If he’d thought she was happy with the status quo it wouldn’t disturb him so much but, whenever he looked in her eyes, all he saw was unhappiness. When she was with him, she withdrew into herself. He was doing everything in his power to bring her spark back but she resisted at every turn. There were times when he thought he saw glimmers of it, generally if a magazine was released with her photography in it or if they passed a billboard she’d created—her face would light up like an enchanted child’s.
It pained him to see her so withdrawn. It unnerved him. It reminded him too much of how things had been with his mother, when nothing he did made any difference to her mood.
Today, he was determined to get to the bottom of it—he would learn whatever it was troubling her and fix it, whether she wanted to talk about it or not.
She must have seen the no-nonsense light in his eyes for she pursed her lips together, slapped the lid of her laptop down and grabbed her handbag.
‘Let’s go, then.’
* * *
All was good with the obstetrician. Alessandra was healthy. Her blood pressure was normal. Their baby’s heartbeat was strong. Yes. All was good. Christian always left those appointments feeling lighter.
The good feelings dissipated quicker than normal this time. They’d visited a number of homes in excellent parts of Milan, all large enough to raise a football team, if they so wished, with rooms to spare. Alessandra’s interest had been minimal. Grudging.
It only added to his intuition that something was seriously wrong with her.
‘Let’s get something to eat,’ he said after the third viewing. Maybe she was tired.
She didn’t argue. ‘Where do you want to go?’
He was about to suggest somewhere quiet where they could talk but had a flashback of their date and the trendy restaurant she had led them to. The lively atmosphere there had certainly played its part, along with the alcohol, in loosening them up. Maybe it would have the same effect on her again. ‘Let’s go to Nandini’s.’
He shook the agent by the hand, promised to be in touch soon and waited for Alessandra to get into the back of the waiting car.
Instead she met his eye. ‘Can we walk? It’s not far.’
He gazed down at her feet. Only small heels on the black boots she wore. Almost practical. Ever the fashionista, though, she wore a black-and-white drop-waisted mini-dress. The gap between the hem of the dress and the top of her boots was tantalising him to the point of distraction.
If anyone looked closely or from a profile view, they would see the hint of a burgeoning bump beneath it.
They walked in silence down the bustling streets, past tourists and locals alike, gazing through windows at the glamorous wares of the now closed shops, and into a narrow street packed with cafés and bars. People sat on tables outside, smoking, eating, drinking and enjoying the weather.
When they’d dined in Nandini’s that last time, it had been a Friday evening and the place had been full of people ready to let their hair down after a hard week of work.
Tonight, a Wednesday, it was much quieter. Even the music was on a lower setting, no longer loud enough to burst your eardrums.
A waiter took her jacket then showed them to their booth. She slid onto the long leather seat with obvious relief.
‘Are your feet hurting?’ he asked.
‘A little.’ She opened the menu. ‘I’ve been on them all day.’
‘Then why did you want to walk?’ It made no sense to him. That was why he had a driver at his disposal at all times.
Alessandra shrugged. ‘I like walking.’ She didn’t add that she couldn’t face sitting in the back of the car with him any more.
She’d felt his irritation at her attitude to the beautiful homes they’d been shown round. And they were beautiful, palatial in size and structure, the kind of homes any little girl dreaming of being a princess would love to live in. But those little girls also dreamt of living in their palatial homes with their princes, not with the man who’d married them so he could have legal rights to their child.