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The Unwanted Wife(8)

By:Natasha Anders

“Of course not,” he said smoothly, leaning back and making Theresa feel incredibly claustrophobic as he crowded her with his large body. “What are we watching?”

Lisa told him, and Sandro did an admirable job of concealing his grimace. Lisa barely contained her own grin before hitting the Play button. Rick rejoined her on the sofa, sending periodic glares over at Sandro, who kept his eyes glued on the screen and looked unfairly relaxed.

Lisa dropped her head onto her husband’s broad shoulder and resumed her occasional sniffling, and Rick, unable to remain furious for long with his wife draped across him, dragged Lisa close again and snuggled her up against him. His fingers interlaced with the hand she had resting on her stomach, and Theresa felt like she was the only sane person in the room. Sandro was sprawled out beside her, his shoulders and thighs brushed against her every time he breathed; the other couple was snuggled together like a couple of lovebirds; and she, Theresa, felt like she was losing her mind!

She got up abruptly and left the room, stumbling toward the kitchen, where she stood in the middle of the room taking in great gasps of air. She should have known that he would follow her even there. When she turned back toward the kitchen door, there he was. He was watching her and looking splendid in his own version of casual wear—a pair of faded blue jeans and a black dress shirt with the top button open to reveal the strong, masculine column of his neck.

“Why did you come here?” she whispered.

“I thought that we should spend some time together,” he said in a gentle tone that Theresa instinctively mistrusted.

“But I told you, I don’t want to spend time with you,” she said in a soft, bewildered voice. “I don’t want to be anywhere near you!”

“Theresa…” he said, still gently, taking a cautious step into the room. Theresa backed up until she hit the fridge.

“The one place I had…the one place I could come and be myself…” She shook her head, her eyes were wide and shimmering with tears. “And you had to take that from me too.” The tears overflowed and she desperately tried to blot them from her cheeks with the hem of her T-shirt. He made a soft almost dismayed sound in his throat before moving so quickly that she barely had time to register it. One second he was still close to the kitchen entrance, and the next he was right in front of her, sandwiching her between his body and the fridge. His large hands reached up to cup her face, and his thumbs brushed roughly at the tears on her cheeks.

“Don’t.” His voice was low and gravelly and so thick that she could barely understand that one word. She raised her much smaller hands to his and tugged futilely at his hold, trying to get him to release her.

“I want to make things less difficult for us, Theresa,” he muttered awkwardly, his face so close to hers that his breath washed over her skin and raised goose pimples all over her body.

“Why now?” She challenged the ludicrous statement angrily, trying to ignore the effect his closeness was having on her very receptive body. Her soft green eyes snapped up to his through her tears. “Is it because I’m threatening to leave this marriage without giving you your precious son? Is that it?” She dropped her hands down to his hard, broad chest and tried to push him away. He wouldn’t budge.

“No,” was all he said. “That’s not it…because I know you won’t leave.”

“What makes you so sure of that?” she hissed, and he was silent for a while before responding.

“The discussion we had yesterday,” he admitted. She went limp against him, all the fight leaving her abruptly.

“Well, if you’re so sure that I won’t leave, what’s this sudden need you have to spend your every waking moment with me?” she asked hollowly.

“We’re married for God’s sake…and we’re like strangers! I know nothing about you!”

“Of course you know nothing about me.” Her voice was hoarse with the effort it took not to scream at him. “You’re the one who decided, even before we got married, that there was nothing worth knowing about me.”

“Well, I’ve changed my mind.” He didn’t bother to deny her accusation, probably because it was true. Instead he dropped his hands down to her narrow shoulders and gave her a little shake.

“Which once again begs the question of why, after eighteen months of marriage, why now?”

His hands fell from her shoulders before he shrugged with an air of disinterest, which belied his urgency of just seconds ago.

“Why not now? Now’s as good a time as any.” He was back to being remote and icy and Theresa shuddered involuntarily.

“It’s much too late, Sandro,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around her slender frame. “I may be trapped in this marriage, but I want nothing to do with you! The very sight of you makes me sick to my stomach.”

“There’s a way out of this you know,” he murmured.

“I know,” she said, and his hooded eyes snapped back up to her face. “Have a baby, right? You want a son and I’m the chosen incubator.” She watched his face carefully, but he betrayed not one iota of emotion other than a slight tightening of his jaw. “So what happens after I have this precious baby of yours? Who gets him after the divorce? You expect me to be nothing but a surrogate mother. I’m to bear him and you’ll then take him away from me, right?”

She was aching to hear an affirmative from him, anything that would prove to her that he was the one who wanted the child and that she had misunderstood the conversation she had overheard between her husband and her father that morning.

“Of course I wouldn’t take him from you.” He shook his head, sending her heart plummeting. “I wouldn’t be that cruel. Naturally you’d maintain custody.” Theresa shut her eyes to shield her agony from him, and she felt her scalding tears seep down her cheeks.

“How very…magnanimous of you,” she whispered. “To be so desperate for something only to give it up in the end. You’re so much more generous than I gave you credit for. How often would you want to see him?”

“I would naturally move back to Italy, so I would probably see him two or three times a year. It is what you want, no? Less contact with me?”

She inhaled deeply and her brow furrowed. Two or three times a year? That was all the time he was prepared to spend with a child who was half hers? She opened her eyes and met his gaze squarely.

“Like I said before, you’re being quite generous, but it’s all moot anyway because I have no intention of having a baby with you!”

“You’re being very childish, Theresa,” he admonished quietly.

“No, I’m finally making my own decisions. Up to this point in my life, everything has been decided for me…this marriage would never have happened if my father hadn’t decided that you would make the perfect son-in-law. After that, the wedding date, the venue, the cake, where we would live…it was all you or my father. I couldn’t even choose my own wedding dress.” The last emerged in a small, broken voice that quavered with remembered disbelief and outrage. Her father had simply had the dress delivered to her room with the direction that it was to be worn on her wedding day, no discussion and no choice.

“The only reason I got Lisa as a bridesmaid was because my father deemed it appropriate for my first cousin to be in the wedding party. If she’d been just a friend, I doubt she’d have fit the bill!”

“It turns my stomach to hear someone who has led such a privileged life whine on about how terrible her life is. You’ve been spoiled and you’ve had everything money could buy…”

“Except love, specifically my husband’s love and my father’s love. Apparently I’m not quite worthy of that.”

“You’re feeling sorry for yourself and I’m getting sick of it.”

“Yes, I’m feeling sorry for myself,” she acknowledged bitterly. “And it’s very liberating. In the past all I’ve done is accept everything you and my father dished out…thinking it was my lot in life, even thinking I deserved it. After all, if two such powerful men as you thought that I wasn’t worthy of love and respect, then who was I to differ? But I’m starting to recognize that I’m not the one at fault here. I’m not the one with the personality defect…at least my motives for marrying you were honest; I stupidly believed that I loved you. Yours were less than stellar, weren’t they? They certainly had nothing to do with love.”

“They had everything to do with love,” he suddenly thundered, silencing her abruptly as she stared up at him in wide-eyed shock. “Just not love for you.” She blinked up at him, her green eyes the only color in her deathly pale face.

“What does that mean?” she asked through barely moving lips. “Love for whom?” Was he referring to Francesca? If he really loved the other woman so much, why on earth marry Theresa? It made no sense.

“None of your damned business,” he grated furiously, a muscle working frantically in his jaw.

“It never is.” She nodded bitterly. “It has nothing to do with me, yet it affects every aspect of my life. You want something from me but you’re unable to give me anything in return. Well, I’ve had enough of that, Sandro. You want a baby but this is my body and so it’s my decision to make.”