High-Society Secret Baby - High-Society #1 - Maxine Sullivan
“Marry you?” Cassandra Roth whispered as she sank down on the leather sofa.
Dominic Roth stood in front of the terrace doors with the city of Melbourne’s skyline in the distance behind him and watched his beautiful sister-in-law gasp in shock. He’d almost feel sorry for her if he didn’t know her better. “That’s right. You and I are getting married.”
His voice seemed to draw her from herself, and she lifted her ash-blond head, her eyes clouding over. “But Liam’s been dead only a week.”
Pain clawed through him. “I know exactly how long my brother has been dead.” And early December would never be the same for his family. The start of summer, then Christmas, would always hold the memory of Liam.
There was a flash of sympathy before she pulled back her slim shoulders. “And he was my husband.”
“For less than three years. He was my brother for twenty-eight.” Liam had been the youngest, Adam was two years older, and Dominic was two years older than Adam. Never had any of them dreamed that an illness would take Liam at such a young age.
“That’s a low blow, Dominic,” she admonished.
He kept any hint of remorse out of his expression. He wouldn’t have said that to any other woman but this one. She’d married Liam only to get her hands on the Roth family fortune. His great-grandfather would roll over in his grave if he knew that Roth’s, his Australian luxury goods department store chain, was keeping this woman in her own brand of luxury.
He reached inside the jacket of his business suit and pulled out an envelope. “I have a letter here. It’s from Liam. He wanted me to give it to you. To explain.”
Her finely arched eyebrows drew together. “Explain?”
“Why he wanted you to marry me.”
Her blue eyes widened. “What! My husband wanted me to marry you?”
“He wanted his daughter to grow up a Roth.”
Her forehead creased; her eyes looked confused. “But Nicole is already a Roth.”
Something turned inside him. He knew that more than anyone.
“Liam wanted his daughter to grow up a Roth, living under the Roth name. He didn’t want you marrying someone outside the family. He thought you might, especially considering your affair with Keith Samuels.”
She drew in a sharp breath. “You know about that?”
“Liam told me.”
“But—but it wasn’t like that.”
“No excuses please, Cassandra,” he snapped, carrying the letter over to her. “I don’t want to hear the details.”
She stared up at him, a tremor touching her lips, but he was unmoved by her performance. He thrust the sealed envelope at her and moved back to his original position, scrutinizing her as she tore open the envelope and began to read. How could any woman be so stunningly beautiful yet be so hard and demanding underneath? What was in the way she carried herself that was so deceptive? What was her allure for a man?
Her soft pink ensemble of matching trousers, camisole top and jacket projected an image of elegance and grace. Strappy sandals added style, as did the delicate gold earrings and thin gold chain at her neck. Her makeup was refined, her skin flawless, her ash-blond hair gently fluffed and falling down to her shoulders.
And that flawless face was white by the time she finished reading. “Did you read this?”
“No, but Liam apprised me of its contents when he gave it to me.”
Something shifted in her expression, but it disappeared as she jumped to her feet, the letter held tightly in her hand. “I’m sorry, but I can’t do this.”
“I think you’ll find you don’t have a choice.”
There was a fleeting pause. “Why do you say that?”
“The reading of Liam’s will is tomorrow. I thought I’d break it to you beforehand to avoid a scene.” Thank God his father had taken his mother away on the family yacht to mourn. “A—a scene?”
“If you don’t marry me within two weeks, the bulk of the estate will go to Nicole when she turns twenty-one, rather than being shared between you now. You’ll receive only enough to live on, solely for Nicole’s well-being, until then. If that happens, every cent you need will have to go through me.”
He would not let himself feel sorry for her. “Liam told me how much allowance you receive each month. He was extremely generous. I’d say you have a lot to lose, wouldn’t you?”
Her throat convulsed. “But that was for—”
“There you have it,” he said, cutting her off, not wanting to hear excuses.
“This is ridiculous! It’s an abomination. I’ll contest it.”
“You could try.