The Unwanted Wife

By: Natasha Anders

Chapter Six

They got home after midnight and while Sandro proceeded to lock up, Theresa wearily headed for the shower in the upstairs guest bedroom that she was still determined to occupy, despite Sandro forcibly moving her back to the Master Suite every night. She was standing beneath the hot, relaxing spray of the multiple shower heads in the luxurious guest bathroom, her forehead pressed to the cool tiles, when a rush of cold air alerted her to the fact that the frosted glass door to the cubicle had slid open. She turned around with a resigned sigh and watched as Sandro turned to close the shower door behind him, offering her a tantalizing glimpse of the beautiful bottom that she had so admired earlier in the evening, while he’d been chasing a ball up and down Gabe’s lawn. He turned back to her and shook his head with a weary sigh.

“You are, without a doubt, turning into one of the most stubborn people I know, Red,” he groaned.

“I want that divorce, Sandro,” she insisted, trying not to drop her eyes to his eager erection. He smiled slightly, taking a step towards her.

“I know,” he admitted tiredly, reaching around her to grab the body wash and sponge dangling from the ornate faucets. His arms brushed against her naked flesh with every move he made and she tried desperately to shield her body’s eager reaction from him and folded her arms over the burgeoning red tips of her breasts.

“A.and… I don’t love you anymore,” she continued desperately, watching as he applied the fragrant body wash to the soft sponge. He kept his gaze on the sponge in his hand.

“I know,” his voice sounded a little strange but when he looked up again his expression was neutral. He raised his hand and gently started running the sponge over her folded arms.

“And I don’t want to stay in the same room with you anymore,” her voice quivered embarrassingly when he grasped one slender wrist with a big, gentle hand and lifted her arm away from her breasts to run the sponge down the underside of said arm and up towards her sensitive armpit. Her already hard nipples tightened to the point of pain. She swayed slightly, trying not to moan in pleasure, when he lifted the other arm and subjected it to the same sensual treatment.

“You’ve made that abundantly clear,” he whispered in response to her former statement, his eyes fixed on her obviously aroused breasts. He stepped even closer, crowding her with his large body and backing her up against the smooth tiles. The sponge swept across first one tight bud, then the other, so lightly she wasn’t sure if she’d imagined the touch or not.

This time because he was so close, his every little move brought his hard, smooth chest in brushing contact with the painfully erect little tips, it was all she could do to maintain her train of thought. The sponge was sweeping down between her breasts now and down over her torso, her flat stomach and further down still, over her abdomen and between her…

She sucked in a harsh breath when he quite deliberately dropped the sponge to replace it with his fingers.

“And… I want a… a…” she panted, when his fingers continued to stroke insistently down where she was most sensitive and one of her hands latched onto his wrist to curb the movement. He remained undeterred, staring down into her upturned face raptly. “A divorce…”

“You said that already…” he pointed out, his chest starting to heave as he sought to control his reaction to her obvious arousal. His hungry gaze dropped from her face to her small breasts, where her hard, raspberry pink nipples were starting to peek through the rapidly disintegrating suds. With a desperate groan he removed his hand from between her thighs, dropped to his knees and palmed the small mounds, taking one sudsy bud into his hungry, hot mouth. Theresa arched back at the electrifying touch, her back bowing and her head hitting the tiles with a thud.

Her big, beautiful husband, who knelt like a supplicant at the temple of her body, licked and kissed his way across the shallow valley between her breasts to find the other aching peak while his large hands swept down her body to her narrow hips, which he determinedly anchored to the tiled wall in an effort to keep her still. Theresa shuddered wildly and her hands buried themselves in his wet hair before restlessly moving to his shoulders where her nails dug in.

He finally rose to his feet again, pinning her to the wall with his entire body, his erection throbbing urgently where it was trapped between his hard ridged stomach and her narrow torso. He had his hands braced against the wall on either side of her head, while he thrust himself gently against her torso. He kept his hot, narrowed gaze on her nakedly vulnerable face, his own face was a mask of tight control while his eyes were ablaze with an emotion she did not recognise and could not read.

His eyes were restlessly darting from her own half-closed eyes, to the full, lower lip which she had caught between her small, white teeth. With a slightly muffled curse, he groaned and lowered his head until his mouth touched hers. Theresa’s entire body went rigid as his lips gently nuzzled against hers, demanding nothing, just exploring the unfamiliar contours of her ripe, generous mouth. His strong hands moved from where they were braced against the wall to tenderly cup her face, fingertips meeting in the middle of her brow and palms resting on either side of her jaw. His mouth gradually demanded more, moving insistently against hers until she sighed and melted against him as her own mouth explored his. His tongue, tasting of mint, ran over her lips seeking entry into her mouth and she opened up for him, wanting this so much she ached.

Her hands fluttered up wonderingly, cupping his jaw in an effort to bring him even closer and he was happy to oblige, his kiss going even deeper than before. She felt as if she was being consumed by him, greedily eaten alive and absorbed into him. It was the most intense experience of her life and from the way he throbbed against her torso she guessed he felt pretty much the same. He reluctantly lifted his mouth from hers to look down into her face with a penetrating stare that seemed to see right into her soul and then he smiled. A completely open, unguarded and boyish smile, the like of which she had never seen from him before. She barely had time to catch her breath before his mouth was on hers again, thoroughly plundering it. She moaned hungrily and wrapped her arms around his neck, his hands were moving now, roaming all over her soft, naked flesh before gripping her tight backside and hoisting her up until she had her slender thighs wrapped around his waist.

He lifted his mouth from hers and dropped his face into her neck to lick the droplets of water that had pooled in the sensitive hollow there before moving back up to claim her lips again devouring her with his lips, teeth and tongue. Theresa was completely overwhelmed by his unexpected passion, he had never seemed this out of control before and she felt like she was simply being swept along with the tide. He tightened his grip on her behind before, half-stumbling; he carried her out of the shower, through the bathroom and into the bedroom where he barely managed to get them both onto the bed. Theresa’s feet touched the carpeted floor and her backside was half-off the bed but she didn’t care one whit for the discomfort when, with barely a pause from his ravaging mouth, he surged into her… she managed to tear her mouth away to cry out; the sound harsh and raw in the silence of the room.

Her entire back arched, until only her head touched the bed, while she raised her legs to wrap them around his waist again, her ankles crossing over his taut, pistoning buttocks and her arms wrapped around his broad back, while her nails dug into his flesh and drew blood. Sandro was making sobbing, desperate sounds into her mouth but he still refused to relinquish her lips, coordinating the thrusts of his tongue with those of his driving hips and Theresa’s muffled moans took on the same frenzied rhythm.

His hands moved up to wrap themselves in her wet hair, tilting her head back almost violently to get better access to her mouth. His wet body slid and rubbed over hers, his muscles bunched beneath the taut satin of his skin and Theresa’s body burned at every point of contact. One of his hands swept back down to one of her thighs, lifting her hips even higher to allow him even deeper penetration.

More! More! More! She tried to say the words but she couldn’t with his mouth on hers, so she moved hands to his behind to pull him closer, she wanted him closer, harder, deeper and he knew it… because he adjusted accordingly and she sobbed into his mouth, feeling like she was dying an exquisite death. She spiralled higher and higher and when she reached the pinnacle, she spun out of control, freefalling back down to earth with a scream that was swallowed into his mouth. Her entire body clenched around him and Sandro, feeling her climax, was unable to hold back… his breath laboured in and out of his lungs as he fought for control but he was as lost as she was and lifted his mouth from hers long enough to release a hoarse shout that she barely recognised as her name. His body arched violently and he lifted her from the bed and into his lap as he held her as close as he could, his strong arms wrapped around her narrow back as his body jerked within hers and his lips fell back onto hers, gentler this time as his body continued to thrust lazily. He hugged her even closer and while he knelt on the edge of the bed, her legs straddled his hard thighs, her chest pressed to his and her arms were tightly wrapped around his neck as she fought to keep her balance while he nuzzled her mouth with his. He finally went completely boneless and collapsed down onto the soft bed, taking her with him and keeping her wrapped up in his arms with one of his hard thighs still pressed between hers. He was still kissing her, lifting his mouth from hers to nuzzle her neck and kiss her shoulders before coming back to her mouth over and over again as if he could not get enough of the taste of her. His hands were petting her all over and gradually their breathing slowed down and their mutual trembling abated slightly. He was a gentler, softer presence inside her now, only occasionally twitching as if to remind her that he was still there.

“God,” he finally whispered. “Oh my God, Theresa… that was amazing.” Theresa, who was only now coming back to herself tensed at his words but he seemed not to notice, still stroking her, kissing her, whispering little endearments and half-finished Italian sentences into her hair. In a year and a half, during which time they’d had sex on average four times a week and at least twice a night on each of those occasions, this was the first time… ever that Sandro hadn’t recited his standard mantra.

He shifted slightly, to arrange her more comfortably against him, one arm tucked beneath her head and the other resting heavily across her breasts. His fingers formed lazy circles on the overheated skin of her upper arm and he had his head on the same pillow as hers, so close she could feel his still-unsteady breath feathering through her hair. He occasionally dropped soft kisses onto the sensitive skin beneath her ear and along her delicate jawline.

Theresa was tensing more and more in his arms, not sure how to react to all of this. First the kisses, then the shattering sex, then the absence of those five words and now this unprecedented display of affection. It was as if, just when she’d found a way to protect her already battered, bruised and fragile heart from him, he found some other way around her defences, leaving her vulnerable to even more pain.

He was still whispering into her ear, half-broken Italian words that she didn’t understand at all, trying to pull her closer but Theresa resisted, finally snapping out of the half-trance that she had been in. She could not let him do this to her… not again! He had hurt her too many times in the past, with his careless disregard, his other women and his contempt for her. She would not allow him into her heart again. Finally clueing in to the fact that Theresa was not as into the cuddling as he was, Sandro lifted himself up onto his elbow, resting his head on his hand and looking absolutely gorgeous in all his naked splendour.

“Cara, what’s wrong?” She nearly laughed out loud at the ridiculous question before struggling in earnest to escape from beneath his heavy arm. For a few seconds his hold tightened but he finally raised his arm and allowed her to scurry off the bed.

“The sheets are soaking wet,” she said breathlessly, refusing to meet his eyes. “I need to change them.”

“Leave it for the maid in the morning,” he grinned lazily.

“The cleaning service doesn’t come in on a Saturday and besides, I can’t sleep on a wet bed.”

“Don’t be silly, Red,” he admonished gently, sitting up gracefully. “You’re sleeping with me in our bed!”

“I’m not,” she shook her head adamantly and his grin widened indulgently.

“Stubborn cat,” he swung his legs off the edge of the bed and stood up with the lethal grace of a predator, stalking her languidly. “Of course you are.” Theresa backed away but he pounced before she could get very far, his hands on her shoulders, applying just enough pressure to keep her from fleeing.

“Look at me,” he demanded softly when she kept her eyes glued to his chest. When she refused he muttered something beneath his breath before lifting one hand from her shoulder to tilt up her jaw until her eyes met his. Whatever he saw in her defiant gaze made his eyebrows lower and his eyes darken.

“I’m trying to fix this, cara,” he finally whispered, the words almost torn from him.

“You can’t,” she shook her head sadly. “This… whatever it is… it’s irreparable.”

“Why?” He shook his head slightly in confused frustration.

“Because everything you do now feels insincere and forced!” She hissed in sudden fury. “Every touch, every apology, every endearment… it’s like you brushed up on the ‘Theresa Noble User Manual’ and learned what makes me tick!”

“Firstly, it’s Theresa de Lucci and secondly, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about!” He practically shouted, shaking her slightly.

“The kisses for one,” she itemised.


“A year and a half of marriage, Alessandro and tonight was the first time you’ve ever kissed me,” she pointed out. “You must have realised how much it hurt me to know that you despised me so much that you couldn’t even bring yourself to kiss me.”

“That’s not…”

“So of course tonight,” she interrupted him; not at all interested in whatever it was he had to say. “After making me feel so special by finally doing me the honour of introducing me to your friends, this is when you decide to sweeten the pot with a few of your kisses! It probably struck you as a pretty effective way to keep the bitch muzzled and content, right?”

“You’re misreading the entire situation, cara.”

“Don’t call me that! I am not your darling… I’ve never been your darling and I’m not going to be na?ve enough to fall for your so-called charms again!”

“What do you want from me?” He suddenly demanded in frustration, releasing her shoulders so abruptly that she stumbled and fell. He froze in horror, staring down at her with a look of such abject misery, contrition and despair on his face that she almost felt sorry for him. She sat up and stared into his distressed face.

“I want a divorce,” she whispered and he sank down to his knees beside her, lifting a hand to caress the curve of her cheek.

“I’m sorry,” he groaned. “I’m so sorry for more things than you could possibly imagine… but that’s the one thing I can’t give you.”

“Then we have nothing more to talk about,” she pushed herself to her feet, ignoring the hand he offered to help her. She suddenly realised that they were both naked and sighed heavily.

“Please, just go back to your room, Alessandro,” she pleaded and he hesitated, his eyes lingering on her face for a few long moments, before he turned abruptly and left.

She woke up in the guest bedroom the following morning… alone. She was both saddened and relieved by that. A quick glance at the clock told her that it was well after ten in the morning and the gloom told her that it was probably raining. Theresa was shocked that she had slept so late and rushed through her morning ablutions, while trying to ignore the ever-present queasiness. She gingerly made her way downstairs, feeling like someone with a hangover as she headed for the kitchen.

Fortunately there were no food smells emanating from the room but when she walked in, it was to find Sandro sitting at the breakfast bar and staring thoughtfully down at his full coffee mug. He looked up when she stepped into the room his eyes sweeping over her figure, taking in the worn old jeans, faded sweatshirt and battered little trainers.

“How are you feeling, ca… Theresa?”

“Fine,” she mumbled, getting herself a glass of orange juice before turning toward the breakfast bar and taking the seat opposite his on one of the quaint wooden chairs.

“Aren’t you going to eat anything?” He asked softly and Theresa grimaced, the thought of food making her stomach churn queasily.

“I’m fine.” He swore softly.

“You’re obviously not fine,” he growled. “I don’t know what you think starving yourself will achieve.”

“Oh for God’s sake, I’m hardly starving myself, just skipping breakfast.”

“You look like you’ve skipped entirely too many meals recently,” he shook his head and sent a scathing glare up and down her thin frame.

“If it’ll get you off my back, I’ll have some toast,” she seethed before slamming her glass down. She used too much force and must have placed it right on the edge because the glass went tumbling down to the floor and shattered on impact, spilling the bright contents all over the pale blue tile of the floor. The jarring noise completely unravelled Theresa and frayed her nerves to breaking point.

“Oh,” her eyes flooded with tears as she realised whose fault it had been. “I’m sorry…”

“Theresa,” Sandro was beside her in seconds, his hands on her shoulders and his face peering down into hers in concern. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she whispered, shrugging out of his grip and he dropped his hands abruptly.

“Are you sure?” He demanded to know. “You’re as white as a sheet…”

“Just a bit of a shock,” she waved his concern aside. “It’s raining ,” she observed inanely, in a very weak attempt to change the subject and her eyes fixed on the dull greyness of the world outside.

“Yes,” he stepped further away from her and knelt down to pick up the shards of glass from the floor. “It is.” She started to get up but he looked up at her from where he was squatting at her feet and dropped a large hand on her thigh kept her from moving.

“The floor’s slippery and covered in glass; let me clear it up before you get off the chair.” She shrugged and silently watched as he efficiently went about cleaning up her mess.

“What are you doing today?” He asked casually, keeping his back to her as he discarded the glass and paper towels he had used to sop up the excess juice into the trash can.

“I need to do some shopping,” she answered distractedly. “I was thinking of heading to the city for some stuff…” she intended to buy about a dozen different home pregnancy kits, a task which she had delayed for much too long.

“I’m running low on some things too…” he responded carelessly, turning around to face her. “I’ll drive you.” Theresa came out of her daze with a wry smile.

“Wow. That was such a transparent lie that I’m almost embarrassed for you,” he chuckled wryly in response to her dry wit and shrugged slightly.

“I know it wasn’t up to scratch but give me a break, it’s been an eventful twenty-four hours and I’m not in top form,” he joked lightly even though his eyes were still sombrely engaged in running over her face and body in concern. “I don’t want you to drive, Theresa; you look a bit out of it. Do you think you’re coming down with something?”

Yes. Pregnancy.

“I’m fine but I do feel a bit out of sorts this morning, probably the whiskey in that Irish coffee I had with the ladies last night,” right, she’d barely made her way through a quarter of one mug before realising that, if she was pregnant, drinking would probably not be such a great idea. Still, Sandro didn’t know how much she’d had, so it was a perfectly acceptable excuse. He seemed to fall for it and nodded his acceptance of her explanation.

“When would you like to leave?” Theresa sighed softly; she really didn’t want him trailing after her while she tried to figure out a way to buy home pregnancy tests without him noticing. Sandro would never miss that.

“I really do have some stuff to take care of, Theresa,” he said seriously, seeming to read her mind. “I’ll leave you in relative peace.” She chewed on her lower lip thoughtfully, not missing how his eyes flared when her tongue darted out to soothe the sting of her teeth where she had accidentally bitten too hard.

“Okay… give me an hour to get ready,” to shower, get dressed, throw up and such… He nodded.

He was as good as his word and mostly left her alone to listlessly browse around the upmarket boutiques in the very high end shopping mall that he had driven her to. She had the first ten minutes away from him to buy the pregnancy kits, six of them, all different brands (who knew there were so many choices available?), just in case he changed his mind about leaving her alone but surprisingly he did nothing but constantly call or text her to be sure she was okay and didn’t need him but that got rather tedious after the tenth text message in forty minutes and the fifth call in an hour and a half. In the end, she simply told him she was done shopping and he suggested they meet up and head to a restaurant for lunch.

The upscale restaurant was obviously one Sandro often patronised so, even though it was lunch time on a Saturday afternoon and the place was exceedingly popular, they were seated immediately. Theresa watched the staff fawn all over him and bitterly wondered if he had brought any other women here. The suspicion was confirmed, when the waiter turned to her with a slight smirk.

“And what will the lady be ordering today?” He asked in that supercilious manner that servers in upmarket restaurants often had.

“Your Caesar salad, no dressing, toast and water,” she ordered brusquely.

“And have you decided on a main course yet?” He asked with that annoying smirk.

“That would be it,” she responded shortly, his smug attitude was really grating on her nerves.

“Theresa,” Sandro leaned forward in concern. “You didn’t have breakfast; you need to eat something more substantial than just salad.”

“I’m really not that hungry,” she shrugged dismissively, handing the thick leather-bound menu back to the waiter. “Please just let it go.”

“If you’re on some crazy diet…”

“I’m not on a diet!” She snapped. “Just, please, stop trying to manipulate every single aspect of my life!” His jaw clenched and his lips thinned in obvious anger but surprisingly enough he let it go before proceeding to order a staggering amount of food from the waiter. Once they were alone, he leaned back in his chair and stared at her thoughtfully.

“Seriously,” he began after a long silence, which she had stubbornly refused to break. “What’s going on with you?” She gaped at him, unable to believe the stupidity of that question and he lowered his eyes, apparently realising that himself.

“Aside from the obvious,” he qualified. “And try to keep the sarcasm down to a minimum.”

“Well aside from the obvious fact that I’m unhappy with my life as it is right now,” she shrugged. “I can’t say that there’s much going on with me.”

“You’re lying to me,” he sounded so incredulous at that fact that she actually laughed in genuine amusement. “Are you having an affair?”

“Back to that are we?” She was laughing even harder now. “Sandro, not everybody stoops to infidelity when things aren’t going right in their lives.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” He sounded outrageously offended and leaned toward her, all affronted, bristling male.

“Oh come on, Sandro, you know what it means!”

“No I don’t, do enlighten me,” he invited sarcastically.

“It means,” she spoke with exaggerated and offensive slowness. “That I’m not the one who has been having the affairs. It means that I had the misguided notion that the sacred marriage vows we took were just that, sacred vows. It means that I’m not the one who deliberately set out to hurt and humiliate my spouse as publicly and as painfully as possible.”

“I admit that I did some things to deliberately hurt you… in a misguided attempt to punish you for a situation that wasn’t your fault,” he began carefully.

“How magnanimous of you to admit that,” she interrupted sarcastically.

“You were misled into believing that I… loved you,” he ignored her interruption. “I was misled into believing you were…”

“Your drinks,” the waiter’s smooth voice interrupted the first really meaningful exchange they’d had on the subject and Sandro slanted him an annoyed look before gritting his teeth and waiting in fulminating silence for the man to finish. When the waiter finally left, Sandro turned his gaze back on her.

“I thought you knew about your father’s scheme, I thought you were fully on board with it,” he admitted softly.

“What exactly is my father’s ‘scheme’?” She asked carefully, wary of being shot down again.

“He owned something that I desperately wanted and the only way he would let me have it was if I paid a huge amount of money for it and then married you.”

“I see,” she dropped her gaze to the intricately folded napkin on the table in front of her and traced her fingers lightly over the folds. “So, in essence, you paid an exorbitant sum for this mysterious something you so desperately wanted, with me tossed in as your unwanted free gift?”

“I had no choice, to get what I wanted; I had to accept you as part of the deal... I thought…” his voice tapered off and he shrugged miserably.

“You flattered yourself into thinking that I was fully cognisant of this scheme and that I was so desperate to have you, I would have my daddy blackmail you into marrying me?” He nodded reluctantly. “Well you got what you wanted and since it’s obvious that we’re both miserable in this sham of a marriage why won’t you give me that divorce?” She continued to probe, desperately hoping that he couldn’t tell how much actually hearing this confession hurt her.

“It’s a bit more complicated than that. I think your father knew that we would both eventually want out of this ‘sham’,” he spat out the word almost distastefully. “So he added a little clause into the contract.”

This was it... Theresa braced herself for what she knew was coming.

“Clause?” She repeated the word faintly and Sandro cleared his throat uncomfortably.

“Your father...” the waiter swooped in with great flair and began to offload a tray of food onto their table. Sandro muffled a curse beneath his breath, while he waited with barely concealed impatience for the younger man to finish.

“Will there be anything else?”

“No!” he barked, keeping his voice low and menacing. The poor man gulped and beat a hasty retreat. Theresa barely registered the interaction between the two men, her horrified gaze pinned onto the gastronomical feast Sandro had ordered. Pastas, pies, fish, meat, vegetables all laid out in front of her revolting senses.

“Theresa?” Sandro’s voice seemed to come from miles away. “What’s wrong?”

“So much food,” she said sickly, feeling in danger of losing the precious little she already had in her stomach.

“I thought we could share,” he admitted.

“I told you I wasn’t hungry,” she flared weakly, angry that he expected her to fall victim to yet another one of his manipulations.

“It doesn’t tempt you? Not even a little?” he lifted his fork and stuck it into the closest dish, some kind of cheese bake and lifted it toward her lips. Theresa could feel her gorge rise and jerked her head back abruptly.

“No!” He lowered the fork and glared at her in outraged bewilderment.

“What the hell is going on with you? Are you on some insane hunger strike?” She laughed unsteadily.

“That’s what prisoners do, isn’t it? When they want to make a statement about the unjustness of their imprisonment, they go on a hunger strike,” she laughed again, immediately aware of the edge of hysteria in her voice.

“You’re not serious?” He seemed to think she was though and for some reason that both saddened and amused her.

“I’m not hungry,” she maintained wearily. “It’s really as simple as that… please finish what you were saying about that clause.” He looked frustrated but seemed to recognise that she would not budge on the issue.

“Basically, we have an out…” he began slowly. “We give him a grandson and we can divorce without any repercussions.” She’d thought she was ready for it but hearing him put it so bluntly took the wind clear out of her sails and it took her a couple of moments to recover from it.

“An out,” she repeated hoarsely. “Every single time you touched me, every time that’s all you ever thought about, wasn’t it? Getting out?” She laughed bitterly. “And how diligently you worked towards your goal… so often and so very thoroughly.”

“Theresa,” he whispered his voice alive with misery. Nothing more, just that, just her name. It was as if he recognised that nothing he could possibly say at that moment would make any difference to the pain she was feeling.

“My God,” she swiped at a few errant tears, furious with herself for allowing him to see them. “Every time you came you practically prayed for me to give you a son. That was the only thought in your mind, every single time… escape! At a time when most people can’t even remember their own names, you were begging me to give you a son because life with me was so incredibly unbearable for you.”

“It wasn’t you,” he interrupted lamely. “It was the situation.”

“So this son you so desperately wanted,” tried to keep her voice level, even while it cracked with strain. “You don’t really want him, I take it? He’s just a means to an end?”

“I’ve never thought about it,” he admitted uncomfortably.

“I mean, surely you wouldn’t want anything to do with a child spawned with a woman you despise and carrying the blood of a man you consider your enemy?”

“The child has never seemed real to me,” he murmured with brutal honesty. “I had some vague idea that you would have him and I’d move back to Italy afterwards. I never thought beyond that.”

“With a father who felt nothing for him, a mother who didn’t want to get pregnant and a megalomaniacal grandfather waiting in the wings, it’s probably best that the last one didn’t make it,” she concluded heartbrokenly.

“Don’t you ever say that,” Sandro suddenly snapped, one of his hands reaching out to enfold her tightly furled fists on the tabletop. “He would have been loved.”

“What makes you so sure of that? When you admit that you don’t know how you would have felt about him?”

“I know you,” he murmured huskily. “And you have a capacity for love that boggles the mind. Of course you would have loved that baby; it’s the only way you know how to be.”

“How am I supposed to keep living with you now, Sandro?” She asked him helplessly. “It was bad enough before but the thought of going home with you now is almost completely unbearable.” His hand loosened its grip around hers and he reached up to stroke the side of her cheek tenderly.

“We’ll get through this,” he whispered and she flinched away from his touch. His eyes flickered with some strange emotion before his hand dropped back down to the table.

“I’m tired,” she said quietly. “Take me back to the house.” He nodded and summoned the waiter over to ask for the check. Theresa’s eyes dropped to the full table regretfully.

“Such a waste,” she whispered half to herself but she was surprised when Sandro overheard her and asked the waiter to deliver the food to the nearest homeless shelter.

Nothing much else was said between them until they got home, where Theresa excused herself under the pretext of being tired and closeted herself in her room for the rest of the afternoon.

“Sandro,” Theresa cautiously breached the sanctity of his study later that night. In all the time they had been living in the house, it was the first time Theresa had ever set foot in the study while he was in it. He looked up to see her hovering uncertainly in the doorway and stood up abruptly, nearly sending his chair toppling. She jumped backward at the sudden violent movement but he was around his desk in an instant and approaching her with one hand outstretched.

“Theresa,” he intoned huskily. “Please come in.” He seemed almost eager to have her there. Not exactly the reception she was expecting. He steered her towards the huge, leather easy chair in one corner of the large study, seating her before taking the chair opposite hers, leaning towards her, with his hands loosely clasped together and hanging down between his spread thighs.

“I want to know why,” she finally whispered, after a lengthy silence. “I want to know what commodity you so casually traded my happiness for. What meant so much to you that you were willing to give up your precious freedom for it?” He was quiet for so long that she wondered if he would bother to respond.

“My father is old and sick,” he finally said in a low voice, keeping his head down and his eyes fixed on his hands. “He grew up on a wine farm. Not a very profitable vineyard but it had been in our family for generations and it meant a lot to him. It was the land he was born on, the land he imagined retiring to and eventually dying on… but before he made his fortune; he ran into some bad luck and made some terrible financial decisions that resulted in the loss of that vineyard. He soon found his footing and got stinking rich but that vineyard had been purchased by your father who quite stubbornly, despite anything my father offered him, refused to sell it. The place is pretty worthless to a man of his fortune, so I can only conclude that he enjoyed having that kind of leverage over my father,” he shrugged helplessly. “All of my life I remember my father waxing lyrical about that place. He always regretted the fact that none of his children had been born on that land, the guilt at losing a huge chunk of family history ate at him and in the last few years, his quest to get it back became an obsession.

“His health started to deteriorate really badly. He was diagnosed with cancer and the doctors aren’t optimistic. Naturally his impending death has made the loss of that land even more unbearable for him and it was killing us to watch him suffer emotionally, physically and mentally. I wanted to give him his pride and dignity back. I want him to find peace and die happy. So I approached your father, who, having seen your reaction to me after our first meeting, finally relented and came up with the terms of sale as you now know them.” Theresa flushed miserably when she remembered how obviously infatuated she had been the first time she had seen Sandro and recognised her own, unwitting role, in this fa?ade.

“How’s your father?” She asked tightly and he nodded slightly, his face betraying the first hint of emotion since he had started telling the sorry tale.

“Content, now that he’s home,” his voice was absolutely racked with the pain he was trying so desperately to disguise.

“And your family knows about this ‘deal’ you made for the land?” She asked her own voice high with tension.


“No wonder they never expressed any desire to meet me, or made any overtures of friendship towards me,” she said, half to herself and he made a muffled sound and moved a hand towards her face. She flinched away from his reach and his hand dropped halfway between them.

“I’m sorry about your father,” she said tonelessly. “I see now how impossible your situation must have been.”

“Even so… I could have treated you less…” he began, his voice bitter with something very close to self-loathing.

“Never mind,” she cut him off, not really in the mood to hear his moans of regret and self-recrimination. “Thank you for telling me.” She got up slowly, always mindful of the dizziness and he jumped up along with her.

“Theresa, wait… please…” he began.

“I don’t think there’s much more to say…” she turned toward the door.

“What about us? Our marriage?”

“I suppose we go on as we always have,” she shrugged listlessly. “Only, without the intimacy Sandro, I really couldn’t handle that anymore. We lead separate lives…”

“I don’t want that,” he said hoarsely, sounding almost horrified by the prospect.

“It won’t have to be for too much longer,” she murmured faintly, wondering why the door seemed to be getting further away with every faltering step.

“What do you mean?” He asked in alarm. “Theresa?” This last when she swayed slightly, he put a steadying arm around her narrow shoulders and led her back to the chair she had just vacated.

“That’s it,” he snapped, crouching in front of her, while his hands went up to frame her pale face. “I’m calling the doctor! This is…”

“I’m pregnant,” she cut across his words in an appallingly weak voice but quiet and shaky though her statement was, it was enough to stop him in his tracks. He went pale and sank back onto his heels as he absorbed the words.

“Are you sure?” He asked quietly, one trembling hand reaching up to brush her soft hair from her face.

“I just took four home pregnancy tests in the space of two hours,” she confessed. “End result: four pink strips all telling me that I’m going to be a mommy in a few months’ time! I could take the remaining two tests that I have stashed away upstairs but I couldn’t force myself to drink any more water,” she joked weakly. He didn’t say anything, keeping his eyes glued to her face.

“So you see, Sandro? You’re just a few short months away from getting rid of your unwanted wife, child and life. No more need for pretence, no need to humour your sham-wife with Friday night football games, or introductions to your friends,” her voice trembled with the effort it took to sound casual but Sandro looked anything but fooled by her attempt to appear cavalier. His hands dropped down to the arms of her chair and he seemed to be holding on for dear life, not touching her at all but still uncomfortably close.

“You still need to see a doctor,” he said softly, sounding strained and she nodded.

“I’ve already made an appointment with Lisa’s doctor.” He sighed softly, before agilely getting up and moving away from her chair and back to his own.

“They would like you,” he suddenly said, his eyes intent on her face.

“What?” She asked distractedly.

“My family,” he elaborated and she frowned, not sure why he’d felt the need to say that.

“I doubt that, Sandro… I don’t think I’d feel any kind of charity towards someone who deliberately set out to trap my brother or son in a marriage he did not want.”

“But you didn’t…”

“They think I did and once you’ve made up your mind about someone, it’s pretty hard to change it again.”

“It’s not as hard as you think,” he said half-under his breath.

“I don’t know why you think you have to say stuff like this,” she shrugged dismissively. “Soon we’ll both be getting what we want: freedom from this awful situation.”

“What about the baby?”

“If I have a boy you would have fulfilled the terms of your contract with my father. You’ll be free… the baby won’t be any of your concern but you can be quite certain that my father won’t be getting his paws on my child! I ask only that you leave us this house and support us while I study jewellery designing. I don’t think we’ll need your support for much longer than two years… after that, I think I’ll be able to manage on my own.”

“You seem to have given this some thought,” he said tonelessly, his face back to that familiar icy mask she despised so much. She nodded nervously.

“I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon. Please Sandro, after two years, I’ll be completely out of your life and while you’re supporting us, I won’t bother you for anything, you won’t have to talk to me or hear from us and it doesn’t have to be too much.”

“You think I give a damn about the money?” He suddenly exploded, losing his icy reserve in spectacular fashion. “Do you think I would nitpick over pennies when it came to my wife and child’s welfare?”

“Ex-wife,” she reminded tentatively, fascinated by the incandescent fury she could see in his eyes, it flared even hotter after her timid correction.

“Nothing’s set in stone,” he gritted. “It could be a girl.” She went dramatically pale at that, oddly enough she hadn’t even considered that possibility.

“No,” she whispered. “It’s a boy, it’s got to be!” He swore shakily beneath his breath.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured quietly. “I know that this has got to be stressful for you. Theresa… whatever the future holds, you can rest assured that I’ll support you in every way possible for as long as you need me.”

“It won’t be for long,” she assured earnestly. “I know you want to move on with your real life. Probably get married and have children.”

“This is my life,” he growled. “I am married and having a child.”

“But it’s not the life you wanted,” she reminded. “Not the wife and child you wanted. This is certainly not the life I wanted.”

“So what the hell are you saying? That you’re looking forward to getting married to someone else and having his kid?” he suddenly snarled and she jumped, wondering at his unpredictable mood.

“Why are you being like this?” She asked in confusion. “I thought you’d be happy. It’s what you’ve been asking me for since the day we married. Every time we had sex, without fail you’d ask me…”

“I know,” he interrupted savagely. “You don’t have to remind me of it again.”

“Well,” she got up yet again and he jumped to his feet, braced to catch her if she fell. She sent him an amused sidelong glance. “I’m off to bed…”

“Have you eaten?” He asked in concern.

“Some toast,” she shrugged.

“I don’t like the way you’re managing your meals, Theresa,” he growled. “If you’re serious about getting through this pregnancy healthy, you should eat better than you have been.”

“I know that… but I think my body might be adjusting to the pregnancy so things are probably going to be a bit out of synch for a while. I’m sure my appetite will come back, with a vengeance. Don’t worry about it, Sandro. The baby will be fine.”

“Yes babies are resilient,” he nodded. “I have no doubt he will be fine but what about you? You won’t be able to enjoy your newfound freedom if you damage yourself irreparably during this pregnancy.”

“I’ll be fine,” she dismissed with a flick of the hand.

“How the hell can you be so god damn cavalier about your health?” He snapped and Theresa quite suddenly lost all patience with him.

“I really don’t see how any of this is your business, Sandro. My pregnancy, my body and the rest of my life are no longer issues you need to concern yourself with. To all intents and purposes, you’re free to go off and have a blast. In fact why don’t you go out with a couple of the floozies you so enjoy dangling from your arm every time there’s a photographer nearby? Go out, get wasted, bang a bimbo. Celebrate your impending freedom in the time honoured tradition.”

“What time is your doctor’s appointment tomorrow?” He asked calmly, simply ignoring her rant as if it had never happened. She glared at him, before turning away and heading toward the door. She had her hand on the doorknob when he spoke again. “I never, not once, was unfaithful to you during this marriage, Theresa.”

She halted at the door, her back stiffening as his words sank in and she found herself caught between wanting to open the door and wanting to turn around to meet his eyes. In the end she simply stood there, with her hand on the doorknob and her head bowed. He came up behind her and she flinched when his hands dropped down onto her shoulders and his large body brushed against her narrow back.

“What makes you think I believe you or even care anymore? She asked quietly, fighting to keep the anguish she was feeling from her voice.

“I don’t blame you for not caring,” his lips were practically brushing against her ear as he whispered. “But I wanted you to know. I know how it looked but I wasn’t thinking about the consequences. I wanted to show your father how little his damned contract was affecting my life and very selfishly, didn’t spare much thought to what it was doing to you. I want you to know that it wasn’t you I was trying to hurt.”

“So you keep saying,” a betraying quaver crept into her voice. “But guess who always wound up getting hurt anyway?”

“I know…” his lips were doing more than just accidentally brushing up against her ear now, they seemed to be nuzzling the sensitive flesh beneath her ear and they were definitely moving down her neck. “It was stupid and I realised it was a bad move from the first but once the papers sank their teeth into the juicy story of recently-wed Alessandro De Lucci playing away from home, everything I did came under scrutiny and any woman I had even a passing conversation with became my latest ‘mistress’. It got completely out of control.”

“Let me go,” she demanded weakly, when his lips trailed down to her collarbone.

“Cara,” he groaned. “I honestly don’t think that I can.” For a moment she was tempted to let him keep going, especially when one of his hands circled her waist to rest on her ribcage just below the upward curve of her breast. Her entire body tensed as her mind rebelled against what she about to do but she lifted her foot and stepped down on his instep, hard. He swore and leapt back, leaving her feeling momentarily bereft, before she came to her senses and fled.

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