She expected his desire for her to wane as her body lost its shape but it didn’t. He displayed a continual fascination with every aspect of her pregnancy, reading up on what should be happening with the child growing inside her, lovingly caressing her lump, even talking to it in a besotted manner and grinning with delight whenever he felt a ripple of movement. He always smiled when he saw her naked, his eyes gloating over her as though she presented an incredibly beautiful image to him, pregnant with his child.
Tina reasoned that obviously having children meant a lot to Ari. He had married her because of Theo and being the mother of his children did make her uniquely special to him. If he never fell in love with anyone else, maybe their marriage would become very solid and lasting. She fiercely hoped so because she couldn’t guard against the love that she hadn’t wanted to feel with him.
It sat in her heart, heavy with the need to keep it hidden. Pride wouldn’t let her express it. Sometimes she let herself imagine that he loved her, but he never said it. Their marriage was based on family. That had to be enough.
She was eight months pregnant and looking forward to the birth of the baby when fate took a hand in ending her happy anticipation. She’d been shopping with her mother, buying a few extra decorations for the newly furnished nursery at home; a gorgeous mobile of butterflies to hang over the cot, a music box with a carousel on top, a kaleidoscope to sit on the windowsill.
They planned to finish off their outing with a visit to a hairdressing salon which was located a few blocks away from the department store where they had purchased these items. Tina felt too tired and cumbersome to walk that far, so they took a taxi for the short trip. It was crossing an intersection when a truck hurtled across the road from the hilly street on their right, clearly out of control, its driver blaring the horn of the truck in warning, his face contorted in anguish at being unable to avoid an accident.
It was the last thing Tina saw—his face. And the last thing she thought was the baby! Her arms clutched the mound of the life inside her. It was the last thing she did before the impact robbed her of consciousness.
Ari had never felt so useless in his life. There was nothing he could do to fix this. He had to leave it up to the doctors—their knowledge, their skill. He was so distressed he could barely think. He sat in the hospital waiting room and waited.
Theo was taken care of. His parents had flown over from Santorini to collect him from school and take him back home with them. He was to be told that Mama and Papa had been called away on another trip. There was no point in upsetting him with traumatic news. When the truth had to be told—whatever it turned out to be—Ari would do it. He would be there for his son.
His sisters had wanted to rush to the hospital, giving their caring support but he’d told them not to. He didn’t want their comforting gestures. He was beyond comfort. Besides, it would be a distraction from willing Christina to get through this. She had to. He couldn’t bear the thought of life without her.
Cassandra was flying in from Rome to be with her mother. He didn’t have to worry about Helen—just bruises, a broken arm, and concussion. Her relatives were sitting with her and she would be allowed out of hospital tomorrow. She was frantically worried about Christina. They all were, but he didn’t want to listen to any weeping and wailing. He needed to be alone with this until the doctors came back to him.
Head injuries, smashed clavicle, broken ribs, collapsed lung, ripped heart, and damage to the uterus, but the baby’s heart was still beating when they’d brought Christina into the emergency ward. A drug-induced coma was apparently the best state for her to be in while undergoing treatment for her injuries and it had been deemed advisable to perform a Caesarian section. It wasn’t how Christina had wanted the baby delivered but he’d been told there was no choice in these circumstances.
Their second child.
A brother or sister for Theo.
They’d been so looking forward to its birth, sharing it together. Now it felt like some abstract event … in the hands of the doctors. No mutual joy in it. A baby without a mother unless Christina survived this.
She had to, not only for their children, but for him.
She was his woman, the heart of his life, and his heart would be ripped out if she died. Just thinking about it put one hell of a pain in his chest.
One of the doctors he’d spoken to entered the waiting room, accompanied by a nurse. Ari rose to his feet, his hands instinctively clenching although there was nothing to fight except the fear gripping his stomach.
‘Ah, Mr Zavros. The Caesarian went well. You’re the father of a healthy baby girl.’
The announcement hit the surface of his mind but didn’t engage it. ‘And Christina?’ he pressed. ‘Your wife will be in the operating theatre for some hours yet. The baby has been taken to an intensive care ward and placed in a humidicrib. We thought …’
‘Why?’ Ari cut in, fear for the life of their child welling up to join his fear for Christina. ‘You said she was healthy.’
‘Purely a precautionary measure, Mr Zavros. She is very small, a month premature. It is best that she be monitored for a while.’
‘Yes … yes …’ he muttered distractedly, his mind jagging back to Christina. ‘The injuries to my wife … it is possible that she can recover from them?’
‘One cannot predict with certainty but there is a good chance, yes. The surgeons are confident of success. If there are no complications …’ He shrugged. ‘Your wife is young and healthy. That is in her favour.’
Please, God, let there be no complications, Ari fiercely prayed.
‘If you would like to see your daughter now …?’
His daughter. Their daughter. Seeing her without Christina at his side. It felt wrong. There was a terrible hollowness in his heart. It should have been filled with excitement. And that was wrong, too. Their baby girl should be welcomed into this world, at least by her father.
‘Yes … please …’ he replied gruffly.
He was escorted to the maternity ward and led to where his daughter lay in a humidicrib attached to monitoring wires. She looked so little, helpless, and again Ari was assaulted by a wretched sense of powerlessness. Right now he couldn’t take care of Christina or their child. He had to leave them both in the hands of others.
A smile tugged at his lips as he stared down at the shock of black hair framing the tiny face. Christina’s hair. Her lips were perfectly formed, too, just like her mother’s.