But the words went unsaid. If she thought for a second there was a chance that in the future his feelings could develop as hers had, she would say them.

 What kind of idiot fell in love with a man incapable of returning it?


 Had she been fool enough to hope his feelings would change as hers had? No, she hadn’t been stupid enough to think that. But still she’d fallen for him.

 ‘What do you think the press are going to say when they learn our marriage barely lasted two months?’ he asked, his voice cold and terse.

 ‘Let them think and write what they like. I have finally grown an immunity to them.’ Three months ago, the thought of them crucifying her for the whole of Italy’s delectation had made her want to vomit. Now...let them write what they liked. The fear she had felt of the press since she’d been seventeen had gone. She didn’t know when it had happened, only that it had.

 She was an adult. She controlled her life, not the press.

 ‘And what about when our child grows up and reads about it?’ he snarled.

 ‘Then we will tell our child the truth. There’s been enough lies.’

 Every feature on his face was taut but his eyes were hard. ‘If you’re so determined to go, then go. Take the time to think. When you get back we can discuss this like rational adults and find a way to thrash out a marriage that suits us both.’

 ‘There’s no way thrashing anything out will change my mind. We’re over.’

 He got back to his feet and strolled past her and into the spare room. His room. He’d never wanted to share hers. He shut the door behind him with a slam.

 Blinking back tears which served no useful purpose other than to blind her, Alessandra scraped her hair into a tight ponytail, carried her suitcase into the living area and quickly gathered her work stuff together.

 Dio, Dio, Dio, get me out of here before he comes back out. Please, before my strength deserts me and I throw myself at his feet and beg for his love.

 She left the building and walked straight into a media scrum.

 Dozens of paparazzi swarmed her, closing in, leaving her trapped between them and the door she had already closed.

 ‘Alessandra, when is the baby due?’

 ‘Alessandra, how do you feel about becoming a mother?’

 ‘Alessandra, was the baby planned?’

 She never got the chance even to think of a response or a way to escape. The door behind her flew open with such force she lost her footing. Were it not for the strong arms there to catch her, she would surely have fallen. As it was, Christian gathered her to him, protecting her with his strength, and marched her and her luggage deftly through the mob and into the back of the waiting cab.

 Her last glimpse of him was when he tapped the top of the car to indicate the driver should leave, turned on his heel and marched back through the swarm, parting it as if he were Moses and they were the Red Sea.

 * * *

 Christian poured himself another bourbon.

 He should check himself into a hotel and out of Alessandra’s apartment. She’d spelt out in no uncertain terms that this was her home. Not theirs. His homes weren’t enough for her.

 He wasn’t enough.

 Did it really matter if they divorced? He’d still have his legal rights with regard to their baby. He would still be a father. Alessandra would never deny him access; that he knew with as deep a certainty as he knew anything. She would do the right thing by all of them.

 So why did it feel as if his world had toppled upside down?

 And why did he feel so full and nauseous?

 He finished his drink and poured another. The bottle was now empty.

 Yes. Time to leave.

 The freedom and space he’d always cherished so much but had gladly sacrificed for his unborn baby was his again to do with as he pleased.

 Under normal circumstances he would hunt down Rocco, Stefan or Zayed and talk them into a night out. But these weren’t normal circumstances. Not for any of them. Rocco would sooner spit on him than see him. Stefan had recently shocked them all by marrying Clio—he hadn’t seen that coming—while Zayed was spending increasing time in Gazbiyaa, preparing to take over the throne.

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