Christmas Babies for the Italia (Innocent Christmas Brides #2) - Lynne Graham Page 0,1

an affair. Sevastiano was even more shocked to discover that she had met the man concerned at one of his parties: Oliver Lawson, not a friend, a business acquaintance.

Sevastiano compressed his lips with a frown. ‘But he’s—’

‘Married... I know,’ Annabel cut in, dropping her head because she was too ashamed to meet his eyes. She was a tall slender blonde with large reddened blue eyes and a drawn complexion. ‘I know that now when it’s too late. When we met he told me that he and his wife were legally separated and getting a divorce... I believed him. Why wouldn’t I have? His wife lives at their country house and never ever comes to London and there was no sign whatsoever of a woman at his apartment. Oh, Sev... I swallowed every stupid lie and excuse he gave me.’

‘Oliver may be CEO of Telford Industries, but his wife owns the business. I would say it is very unlikely that he would divorce her. Lawson must be twice your age as well!’ Sevastiano said in frank consternation. ‘His life experience made it even easier for him to take gross advantage of your trust.’

‘Age is just a number,’ Annabel mumbled heavily. ‘I feel so dirty now. I would never have got involved with him if I’d known he was still actually living with his wife. I’m not that kind of woman—I believe in fidelity and loyalty. I really loved him, Sev, but I can see now that I was a complete fool to believe his every word and promise. When I told him that I was pregnant, he tried to bully me into going for an abortion. He kept on phoning me and demanding that I do it and then he turned up at the flat to underline that he didn’t want this child and we had a huge row.’

‘You’re pregnant,’ Sevastiano murmured flatly, striving to hide his rage from her because the concept of any man trying to browbeat Annabel into an abortion outraged him, particularly a man who had already lied and cheated his way into an inappropriate relationship with her. At twenty-three, his sister was still rather naïve, very much prone to thinking the best of everyone and making excuses for those who let her down. Obviously, she should never have got involved with Lawson in the first place while he was still married, but then his sister didn’t have much experience with men outside a first-love relationship at university with a boy-next-door type.

Even so, had she ever taken a clear unbiased look at the men in her own family circle perhaps she would have been less trusting. His mother and her father weren’t faithful to each other although they were very discreet. Her brother was married and a parent but had still enjoyed a lengthy affair with another married woman. Indeed, growing up, Sevastiano had witnessed so much infidelity that he had not the slightest intention of ever getting married. What would be the point? While he retained his freedom as a single man, he had nobody else’s needs to consider and he liked his life empty of family obligations and commitments and all the complications that went with them. Annabel and his birth father were the sole exceptions to that rule. That aside, however, he would still never have treated a woman as Oliver Lawson had treated his sister.

No intelligent man with an active sex life ignored the daunting possibility of an unplanned pregnancy and Sev had never run that risk with even a moment of carelessness, a track record he was proud to recall. But if anything did go wrong, it was a man’s responsibility to behave like an adult and support the woman’s choice, regardless of his personal feelings, he reflected grimly.

‘So, I womaned up and went home and told Mama and Papa about my baby and they went crazy!’ Annabel gasped, covering her convulsed face with her hands again. ‘I expected them to be upset but they want me to have a termination as well and when I refused they told me I had to move out of the apartment and hand my car back. And that’s really is. If I’m not living the way they want me to, I can’t expect them to help me out financially.’

‘They’re trying to bully you as well,’ Sevastiano breathed tautly. ‘Nobody has the right to tell you to have a termination. I gather that you want this baby?’

‘Very much,’ Annabel confirmed with a sudden dreamy smile.