His dark eyes seared through her. “I am the father. Can you deny it?”
She couldn't. But she knew Diogo Serrador hadn't come to take responsibility for the child he'd created—he just couldn't bear for any other man to tread on his territory. With the arrogant machismo of a Brazilian fighter, Diogo Serrador believed he had the right to own everything and everyone. To keep them and discard them solely at his pleasure.
He didn't deserve to be a father.
“Answer me.” Diogo's hand moved down her neck to the bare skin on her collarbone, to the first swell of her breasts above the white taffeta bodice. The sizzle intensified, causing her breath to come in little gasps. All the faces of guests she'd known since childhood—some watching with shocked pity, others with malicious glee—seemed to whirl around her.
Then she saw her grandmother, chalky white with orange lips. Lilibeth was the one person who'd always believed in Ellie. She'd baked her cookies on the days her mother was mean. Told her she didn't need a high school diploma to be smart. Supported Ellie during the long years she'd nursed her mother's final illness. Ellie's success had become Lilibeth's.
And now it was all ruined. Lilibeth would never be able to hold her head high in the grocery store again. Because of her.
“I—I—” Ellie suddenly felt faint. “I…think I'm going to…”
She couldn't even finish the sentence before her knees started to give way beneath her. Diogo caught her up in his arms before she could fall.
“Put her down!” Timothy cried furiously.
Diogo didn't even glance his way. His dark gaze held Ellie's, reaching down into her very soul.
“The baby,” he said in a low voice. “Tell me.”
“No,” she gasped.
He glanced at the audience gawking from the pews, then gave a single nod. “Tá bom.”
Turning on his heel, he carried her down the aisle. He held her so close to his muscular chest that she could feel the beat of his heart.
It felt like some strange dream. The sunlight from the windows shimmered and shone around her, blurring the bright colors of ladies' dresses in the pews. Her ripped veil fluttered forlornly around her, her white taffeta train dragging behind them as he carried her out of the church, stealing her from her own wedding like a Roman centurion with a Sabine maiden.
“Come back here!” Timothy's voice was a furious squeak as he followed behind them like a yapping terrier. “She's mine, you Brazilian bastard! Do you hear me? Mine!”
Ignoring him, Diogo flung open the tall double doors.
The bright spring sun outside hit her like a slap in the face. Two of Diogo's bodyguards slammed the church doors shut behind them, trapping all the guests inside as Diogo set her gently on her feet.
But she found herself face-to-face with Timothy.
“I can't believe you did it.” His wire-rimmed glasses trembled on his nose. His eyes were red and wet, fogging up the glass. “I waited for you nearly ten years. I did everything I could to win you. And you spread your legs for Serrador, who treats his women like whores?”
Every word was like a stab in her heart. “I…”
“You are mine, Ellie,” he cried, reaching for her. “Mine—”
Diogo stepped between them. Carelessly, he tucked his hands into fists, widening his muscular legs into a confident stance that suggested he was ready for anything. Even in his perfectly tailored gray suit, he looked like a warrior who could fight—and kill—at will.
“Ellie's not yours. Neither is her baby. What exactly were you planning, Wright?”
Timothy's face blanched with fear. He backed away.
“Now,” Diogo said softly, turning to Ellie. He brushed a tendril of hair away from her face in a gesture that was deceptively gentle. “You'll tell me the name of your baby's father.”
She rubbed her forehead. “You swore on your honor you couldn't get me pregnant,” she muttered. “Your honor.”
Diogo's dark eyes swept her face, pulling out every secret she'd ever tried to keep, leaving her vulnerable and bare. He tightened his hold on her, causing her to cry out. “I'm the father, Ellie. Say it!”
“I hate you,” she whimpered.
“Say it!” he thundered.
“All right!” she shouted. Tears of grief and rage streamed down her face. “You're the father!”
Timothy gave a loud, high moan. She turned to him desperately. “I'm so sorry. So sorry…”
She tried to reach for him, but he slapped her hand away. Bitterly, he turned to Diogo.
“Take her, and be damned. She's filled with your child. It disgusts me. Another whore for you. Another bastard—”
Diogo punched him hard across the jaw. Ellie screamed as Timothy dropped like a stone into the lush green grass.