‘I meant for me.’
‘Oh,’ Raul said, though what he really wanted to say was merda.
What the hell was going on with everyone?
‘You’re supposed to say congratulations.’
Raul rolled his eyes.
‘I’m going to be running a crèche—I can see it now. Go home.’
‘I am going. Seriously, though, it’s going to be difficult finding a nanny who works to your hours. I don’t want Lydia to explode in temper, but we really do need to start making some enquiries.’
‘Leave it for now,’ he said, and as Allegra walked off he wearily remembered his manners and congratulated her on the news of her baby. ‘Complimenti!’
Allegra just laughed as she walked out.
She knew he didn’t mean it!
And her care factor?
She really was a most brilliant PA.
But Allegra was wrong about one thing, Raul thought—Lydia didn’t explode.
She imploded rather than let out the rage she held on to.
He’d seen it himself.
Raul poured cognac and it was well earned—especially when he recalled how he had held on to his temper when Bastiano had insulted his mother.
But, no, that wasn’t right.
It had been the truth that had held him back.
Bastiano had thought it was love between them.
Yet he had been just seventeen.
His mother had been in her mid-thirties.
What a mess!
Raul went into his drawer and took out the ring and went to package it for the courier.
Usually, of course, his parcels and such were left for others to deal with.
Not on this occasion.
This was beyond personal, Raul thought as he looked at the ring.
It was like holding a ghost—and one he didn’t even know.
Bastiano was an orphan.
Had this been his mother’s ring?
What the hell had his mother been doing, taking such a ring from a teenager?
A kid, really.
They had been children then.
Sure, they had thought they were adults, but what the hell...?
His mind leapt to the defence of the seventeen-year-old Lydia.
He was furious at how she’d been treated by adults who should have known better.
And now he sat trying to do the hardest thing in his life—afford Bastiano the same feelings.
This time it wasn’t Allegra.
Instead a very pale Lydia stood in the doorway, in short pyjamas.
He could see all the tiny changes in her. Her hips were rounder, her breasts fuller, but he wasn’t really noticing them in reference to her being pregnant.
Her hips were round and her breasts were full and she would never, ever, not turn him on.
And how the hell did he keep his distance?
How did he keep removing himself from want?
He saw her gaze descend to the ring he held.
‘Don’t worry.’ He did his best to keep things level and dropped the ring back in the drawer. ‘I wasn’t planning a surprise. It isn’t for you.’
And to her shame, to the detriment of her stupid heart, for a second she had hoped that she might have found someone who would never leave.
And when Lydia was angry, when she was hurting, she was ice.
‘Of course it isn’t,’ Lydia said in her most crisp and affected tone, but then it cracked, just a little, and she could hold it in no more. ‘You never cared about me—not for a moment. You were too busy working out how to get to Bastiano...’
This time he said it out loud as he realised that she knew.
‘Lydia!’ Raul stood—not in defence, more in horror.
‘Don’t!’ she warned him. ‘Don’t you dare try to justify it.’
‘I’m not. How long have you known?’
‘I get to ask the questions—did you follow me out of that dining room because you were interested in me or because you wanted to find out more about Bastiano?’
Before he could react, she took away the safe answer.
‘And please don’t say both, Raul—at least give me the truth.’
He owed her that.
Absolutely the truth hurt, but she forced herself to speak on. ‘And when you invited me for dinner was it to get to him? When you told me to choose...?’
She wanted to spit as she recalled it.
‘Were you hoping to flaunt me in front of him?’
‘Yes,’ Raul answered, and he knew that the absolute truth was needed now. ‘Because that’s how I’ve always operated—that’s how I have run my life. I lie to get by. I say what I have to. However—’
‘I hate you!’ Lydia shouted.
Oh, the ice hadn’t cracked—it had split wide open. And fury was pouring out—years of it.
And it terrified her.
‘You’re the cheat, Raul! You say you hate them, but you’re actually the cheat. You were lying all along.’