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The Unwanted Wife

By:Natasha Anders

Theresa fell back onto the mattress, her body slick with perspiration and limp with pleasure. Spasms of her powerful release still violently racked her slender frame. Her husband, Alessandro, had disentangled, detached, and distanced himself from her within seconds of their mutual orgasm and lay on his back beside her, his breathing heavy and ragged.

Theresa turned on her side to lovingly trace his profile with her eyes, yearning to touch and caress the smooth and slightly tanned skin, but she knew her touch would be rebuffed. His words, the ones he always said after his climax, still hovered in the air between them and still, after all these months, hurt more than they should have.

“Give me a son, Theresa…”

With those five words, he killed the afterglow, destroyed the intimacy of the moment, and relegated the act into nothing more than a biological imperative. After eighteen months of the same, Theresa had finally accepted that it would never change. It wasn’t an abrupt realization. No, it was one that had been growing steadily since the very first time he’d said them.

But Theresa had her own five words. They were words that had been on the tip of her tongue for months and should have been spoken long before now. They were words that she could no longer swallow; no matter how much it hurt her to say them. She sat up, naked, her body still trembling, and drew her knees to her chest. She wrapped her arms around her legs, pressed her cheek to her knees, and watched as his breathing steadied and his own shaking subsided. He lay spread-eagled, magnificently nude, his eyes shut, but she knew that he wasn’t asleep. As usual he would take a few moments to compose himself before heading for the shower, where she always imagined him frantically scrubbing her scent and touch from his bronzed skin.

She could no longer contain the words, and they spilled from her lips in desperate earnestness.

“I want a divorce, Alessandro.”

He tensed. Every single muscle in his body went as tight as a coiled spring before he turned his head to meet her stare. His eyes were hooded, and his upper lip curled mockingly.

“But I thought you loved me, Theresa,” he taunted with exquisite cruelty, and Theresa closed her eyes, trying to mask the pain that his words caused. When she was sure she had her emotions under control, she opened her eyes.

“Not anymore.” She hoped the lie sounded convincing.

“Hmmm…” he purred. “What happened to ‘I’ll love you forever, Sandro’?”

“Things change,” she whispered.

“What things?” He rolled onto his side and propped himself up onto his elbow, resting his head on his hand. He looked so much like a Roman gladiator in repose that her throat went dry with desire. She swallowed painfully.

“F-feelings change…” she stuttered. Again he gave that husky purr of agreement, but Theresa wasn’t fooled by his relaxed posture; he was as tense as a coiled snake. “I…I’ve changed…”

“You look no different,” he said, his voice still terrifyingly tender. “Still the same Theresa I married. The one who claimed to love me so much she couldn’t live without me. The one whose daddy made sure she got exactly what she wanted…”

And that was when he struck, without moving, without so much as changing his voice.

“The same timid little Theresa who can’t even give me the only thing I’ve ever wanted from this pathetic excuse for a marriage.” She flinched but she refused to divert her eyes.

“All the more reason for a divorce.” She tried for blasé but failed miserably.

“Maybe for you.” He shrugged. “But I told you from the very beginning, cara, there would be no easy way out of this marriage. Not until I got what I wanted from you, and that day looks to be a long way off. Unfortunately, cliché though it may seem, you’ve made this bed and now we both have to lie in it!”

“I can’t live like this anymore.” She buried her face in her knees and fought to keep the tears at bay.

“Neither of us has much choice…” He sat up and stretched languidly before getting up to walk to the en-suite bathroom. Theresa heard the shower start moments later and took a few seconds to compose herself before swiping the hot tears from her face with the backs of her hands. She dragged on a gauzy peignoir and headed toward the kitchen to fix a drink of hot milk and honey. It was a concoction her mother used to make for her when she was a little girl, and she hoped that the comforting beverage would soothe her ragged nerves.

 The familiar task of preparing the drink calmed her down significantly, and she had just eased onto a bar stool and taken her first sip when she felt Sandro’s presence behind her. The hairs on the nape of her neck stood on end, and her hands started shaking again.

“You must be cold in only that skimpy little thing you’re wearing,” he observed idly, heading to the fridge for a carton of orange juice. His short black hair was damp and standing up in tufts where he had carelessly towel-dried it after his shower. He wore nothing but a pair of black boxer shorts. He looked as gorgeous as always, and Theresa hated him more than ever for that masculine perfection.

“I’m fine.” She got up abruptly and headed toward the sink to rinse her mug, but he grabbed her elbow to halt her movement. She tensed, shocked by the touch…Alessandro never touched her outside of the bedroom. In the eighteen months they had been married, this was the first time that she could recall him touching her without it being a precursor to sex. He leaned closer to her and lowered his lips to her ear. She felt his hot breath on the side of her face before he spoke.

“There’ll be no more talk of divorce, Theresa…ever,” he told her with a sickening air of finality.

“You can’t stop me from divorcing you, Sandro,” she responded bravely.

“You really want a divorce, cara?” he asked.

She nodded stiffly.

“If you get that divorce, your cousin loses her business, and she can’t afford that now, not with a new baby on the way. She and her husband need all the capital they can get.” Somehow she hadn’t expected that. She should have, but she hadn’t. Sandro had loaned her cousin, Lisa, the start-up capital for her bookshop. Theresa didn’t know what the specifics of that loan were, but she had always assumed that it was done out of generosity. Staring up at him now, she couldn’t believe her own naïveté. Sandro did nothing out of sheer generosity, and that loan was merely another weapon for him to use against her.

“You wouldn’t,” she responded. “Lisa has done nothing to deserve this.”

“Cara, I will do whatever it takes to get what I want from you.”

“I have money too, I can help her…” she began desperately.

“No, you have a rich father, and he had the opportunity to help Lisa, but he made his contempt of the idea more than obvious to everyone at the time, and you know that he would never support you through a messy divorce, Theresa.”

“I still don’t believe you would do it! You have a reputation to uphold. You’re an honest businessman, and you wouldn’t destroy a small business just to prove a point. What kind of message would that send?” she asked.

“That I’m not to be trifled with.” He shrugged. “Do you honestly think I care what people think of me, Theresa? Do you think I care what you think of me? I never have and I never will. You’re weak and spoiled.”

“I’m not…” She tried to defend herself, but he made a scoffing sound in the back of his throat before continuing as if she hadn’t spoken.

“You’ll get your divorce eventually, but there’s something I need to get from you first. You wanted this marriage, remember? You begged for it, I’m sure. So if you want a divorce right now, it’ll come with some heavy penalties. Are you willing to gamble with your cousin’s future?”

Theresa wouldn’t do it, and Sandro knew it. He had her exactly where he wanted her. There would be no divorce. Not when so much hung in the balance. But there would be changes…Theresa Chloe Noble De Lucci was done being a doormat! She said nothing, choosing to turn and walk away instead. He watched her go, and she could feel his eyes burning into her slender back but he did not call her back. She did not return to the bedroom they had shared since the first day of their marriage, opting instead to head for the library, knowing that she could not sleep another wink. Not in that room, not anymore.

Hours later, he came downstairs for breakfast. It was a Saturday morning, so he didn’t have any early-morning meetings to rush off to and instead he tended to linger over his newspaper and coffee and largely ignore Theresa. That morning was no different. It was as if their earlier argument hadn’t happened at all. They ate their casual weekend meals in the kitchen and the homey setting lent a false sense of domesticity to the scene. But while Theresa was uncomfortable and tense in the intimate setting, Sandro always remained as cool as the proverbial cucumber.

Then again, that was nothing new, as he rarely showed emotion. In fact the “discussion” of that morning was the most heated she had ever seen him. He kept his feelings under wraps but had always made his contempt for her more than clear. It was in the way he refused to meet her eyes, the way he could make love to her without kissing her on the mouth, the way he could talk past her when he had something to tell her, while eternally optimistic and stupid Theresa had never been good at hiding her feelings from him. Not from the very moment she’d met him, nearly two years ago. How hopelessly infatuated she had been! How quickly she had fallen in love.