Pepe shuffled towards her, his hand outstretched. ‘Don’t go.’
Her brow furrowed in confusion.
Her legs too weak to carry her any further, her stomach feeling the strain of being upright for too long, she sank onto the chair right behind her.
When he reached her, he knelt down and placed his hand on her neck. ‘I can’t bear it,’ he said hoarsely. ‘I think I could cope if it was just the loss of our baby, but losing you too...’
A sound like a wail echoed in the room. It took the beat of a moment for Cara to realise the sound had come from her.
Pepe’s face contorted and he looked down to her belly then back up to her face, his eyes searching for...something. ‘I know what I’m asking is selfish but, please, cucciola mia, please don’t go. I’ll take care of you. I’ll help you heal. Please, just give me the chance to show how much you mean to me and prove how much I love you.’
When Pepe saw the confusion and doubt ringing in Cara’s eyes, he almost gave up. It was the tiny spark of hope he also saw that gave him the courage to forge on.
To put his heart on the line. Because if he didn’t say it now it would be too late.
‘When Luisa aborted our baby—and I believe with all my heart that child was mine—it was the loss of that child so soon after the loss of my father that ruined me. Her lies and deceit were supplementary. I never missed her. I’d been in love with a dream that didn’t exist—in my own family I’d always felt like a spare part. Luca was the brother who mattered; I was just the spare, and, no matter how much my parents loved me, I always knew that. With Luisa, I dreamt of having my own family where I mattered.
‘Cara, losing our baby has broken my heart. Our child was more than a dream. You were more than a dream, and you leaving...it’s broken me. I don’t know how to go on. I’m lost without you. I’m...’ His voice went. All the desolation he’d been sitting on for the past two weeks burst through and choked him. He didn’t even realise he was crying until Cara wrapped her arms around him and pulled his head to her chest.
She kissed his head, over and over, murmuring sweet words and cradling him with such love and compassion that for the first time in a fortnight a trickle of warmth cut through the ice in his chest.
‘Oh, my poor love,’ she whispered, her own tears falling into his hair. ‘I’ve been so desperate to be with you. I thought you wouldn’t want me here any more. If I’d known how you felt I would never have gone with Grace.’
He raised his head and found his face being rained upon with her tears. ‘I thought you wanted to be with her.’
She shook her head. ‘I wanted to be with you. Just you. I love you, Pepe.’
What looked like a brave smile broke through her tears. ‘How could I not fall in love with you? I always thought love between a man and a woman was about sex and power and humiliation. I had no idea it could be about sex and friendship and support. You’re everything to me.’
‘I’m so sorry for the way I treated you when you first came to me about the pregnancy. And I’m sorry for the way I treated you in Dublin.’
‘I understand. You were helping your brother. While I don’t agree with your methods, I can see it was something you felt you had to do for his sake. I would have done the same for Grace.’
‘I was terrible,’ he stated.
‘It’s done,’ she said gently, ‘and if it makes you feel better then know I forgive you. I forgave you a long time ago.’
Pepe hadn’t realised how badly he’d needed her forgiveness until another trickle of warmth seeped into his bones. It would be a long time before the cold left him, but with Cara at his side he didn’t have to freeze alone. And neither did she. Together they could bring the warmth back.
‘A part of me always knew getting involved with you would bring me nothing but trouble,’ he confessed.
‘Sì. And I was right. It wasn’t just that you were a virgin or that I felt guilt for what I’d done: I couldn’t get you out of my head. The pregnancy came almost as a relief—it meant I had a legitimate reason to keep you in my life without having to acknowledge that my feelings for you ran far further than I could ever admit.’
Her bee-stung lip wobbled. He pressed a finger to it and then the tenderest of kisses. ‘I used to tease you about being my concubine or my geisha. I can see now how wide off the mark I was—I should be your concubine because your needs are all that matter to me. The rest of the world can go to hell. You are all that matters to me, and whatever it takes to get us through this whole horrific ordeal I will do. I swear.’