‘You really don’t care at all,’ Lily said hollowly. ‘You said it would be better for my baby. But how can this be better? You deceived me and manipulated me into marrying you—when all the time you were planning to dump us like last week’s trash.’
‘I’m not lying now,’ Vito said. ‘And I will not go over this again. I have made the situation plain, and I will not tolerate your defiance, or your continued assertions that I am the father of your baby.’
With that he turned and walked out of the bedroom, taking the necklace with him.
LILY stared after him in stunned silence.
All she could think was how foolish she’d been to trust Vito. She’d seen his true nature the night he’d heartlessly thrown her out onto the streets of Venice. Why, even after he’d treated her so appallingly, had she let him drag her back into his life?
Because she had once thought she was falling in love with him. And then he had lied to her. And manipulated her. He’d made her believe it was the best thing for her and her baby, when all along he couldn’t have cared less about them. All he cared about was taking revenge against her for something she’d never even done. And at the same time finding a way to please his grandfather.
Lily exhaled heavily, put her hands on her hips and shook her head decisively. She wouldn’t stand for it. He couldn’t keep her here against her wishes. She’d leave him. Take her life back. Ruin his plans.
She grabbed her suitcase out of the wardrobe and started throwing clothes into it. Everything—all the designer clothes, the jewellery. Everything he’d ever bought her. He’d told her they were hers, and this time she’d take the lot.
Suddenly she stopped. She didn’t want things he’d paid for. She’d never cared about his money. She’d only ever cared about him. And now about her baby.
If she left, her baby would get nothing. But it wasn’t about money. It was about recognition.
Her own childhood had been blighted by her father’s complete refusal to have anything to do with her. It had hurt her so deeply that she’d even married a man who didn’t love her to spare her baby that same heartache. Staying with Vito was the best way for her to try to get through to him. He was her baby’s father—and there must be some way she could prove it to him.
‘Good bye, Mum.’ Lily leant forward to kiss her mother’s cheek as they reached the front of the queue to go through security at Marco Polo Airport.
‘Passport…boarding pass…’ Ellen double-checked she was holding the crucial documents, then turned to give Lily a final hug. ‘Congratulations again, darling. And thank you for having me.’
‘You’re welcome.’ Lily smiled as warmly as she could and returned her hug.
‘Oh, I’d better go!’ Ellen gasped, realising she was holding up the queue. She clutched the roll of Venetian marbled paper that she hadn’t wanted to crush in her suitcase and grabbed the handle of her wheelie carry-on bag.
‘Thanks for coming!’ Lily called.
As she stood watching her mother disappear into the departure lounge, an unpleasant feeling of emptiness crept over her. She loved her mum, but under the circumstances— Ellen’s visit to Venice had been tough on Lily.
Living with Vito after she had discovered the truth about his plans had been difficult. And her mother’s presence hadn’t made it any easier.
After their horrible row, when he’d admitted he considered— their marriage temporary, things had slipped back into their previous routine disconcertingly fast. Vito had kept his distance, and Lily had not wanted to rock the boat. She instinctively knew that it would be better for her to bide her time. Starting fresh arguments with Vito was not the way to prove her innocence to him, so that he would eventually accept that he was the father of her baby.
In the end Lily had invited her mother for a few days, knowing that it was a hurdle she still had to get over. It had turned out easier than expected to convince Ellen that everything was as it should be. But, although she should have been relieved, the fact that her mother had accepted her situation so readily bothered her.
They’d never been particularly close. Ellen was nervous— and highly strung—difficult to really get to know properly. When she was a child Lily had been upset by the time and effort her mother had always put into her craft projects with the patients at the hospice—while she’d forgotten to attend school events or even to buy groceries for dinner.
As she grew up Lily had told herself it was just the way her mother coped. She was disappointed with her life, and felt vulnerable being in a position of dependence— on a man who was ashamed of her and wanted to keep her existence a secret.
But now Lily was feeling vulnerable. Although she knew she could not confide in Ellen, the fact that her own mother had had no inkling that anything was wrong hurt her feelings.
At first she’d mentally made excuses for her. Having stayed firmly in the countryside for years, it was natural that Ellen had been overcome by Venice. She’d wanted to spend the whole time doing touristy things. In particular she’d been fascinated by the traditional Venetian masks that were on sale all over the place.
She’d talked non-stop about new ideas for her crafting projects, and it hadn’t been hard for Lily to remain virtually— unnoticed. There’d been no need for her to fend off questions about why she’d married so suddenly, or about why Vito was never around. Despite the fact that it was her life that had suddenly changed so dramatically—and— she was the one her mother had come to visit—she’d started to feel like the invisible woman.
She sighed as her mother disappeared into the airport departure-lounge. She couldn’t help being pleased she was gone. Quite honestly, having her mother around had made her feel more alone than ever.
She turned and headed across the concourse to follow the path back down to the water, where Vito’s boat was waiting for her. It was June, and a plane full of Swiss tourists had just arrived at the airport. They were all pulling their cases down the same walkway to get a water bus or taxi, but with no luggage to hold her up Lily weaved her way quickly through them. She wasn’t anxious to be back at the palazzo, but she’d promised she’d visit Giovanni before lunch.
Vito cut the connection to his assistant and slipped his mobile phone back into his pocket.
He was pleased to have confirmation that Ellen had left Venice, but he was bothered by the news that Lily had gone straight from the airport to Ca’ Salvatore.
Before her mother’s visit Lily had started going to see his grandfather every day, and now that her mother was gone it seemed that she was getting straight back into the same pattern. Giovanni enjoyed her visits, so Vito had not put a stop to them. But it concerned him, not knowing what game Lily was playing.
After their argument he had half expected her to try to leave him. But if anything she seemed to settle into her life in Venice with more determination. He didn’t know what she thought she’d gain by making a friend of the old man, but it wouldn’t do her any good. Vito was still calling all the shots.
‘Ah, my beautiful English Lily,’ Giovanni said, pushing himself up against the ornate carved headboard.
‘I hope you haven’t been waiting,’ Lily said, hurrying across the room to help him with his pillows.
‘I always wait for you.’ Giovanni smiled, and Lily knew it wasn’t a reprimand. Over the last few weeks, her visits to Ca’Salvatore had become a daily event that they both enjoyed.
However, during her mother’s stay she’d only popped in once, briefly. It had been clear that the instant rapport she’d shared with Giovanni was not present between her mother and the old gentleman.
‘My mum is flying home today.’ Lily glanced at her watch. ‘In fact, she’s probably on a plane right now.’
‘That’s good,’ Giovanni said. ‘Now you can spend more time with your husband.’
Lily blinked and stared at him, momentarily lost for words.
‘I’m old,’ Giovanni said. ‘I don’t have the time to pussyfoot— around, watching what I say.’
‘Did you ever, even when you were young?’ Lily laughed, despite the fact his instruction to spend more time with Vito had unsettled her. She liked Giovanni, and couldn’t ever imagine being offended by him, no matter how directly he spoke. But of course he didn’t know—he could never know—the truth behind her marriage to Vito.
‘Hmm.’ He pretended to pause and think. ‘Not so much.’ He flashed a winning smile at her, momentarily taking years off his age. ‘But I’m serious.’
‘Vito’s been very busy,’ Lily prevaricated, letting her gaze drift across the fabulous fresco that decorated the wall. ‘Work…’
‘I can see you love him, and that he loves you.’ Giovanni spoke with assurance. ‘But there is tension between you.’
‘Well…’ Lily’s words dried up because she had no idea how to respond. Giovanni had seen love where there simply wasn’t any. Vito’s feelings for her were obviously— the complete opposite of love—he’d made that plain enough. And, although she had once foolishly believed she was falling in love with him, now, after the awful things he’d said and the dreadful way he’d treated her, she’d be crazy to open her heart to him again.