He’d been there waiting for her.

 A long pause. ‘No. She doesn’t need to.’ Rocco made no effort to move.

 ‘Either let me in or I let myself in.’

 Now Rocco’s face did show some animation, a snarl flitting over it. ‘You enter my home when I say you do.’

 Christian had had enough. He was there to see his wife, not debase himself by getting into a fight with his brother-in-law. Raising himself to his full height, he climbed the steps and stood eye to eye with him. ‘I know Alessandra is your sister but she is my wife and the baby she is carrying in her womb is mine—mine—and I will fight with every breath in my body to protect them. I am going to see her whether you like it or not, so, are you going to let me the easy way or the hard way?’

 He couldn’t believe it had come to this, two old friends squaring up to each other. If he wasn’t so heartsick about his wife there would be some room in his heart to mourn the death of a friendship he’d valued so highly and had hoped, until this precise moment, could one day be mended.

 To his surprise, Rocco’s stance relaxed a fraction. He looked him over, nodding slowly, his eyes thawing. ‘She’s in the summer room.’

 Christian waited for the catch. When no catch seemed forthcoming, he headed off in the direction he remembered.

 ‘Memento vivere,’ Rocco called out.

 The words made him pause in his tracks. He turned his head and supplied, ‘Remember to live.’

 Finally a smile attached itself to Rocco’s face. ‘The best life to live is with the woman you love, si?’

 He agreed with a nod. ‘Living without the woman you love is no life.’

 Rocco laughed. ‘My sister is going to run rings around you.’

 ‘She already is.’ As quickly as Christian’s cheeks raised up into a quick grin, he felt a fragmented piece of him reattach itself.

 Now to find his wife and see if all the other broken pieces could be fixed too.

 He found her curled up on the daybed, a cross between a chaise longue and a sofa, reading a glossy magazine. Beneath the simple black dress she wore, he could see the definite rounding of her belly, safely protecting their baby in its confines.

 He would give his life to keep Alessandra and their baby safe from harm.

 She glanced up, her eyes widening to see him there. ‘Christian.’ Her voice sounded hoarse. ‘What are you doing here?’

 ‘I’ve come to bring you home.’

 She raised a brow. ‘Home?’

 ‘Home. With me. Where you belong.’

 Sighing, she put the magazine down and swung her legs round, dipping her head. ‘I told you I wanted some space.’ Her words were muffled behind the sheath of her hair that had fallen in front of her face.

 ‘You’ve had enough space from me to last you forever.’

 ‘Nothing’s changed...’

 ‘Everything’s changed.’ Crouching down on his haunches before her, he gently swiped her hair away and placed a finger under her chin.

 Her gaze met his for a brief moment, honeyed eyes wide with pain.

 ‘Answer me one question. Do you love me?’

 ‘Are you trying to humiliate me? Is that why you’ve come here?’

 ‘I found the pictures you took of me.’

 Her mouth curled in bitterness. ‘Then you already know the answer.’

 ‘I want to hear it from your lips.’

 ‘Why? Let me have some dignity, please.’

 ‘Because I’ve never heard the words before.’

 A glimmer of shock passed over her. She sat up straight and looked at him—really looked at him. ‘Never?’

 ‘Never.’ Not from his mother. Not from any of the scores of women he’d had throughout the years, which wasn’t surprising, considering he would leave before the beds had cooled. ‘Please, agapi mou, if the words are true then say them.’

 She’d lost so much colour he feared she would faint. But that was not Alessandra’s style. This was not a woman who wilted under pressure. Her lips clamped together, her eyes brimming with tears, he watched her fight to stop from falling.

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