Lily took a deep breath and lowered the baby unto her lap. She unwrapped the blanket so that the doctor could take the blood sample.
As the needle pricked his fragile skin he opened his eyes in horrified protest. A moment later he opened his mouth and started crying.
Lily felt her lower lip start to tremble in response, and she hugged her son close to her. It was unbearable to see her baby upset.
‘I’ll get this sample off to the lab,’ the doctor said, taking his leave.
‘Lily…I…’ Vito was standing close to her, but she didn’t look up. For the first time ever, she thought he sounded uncertain—but right then all her attention was on her newborn baby.
‘Leave me alone,’ she said, feeling like she had been punched in the stomach.
She unbuttoned her nightdress and tried to offer the baby up to her breast. But the position wasn’t right, and after a frantic moment of silence as he rooted unsuccessfully— for her nipple he started crying again.
Without a saying a word, Vito dropped down on his knees in front of them. He cupped the baby’s head gently and guided it forward to Lily’s breast. Just as the baby opened his mouth as wide as possible to let out a mewling cry, Vito nudged his head forward and he latched onto the nipple successfully.
Lily looked down at her baby suckling contentedly, and took care to keep his position steady. Vito had rocked back on his heels, but his eyes were still locked on the infant.
‘I asked you to leave me alone,’ she said quietly, lifting her eyes to meet his. Vito’s gaze was troubled, but she was too angry with him to give it any thought.
‘I don’t want you here,’ she said, hearing her own voice crackle with ice. ‘Your pride has made you selfish. I can’t believe that you were so arrogant and stubborn that you let your lack of trust in me make you ignore something that could affect our baby’s wellbeing.’
Vito paced up and down his study, looking repeatedly at his fax machine, waiting for it to whir into action.
He’d had a miserable night. The worst night of his life—even harder than when he’d forced Lily to leave Venice back in March. That night he’d been upset, but he’d focussed his anger on what he’d thought of as her betrayal. He hadn’t been forced to look in the mirror at his own decisions and actions.
Now, everything was different. His personal demons were howling round the room with him, unrelenting in their attack on his well-built defences.
What if he’d been wrong?
Wrong about everything?
The thought plagued him, constantly looming up in his mind. He tried to reject it, the way he’d always successfully— rejected Lily’s claims. But now it seemed as if she was finally getting through to him.
What if he really was the father of the baby?
The look of fear on her face when she hadn’t understood— what the doctor was saying about his rare blood-group— haunted him. And the cold look of disgust on her face when she’d thrown him out of her hospital room stabbed into him like a jagged blade.
Suddenly the fax machine came to life. He was rooted to the spot, watching as the sheet of white paper curled out.
A copy of his fertility-test results.
All those years ago he’d never read them for himself. The disdainful look on Capricia’s face had seen to that. His pride hadn’t been able to stand it. Even providing the sample in the first place, letting his virility be put to the test, had been hard to bear. He’d never considered getting a physical examination or second opinion. The brutal assault on his masculine pride had been unendurable.
He reached for the fax and hesitated, blood pounding in his temples.
He was terrified at what he would read.
Would the results show that he had been right all along, make him relive his humiliation yet again? Or would he find out that Lily had been telling the truth—that he was guilty of treating her appallingly when she didn’t deserve it? And that her beautiful baby boy was his son?
He picked up the document and looked at it.
His heart thudded in his chest and his palms were suddenly damp with sweat.
Results: every likelihood of excellent fertility at this time.
Lily lay on her side in the hospital bed watching her newborn baby sleeping in his crib. The nurses had made her put him down, told her that if she didn’t sleep when he did she’d become exhausted and her milk wouldn’t flow. But, even though she’d been awake all night, sleep would not come.
Vito had left when she’d asked and he’d never returned.
She didn’t know what she had expected—she hadn’t exactly been thinking straight at the time. But despite the fact he had proven once again just how little faith he had in her, she wished he were there with her.
She couldn’t stop thinking about how wonderful he’d been during the birth. She couldn’t have asked for more. It must mean something. Maybe, although love was not part of the equation for him, he did care about her a little.
But now she had sent him away.
She squeezed her eyes shut, wishing sleep would come and ease her misery. But then she heard a quiet sound and, although it could have been a nurse returning— to check up on her and the baby, she knew it was Vito.
She rolled over and tried to sit up, but after the rigours of the birth she was stiff and sore. Vito was by her side in a second, gently helping her into a comfortable— position.
‘Thank you.’ She looked up at him standing beside the bed, and her eyes widened with surprise as she took in his appearance. He’d showered and shaved since last night, but his face was ashen and painfully troubled.
‘I’m sorry.’ His voice was deep and rough, as if it had been difficult for him to say that word. Or maybe it was because he was so tired. But, whatever the case, his expression— was contrite as he gazed down at her on the bed.
‘What for?’ she asked simply.
‘For everything,’ he said. ‘For the way I’ve treated you. For not trusting you. For making you marry me even though I didn’t mean it to last.’
‘Do you believe me now?’ Lily asked, looking at the lines of stress etched around his eyes.
‘Yes,’ Vito said. ‘I got Capricia’s doctor out of bed at an ungodly hour this morning, and had him go straight to his office to fax me a copy of the results of my fertility— test.’
‘I don’t understand,’ Lily said, ignoring the wave of sadness that washed over her as she realised it wasn’t anything she had said or done that had convinced Vito. It had taken Capricia’s doctor. ‘How did that make any difference? You saw those results years ago.’
‘I never read them myself,’ Vito admitted.
Lily stared at him in frank disbelief, too startled to mask her reaction. For a moment he actually appeared to wince with embarrassment.
‘You never read them?’ she gasped. ‘Surely you followed up the result—repeated the test or got a second opinion?’
‘No.’ Vito hung his head for a moment, then took a deep breath and looked her in the eye to continue. ‘I was devastated. All my dreams of becoming a father, of continuing— the Salvatore line, were shattered. It seemed like an assault on my very existence.’
‘Why did she do it?’ Lily asked. ‘What would make Capricia lie to you like that?’
‘I don’t know,’ Vito said. ‘I’ve been wracking my brain all night, trying to work it out. The only solution I have is that she didn’t want children. I knew she didn’t want to come off the Pill—but I thought I’d persuaded her to try to start a family. Presumably she just carried on taking the Pill all along.’
‘I think you’re right.’ Lily thought about how Giovanni had described Vito’s first wife. It was ironic that the old man had got her measure better than Vito. ‘It must be painful to realise that the woman you loved tricked you like that.’
‘I don’t know if “painful” is the correct word,’ Vito said. ‘I’m furious with her. Furious that what she did led me to hurt you so badly.’
‘You should have read the results yourself,’ Lily muttered. She knew it was harsh to point that out. But she couldn’t help noticing Vito had not denied loving Capricia—a woman who had deceived and cheated him. For some reason that really hurt.
‘I’m sorry,’ Vito said again. ‘I’ve treated you unforgivably.’ —
Lily gazed at him sadly, swallowing against a hard lump in her throat. She ought to accept his apology. He was the victim of a wicked deception. If Capricia hadn’t lied to him, he would never have treated her so badly.
But none of it was her fault. The only thing she’d ever done wrong was fall in love with Vito.
‘Nothing’s changed in the way I feel,’ Lily said miserably. ‘You never trusted me—you had to get Capricia’s doctor to send you proof.’
‘Something did change yesterday. I saw your fear when the doctor took the blood sample.’ Vito sucked in a deep, shuddering breath and raked his hands roughly through his black hair. ‘I spent the night in an agony of confusion. Once I’d admitted the possibility that you might be telling the truth, I was desperate— for that to be the case. But, after Capricia left, I spent so long denying my feelings that it was almost impossible to get out of that rut. The security of encasing your deeper feelings in a layer of cold rock is hard to give up.’