Timothy was determined to be rich for her, he said. He didn't believe Ellie when she said she didn't need to be rich. All she wanted was to feel safe.
Safe, and to never have her heart broken again.
But she couldn't marry Timothy without telling him she was pregnant. She couldn't. She had to give him the option to back out of their marriage. Her hands tightened. Part of her even hoped he would back out…
“Careful—your flowers!” her grandmother protested.
“Sorry.” With every minute that passed, Ellie's heart was pounding harder and faster. She was starting to feel dizzy. Her voice was a squeak as she said, “You promised you'd find Timothy first?”
“Are you really sure?” Lilibeth Conway squinted at her doubtfully. “It's bad luck for a man to see his bride before the ceremony.”
Her grandmother sighed. “All right, all right. It's your day.” She pushed her into a tiny antechamber inside the church, past the ushers and last few arriving guests. “Wait here.”
Ellie waited. And waited. She paced, staring out the tiny window.
In the distance, she saw the rolling hills and green forests. But it wasn't all beautiful. She could see the stacks of the old, abandoned steel mill. The boarded- up storefronts. Flint, Pennsylvania, was only four hours from Manhattan by car, but felt like a world away.
She and Timothy had both grown up poor here. Returning this past Christmas as a wealthy lawyer, he'd been welcomed back to town like a hero. Timothy had already bought the nicest mansion in town and was fixing it up for her. He was spending money all over Flint, hiring carpenters and cleaners, sparing no expense. He would do anything, he'd told her, to make her love him. Anything.
But before they could marry, she had to tell him she was pregnant. Then let him decide if he still wanted to marry her.
Was it even fair to marry him like this? She took a deep breath. In spite of all his assurances that she would grow to love him, the idea of being his bride somehow felt…wrong.
But her instincts were plainly screwed up. Ellie's short-lived affair with Diogo had proven that. The night Diogo had taken her in his arms in Rio, it had felt so right. When he'd kissed her on the street, amid the explosion of music and bright color, she'd felt truly alive for the first time in her life.
Passion was dangerous. She had to try to learn to make choices with her head, not her heart.
Taking care of her mother over her long years of illness, Ellie had spent many dark nights yearning for adventure in far-off lands. For the hot kisses of scandalous men. But Diogo's hot embrace had seared her to the core. He'd arrogantly changed her whole life—and he didn't even care.
She'd wanted to tell him the truth—but how could she? Even just knowing half of the truth, he'd assumed the worst about her, that she was a calculating gold digger who would use an innocent baby to trap a man into marriage. He'd coldly and cruelly insulted her.
He didn't know her at all—and he never had!
“Ellie.” Timothy's voice was muffled through the door, but she could still hear his affectionate exasperation. “Don't you know we've got three hundred people waiting? What do you want to talk to me about?”
“Timothy.” Her whole body was still shaking from remembering what Diogo had said to her. She forced herself to take a deep breath. To steady her hands. She had to forget Diogo. She had to erase him from her mind completely and try to be glad that she would never see him again. She licked her dry lips. “Will you please come in here?”
“No—it's bad luck!”
“That's just a superstition!”
She heard him laugh. “It's taken so long to convince you to marry me, I'm not taking any chances.”
Was she supposed to shout out her pregnancy confession through a door, to the shock of his ushers and the last guests walking into the church? “Please. I really, really need to talk to you!”
He paused. Then he spoke, and his voice glowed. “Whatever you have to say, I'm longing to hear it. Just wait a few minutes more, and you can tell me every day for the rest of our lives.”
Horrified, she realized he thought she finally meant to tell him she loved him. Her forehead broke out into a cold sweat. This was getting worse and worse. “Timothy, you don't understand—”
“Wait,” he said firmly.
She had no choice.
There was a pause. Then the door flung open.
Timothy's pale, thin face was ghostly white—but he looked like he was breathing fire. He slammed the door closed behind him and grabbed her wrist.
“How is that possible,” he ground out, “when we have never slept together?”
His eyes were so hard through his wire-rimmed glasses, his face so wild and different from his usual placid expression, that she backed up a step.