The Unwanted Wife

By: Natasha Anders

Chapter Nine

That day signaled a turning point in their rocky relationship, the peace remained and along with it a mutual, ever-deepening respect blossomed between them. Sandro consulted her on some of his business decisions, seeming to value her opinions and take her advice and, taking her cue from him, Theresa started asking for his opinions on some of her designs and developed a keen admiration for the eye he seemed to have for quality jewelry. With his encouragement she started attempting more difficult pieces using new mediums and she was pleasantly surprised with the results.

Life was better but by no means perfect, they still slept apart at Theresa’s insistence, and even though he still accompanied her to all of her doctor’s appointments and was even her coach at the natural childbirth classes she had started attending, Theresa hardly ever talked to him about the baby and did her utmost to discourage any discussion he may want to have about it. Lisa was meant to be her coach but her cousin had her hands full with Rhys and promised to be there for the birth but could not put in the time commitment at the classes. That, of course, meant that Sandro was nothing more than a temporary replacement which she knew grated on his ego. Francesca still loomed large between them and even though Theresa was careful never to mention the other woman’s name; she was never far from Theresa’s mind.

Sandro had gone to Italy a couple of times during the past three months and after compulsively checking the Internet for any news about him while he was away, she had finally found pictures of the two of them together, attending some glamorous function in Milan. She couldn’t read the Italian article but it had been an extensive four page spread on the event and Sandro and Francesca Delvecchio, as the captions had identified her, had been two of the most beautiful people there, so there had been at least a dozen pictures of them smiling, dancing and drinking. Sandro had looked so relaxed and happy with the statuesque, gorgeous brunette on his arm, that Theresa had been unable to stop staring at the pictures. That was how he should have looked on their wedding day, carefree and in love. Instead his face had looked like it would crack wide open if he so much as tilted his lips at the corners. It had physically hurt her to see those pictures but the one that had torn her apart had been of him, bending down to drop a kiss onto his Francesca’s full, pouting red lips. Never had she seen two more evenly matched people.

Theresa sighed and shook herself slightly, as she found herself thinking of that picture again. It had been more than a month since she’d seen it and she hadn’t mentioned it to Sandro, knowing that it would achieve little, especially with their separation looming less than three months away. She ran a gentle hand over the football sized mound of her stomach, trying to ease the restlessly moving baby beneath her touch. She had no right to be jealous… even though they had a much better relationship now than they’d had during the first year and a half of marriage, they were married in name only and would separate as soon as the baby was born.

She had started decorating the nursery and Sandro, who had thrown a fit one day when he’d returned from the office early to find her perched on a ladder attempting to paint the walls, had done the painting. She spent a great deal of time in the nursery, adding little touches here and there, often going out and shopping for furniture and toys. There really was very little left to do but she still kept adding little stuffed toys and tiny infant sized clothes. The colour scheme was cream and pale lilac. She had started out with blue but had come home from visiting Lisa one day to find that Sandro had changed to colour to something more “gender neutral” as he’d put it. She hadn’t protested it too much because she had found the new colour scheme soothing and prettier than the blue on white she’d had planned. She also found Sandro’s touches elsewhere in the nursery… he bought toys, girls’ toys. Stuffed dolls, teddy bears, toy ponies, anything a little girl’s heart could possibly desire. Theresa chose not to acknowledge them in any way and every time she came across one, usually insidiously hidden amongst the toys she had bought, she would relegate it to the corner furthest from the beautiful crib that they had selected together. There was a quite a collection forming in the area which she had dubbed Toy Siberia. She did not know why he kept buying those things and she refused to ask. He never mentioned the heap of toys that she had stowed in the corner, just kept doggedly adding more and more to the nursery.

Their two hours three times a week had branched out into a few hours every day. There was no longer a time limit on the amount of time they spent together because Theresa had stopped enforcing it once it became clear that Sandro was going to sneak a little time every day and it just became easier to pretend not to notice it. Theresa’s health continued to fluctuate, her pregnancy being a lot more difficult than she, Sandro or the doctor had ever anticipated. She had been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia the month before, Sandro had turned into a paranoid old woman about what she could and could not do. He had even stopped going into the office, working from home and hovering twenty-four/seven. She didn’t know how she would get through the final two months of her pregnancy without resorting to some form of violence because the man was driving her completely crazy.

Now she sat with her feet up, staring gloomily out at the rain pouring down outside. It was an unusually wet and miserable spring afternoon in October and Theresa had long ago abandoned her book in favour of her roiling thoughts. So absorbed was she in those thoughts that she didn’t hear Sandro come in and nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt a large hand on her shoulder.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” he murmured, bending down to drop a quick kiss onto the soft, exposed skin where her shoulder and neck met. “I called your name at least twice but you were totally wrapped up in your own little world.”

“I was just thinking…” she shrugged, her voice trailing off.


“Everything… nothing,” another listless shrug.

“How are you feeling?” He asked, coming down on his haunches in front of her.

“I’m fine. A little tired…” He lifted a hand and gently traced one of her delicate cheekbones with his thumb before nimbly jumping to his feet and sitting down on the sofa next to her. Neither of them said anything for a while, they just listened to the rain and watched it cascading down the window like a waterfall.

“I want you to meet my father,” he suddenly announced unexpectedly and she froze before turning her head slowly to meet his brooding gaze.


“My father…” he repeated and she bit her lip before clearing her throat uncertainly.

“I don’t know if that’s…” she began but he interrupted her before she could finish.

“His condition is deteriorating very quickly,” he said abruptly, his voice broke slightly as he said the words and his jaw clenched.

“Oh Sandro, I’m so sorry…” she whispered, her eyes going liquid with sympathy for him. “When’s your flight?”

“I’m not leaving,” he told her grimly and her eyes shadowed in confusion, before flaring as she realized why he refused to go and be with his father.

“Sandro,” her voice was so low it barely carried to the man who sat inches away from her. “You can’t stay because of me. You have to go and be with your family. Your place is with them right now.”

“You’re my family too, Theresa,” he suddenly snapped, a maelstrom of frustration and pain welling up in his eyes. “And I refuse to leave you here alone.”

“Hardly alone, Sandro…” she dismissed airily. “The staff, Lisa and Rick and even my father are here for me. Go home to your family…”

“This is where I have to be, this is where I’m staying. Stop arguing with me for God’s sake!” he growled.

“You are not going to blame me for this too, Sandro…” she fumed impotently, recognizing the stubborn tilt of his jaw and the steely resolution in his eyes and knowing that his mind was made up and he wouldn’t budge on the issue unless something drastic happened to change his mind. “The only reason you’re here now is because of my father and his corrupt little blackmailing scheme! My father and I have messed up your life and your family enough; don’t make it worse by staying here with me of all people, when the family you sacrificed your freedom for needs you the most.”

“Don’t you ever,” he suddenly seethed, grabbing and gripping her hand so tightly he cut off the circulation. “Lump yourself into the same category as your father again, Theresa, none of this is your fault and right now you need me too.”

“I do not need you,” she enunciated clearly. “I refuse to let you martyr yourself like this. Duty above all else… is that it? Long-suffering Sandro, always doing the right thing, always putting everybody else’s needs before his own. Always sacrificing his own happiness at the altar of familial obligation. I am not going to be your obligation, Sandro. I refuse… go be with your family!”

“You are my family, damn it! You, you, you!” He suddenly shouted in frustration and she jumped in fright, her jaw going slack as he leapt from the sofa to loom over her furiously. So rarely did Sandro lose his cool like this that Theresa simply stared up into his frustrated, wretched face in shocked silence. All the air suddenly seemed to leave his sails and his shoulders sagged as he dropped to his knees in front of her, bringing his eyes down to the same level as hers. “I want to be here with you… why is that so hard for you to understand?” His voice had dropped down to a whisper. His eyes suddenly, shockingly, filled with moisture which he made no attempt to hide from her and he muttered something in Italian, his voice thick with emotion. She bit her lip and shook her head.

“I don’t understand…” she whispered regretfully and he reached out a large hand to cup her cheek.

“My father is dying, cara,” he repeated in English, his voice absolutely wracked with emotion. “Please… I need you to just not fight with me right now.” She nodded and reached out with both hands to stroke his hair back from his broad, proud forehead. The gesture seemed to undo him and his face crumpled before he wrapped his strong arms around her thickened waist and buried his face in the mound of her stomach and Theresa curled her upper body protectively over his head as she whispered soothing little snippets of nothing into his hair.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I didn’t mean to make this more difficult; I just thought that you were staying out of some misguided sense of honour and obligation. I would hate that, Sandro. I would hate for you to stay and then if the… the worst happened… you would blame me because you couldn’t be there at his side.”

“I know,” he murmured, finally lifting his head to look up at her, his face grim and carefully neutral, despite the roiling emotion she could see in his eyes. “And I can see why you would think that… I have blamed you for way too much in the past and treated you terribly but you have to believe me when I tell you that the last thing in the world I want to do anymore, is hurt you, Theresa.” She said nothing… knowing that even though it would not be intentional, he would still hurt her when he eventually left, when they divorced, when he married Francesca. All of those things were as inevitable as the sunset, they would happen and they would devastate her.

“So what did you want to ask me?” She finally asked, without acknowledging his fervent words. The omission did not go unnoticed and Sandro flinched slightly before taking a deep breath and levering himself up off his knees to sit down on the sofa beside her, angling his body so that he could face her.

“I want you to meet my father,” he repeated and her eyes showed her confusion.

“I’m not sure I understand… you know that doctor Shelbourne has prohibited any flying during my third trimester,” he smiled slightly before shaking his head.

“Theresa, cara, you really need to catch up to the twenty-first century,” he teased half-heartedly, it had become a standing joke between him and Rick, of all people, that Theresa was so technologically-backward. She could barely operate her mobile phone, so e-mailing, instant messaging and every other form of electronic –inging, left her completely baffled. She had wiped out the hard drives on three laptops in as many years and now kept her records strictly on paper in a filing cabinet in her office.

“So then, what do you have in mind?” She asked curiously.

“Certainly nothing that involves either you or my father flying anywhere… have you never heard of video-conferencing?” He asked, brushing back a strand of hair that had slipped from its anchor behind her ear, to swing into her face. He always did little things like that lately, he was always touching her, petting her and after her initial discomfort with all the contact, Theresa now barely even noticed it, simply enjoying the pampering.

“That thing where you have a meeting and you can see people on the other side of the world on a monitor in the room?” She asked vaguely and he grinned slightly.

“Yes… I often speak to my family in Italy by those means,” he revealed.

“Okay,” she nodded slowly. “So when do you want to do it?”

“I was thinking about tonight?” He half-asked and her stomach did a slow, nervous roll before she nodded again.

“Okay,” she said again, actually physically incapable of saying much else.

“They’re going to love you,” he reassured, squeezing her hand reassuringly.

“They?” She asked queasily, suddenly filled with doubts. “I thought it would be only your father.”

“My mother and grandmother will probably be there… maybe a couple of my sisters. With my father so sick, they’re probably all there.”

“Your father’s at home?” He nodded, his eyes darkening again.

“He refuses to be hospitalized, he says that if he’s going to die, he wants to do it at home… he has the best medical care and facilities money has to offer to him at home.”

“That’s understandable,” she nodded sympathetically. “He’s waited so long to go back home.” There was a moment’s awkward silence.

“I’m really glad you could get it back for him, Sandro,” she blurted impulsively. “Even if it cost you more than it should have.” Again the silence, before he nodded tautly, his grim face looking hewn from rock.

“Uhm… when do you want to do it?” She broke the uncomfortable silence a few moments later and he cleared his throat. “Do they know I’ll be… are they expecting to meet me?”

“I’ve been making noises about wanting them to meet you for a while now,” he informed. “So they won’t be too surprised by it.”

“Always thinking ahead aren’t you?” She asked caustically.

“If you mean that I’d anticipated having to introduce you to my dying father by these less than ideal means, then no, I wasn’t really preparing for this eventuality!” He snapped irritably.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” she whispered defensively.

“Of course you didn’t,” he agreed sarcastically and stung, she managed to lever her bulky form up from the sofa, ignoring him when he jumped up lithely to offer assistance.

“I’m tired, I think I’ll take a nap before dinner,” she said wearily. “I’ll see you later…” She left him behind without a single backward look, just plain sick and tired of the constant tension that they both had to live with.

“Are you ready?” He asked her quietly a few hours later. They were both in his huge study where he had set up the computer and camera for the video conference. No simple webcam and computer screen for Sandro, he had proper video camera with a large screen television screen set up. He explained that it would enable to allow his family to see both of them at the same time, further explaining that his parents had a similar setup at their home.

“As ready as I’ll ever be, I suppose,” she nodded nervously and he led her to a large, comfortable sofa that was facing the camera. He made sure she was sitting comfortably before kneeling in front of her unexpectedly.

“I’m sorry about earlier,” he said softly, his dark eyes piercing as they stared intently into hers. “Being around you is a curiously humbling experience… I do not believe I have ever apologized this much to one person in my entire life before. I always seem to be getting it wrong with you. ”

“You’re under a lot of emotional strain at the moment, Sandro… and I know that I probably wasn’t making it any easier on you. Please just forget about it.” He sighed deeply before nodding and sitting down next to her. He picked up a small remote control from the coffee table in front of them and started up the camera, indicating towards the blinking red light that he had told her would mean that the camera was on. An image of an elderly couple suddenly filled the previously blank screen of the big television to the left of the camera. Broad smiles suddenly lit up their faces and they both started chattering at the same time. Theresa knew that they were his parents from the pictures she had seen in Sandro’s study. His father looked a lot frailer and more tired than the robust man in the photographs though and Theresa could see from the sallow skin and sunken eyes, how very ill the older man was.

Sandro was smiling warmly as his parents continued to chatter, before he finally raised a hand and they reluctantly fell silent. He said something to them in Italian, before indicating towards Theresa, who sat with a frozen smile on her face. She wasn’t sure what to do, or what to say, she wasn’t even sure if they spoke English.

“Mama, papa… I know this has been a long time in coming,” he said, in heavily accented English. “But this is Theresa… la mia moglie, my wife.”

“Piacevole per incontrarli,” she murmured haltingly, not sure if she had said it right or if they even understood her but the smile Sandro directed down at her was filled with so much overwhelming pride and tenderness that Theresa felt bathed in its warmth. He entwined the long, lean fingers of one hand with hers but she didn’t understand why he felt the need to make the gesture when their hands were out of the camera’s sight.

“I’m pleased to meet you,” she repeated in English, in case the couple hadn’t understood her, which seemed likely if their baffled expressions were anything to go by. His mother’s lips pursed in what looked like disapproval but his father’s smile broadened and he said something in rapidfire Italian that Theresa didn’t stand a chance of understanding.

“My father says that you are truly beautiful,” Sandro translated for her. “And that he is very happy to finally meet you.” Her eyes flooded with tears and she nodded slightly.

“Thank you... grazie,” she smiled warmly at the fragile looking old man and he looked delighted by it. He once again said something in high speed Italian and Sandro chuckled before responding in an amused voice. It was obvious that they were talking about her and she turned to Sandro waiting for the translation, when it didn’t look like it was forthcoming, she prodded him with a nudge from her shoulder and he grinned before saying something in a wry voice to his mother and father before turning to her with that same warm humour in his eyes.

“My father says that while you look as sweet and docile as an angel he does not imagine that a woman with your red hair can be easy to live with. He believes that the angelic exterior must hide a fiery temper...”

“Oh?” She asked in a deceptively calm voice, even while she narrowed her eyes at him. “and what did you say?”

“I told him that he definitely knows women a lot better than I do because when I married you I thought that the angel was all there was, until I provoked the fiery demoness into showing herself, to my detriment.”

“Demoness?” She asked in a highly offended voice and both his father and he chuckled simultaneously.

“Easy cara,” he lifted his free hand in a gesture of surrender and his father burst into warm, genuine laughter, the sound so happy and carefree that for an instant everyone, including his wife simply stared at him with huge smiles. The older man finally brought his laughter under control and said something in Italian, which seemed to be aimed at Theresa. She looked at Sandro for a translation and he hesitated for a millisecond before clearing his throat and turning back toward Theresa.

“My father says that it’s good to see me with a woman who isn’t intimidated by me, who can give as good as she gets. He thinks we will have strong sons and daughters...” he cleared his throat slightly before continuing, even though the huskiness persisted. “He is honoured to call you daughter and is proud that his son’s children will come from a worthy woman like you.”

“Oh...” Theresa whispered, her hand going up to cover her mouth and her eyes flooding with tears. “Oh God.”

“Cara,” his soft voice in her ear pleaded with her to keep it together and she nodded, closing her eyes briefly to keep her surging emotions under control, before bracing herself and opening her eyes to meet the wise, old eyes of a man who was halfway across the world.

“Thank you,” she told him again. “You are so very kind to say that. I am equally proud to know that my child comes from a strong family such as yours. I look forward to the day I can present my son to you, sir.”

“Or daughter,” Sandro inserted smoothly, before translating what she had said to the beaming older man.

“You are... lovely girl. I sorry for all trouble,” the man suddenly said in broken but understandable English and Theresa’s lips trembled with emotion. “You make my boy happy. I see this... grazie. I so worry... but I see now, he very happy with you. Very much love here. I see.”

She couldn’t respond to that with much more than a nod and another emotional grazie, overwhelmed by the perception that had allowed the sick old man to see how much she loved his son. He and Sandro were now having a solemn conversation and the older man started pausing more and more frequently, seeming to lose track of his thoughts more and more until his wife stepped in and called a halt to the conversation.

“Mama says he is tired and needs to take his medication and rest,” he whispered to Theresa, as they watched the older man protest half-heartedly before allowing himself to be wheeled, for he was in a wheelchair, out of the room with a few last farewells to Sandro and Theresa. Sandro’s hand was squeezing hers so hard that it stopped the blood flow into her fingers but Theresa didn’t protest, knowing that Sandro was probably wondering if it would be the last time he would ever see or speak to his father. They watched in silence as the door closed behind his mother’s ample form before they both suddenly became aware of the fact that another person was in the room on screen. A wizened old woman suddenly plonked herself into the seat, Sandro’s mother had just vacated and Sandro’s entire face lit up.

“Nonna!” He greeted with warm enthusiasm and turned to Theresa, who had already gleaned who the little, old lady was. She was tentatively starting to smile, when the woman suddenly launched into speech, her voice low and furious. Whatever she was saying wiped the smile off Sandro’s face in seconds and she watched as his eyes darkened in fury and his lips tightened in an expression she was more than a little familiar with. He released Theresa’s hand and hissed something equally dire sounding back at his grandmother, who gasped in horror before launching into an even angrier seeming tirade. By this time two younger women, whom she recognised as Sandro’s sisters had stepped into the room and upon hearing whatever it was their grandmother had said added their own two cents’ worth until there was nothing but unintelligible squawks coming from the speakers. Suddenly the old woman’s words turned to English and her eyes were seemed trained on Theresa.

“You make my family miserable! You take my grandson and keep him away from his family, keep him away from his dying father... you nothing but selfish. Why you want a man who no love you? No pride... you no pride. He love a good woman, he no love you!”

Theresa gasped in horror and raised her hands to her mouth, defenceless against the hatred she saw burning in the old woman’s eyes. Her eyes flooded with anguished tears and Sandro swore shakily before saying something soft and dangerous sounding to the three women on the other end of the camera but Theresa had blocked them all out and was struggling to her feet, ignoring Sandro’s desperate protest.

She was out the door and halfway up the stairs before he caught up with her.

“She’s old, cara,” he said desperately, holding onto her arm as she tried to wrest herself away from him. “She’s old and stubborn. What she said was not true.”

“I didn’t make your family miserable?” She asked brokenly. “Of course I did, Sandro. You know that’s true... I didn’t keep you away from them? Or away from your dying father? I did that too. You don’t love me? No news there. You’re in love with someone else? Again. Old news... and she was right. I have absolutely no pride. None whatsoever... if I did I would never have stood for this sham of a marriage. But everything she said was true. So she was just being honest... and that’s my shame to deal with.”

“Theresa, please...” she didn’t know what he wanted from her. She yanked her arm from his grip and found herself teetering desperately on the edge of the step... nearly falling until he yanked her back towards his strong body and braced himself to absorb her weight.

“You foolish woman, stop fighting me and just listen, damn it!” He hissed into her ear... and shocked by her close call she could do nothing but stand trembling in his arms. “She didn’t get it all right; you have more stubborn pride than any person I have ever met. You did not keep me away from my father, I chose to stay.”

“Because of me,” she inserted despondently.

“Because I chose to be with you,” he emphasised but not really seeing the difference, Theresa simply remained quiet. “Don’t you see, Theresa? I wanted to be with you!”

“I’m tired, Sandro,” she finally whispered after a long pause, sending a pointed glance down at the restraining hand he had on her elbow. His grip tightened slightly before he reluctantly released her and stepped back to allow her to proceed up the stairs.

When Theresa woke from a restless sleep a few hours before dawn it didn’t take her long to realise that Sandro was lying in bed with her. His big, hard body was curved around hers, his knees spooning in behind hers. He had one arm curled in under her neck and the other slung heavily across her waist, his large hand cupped protectively over her swollen abdomen. She could feel his deep breath against the nape of her neck, indicating that he was asleep and it had been so long since she’d found herself in bed with him that she allowed herself to simply enjoy his relaxed warmth and closeness without the tension that was usually between them when he was awake. Even before they’d started sleeping apart, he’d never simply held her in his sleep… so this was a novel and overwhelmingly enjoyable experience that she couldn’t deprive herself of. She was just about dozing off again, when the telephone buzzed quietly from the nightstand beside her bed. She jerked slightly her and the movement woke Sandro, who was instantly on alert behind her.

“You okay?” he asked groggily and she nodded just as the phone buzzed again.

“Hmmm... who could be calling at...” she squinted at the digital clock beside the phone. “Four in the morning?” She realised who it could be the instant the question escaped her lips and from the sudden tension in Sandro’s body, she knew that he realised it too. He sat up abruptly and she immediately felt cold, as he leaned over her to yank up the receiver.

“De Lucci,” he barked once he had it up to his ear. “Si... si...” she sat up and pushed her hair out of her eyes as she tried see his expression in the dim light of the LCD display of the clock. His face closed up tighter than a fist and he bowed his head slightly. Biting her lip, as she fought back the tears, Theresa lay a comforting hand on one tense, naked shoulder.

“Quando?” He asked tersely, his voice hoarse. He said a few more things but Theresa tuned his words out, hearing only the pain he was ruthlessly keeping at bay behind the harshly controlled voice. She lowered her head to his broad shoulder, wanting only to comfort and kept stroking his back as he spoke. He was silent for a long time, before she realised that he was done speaking and that he had lowered the receiver to the bed beside him. She turned her head to look up into his face and realised that he was staring off into the distance. It was still too dark to see much of his face but from the grim set of his jaw it was obvious what the news was.

“When?” she asked gently, reaching for the receiver and placing it gently back into its cradle. He shook himself slightly before turning his head to face her.

“About ten minutes ago,” he whispered and she nodded, lifting a small hand to cup his tense jaw.

“You go and grab a shower, I’ll pack a bag for you...” she clicked on the bedside lamp before awkwardly heaving herself up and off of the bed. He remained where she had left him and she sighed softly, before leaning down to kiss the top of his head gently.

“Come on, Sandro,” she murmured firmly. “You grab that shower and I’ll take care of everything else.” Something about the tone of her voice got through to him and he nodded and got up like someone in a trance before heading to the bathroom. Theresa stood there for a while until she heard the shower going before she waddled out to his room down the hall and packed a bag for him.

Twenty minutes later, when she returned to her guest room, it was to find the shower still running. Concerned she stepped into the bathroom and could barely make out his shape behind the frosted glass of the shower door but she could see enough to tell that he was still in there and not really moving. She sighed and bit her lip before, decision made, she stripped down to her skin and stepped into the cubicle with him. He was standing with his back to the cubicle door, his head bowed beneath the strong spray and his hands braced against the tiled wall, long arms outstretched in front of him and muscles tensed. He didn’t seem to realise she was there until her small hands touched the bunched muscles of his shoulders. She could feel his instinctive jerk of surprise beneath her touch and very gently moved her hands until they crept down under his arms and around to his broad chest. She could feel his bone deep tremors and with gentle insistence tugged him back towards her until she was able to rest her cheek against the warm, wet skin of his back. Her hands were splayed across his chest and she could feel the strong beat of his heart beneath her touch.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, dropping warm kisses across the skin of his back. “I’m so sorry, Sandro.” He shuddered violently before turning with a groan and gathering her into his arms, hunching his body around hers and burying his face in her still-dry hair. They stood that way for a long time before he lifted his ravaged face and looked down at her. His eyes were wet with tears and he reached up to cup her face before lowering his lips to hers and kissing her hungrily. He did nothing more than that just kissed her like he would never get the chance to do so again. He kissed like a man who knew that he would have to go without sustenance for an unknown amount of time. Finally, chest heaving, he lifted his head and stared intently down into her dazed face.

“You’re so beautiful,” he whispered gently. “The most beautiful thing in my life. I don’t want to leave you here. Not now.”

“I’ll be fine,” she reassured, this time she was the one to reach up and stroke his worried face. “The baby will be fine. I have Lisa and Rick... You have to take care of your family now, Sandro.”

“You’re my family too,” he repeated his words of the previous afternoon. “I have to take care of you too.”

“No,” she reached around him to shut off the water and met his eyes squarely. “I can take care of myself. And to be honest, having you here when you should be with your family, will simply add to my stress.” He said nothing for a few moments before shutting his eyes and nodding abruptly.

“Okay,” he inhaled deeply. “Okay, I’ll arrange my flight immediately.” She opened the door and reached for a couple of the heated towels hanging from the railing beside the shower cubicle, handing one over to him before wrapping one around herself, happy to be covering up her huge frame again.

An hour later she and Sandro were standing on the doorstep. The chauffeur of the driving service they sometimes used when they were going out to parties, stood waiting patiently beneath an umbrella next to the shiny black sedan parked out front.

“Promise me that you’ll eat well,” Sandro urged and she nodded sombrely, knowing that he would need to have his head clear for what was to come. “And you’ll contact Elisa and Richard if you feel unwell.” Another nod. “And you will remember to take your vitamins?”

His voice was starting to get hoarse with emotion and she gave him a wavering smile before nodding again.

“I promise...”

“You say this... but you forget... I know you,” he shook his head in frustration. “It is important for your health, cara and you no remember to take. It drive me crazy. I worry...” it was a sign of his anxiety and stress that his normally impeccable, lightly-accented English had failed him so completely and she stepped toward him and went on tip-toe to drop a kiss onto one of his lean cheeks.

“Why don’t you call Phumsile and Lisa once you land?” She suggested gently. “And if you’re worried about me forgetting you can have them remind me.”

“Yes,” he nodded, appeased. “I will. Please, Theresa, call me. Anytime... if you need anything, if you want to talk... call me. I’ll call you everyday...”

“That’s good...” she said quietly, not sure if he’d have the time to talk with her everyday but knowing that he needed to make the promise. “Now you’d better go before you miss your flight,” he nodded and dragged her into his arms for a passionate, desperate kiss before letting her go abruptly and striding down the steps toward the car. He paused when he reached the car and turned around for one last, lingering look at her before he climbed in and was gone.

Theresa turned blindly toward the house and once she was inside she felt completely lost. Not sure where to turn or who to turn to she found herself walking towards Sandro’s study. She’d been in the room very few times before and those times had always been in Sandro’s company, now she felt like she was intruding into his domain but it was the one place she felt closest to him. Everything bore his stamp... it was the only room he had insisted on decorating himself. He’d largely left the rest of the house up to Theresa and she now knew it had been because he hadn’t much cared what their home together would look like since he’d never had any intention of it being permanent.

Now, as she looked at the masculine room with its dark, heavy furniture and minimalist, almost Asian decor, she realised how completely different it was from the rest of the house and her heart broke at this additional sign of how doomed their relationship had been from the start. She sank down onto the plush, black leather sofa, curled up into a ball and cried for the life she could have had if she’d just been the woman Sandro had wanted to start off with. Once the bout of self-pity had passed, she sat up and wiped at her eyes before gently running her hands over her distended abdomen.

“You and I will make our own lives, darling,” she promised. “And we’ll be so happy. Just you wait and see.”

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