‘Cara, you do know Pepe isn’t a man for the long term? It’s just that there’s been no mention of marriage or anything—’
‘Of course it’s not permanent,’ Cara had interrupted. ‘We’re just taking it a day at a time until it runs its course.’
‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ Grace had asked with a furrowed brow.
‘Of course I do,’ she’d said defiantly. ‘I’m getting to know my child’s father properly. We’re not going to have some fake marriage for the sake of the baby which only ends in misery for everyone. When our relationship runs its course we’ll still be friends, which will only benefit our child. We don’t want him or her being born into a war zone.’
She’d ignored her friend’s worried face, pushed the image away now as she cast her eye around the huge space that was Pepe’s living room.
Before leaving for Chile he had taken her to the huge vault storing his infamous art collection. ‘I’m putting the hanging and placement of my collection in your hands,’ he’d said solemnly.
Cara had been incredibly touched.
Pepe had left his multimillion-euro art collection in her hands, giving her carte blanche to hang and place them in his home as she saw fit. Trusting her.
Deciding where to place it all, overseeing the hanging—he’d insisted on getting professionals in because he didn’t want her having to climb up and down stepladders when she was six months pregnant—had fulfilled her more than she had thought possible. It had been a project and a half, and one she had embraced with all the Irish enthusiasm that flowed in her blood.
Pepe had such an amazing and eclectic eye for art. Among the Old Masters were more modern pieces, including several by Georges Ramirez, one of which was a nude bronze whose torso she would recognise with her eyes closed using only her hands. The face was a blank but she would bet Pepe had been the model for it.
The only piece she disliked was the Canaletto. It brought back too many bad memories, serving as a reminder that Pepe could be ruthless when it came to getting what he wanted. She’d stuck that particular painting in a small guest room, all two million euros of it.
Pepe’s deep voice rang out from downstairs.
Quashing the urge to skip down the stairs to greet him, Cara forced her legs to move in a more sedate fashion.
‘I’m right here,’ she said, unable to hide the beam that spread over her face at the sight of him. It was the longest they had been apart and, despite the task he’d set her, she’d missed him dreadfully. Especially at night. The bed had felt empty without him. She would never admit it, lest he read too much into it, but on the second night she had given in and borrowed one of his shirts to sleep in.
After a long, knee-trembling kiss from him, she took his hand to give him the tour.
‘Wow,’ he said with open admiration as they stood in the main living area. ‘You really know your stuff.’
Pepe was the first to admit he didn’t know the first thing about art. The pieces he bought were never about investment—although that played a part in it—but were simply pieces that caught his eye and pulled at him.
Cara’s own eye had placed them all exactly where they should be, the items selected for each room complementing the feel and décor of that particular room.
He’d smiled to see the portrait his sister-in-law had done of him hanging on the wall of his office. Grace had painted him as a Greek god but with a definite touch of irony and not a little humour.
‘Are you happy to have that there, where anyone can see it?’ Cara said, indicating the bronze by Georges Ramirez, which she had placed in the corner of the living room.
‘You recognise it?’ he asked wickedly.
‘Of course I do,’ she said with a frown.
With a jolt he realised she’d been living with him for two months. She knew him far more intimately than any other living person.
When, he wondered, would her allure no longer affect him?
He’d assumed they’d stay together for a few weeks, maybe a month, before he’d get her out of his system. He’d suggested a minimum of a fortnight, more to convey his sincerity in wanting to make things work between them than in any real hope.
Two months on and they were still together and he wanted her every bit as much as he had at the beginning. More so, if that was possible.
‘Have you considered doing this professionally?’ he asked, waving his hands around the room. ‘I know plenty of people who would pay a small fortune to have their art collections displayed to their very best.’