She looked around the chamber to distract herself, running her gaze over the impressively frescoed walls with admiration. The ornate decoration in the chamber was truly splendid—fitting for the main bedchamber of an important palazzo on the Grand Canal.
It was incredible to think that this was Giovanni’s bedroom. The chamber wouldn’t have looked out of place in one of the many magnificent Venetian palaces open to the public. And the fact that she could see no evidence of modern technological living made it even more like stepping back in time to a more elegant age.
A movement caught her eye, and she turned to see Vito striding towards her. Before she knew what he was doing, he took her arm and hustled her out into the hallway.
‘Now is not a good time for you to meet my grandfather,’ — he said, guiding her towards the grand staircase.
‘Is there anything I can do to help?’ Lily said automatically,— although she knew Vito well enough to know he’d already have everything covered.
‘No,’ he said shortly. ‘Go home now. I’ll see you later.’
With that he turned on his heel and went back into Giovanni’s room, closing the door in her face.
Lily stared after him in consternation. She understood Vito was concerned about his grandfather, but she didn’t like the feeling of being so peremptorily dismissed.
She walked slowly down the stairs, thinking again how much things had changed. The old Vito would never have sent her off to find her own way home without an escort. In fact, when she’d first lived with him, it had taken her a long time to persuade him that no harm would come to her if she strolled around the city on her own. No one else had ever showed so much concern for her welfare, and at the time she’d been deeply touched by it.
She headed back to Vito’s palazzo, strangely surprised— by how familiar everything still felt despite the time she’d spent in London. She was almost on autopilot,— weaving her way through the maze of narrow lanes without even thinking about her route.
Suddenly she stopped in her tracks right outside a busy gelateria. There was no need to go straight back just because Vito had told her to. She should take some time just for herself and try to clear her head.
She joined the queue to buy an ice cream, and a few minutes later she was sitting beside a canal in the late morning sunshine, pleased that her appetite had returned so she could truly enjoy one of her favourite treats.
The steps leading down to the canal were a good place to sit, out of the main flow of pedestrians, and it was restful watching the water lapping against the buildings— that edged the other side of the canal.
She ate her ice cream slowly, determined to relish every drop. Then, once she had finished, she let her thoughts return to the predicament she had got herself into with Vito.
Everything had happened so fast since he’d walked in on her presentation yesterday. His proposal had taken her completely by surprise, but in the end she had agreed to marry him for her baby’s sake. She’d truly thought it would be best for her child to grow up part of a proper family, with two parents.
Also, deep down inside, she couldn’t forget how wonderful— things had been between them before he’d thrown her out. Maybe, once they were living together again, things would return to the way they had once been.
But there was a massive problem. For some reason Vito believed she had cheated on him, and that the child she was carrying was not his. That was why he was so angry with her and why he was treating her so harshly.
Lily had no idea what had made him believe this. No matter how hard she thought about it, she couldn’t think of anything she had ever said or done that might have led him to that conclusion. There had been nights when they’d been apart, but that had always been because of his business travel. She had never spent a night away from the palazzo without Vito.
Suddenly she knew what to do. If she could prove to Vito that she’d never been unfaithful, maybe he would trust her again. Although he’d hurt her feelings with his lack of faith in her, presumably he did have a reason. It would have been better if he’d had the courtesy to tell her, but obviously he was upset by it.
She’d ask him for a paternity test. Then, once he was convinced of the truth, perhaps things could get back to normal between then. That would be best for everyone—for— Lily and Vito. And, most importantly, for the baby.
Lily stood up with a burst of energy. She’d found the solution to the problem—soon everything would be all right.
Vito returned to the palazzo in the early afternoon. Lily was waiting for him in the bedroom, knowing the conversation— she planned to have with him would be best in private. He’d been so concerned that no one should know there was anything untoward about their marriage plans that she thought he wouldn’t appreciate her talking to him about paternity tests in a room where a member of staff might overhear.
‘How is your grandfather?’ she asked, standing up as he walked into the room.
‘The doctor thinks he’s fine. Well, as fine as he ever is.’ From the look on his face it was clear that Vito did not agree. ‘I’m not so sure. He doesn’t seem right to me,’ he— said. ‘Maybe he’s coming down with something.’
‘He’s lucky to have you nearby,’ Lily said. ‘I know you’ll make sure he receives the best possible care.’
Vito didn’t respond. He appeared to be deep in thought as he opened his wardrobe and took out one of his many hand-tailored suits. He must be going straight to the office, Lily thought, realising she’d have to speak fast if she didn’t want to lose her opportunity.
He looked so worried about his grandfather that she longed to comfort him. But she knew she was the last person he would accept comfort from—not while he still believed the worst of her.
She hesitated, knowing it might seem insensitive to bring up paternity testing while Vito was preoccupied— with his grandfather’s health. But on the other hand, if she could make things right between them, she could be there to help him through his grandfather’s illness.
‘Vito.’ Lily took a deep breath and steeled herself to start a conversation that she knew could be difficult. ‘Have you got a few minutes to talk?’
Vito turned to look at her, holding a dark-grey suit on a hanger in his hand, and frowned. The last thing he wanted right then was to talk.
‘Make it quick,’ he said, laying his suit on the bed and going back to the wardrobe to select a shirt. ‘I have a meeting in half an hour.’
‘I will be quick,’ she said. ‘But you have to listen to me properly.’
Vito gritted his teeth and turned to face her. She’d been back in his life less than a day and already she was testing his patience.
‘You are upset with me because you think I was unfaithful,’ — she said, shaking her sleek curtain of blonde hair back over her shoulders.
‘Upset?’ Vito repeated incredulously, watching her hair swing alluringly as it settled into place. Perhaps she was hoping to distract him with her feminine wiles. ‘My God! You English really have mastered the art of understatement.’
‘I’m not just going to let your accusation pass,’ Lily said. Her voice was calm, but Vito could see her hands were shaking as she gripped them together in front of her. ‘I was not unfaithful to you. And I don’t know why you think that. I’ve never done anything to give you that idea.’
Vito stared at her, wondering how she was able to make herself sound so sincere when he knew she was guilty as sin.
‘You are right,’ he said. ‘You covered your trail well. But that doesn’t change the fact that I know you betrayed— me.’
‘I didn’t,’ Lily protested. ‘And the fact that you could even think that about me is just as much of a betrayal. But I don’t want to go on like this. I want a paternity test to prove you are my child’s father.’
Vito stared at her, feeling tension knot painfully in his stomach. She wanted a paternity test—the one thing he dreaded.
But he’d known it would come to this sooner or later. Although Lily had obviously been sleeping with two men at once, as far as she was concerned it was possible Vito might be the father.
For Lily a paternity test was just a game of chance. There would be a delay until it could be carried out, and she was willing to gamble on the outcome being lucky for her. It was a risk worth taking, because from her point of view she had nothing to lose—he already believed she’d been unfaithful.
But Vito had everything to lose. For him, the test could not produce a good result. There was no way he could win.
He knew he wasn’t the father—because he could not have children.
‘There will be no paternity test.’ Vito clenched his fists at his sides.
He would not allow himself to be subject to physical, public proof that he was not the father of Lily’s child. If his grandfather ever found out that the baby was not a true Salvatore heir, it would destroy his happiness for ever.
That was the whole point of marrying Lily. And he had to live with it until the time came when he could discard her and the baby. Even though she continued to show no sign that she had done anything wrong, or take any responsibility for her actions, this was the perfect way for Vito to bring a baby into the family—to make his grandfather happy before he died.