The cold porcelain of the bathroom sink pressed against Alexandra Dupree’s forehead as she leaned against it, her stomach still heaving from its third early morning upset in as many days. She dragged air into lungs starved by the unpleasant moments spent bent over the sink.
After a minute of doing nothing but breathe, she tentatively brought her body erect. A small twinge of nausea hit her, but she was able to control it. Okay, as unpleasant as this new early morning ritual had become, she had something even less pleasant to perform. She stared at the small white stick with all the wariness she would feel for a snake found curled around the base of the commode.
Dimitri had been fanatical about using birth control. So she’d convinced herself one late period didn’t mean anything, until she woke up heaving three days ago. At first she’d thought she had the flu, sure there could be no possibility she was pregnant even though the condom had broken a month ago. Her menses had come right on time a week later.
She still didn’t understand how this could be possible, but she had too many symptoms to deny. Her breasts were tender. She was tired all the time. She’d cried when Dimitri told her he had to spend more time in Greece and wouldn’t be returning to their Paris apartment for several days. She never cried.
She forced herself to do what was necessary for the pregnancy test. Ten minutes later the world went white around the edges as she stared at the blue line confirming she carried the child of Dimitrius Petronides.
Dimitri clenched his fists, refusing to give vent to his frustration.
"You know it is time. You are thirty, heh? You need a wife, some babies, a home." The older man’s gray head tilted arrogantly, while he fixed Dimitri with a look that said he would argue this to the ground.
Dimitri had no desire to argue anything with his grandfather. He had barely survived a heart attack five days ago. Dimitri smiled. "I’m hardly in my dotage, Grandfather."
The man who had raised Dimitri and his brother since their parents’ deaths snorted. "Don’t try to get around me with your charm. It won’t work. You’re my heir and I need to go to my grave knowing you will do your duty by the Petronides name."
Dimitri’s heart contracted. "You are not going to die."
His grandfather shrugged. "Who of us is to say when we will die? But I’m old, Dimitrius. My heart is not as strong as it once was. Is it so much to ask you marry Phoebe now? Why put it off? She’s a sweet girl. She’ll make you a proper Greek wife. She’ll give you Petronides babies."
Eyes sliding shut, the older man breathed shallowly as if his short speech had taken more out of his weakened physical state than he had to give. Dimitri wanted to do something, but he was powerless. His grandfather’s doctors wanted the old man to have heart surgery, but he had refused to discuss it.
"Why won’t you have the by-pass operation your doctor is recommending?"
"Why won’t you marry?" the old man countered. "Perhaps if I had great-grandchildren to look forward to, the pain of such an operation would be worth going through."
Dimitri felt the blood drain from his face. "Are you saying you won’t have the operation if I don’t marry Phoebe Leonides?"
Dark blue eyes, so much like his own, opened to stare at Dimitri with all the stubbornness a Petronides male had to bear. "Yes."