Caro Dio, please let him have the chance to tell her how much she meant to him.
When she’d collapsed he’d known immediately something bad was happening. And she had known it too. While they’d waited for the ambulance to arrive, she’d clung to him. He hadn’t realised he’d been clinging to her too until the paramedic had prised him off her.
And now it was all out of his hands. Cara’s fate and their baby’s fate were in the hands of someone else. If anything should happen to her...
Caro Dio, but it didn’t bear thinking about.
* * *
Cara didn’t want to open her eyes. Didn’t want to face the reality that opening them would bring.
Soft voices surrounded her then a door shut.
She knew exactly where she was. In a hospital. The smell was too distinctive to be anywhere else.
She also knew why she was there.
‘Cara?’ A tender finger wiped away the single tear that had leaked out.
This time she did open her eyes and found Grace sitting beside her, her face drawn.
‘He’s talking to the doctor. He’ll be back soon.’
‘I want Pepe.’ It came out as a whimper.
Grace clasped Cara’s hands. ‘He won’t be long, I promise.’
‘I want Pepe.’ This time it came out as an anguished howl.
Although it went against all regulations, Grace climbed onto the bed and wrapped her arms tightly around her, letting Cara sob as if there were no tears left to cry.
* * *
Pepe staggered along the corridor, the coffee his brother had given him hours ago still clutched in his hand, cold.
When he got to Cara’s room, Grace and Luca came out before he could go in.
‘Is she awake?’
‘She was. She’s sleeping again. Probably the best thing for her.’
He nodded mutely, Grace’s words sounding distant and tinny to his ears.
Dimly he was aware of them exchanging glances.
Grace took his hand and clasped it in hers.
When he looked he could see she’d been crying.
‘Luca and I have been talking and we think Cara should come home with us.’
‘No.’ He snatched his hand away.
They exchanged another significant glance.
Luca put his hand on his brother’s shoulder and drew him away. ‘Pepe, I know you’re hurting but Cara needs to be with someone who loves her and that person is Grace. You told me yourself you were only together because of the baby.’
Pepe couldn’t even find the strength to punch him.
You were only together because of the baby...
Was that really true? Had that ever been true?
He didn’t know. His brain hurt too much to think.
It had all been so sudden.
One minute, everything had been fine. The next...
‘Listen to me,’ Luca said in a gentle tone he’d never heard him use before. ‘It is at times like this a woman needs to be surrounded with love and compassion. Your relationship was only ever temporary. Cara and Grace are closer than sisters. Grace will take care of her. I guarantee it.’
‘She’s got to stay in hospital for a few more days,’ Pepe said dully. ‘She’s had major surgery. She shouldn’t travel.’ The obstetricians had delivered their baby via a caesarean section. Cara had been knocked out for it.
He wished he had been knocked out for it too.
‘We need to arrange the funeral. She won’t want to travel anywhere until we’ve said goodbye.’
Luca winced at the mention of a funeral.
‘What?’ Pepe snarled, suddenly springing to life. ‘You think I’m not going to give my baby girl a proper goodbye because she was stillborn? You think Cara will not want to say goodbye to Charlotte? You think we’ll want to forget she ever existed, is that it?’
Whatever Luca, who had gone white, was going to say was pushed aside when Grace stepped between them.
‘Pepe, please, forgive us. All we want is what’s best for Cara, and for you. Nothing more. And you’re right—she won’t want to go anywhere until after the funeral. When she’s ready, she can come to Rome with me. Luca will go back to Sicily to be with Lily.’
‘It’s what’s best for Cara,’ Luca added quietly.
Pepe knew his brother was right. Although it ripped his insides to shreds, he knew it.
Cara would want to be with Grace. She wouldn’t want to be with him.
He finally jerked a nod. ‘Okay,’ he said heavily. ‘But only if that’s what Cara wants. If she wants to stay with me then neither of you are to say anything to change her mind.’
Without waiting for a reply, he strolled into the private room and took the seat by Cara.