Without meaning to, Lily felt herself tense.
Vito sat up and looked at her sharply.
‘What is it?’ he demanded, his voice cold and hard. ‘When I mentioned Luigi earlier you acted strangely. Tell me what this is about.’
‘Nothing,’ Lily said, pushing herself up onto her elbows and suddenly feeling acutely conscious of the fact that she was naked.
‘Tell me.’ Vito swore and lurched angrily to his feet. ‘Is he the one? Is he the one you betrayed me with?’
‘No!’ Lily gasped. She hugged her knees up to her chest and looked at him in alarm. A terrifying change had come over him, darkening his features and making the room crackle with angry energy.
‘I’ll ask him!’ He snatched up his shirt and started to pull it on jerkily.
‘No!’ Lily cried in horror. She couldn’t let Vito storm out to confront Luigi. He’d been her guardian angel that night—she couldn’t bear him to suffer Vito’s rage because of his kindness. ‘Listen. It’s not what you think—I’ll tell you what happened.’
‘Speak quickly,’ Vito said, reaching for his jacket. ‘Then, when I’ve heard your lies, I’ll go and hear what Luigi has to say.’
‘He’ll tell you how he found me alone, with nowhere to go, on the night you threw me out!’ She stared up at him, painful memories bombarding her.
‘Continue,’ Vito grated, his face dark with barely contained fury.
‘The fog closed the airport.’ She took a breath, but she knew her voice was still shaky. ‘It was a few days before Easter—everywhere was fully booked. I couldn’t find a hotel—’
‘Are you trying to tell me every hotel room in Venice was full?’ Vito demanded. ‘Don’t be absurd.’
‘It was already late when I left here,’ she said, remembering— how sick and miserable she’d felt, dragging herself from hotel to hotel. ‘I’d stopped for a moment, down the alley near Luigi’s, trying to think what to do. He saw me standing there, alone with my luggage.’
‘Go on.’ Vito’s frown was thunderous, creating a deep vertical crease between his brows and casting his eyes into dark shadow.
‘He was very kind. He took me to his mother’s house, because she has a spare room,’ Lily said quietly. ‘That’s all.’
She looked up at him, anxious that he should believe her—as much for Luigi’s sake as her own. But he remained ominously silent.
Suddenly she found herself wondering how Vito felt. Did he care at all that she had been alone and unprotected— that night in Venice, with no one to turn to and nowhere to seek refuge? She hugged her knees tighter, pressing her forehead against them and letting her hair fall forwards in a curtain around her.
He didn’t care. He’d never really cared about her. A passing acquaintance had cared more for her well-being that night than Vito.
Humiliation gnawed at her. What was she doing here? Why was she here with a man who didn’t care about her and didn’t even have the slightest respect for her?
‘Don’t hide from me.’
Vito’s voice cut through her misery like cold steel. She lifted her head in time to see him reaching for her—then suddenly she was standing beside the bed facing him.
‘I wasn’t hiding.’ She tossed her hair back over her shoulders defiantly, despite the fact it bared her breasts to him again. She was completely naked, while he was almost completely dressed. But she refused to let herself think about that.
‘We will never discuss the night you left Venice again,’ Vito said. ‘Tomorrow we eat at Luigi’s—showing— everyone that we are an ecstatic couple about to be married.’
‘As you wish,’ Lily responded stiffly, thinking that Luigi was bound to be curious as to what had happened.
‘It is unacceptable that you turned to Luigi,’ Vito continued, his voice throbbing with intensity. ‘Mark my words—you will never again take our problems outside of this bedroom. Whatever happens,’ he grated, ‘our affairs are private.’
‘You threw me out!’ Lily cried in her defence.
‘But now you’re back.’ Vito’s eyes swept over her, leaving a trail of sexual awareness prickling over her naked body. ‘And you must take the consequences of your actions.’
‘What is that supposed to mean?’ Lily stood tall, resisting— the urge to fidget under his hot eyes.
‘That you are mine.’ His voice was loaded with sexual possessiveness. ‘And you will do anything I want.’
‘I’ve always done whatever you want,’ Lily threw back at him.
It was true, she realised to her shame. Except when they’d been together it had always seemed that they wanted the same thing.
‘Not always,’ Vito growled, seizing her roughly and dragging her up against him. He loomed over her, plunging his hands into her hair and pulling her head back so that their faces were only inches apart. ‘But now you’re mine—only mine. No other man is ever going to touch you again.’
He dragged her closer, bumping their hips together erotically. Lily gasped at the intimate contact just as his lips closed, hot and demanding, over hers.
His tongue pushed into her mouth, stoking the sexual fire that was suddenly raging between them once more. Desire for him rushed through her veins, making her insides tingle and her legs turn to water.
A pulsing point of sensation starting throbbing between— her legs, and the feel of his hands running over her naked skin was driving her wild with her own need to touch him.
He pulled away from her abruptly, and shrugged his jacket off. Lily stood shakily, taking shallow breaths as she watched him discarding his clothes. Her gaze drifted up to his face.
What she saw made her heart miss a beat.
He was furious.
She could see the anger burning in his eyes, pulling the muscles in his face taut with tension. He was still absolutely livid about her supposed infidelity, and this was an act of vengeance.
‘No.’ Lily took a step backwards.
‘You can’t back out now.’ Vito moved towards her, and lifted his hand to cup her breast. His thumb toyed with her nipple, and an answering ripple of delight spread through her body. ‘You are mine to take, whenever— I choose.’
‘You’re not going to make love to me out of anger,’ Lily said, trying to ignore the feel of his hand on her breast and the sensual pleasure his touch was giving her.
‘I’m taking back what is mine.’
‘I was always yours.’ Lily’s voice was small and steady, despite the turmoil of emotions and physical sensations that was assailing her.
Almost before her words were finished, he moved forwards and pulled her into his arms again. His mouth came down to kiss her, and as his tongue thrust between— her lips it was as if he was staking his claim in the most basic way.
Her treacherous body was responding to his. Despite her mind protesting that this was not right—that she had to stop him if she was to maintain any self-respect—her flesh was aching with her need for him. Deep inside she was vibrating with her desire to feel him lying on top of her, thrusting into her. Making her his again.
Suddenly he pulled away.
His breathing was ragged as he stood looking at her for a moment, his expression utterly impenetrable. Then he turned on his heel and walked out.
Lily stared after him—beset by conflicting emotions.
It was what she’d wanted, wasn’t it?
Then why did she feel so bereft?
Lily stood by the window, looking down at the canal below, wondering how she could make things better between Vito and herself. It was several weeks since they’d been married, and she was still having trouble adjusting— to it.
It was hard to believe it was actually real, especially as Vito had hardly come near her since the night he had stormed out of the bedroom. At first she’d assumed he was simply cooling off—she’d known how angry he was. But then the wedding had come and gone, with only the bare formalities discussed between them.
It had been a small, private ceremony, and the simple occasion had scarcely caused a blip in the passage of time. It was extraordinary that such a momentous life event had slipped past without greater impact. But then it had not been a normal wedding. And as the weeks had continued to pass it was painfully clear that it was not a normal marriage.
She almost felt like she was stuck in a time warp—with nothing really changing and every day the same. Vito had continued to share the bedroom, but he worked late most nights, often coming to bed after midnight.And, although weeks had passed, he’d never touched her.
She knew he was worried about his grandfather. His instinct that his grandfather’s health was not right on Lily’s first day back in Venice had proved to be correct, because Giovanni had soon gone down with a nasty chest-infection. But, from the little information Lily was able to glean, that appeared to have cleared up now.
She turned away from the window, planning to sit and read for a while before going out for a walk, when a movement from the doorway caught her eye.
‘Vito.’ She said his name in surprise. It was barely ten o’clock in the morning—he never came home from work during the day. ‘Is everything all right? Your grandfather…?’