He stared at me with open amusement.
“You think your company is worth a hundred thousand dollars?”
“You’re offering me a hundred grand to become your live-in escort and bear your children. Plural. If I were a surrogate, I’d get that same amount of money for one baby,” I burst out.
“Go be a surrogate.” He shrugged.
“It’s a long procedure. I don’t have enough time.”
“You don’t seem to have enough brain, either.” He tapped my temple, frowning as if wondering how much was inside that head of mine. “Take my offer. It’s your only way out.”
I pushed him away.
“You’re a bastard.”
He smiled impatiently. “You knew that when you offered yourself to me very willingly all those years ago.”
He remembered, and for some reason, that completely defused me.
Auntie Tilda, what the hell have you done?
“Look.” I shook my head, trying to think straight. “How about we start dating and I—”
“No,” he cut me off dryly. “Marriage or nothing.”
“You don’t even like me!”
Cillian glanced at that chunky watch of his, losing patience.
“What does liking you have to do with marrying you?”
“Everything! It has everything to do with it! How do you expect us to get along?”
“I don’t,” he said flatly. “You’ll have your house. I’ll have mine. You will be stunningly rich, live on Billionaires’ Row, and become one of New England’s most envied socialites. You’ll be far enough away from me to do whatever the hell you’d like. I am sensible, fair, and realistic. As long as you give me heirs, give me exclusivity throughout our child-producing years, and stay out of tabloids, you shouldn’t see much of me beyond the first few years of our marriage. But no divorce,” he warned, raising a finger. “It’s tacky, bad for business, and shows you’re a quitter. I’m no quitter.”
I wanted to burst. With laughter or tears, I wasn’t sure.
This is not what I asked for, Auntie, I inwardly screamed. You missed the best part of my having him.
“You realize I’m a person and not an air fryer, right?” I parked a hand over my hip, losing patience myself. “Because to me it sounds a lot like you’re trying to buy me.”
“That’s because I am.” He looked at me as though I was crazy. Like I was the one with the problem. “People who vilify money have one thing in common—they don’t have it. You have a chance to change your fate, Persephone. Don’t mess it up.”
“Sorry if I sound ungrateful, but your proposition sounds like a very sad existence to me. I want to be loved. To be cherished. To grow old with the man I choose and who chooses me.”
Even after what happened with Paxton, and even though I still had strong feelings toward Cillian, I believed in fairy tales. I simply accepted mine was written eccentrically with too much foreword and scenes I was happy to cut.
He produced a pair of leather gloves from his breast pocket, slapping them over his muscular thigh before sliding his big hands into them.
“You can have all those things in time, just not with me. Find yourself a lover. Lead a quiet life with him—provided he signs all the necessary paperwork. You’ll do you; I’ll do me. What I do, in case you have any lingering romantic ideas about us, includes an insatiable amount of high-end escorts and questionable sexual practices.”
The only thing keeping me standing upright at this point was the thought this was probably a hallucination, due to the fact I hadn’t been sleeping or eating well recently.
Carbs. I need carbs.
“You want me to cheat on you?” I rubbed at my forehead.
“After you give me legitimate children, you can do whatever you want.”
“You need a hug.” I frowned. “And a shrink. Not in that order.”
“What I need is siring heirs. At least one male. A couple of others for appearance and backup.”
Were we talking about children or phone chargers?
My head spun. I reached to the wall for support.
I always knew Cillian Fitzpatrick was messed up, but this was a level of crazy that could easily secure him a place in a mental institution.
“Why male? In case you haven’t noticed, this is the twenty-first century. There are women like Irene Rosenfeld, Mary Barra, Corie Barry…” I began listing female CEOs. He cut me off.
“Spare me the supermarket list. The truth of the matter is, some things haven’t changed. Women born into obscene privilege—aka my future daughters—rarely opt for hectic careers, which is what running Royal Pipelines demands.”
“That is the most sexist thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Shockingly, I agree with you on that point.” He began to button his coat, signaling his departure. “Nonetheless, I’m not the one making the rules. Traditionally, the firstborn’s son inherits most of the shares and the role of CEO in Royal Pipelines. That’s how my father got the gig. That’s how I got it.”
“What if the kid wants to be something else?”
He stared at me as though I just asked him if I should pierce my eyebrow using a semi-automatic weapon. Like I was truly beyond help.
“Who doesn’t want to be the head of one of the richest companies in the world?”
“Anyone who knows what a role like that entails,” I shot back. “No offense, but you’re not the happiest man I know, Kill.”
“My first son will continue my legacy,” he said matter-of-factly. “If you’re worried about his mental health, I suggest you send him to therapy from infancy.”
“Sounds like you’re going to be a wonderful father.” I crossed my arms over my chest.
“They’ll have a soft mother. Least I can do is give them the hard facts of life.”
“You’re stalling,” he quipped.
The nervous knot of hysteria forming in my throat grew. Not because I found the idea of marrying Cillian so terrible, but because I didn’t, and that made me deranged. What kind of woman jumped headfirst into marriage with the wickedest man in Boston while still married to the most unreliable one?