but Bella certainly hadn’t ever believed him to be guilty of that.

Gabriel looked at her coldly. ‘I did not cause the accident, Isabella,’ he repeated firmly. ‘That was only the hysterical accusation of a woman who took advantage of the fact that I was unconscious for several days following the crash, and so was unable to deny those accusations.’

And that accusation hadn’t been the reason Bella had made no effort to contact Gabriel following the car crash, either…

How could she possibly have just arrived at the hospital and asked to be allowed to see Gabriel when they had only spent a single night together?

If Gabriel wanted to see her again, Bella had reasoned, then he would contact her just as he’d said he would.

Until he chose to do that—if he chose to do that!—she would just have to get on with her life as best she could.

Her pregnancy had been something Bella simply hadn’t taken into account when she had made that decision.

Weeks later, after her pregnancy was confirmed, Bella had been forced to make choices, both for herself and her baby. Gabriel’s failure to phone had simply reinforced Bella’s suspicion that he would want nothing to do with them. Or if he did, he had the power to take her baby away from her. Something Bella would never allow to happen. It was too late now, far too late, for her to explain or undo any of those choices…

Gabriel watched the emotions that flickered across Bella’s beautiful and expressive face, too fleeting for him to be able to discern any of them accurately. ‘I did not cause the accident, Isabella, but that does not mean I have not carried the guilt of Paulo and Jason’s deaths with me every day since.’

‘But why?’ She looked totally confused now.

Gabriel turned away to look out of the window at the San Francisco skyline.

How could he ever explain to her how he had felt five years ago when he’d regained consciousness and learnt of Paulo Descari and Jason Miller’s deaths? Of Janine’s hysterical accusations?

Added to that, Gabriel had felt utter despair, even helplessness, at the seriousness of his own injuries.

The cuts and burns to his body that were still visible, five years later, in the scar on his face and those that laced across his chest, back, and legs. The crushing of his pelvis and legs had kept him confined to bed for months, with the added possibility that he might never walk again.

Worst of all, worse even than Paulo and Jason’s deaths, Janine’s duplicity, had been the knowledge that their night together had meant so little to Bella that—

No!

Gabriel refused to go there. He had not thought of Bella’s desertion for almost five years. He would not—could not—think of it now.

Now he would think only of Toby. Of his son. And Bella’s second betrayal…

He turned back to face Bella, his expression utterly implacable. ‘Toby is all that is important now,’ Gabriel told her icily. ‘I will return at ten o’clock tomorrow—or rather, today,’ he corrected, ‘at which time you and Toby will be ready to accompany me—’

‘I’m not going anywhere with you, Gabriel, and neither is Toby,’ Bella cut in immediately.

‘At which time,’ he repeated in, if possible, even icier tones, ‘you and Toby will be ready to accompany me on a visit to my father. Toby’s grandfather,’he added harshly.

Bella’s second denial died unspoken on her lips.

She had talked with her mother earlier tonight. Or rather, her mother had talked with her. A conversation in which her mother had assured Bella that the relationship between herself and Gabriel was their own affair, and for the two of them alone to unravel. However, speaking as a grandmother, she had added, she had nothing but sympathy for Cristo Danti and the fact that he had only learnt this evening of his grandson’s existence. That knowledge had been obviously so emotionally profound it had resulted in the older man’s collapse.

An irrefutable fact against which Bella had no defence.

Either earlier or now.

Her shoulders were stiff with tension. ‘Firstly, let me tell you that I deeply resent your use of emotional blackmail in order to get me to do what you want—’

‘Would you rather I pursued a legal claim, instead?’ Gabriel challenged contemptuously.

Bella swallowed hard even as she refused to lower her gaze from his. ‘That would take months, by which time I would be safely back in England.’

‘I will have my lawyers apply for an immediate injunction to prevent you, or Toby, from leaving this country,’ Gabriel warned scathingly. ‘I am a Danti, Isabella,’ he reminded her.

Her eyes flashed darkly purple at his underlying threat. ‘Secondly,’ she pointedly resumed her earlier conversation, ‘despite the fact that I resent your methods, I am nevertheless perfectly aware of your father’s claim as Toby’s grandfather—’

‘But not my own as his father!’ Gabriel was so furiously angry now that there was a white line about the firmness of his mouth and his body was rigid with suppressed emotion.

Bella looked at him sadly, knowing this conversation was achieving nothing except to drive a distance between the two of them that was even wider than the gaping chasm that already existed.

She had known when she met Gabriel again yesterday that he wasn’t the same man she had been so attracted to five years ago that she had forgotten, or simply put aside, every vestige of caution in order to spend the night in his arms.

This Gabriel was scarred on the inside as well as the outside and the coldness of his anger concerning her having kept Toby’s existence a secret from him was worse than any emotional accusations might have been.

She sighed. ‘Ten o’clock, I believe you said?’

Gabriel’s eyes narrowed on her, searching for any sign of deception in her eyes or expression. He could see none. Only a weary acceptance of a situation she could do nothing to change.

The tension in his shoulders relaxed slightly. ‘We will sit down together with Toby first and explain my own and my father’s relationship to him.’

‘Isn’t that a little premature?’ Bella protested.

‘In my opinion it is almost four and a half years too late!’ Gabriel snapped.

‘It will only confuse Toby when you have no active role in his life—’

His scornful laugh cut off her protest. ‘Do you seriously believe that is going to continue?’

Bella looked at him, knowing by the implacability in Gabriel’s expression as he looked down the length of his arrogant nose at her—the same implacability in his tone whenever he now referred to her as Isabella—that it wasn’t. That it was Gabriel’s intention to take an extremely active role in Toby’s life in future.

Precisely where that left her, Bella had no idea…

.

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