It hadn’t felt like giving herself to Christian. Giving implied bestowing a favour, not the hot mix of desire and need that had made her desperate for his touch.
She could still feel and taste the heady heat of his breath...
But now she was stone-cold sober, her immunity back in its rightful place. Vivid memories might have the power to jolt her senses but they didn’t have the power to knock her off balance. No man would ever have that power. Her body might have a Pavlovian response to him but intellectually and emotionally she was safe.
When they married he could see whoever he wanted. It made no difference to her. All she cared about was her baby. As long as her baby made it safely into this world, nothing else mattered.
Maybe when her baby was placed in her arms, her own place on this earth would make sense.
Maybe then she would lose the feeling she’d carried her entire life that she should never have been born.
* * *
Christian sensed a slight change in Alessandra’s demeanour, an almost imperceptible straightening of the shoulders and stiffening of the spine.
She was looking good. She always looked good.
With her long hair loose around her shoulders, she wore faded tight-fitting jeans, a pale-blue cotton blouse unbuttoned to the top of her cleavage, a navy blazer and silver ankle boots with a slight heel. Heavy costume jewellery in shades of red hung round her neck and wrists, large, hooped gold earrings in her ears. Alessandra could wear a sack and carry it off, would still have that beautifully put-together air she carried so well.
Her apartment was the same: chic and beautifully put together, the walls and furniture muted but the furnishings bold and colourful. Giant prints of her work hung on the walls, enlarged, framed covers of Vogue and all the other glossy magazines she’d worked for.
He knew it would be a wrench for her to leave, but a third-floor apartment in the heart of Milan’s fashion district was not a feasible place to bring up a child. He’d raised the subject of her selling it on the phone a few days ago. Her response had been non-committal to say the least.
He’d give her more time to get used to the idea before discussing it again.
‘Are you ready to go?’ he asked.
She nodded, her plump lips drawing together. ‘Let’s get this over with.’
Out in the courtyard at the back of the building, where his driver waited for them, her yellow Vespa gleamed from its parking space. ‘I hope you’re not riding on that thing any more,’ he said, nodding at it.
‘No,’ she answered shortly, getting into the back of the car.
He followed her in, a pang hitting his stomach as he recalled the big beam on her face the one time he’d seen her ride on it—the day of their impromptu date. Another thing pregnancy would force her to give up.
When the car started to move, she turned to look at him, a set look on her face. ‘Christian, let me make one thing quite clear. You are going to be my husband, not my keeper. Do not dictate to me.’
He sighed. ‘Is this about the Vespa?’
‘I wasn’t dictating to you. I was satisfying myself that you’re not putting our child’s life at risk by continuing to ride on it, especially here in Milan.’
‘That is exactly what I mean. I don’t need you to tell me the drivers here all approach the road as an assault course that must be beaten—I live here. I might not have a penis between my legs but my brain and rationality work perfectly well.’
‘I never said it didn’t,’ he said, keeping his tone even. ‘But you must appreciate that it is my child you are carrying and it is only right I take an interest in its welfare.’
‘But it is my life. I will not be told what to do.’
‘I am not telling you what to do.’ How he held on to his patience, he did not know. ‘All I’m saying is that having a child changes things...’
‘You think I don’t know that?’ she said, her colour darkening. ‘You think I’m not aware of the responsibility I have to bring our child safely into this world? Do you think I’m not capable?’