‘It’s only five days, not a week,’ she corrected. ‘I’ve been travelling with my job since I was eighteen. I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself.’
‘You weren’t my wife then. Is there something wrong with me wanting to spend time with you?’
Yes, she wanted to scream. There was everything wrong with it. Every minute they spent together made her heart hurt even more that their marriage could never be real, that the love she felt for him could never be reciprocated...
Where had that thought sprung from?
Frantically she fought with herself to deny it, to refute the obvious.
Dear God, had she really fallen in love with her husband?
No. She couldn’t be that foolish. She wouldn’t be.
In a flash, she remembered the first time she’d seen him, sitting with the rest of the Brat Pack in her brother’s den, drinking beer and watching football.
Little Alessandra had taken one look at the blond Adonis and immediately pictured him on a white horse coming to rescue her from the tower where the evil witch held her.
A young girl’s crush, that was all it had been. She’d had plenty of them: pop stars, film stars—her bedroom walls had been littered with posters of her favourites. Christian had seemed as remote to her young self as they had been.
Whenever she’d studied the tabloids with stories and pictures of him, and whoever was the latest woman hanging off his arm, she’d felt a funny tugging deep in the pit of her belly. She’d never understood the feeling or what it meant. But now she did understand it.
Her heart had belonged to Christian from that first look.
She’d never imagined any of the pop stars or film stars rescuing her on a white steed. Only Christian.
He hadn’t rescued her. He hadn’t saved her. All he’d done was unlock her heart.
She’d always wondered how his women could swallow his lies, had assumed he must have lied to them to get so many of them into his bed.
He didn’t lie. He didn’t need to. Women wanted him regardless. She wanted him regardless.
She always had.
She darted her eyes to him.
‘Is something the matter? You’ve gone very pale.’
She shook her head with vigour, part in denial and part to clear the burn scratching the back of her retinas. ‘Will Kerstin come to Tokyo with us?’
‘I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.’
‘Have you slept with her yet?’ The question escaped before she could contain it.
‘Ochi! What kind of question is that?’
‘An obvious one.’
‘No, I have not slept with Kerstin, and I am insulted you would think I have.’
‘Don’t be insulted. It’s only a matter of time.’
A dangerous silence followed.
When she looked at him, Christian’s eyes had darkened and fixed on her, a pulse throbbing at the junction where his earlobe met his jaw.
Not taking his eyes from her face, he put his knife and fork together on his half-eaten meal and dabbed at his mouth with his napkin, which he then screwed into a ball and released onto his plate.
‘Get your things together,’ he said, rising to his feet and throwing some euros onto the table. ‘We’re leaving. I’ll wait outside for you.’
She watched him retreat, her heart hammering so hard she could feel the beats in her mouth.
Even her legs were shaking, her whole body one mass vibration of cold fear and misery.
Their waiter appeared with her jacket. ‘Is something wrong with your meal?’ he asked anxiously.
‘No, it’s delicious. My husband’s remembered an appointment, that’s all.’
As promised, Christian stood outside on the pavement with his arms folded.
His car pulled up in front of them. Christian didn’t wait for the driver to get out, opening the back door himself and indicating for Alessandra to get in.
She waited until the car was in motion before attempting to apologise. ‘I’m sorry if I...’