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The Unwanted Wife(7)

By:Natasha Anders

“You’ve been in here for nearly three hours, Theresa,” he said in a quiet voice. It was the kind of voice one would use when talking to an unbroken, high-strung horse. Three hours? Theresa hadn’t known that it had been that long, and when she moved, her muscles screamed in protest. She gingerly and with visible effort stretched her arms and legs, trying not to wince in agony as her blood started circulating more freely.

“I lost track of time,” she murmured, padding over to the mirror to check her appearance. She sighed when she saw her reflection. She looked terrible. She had never considered herself more than average-looking, and she looked far below average today. There were shadows under her green eyes, her skin was unnaturally pale and gave her a washed-out appearance that made her red hair and green eyes look garish in comparison.

She wondered how she could ever have believed a man like Sandro De Lucci would want her in the first place. She tried to view her features objectively, but all she could see were too-large eyes framed by long, red eyelashes; a straight nose that wasn’t too big or too small; high cheekbones that sometimes made her face look gaunt when she was tired; and lips that looked too big for her narrow oval face. Nothing impressive—just an ordinary face that looked tired and strained at the moment. She pushed her long hair out of her eyes and was startled when Sandro’s reflection appeared in the mirror behind her.

“I’m going to visit Lisa,” she told him.

“Why?” he asked sharply, and she shrugged.

“Something to do,” was her casual response.

“I thought…” He hesitated and Theresa’s eyes snapped up to his face in surprise. The hesitation was so unusual in her supremely confident husband. “I thought that we could go out somewhere and have lunch together. We haven’t done that in a while.”

“Try never,” She half laughed incredulously, and his brows beetled slightly.

“Of course we have…” he began.

“Once.” She nodded. “About a month before we were married. I remember that once quite vividly because I felt like a heroine in my own personal fairy tale. The giddy, foolish, and not-quite-so-fair maiden having a meal with her dark, brooding, and oh-so-handsome prince. Some prince! You couldn’t be bothered to string together two sentences the entire time and checked your watch every five minutes like you had someplace much more important to be. But of course, I didn’t care, that was just the way you were and I ‘loved’”—she said the word with a sneer—“you anyway. We never went out again after that.”

“Of course we did.” Despite his assertion, he looked remarkably uncomfortable. He shifted his shoulders restlessly and shoved his hands into his jean pockets.

“Those other times were work-related dinners, the ones that you have to take your wife to.” He frowned even more but chose not to respond to her statement.

“Well, then, I’d say it’s about time we went out together, don’t you?” he asked in an artificially cheerful voice, and Theresa slanted her head as she tried to read his expression. As usual he was giving nothing away. Her lips tilted slightly in a cynical and unamused smile.

“I don’t think so, Sandro.” She shook her head. “I think I’ll go to my cousin’s place like I’d originally planned.” He nodded thoughtfully, swaying back and forth on his heels in an uncharacteristically restless manner.

“Suit yourself.” He shrugged. “What time were you planning to leave?”


“Right.” He shrugged again, looking strangely awkward. “See you later then.” She nodded and he turned away and left without saying another word.

Rick and Lisa were doing nothing more productive than watching DVDs when Theresa came around. Lisa, in her advanced state of pregnancy, couldn’t do much else. They were both lounging in the den, Rick looking devastatingly handsome in a snug, well-worn pair of jeans and a gray T-shirt that had definitely seen better days. Lisa, in the meantime, looked miserable in a huge blue-and-white-striped football jersey that Theresa knew had once belonged to Rick, who was a capable Sunday-afternoon player, and a pair of blue leggings. She was about the size of a baby whale. Theresa simply melted when she caught sight of her cranky younger cousin and once again resolved not to do anything to jeopardize her happiness and health. She dropped a kiss on Lisa’s cheek and one on the top of Rick’s head as she passed behind the sofa on which they were sitting. Rick grinned up at her.

“Nothing exciting planned for today, sweetie,” he informed cheerfully as Theresa sank down onto the other sofa. “I’m afraid we’re feeling a bit out of sorts today, a touch grumpy, if you will. So we’re staying in, in the hopes that it will improve our temper…Ouch!” The last uttered as Lisa swatted him on the back of his head.

“Stop talking like that, you know it drives me crazy! I’m not a two-year-old throwing a tantrum, I’m the hormonal woman that you knocked up! So don’t push me, buster.”

Rick slanted a rueful gaze at his amused friend and mouthed a wisely silent “See?” Theresa grinned before kicking off her shoes and dragging her feet up under her. She was dressed casually too, wearing an old pair of jeans and a bright-blue T-shirt with a large, stylized butterfly printed on the front of it.

“What are we watching?” Theresa asked, leaning forward to help herself to a handful of the popcorn from a glass bowl on the coffee table.

“Some romantic thing that has Lisa dissolving into tears every two minutes or so.” Rick shrugged dismissively, ignoring the way his wife was glaring at him over the top of her round little glasses. “God, the sacrifices I make to keep this woman happy,” he said with a groan, and Lisa gasped in outrage.

“Well, if you had your way, we’d be watching some macho jerk swear and punch his way through two of hours of relentless explosions, car chases, and gunfire,” she retorted, and he grinned at her.

“Your point being?”


For the first time in a long time, Theresa felt a giggle bubbling up in her throat. Rick suddenly grinned before dropping one arm around his wife’s narrow shoulders to drag her closer. He placed his other hand protectively over her stomach, and Lisa put up a token struggle before sighing contentedly and dropping her head onto his broad shoulder. Theresa watched them enviously for a few moments before trying to focus on the movie. She had thought Rick was exaggerating about her cousin’s response to the overly soppy film, but it was true; Lisa sniffled on an average of every two minutes. Theresa was just managing to get somewhat absorbed in the plot when the doorbell rang. Rick excused himself and jumped up to answer it.

Lisa watched him go with a slight smile on her face. She was quiet for a while before shaking her head in exasperation.

“You know, if I didn’t love him so darned much, I would probably have killed him by now,” she admitted sourly, and Theresa surprised herself by laughing out loud in response to her cousin’s disgruntled confession. She couldn’t believe that her sense of humor was still intact after the events of the last forty-eight hours. Rick made his way back into the room, looking uncharacteristically grim, and all the laughter and light drained from Theresa’s face when she saw who was standing behind the tall, blond man.

“What are you doing here?” she managed to choke out after a moment of shocked silence.

“I thought I’d join you all for lunch.” He shrugged, nodding apologetically to a still-gaping Lisa. “May I sit down?” He indicated the sofa Theresa was occupying.

“Yes, of course.” Lisa nodded graciously.

“No!” Both Rick and Theresa yelled at the same time Lisa agreed. Sandro smiled humorlessly before choosing to ignore their vehement rejection and sitting down beside Theresa. She shied as far away from him as she could, but Sandro chose to ignore that too. He leaned forward and placed his elbows on his spread thighs, with his large, masculine hands dangling down between his legs. He focused intently on Lisa.

“How have you been, Elisa?” he asked gently. He was the only one who ever called Lisa by her full name, and Theresa could sense Rick bristling. Rick couldn’t stand Sandro at all; he hated Sandro’s coldness toward Theresa. Only Theresa’s edict that Rick and Lisa not interfere in her marriage kept Rick civil around Sandro. Lisa had known almost since the beginning that Sandro and Theresa’s marriage was troubled, and while she wasn’t happy about Sandro’s treatment of her cousin, she offered her support by being there when Theresa needed a sympathetic ear.

“Fine, thanks,” Lisa murmured, rubbing her hands over her stomach in an instinctively maternal gesture. “A little tired, but I suppose that it’s to be expected when you’re lugging another human being around.” Sandro grinned, he actually grinned, at that and nodded.


“Rick, for God’s sake, stop hovering and sit down,” Lisa snapped at her still-glowering husband. “I would like to finish watching this movie sometime in this year! We’re having lunch afterward, Alessandro, I hope you don’t mind?”