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The Unwanted Wife(3)

By:Natasha Anders

Her family had founded one of the first banks in the country in the 1800s and had always been leaders in the rarefied reaches of society. Jackson Noble maintained that someone of Theresa’s “breeding and background” shouldn’t be allowed to mingle with just anybody, which had left Theresa’s options for companionship severely limited. She had grown up playing by herself, with Lisa, or—when her father wasn’t around to see—with the housekeeper’s children. The loneliness and isolation had carried over into her adulthood and even now, she spent most of her free time with Rick and Lisa or learning new recipes from Phumsile, her housekeeper. She spent more time chatting with Phumsile than she did speaking with Sandro. The loneliness was a cycle that Theresa didn’t know how to break.

Now she found herself contemplating all the things she could do with this unexpected time and, deciding to stick with the trend of the day, opted for the most out-of-character thing she could think of: going to the movies. It was the purest form of escapism, and if there was anything that Theresa desperately wanted, it was to escape from her life. So she spent her day going from one cinema to the next—laughing, crying, cringing, or jumping, depending on the plot. It was the most unproductive day she had ever spent in her life and she loved it.

By the time the last show of the day finished it was after midnight and she had a throbbing headache from sitting in darkness and the flickering light of the projector all day and a slightly upset stomach from a diet of soda and popcorn. As she headed back to her car, the sudden reality of her situation sank in and she started trembling. She didn’t know what to expect from Sandro. She had never seen him display anything other than icy control, even in bed, but it was the first time she had ever done anything like this. She always strove to be the perfect wife and perfect daughter, always putting Sandro or her father’s wishes first, and something as innocent as going to the movies without telling Sandro seemed beyond reckless. While she knew he would never physically hurt her, his potential to hurt her emotionally was unlimited.

 The house was ablaze with light when she got back, and the dread made her stomach heave. She swallowed down her nausea before parking her car and heading toward the front door, which was wrenched open before she even had the chance to get her keys out.

She gulped slightly at the intimidating form of her husband looming in the doorway and stifled a yelp when he grabbed her arm and yanked her inside. He slammed the door shut, gripping both her shoulders in his huge hands and backed her up until she was leaning against the door. It took her a few seconds to get over her disorientation and grasp that he wasn’t hurting her. His eyes feverishly raked up and down her trembling body, until he was apparently satisfied that everything was in relatively good condition, and then he raised his eyes to meet hers full on.

His eyes, which she’d had so little opportunity to actually look into of late, were heartbreakingly beautiful. They were chocolate brown and set between incredibly thick, blue-black lashes and beneath sweeping brows, and right now they were smoldering with something that, in a less controlled man, might have been described as fury. His hands released her shoulders and crept up to her face. She flinched slightly at the contact, but they remained gentle, moving to cup her jaw, his large thumbs brushing over her cheeks. Her breathing became ragged when he leaned toward her, dipping his head closer to hers. He was so near she could feel his clean, warm breath on her face. He tilted her jaw slightly and she groaned, aching for his lips on hers, wanting it so desperately her legs had just about turned to jelly, and the only thing that kept her from falling to a puddle at his feet was his solidly muscled body braced against hers. She could feel his erection throbbing against her stomach and knew he wanted her as desperately as she wanted him. His lush mouth was centimeters away from hers, and when he spoke, his lips brushed against her mouth.

“You pull a stunt like this again, tesoro mia, and I swear to God, you’ll regret it!”

She flinched as reality brought her back down to earth with a thump. He let her go and she slid down the door to land at his feet. He raked a contemptuous glance over her, the ice back and the fire gone.

“Where have you been?” he asked calmly. She staggered to her feet, humiliated that she had allowed him to affect her to such an extent that she would fall at his feet. She tilted her head back defiantly and refused to answer him. “Theresa, I’m warning you…”

“Warn away,” she taunted shakily. “You want to stay married? Fine. But I refuse to let you walk all over me anymore. It’s time you start showing me some respect!”

“How the hell am I supposed to respect someone who sold herself to the highest bidder?” he growled with tight control, and she gasped, stung. “I have no respect for you, Theresa, not even as the potential mother of my child, because, quite frankly, you can’t even do that right.”

She lost it, completely, and for the first time in her entire twenty-six years, Theresa resorted to violence. She launched herself at him, hissing, spitting, and scratching like a cat. In that moment she hated him so much that it felt like a living thing trying to claw its way out of her to get at him. When she came back to herself, she realized that he had her in his arms, her back to his front, her wrists in his hands, and her arms crossed over her chest. They were both out of breath. There were terrible mewling sounds coming from the back of her throat, the words of hate she had repeatedly hurled at him having long ago faded into incoherent sobs. His lips were in her hair, just above her left ear, and he was making soothing sounds, not hurting her, just restraining her with his superior strength. She went limp, hanging defeated from his arms.

“I’m sorry.” She froze; the words were so quiet she wasn’t sure she’d heard him correctly. “That was…cruel and wrong of me.”

More words? She didn’t know how to respond and so chose not to say anything. She felt him swallowing before he gingerly released her wrists and stepped away from her. She made a show of rubbing them, even though he hadn’t hurt her at all. Instead she seemed to have inflicted most of the damage on both of them. A few of her nails were broken and her fists were bruised from the few angry punches she had managed to land against his hard body. She turned around to face him and was shocked to see that he was bleeding. He had scratches on his hands and face, including a deep, angry-looking one on his neck. He also had bite marks on his muscled forearms, and a darkening bruise on his jaw. He saw her eyes land on the bruise and ruefully rubbed at it.

“You pack a mean punch,” he said sheepishly, before looking down at her hands and swearing softly. “You’ve hurt yourself.” He lifted one and grimaced at the bruises and broken nails. She snatched her hand from his; she was not sure what this weird act was about and definitely did not trust it. His eyes darkened at her mistrustful glare, and he shoved his hands into his pockets. She pushed her way past him before heading toward the staircase.

“Theresa…” She stopped but didn’t turn around. “I really am sorry about what I said. It wasn’t true.” She knew his apology was insincere. While he hadn’t ever said so, she knew that he blamed her for the baby she had lost early on in their marriage. The fact that she hadn’t conceived since had merely cemented his low opinion of her.

“I’m going to bed,” she whispered, ignoring the apology and still not looking at him.

“Yes…” He moved out of her way and buried his hands in his trouser pockets. She was intensely aware of his eyes boring into her back as she walked away from him, and held her head up as she ascended the stairs to the second floor.

She made her way to one of the luxurious guest rooms and tears welled in her eyes; Alessandro’s cruel words had struck a nerve. She had lost the baby after just five months of marriage and three months of pregnancy, and Theresa had always felt that the miscarriage was her fault. When she had discovered that she was pregnant, she had wished the child away—her relationship with her husband had been so cold that she had been unable to fathom bringing a child into such a loveless environment. Worse, after she had lost the baby, she had been ashamed to admit that relief was mingled with the heartbreak. She had hated herself for that, had felt that there was something wrong with her for wishing her own child out of existence. She had never shared what she had felt with Sandro, and they had mourned the tiny life’s passing separately, never talking about it. Now she suspected he had known all along, and that it had increased his contempt for her.

Despite her extreme depression after the miscarriage, she had worked through it on her own. Rick and Lisa hadn’t even known about her pregnancy. She had felt so terrible about her reaction to the baby that she had never told them, feeling that her behavior had been indefensible. But tonight, Sandro’s cruel taunts had quite simply sent her over the edge.

She sighed, trying to shake herself out of her maudlin mood, and after a quick shower, she fell into bed wearing only the T-shirt and panties that she had quickly grabbed from her chest of drawers in the master suite. Despite the drama of the day, she fell asleep almost immediately. She didn’t know how long she had been asleep before she heard the quiet knock on the door. She immediately awoke and sat up, pushing her tangled hair out of her face.