Caroselli's Accidental Heir

By: Michelle Celmer

One

In twenty-three years, nine months and sixteen days, Lucy Bates had made her fair share of questionable choices. Due to her impulsive nature, her guileless curiosity—and an occasional lack of basic common sense—she’d found herself in more than a few...complicated situations. But her current predicament topped them all.

Note to self: The next time you have the bright idea to leave a man and move across country in the hopes that he’ll follow you, don’t bother.

Not only had Tony not followed her, he’d gone out and found someone new. After nearly a year of casually dating Lucy, and not a single mention of taking their relationship to the next level, he was marrying a virtual stranger.

Not only had he been dating this new woman a measly two months, she wasn’t pregnant with his baby.

Lucy was.

She was a stereotype.

The poor girl who fell for the rich guy and got knocked up. And though there was a whole lot more to it than that, she knew that was all anyone would see. Including Tony.

“This is it,” the cab driver announced as he pulled up to the house. Lucy peered out the window. Located in one of the oldest and most prestigious neighborhoods in Chicago, the Caroselli mansion put the neighboring homes to shame. It was old, and a little gaudy for her taste. But very grand.

The street was lined with luxury cars and SUVs, and children were playing in the park directly across the street. Tony once told her that his grandfather, the founder of Caroselli chocolate, liked to sit in his study, in his favorite chair, and watch the kids play. He said it reminded him of home. Home being Italy.

She handed the driver the last of her cash and climbed out of the cab. The sun was shining, but there was a chill in the air.

She’d blown her entire savings account on a roundtrip plane ticket from Florida to Chicago, paying the exorbitant Sunday rates, so from here on in she would have to rely on her credit card. If she maxed that out...well, she would think of something. She always did.

But it wasn’t just about her anymore. She needed to start thinking like a mother, putting the baby first.

She laid a hand on her swollen belly, felt the thump thump of itty bitty feet against her palm, never so confused, or terrified, or content in her whole life.

She promised herself right then that if she could just figure this mess out, she would never do another impulsive thing for as long as she lived.

And this time she meant it.

“You’ve got him right where you want him,” her mom had told her on the way to the airport that morning in her clunker of a car that always seemed to be one repair away from the junkyard. “Whatever he offers you to keep this quiet, you ask for double.”

And that was her mom in a nutshell.

“I’m not looking for hush money,” Lucy said. “I don’t want anything from him. I just think he should know about the baby before he gets married.”

“That’s what the phone is for.”

“I need to do this face-to-face.” She owed him that much after the way she’d behaved. He didn’t want Lucy, that much was obvious, but this was his baby, too. She had no right to keep this from him.

“By crashing his engagement party?”

“I am not crashing anything. I’m going to talk to him before the party.”

What she hadn’t counted on was her flight being two hours late, which gave her only about two hours to get to Tony then get back to the airport for her return flight. Now she had no choice but to talk to him at the party. But she had no intention of making a scene. With any luck, people would just assume that she was another guest. A friend of the bride perhaps.

All she needed was five minutes of his time, and then they could both get on with their lives. If he wanted to be a part of the baby’s life, that would be wonderful. If he tossed a dollar or two her way every so often to help with expenses, she would be eternally grateful. If he didn’t, if he wanted nothing to do with her and the baby, she would be disappointed, but she would understand. After all, hadn’t she been the one to insist that they keep it casual? No obligations, no expectations. How could she then turn around and expect him to take responsibility for a child he never wanted?

Nope, nothing suspicious about that.

“Even if he wasn’t engaged, baby or no baby, that man would never marry you,” her mom had told her. “Men like that only keep women like us around for one reason.”

A fact she loved to remind Lucy of every chance she got. And she was right. Lucy had told herself a million times that Tony was too good for her, that even if he did want to settle down someday, it would be with someone from his own side of the street. And that’s exactly what he’d done.

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