It was only his grandfather’s dying wish that had made him reassess his decision, and that had led him to marry Lily.
Lily was not like Capricia—she hadn’t responded with scorn when she’d discovered he was infertile. But the shock of the news had made her show her true colours. And the way she was acting now told him what she really thought of him.
He knew he’d knocked the ground out from under her. She was no longer able to cling to her story that she hadn’t been unfaithful. She’d seemed stunned at first, but that had been quickly followed by anger—presumably— because he’d made her look a fool.
But, whatever her feelings, it was part of their agreement— that she kept them to herself. He didn’t appreciate the message she was sending his household by spending all her time at Ca’ Salvatore. In the daytime it was fine—but not in the evening when he was expected home from work.
He was still deep in thought as he strode into the old courtyard at Ca’ Salvatore. Lily was sleeping on a recliner under the protection of the cloistered passage that led to the entrance to the pool.
He stopped and gazed at her. She looked beautiful—utterly— enchanting, but also achingly vulnerable. She was turned slightly on her side, with her silken hair spread out behind her like an angel’s wings, and her arms were folded protectively over her stomach.
As he gazed at her, all the bad feelings that had built up during his walk from the palazzo melted away. How could he feel angry when presented with a vision of such celestial beauty?
He had missed her—had missed the time they’d spent together.
He sat down beside her on another chair, suddenly content to wait until she awoke naturally. She must have only been dozing, because she started to stir almost immediately.
‘Ciao,’ he said, reaching out to tuck a blonde curl which had fallen forward behind her ear. ‘I thought I’d find you here.’
‘How long have you been sitting there?’ Lily asked, groggily pushing herself upright.
‘Not long. In fact I just arrived,’ Vito said, twisting on his chair to glance around. ‘You know, it’s years since I was in this courtyard. I used to play football here.’
‘Really?’ she said, looking at the citrus trees in terracotta— pots and the curved marble benches arranged around the trickling fountain-pool in the centre. ‘There’s a lot of obstacles.’
‘Good for my dribbling skills.’ Vito smiled as he remembered. ‘There’s nothing like getting tackled by marble bench—it gets you right in the shins.’
Lily blinked and rubbed her eyes, still feeling half asleep.
Why was he being so nice all of a sudden? His smile completely changed his face, erasing the vertical crease that had been gouged between his eyes in the weeks since they’d returned from the mountains.
‘There’s a lot of windows too,’ she added, trying to ignore the way his smile tugged at her heart. She couldn’t let herself start to fall for him all over again every time he decided to turn on the charm.
‘Yes—I smashed quite a few of them,’ Vito said. ‘The housekeeper covered it up at first, but when my grand-father— found out he certainly took me to task.’
Lily gazed at him, trying to imagine what he might have looked like as a boy. For the housekeeper to have covered up broken windows he must have been quite a charmer, even back then. She wondered if he had photos. It would be intriguing to get some idea what their son might look like.
An unpleasantly cold feeling washed over her. Vito wouldn’t show her photos because he was still denying the possibility that he could be the father. She slumped back on the recliner, suddenly feeling weary and washed out.
‘Are you all right?’ Vito’s voice sounded genuinely concerned.
‘I’m fine. Just tired.’ She picked up her glass of water, deliberately not letting herself look at his face. She knew his expression would reflect what she had just heard in his voice. If she saw that concern, combined with his heart-stoppingly good looks, she knew her defences would start to melt.
‘You look sad.’ Vito reached out to touch her arm, and the gesture of comfort sent a wave of warmth through her which was at odds with what her brain was telling her. ‘Why are you unhappy?’
‘Because you only married me for the baby inside me,’ she said, the honest words coming out as a reaction to the conflict she was feeling inside.
‘You knew that—I told you that from the start.’ Vito let his hand drop from her arm abruptly. ‘Why is that an issue now? Are you saying that you thought there was another reason?’
‘I thought—I hoped—there was something between us, more than just the child inside me that you still refuse to even consider is yours.’ She put her feet down onto the marble flagstones, looking beside the recliner to locate her flat sandals. ‘Now I know I was wrong. All I am to you is a convenient baby-machine.’
She rammed her feet into her sandals and pushed herself quickly to her feet.
Suddenly she felt a strange sensation inside her, followed by a gush of warm fluid down her legs. She stared down at the puddle on the ground in a moment’s bewilderment. The baby wasn’t due for another month. Then she heard Vito’s voice, strong and reassuring.
‘Your water just broke,’ he said, sweeping her up into his arms and striding swiftly to the palazzo’s water entrance. ‘We’re going straight to hospital.’
LILY stared in awe at the baby sleeping in her arms. He was utterly beautiful. Her heart ached with how small and perfect he was, and she didn’t think she’d ever be able to take her eyes off him again.
He had arrived so suddenly. By the time they’d reached the hospital her labour had already been well advanced. But everything had gone smoothly and he’d been born at nine-thirty in the evening, weighing a healthy six pounds.
Vito had been amazing during the labour and delivery, an absolute tower of strength and encouragement. He had known exactly when to hold her or rub her back, or whisper fortifying words of comfort in her ear. He had never left her side for a moment—until now, when she’d had to urge him to go and call his grandfather.
The door of her private room opened and she looked up, expecting to see Vito returning. But instead it was the doctor.
‘I gather the baby has already fed a little,’ the doctor said. ‘That’s good. He’s a strong little fellow for his size. But I’m afraid I must disturb him to take a small sample of his blood.’
‘What for?’ Lily asked, assuming it was some kind of routine test done for all babies. ‘Why do you have to do it now while he’s asleep?’
‘I think it best to find out whether he has inherited his father’s rare blood-type as soon as possible,’ the doctor replied, talking as if he thought Lily knew what he was referring to. ‘Being delivered at thirty-six weeks we wouldn’t expect any problems,’ he continued. ‘But in the circumstances it’s prudent to know the facts regarding— his blood type.’
‘I don’t understand what you are talking about,’ Lily said, hugging the tiny baby protectively to her. At that moment Vito returned and she stared up at him, a wave of panic rising up within her.
‘I was just explaining about the situation with your blood type,’ the doctor said to Vito as he crossed to Lily’s side.
‘You didn’t explain.’ Lily flashed her gaze anxiously between the two men. ‘You just told me we needed to find it out, in case something went wrong!’
‘Just a precaution,’ the doctor said, pulling up a chair next to her and placing the equipment he needed to draw a blood sample on a small tray on the table beside them.
‘Why didn’t you tell me about this?’ Lily looked up at Vito accusingly, still keeping her baby out of the doctor’s reach.
He stood as straight as a ramrod with an unreadable expression on his face, but Lily knew the answer to her question. He hadn’t told her because he’d thought it was irrelevant—he didn’t believe the baby was his.
‘I’m sure he just didn’t want to worry you,’ the doctor said. ‘It’s extremely unlikely that the baby will have inherited— it.’
‘What if he has?’ Lily asked, fear ripping through her.
‘Well, as you are obviously aware, your husband is as strong as an ox. It only becomes an issue if he needs a blood transfusion.’
‘What happens then?’ Lily pressed.
‘It’s harder to find suitable donor-blood. That’s why we want to be prepared, so we don’t have any surprises at a time we could do without them.’ He reached up gently to ease the blanket away from the infant. ‘If you can hold him steady, we’ll get this over with as painlessly— as possible.’
‘But what if you can’t find the right blood to give him?’ Lily asked, feeling increasingly anxious. It all sounded very complicated and worrying.
‘There’s no reason at all to think we’ll need blood for a transfusion,’ the doctor said firmly. ‘But, if for some reason we do, then of course we’ll find it. It’s just that we may have to search further afield.’