One day soon she would have to find a way to live with it.
She had no idea how she would be able to.
Pepe wanted them to part as friends?
She didn’t think she’d even be able to cope with fleeting glances at him. How could anyone be strong enough to endure that, to love someone with all their heart and know the recipient would never feel the same way?
All she could do was hold on and hope for a miracle.
Miracles happened. Didn’t they?
But even if they didn’t, one thing she did know was that she would not behave as her mother had with her father. Whatever happened, Cara was confident her child would never witness the selfish behaviour that Cara had witnessed from her parents. Both she and Pepe were committed to that.
Any devastation would take place internally.
‘I didn’t know you owned a studio,’ she said, quickly changing the subject away from something that could easily make her vomit. As she spoke, a sharp stab of pain ran down the side of her belly.
‘Are you okay?’ Pepe asked, noticing her reflexive wince.
Sucking in a quick blast of air, she nodded.
‘Yes.’ As she reassured him that all was well, it suddenly occurred to her that her back had ached all day. She’d been so excited about Pepe coming home after a week away that she hadn’t thought much about it.
‘I bought an old hotel a few years back,’ Pepe said. ‘I had it turned into a home for artists, a place where they could live and work. As you know from Grace, artists often work strange hours. The majority live in poverty.’
‘What made you want to do it?’ she asked, glad of the conversation to take her mind off irrational thoughts. Besides, she loved hearing anything that helped unlock the mystery that was Pepe Mastrangelo.
His mouth tightened a fraction before he answered. ‘There is something incredibly free within the art world which I have always felt an affinity with. Growing up in Sicily...it was like living within a straightjacket. It’s probably the reason I enjoy flying so much—it gives me a real sense of freedom. Many artists pursue their craft in defiance of their parents’ wishes. I wanted to create a space for them to pursue their dream without having to worry about where the rent money was going to come from. Only artists who have been cut off financially from their families are eligible to live there. The only other stipulation is that the artist must have a genuine talent.’
‘That’s an amazing thing to do,’ she said, genuinely touched.
‘Not really,’ he dismissed. ‘It’s an investment for me.’
She raised a brow. ‘Five per cent?’
He suddenly grinned. ‘Georges Ramirez started off in that studio.’
He nodded. ‘He was only there for six months before a gallery owner I introduced him to gave him an exhibition and...the rest is history.’
‘And does he pay full market rate on the loft?’ she asked slyly.
‘Near enough,’ he said, grinning.
‘You never cease to amaze me,’ she said with a shake of her head. ‘You’re always trotting off from country to country on family business, yet you still invest your time as well as your money in the art community.’ She gave him a crafty wink. ‘How many of your artists have you dropped your kecks for in the name of art?’
His lips twitched. ‘Half a dozen. Can I help it if I’m prime model material?’
She sniggered and reached for his hand, lacing her fingers through his. ‘Do your family know what you do for the art world?’ Somehow, she thought not. Grace would certainly have mentioned it.
He began scanning the room. ‘I don’t think they would be that interested. My life has never been that much of an interest to them before.’ Suddenly he looked back at her with a grin. ‘Saying that, they were always interested whenever I got into trouble.’
‘Were you a very naughty boy?’ she asked, matching his light tone, although she had caught a definite shadow in his eyes.
A gleam now shone in those same eyes. ‘Sì. I was a very naughty boy.’ He leaned down to whisper into her ear. ‘When we get home I’ll show you what a naughty boy I can still be.’
Heat filled her from the tips of her toes to the long strands of hair on her head. ‘I look forward to it.’
Suddenly filled with the urge to jump onto him and kiss his face off, which, given they were in full view of dozens of people, wouldn’t do at all, she brought their conversation back to a less suggestive level. ‘How come you joined the family business when your heart is clearly elsewhere?’