But hormones don’t listen to reason. Their siren song is more ancient and truer than any new social idea.
So, a conflicted Regina, the modern woman and the ancient, ran her tub full of water and then lay down to soak and hoped she’d relax.
Like a child, she batted at the bubbles floating on top of the water. Then she sang, as she always did, off-key. Finally, when she was hoarse, she soaped a leg and lifted her razor.
An hour later, the water was cold, her bubbles were gone, and she was still without a single solution to her life’s riddles.
Suddenly, a loud banging at her front door shook her out of her reverie. Terrified, she leaped out of the bathtub. When the banging persisted, she sat back down and turned on the hot water full blast.
“Stubborn idiot!” she whispered. “Go away!”
The knocking stopped, and she sighed in relief until her cell phone began to ring.
She sat up again.
So much for peace and relaxation.
Her cell phone stopped and then her home phone burst to life.
What was going on?
Her family! She was filled with panic at the thought of a car crash or a heart attack. Then she imagined Joe, backing out of the driveway in his van and running over Gina, who was never where she was supposed to be. Regina shot out of the tub and toweled herself dry.
She put on her thick, terry-cloth robe and ran into the kitchen to find her phone.
“Answer your damned door,” Nico yelled.
Oh, my God!
She’d left her garage door open, so, of course, he’d seen her car. He’d probably heard her run into the kitchen, too.
Heart racing, she tiptoed to the front door and cracked her shade, gasping when she saw a white stretch limousine gleaming in her driveway.
Although Nico wore a charcoal suit and tie that probably cost a small fortune, he looked as fierce and frightening as a warrior prince from another age on a rampage.
Frantic, she let go of her shade. When it crashed noisily against the window, she screamed.
When big brown knuckles rapped on the windowpane so vigorously she was afraid the glass would shatter, she jumped away. Then, gathering her courage, she clutched her robe tighter and yanked her shade back up again.
Nico crossed his muscular arms, leaned against the door frame and glared at her through the glass. His huge body in that perfectly cut suit was so tense she knew he was barely restraining himself. His blue eyes burned like lasers. A wild thread of fear knotted itself around her heart and pulled tight.
She was naked underneath her robe, but if she took the time to dress, she knew it would try his patience to the extreme, so she unlocked the door.
He blew past her into the foyer, slamming the door so hard the whole house shook.
She’d hung the painting of the little boy playing in the sand in her foyer. When he saw it, he stopped cold and stared at it for long seconds, his frown deepening.
Then, as if it offended him, he turned his back on the painting.
“Why did you call me and then not call me back?” With each word, a blue vein pulsed savagely in his temple.
She let out a strangled cry and sagged against the wall. “I was—”
“Trying to drive me crazy? Because if that was your intent, you damn sure succeeded!”
With her face scrubbed clean of makeup and her hair in wet tangles, she imagined he compared her to the beautiful Viola and found her pathetic.
He strode past her into the kitchen, where he opened and closed drawers, sifting through their contents.
“What are you doing?” she cried. “What are you looking for?”
“Who the hell are you?”
Next he began gazing at all the photographs on her refrigerator. She wanted to scream that he had no right to go through her things, but she watched him, mute, afraid.
Mostly the photographs were of Gina and David and Dino; of Susana and the rest of her family. She’d pinned up a few she’d taken of various sights in Italy.
He lifted them one by one, reading the back of the pictures, as well. It was her habit to methodically jot the names of the people, the location and the time.
“I see there are no pictures of me,” he said. “Did you delete them?”
No. No. No. They were on her computer, and she looked at them every night.
When his hand touched E-321’s profile, she ran over to the refrigerator to distract him.
He turned, his intense blue eyes cool and calculating now. “Why did you call me and then not call me back? What are you up to? What do you want?”
She couldn’t tear her gaze from his dark hand, which rested on E-321’s profile.
When he wouldn’t stop staring at her, either, her skin grew hot and clammy. Suddenly bile crawled up her throat and her mouth went dry.
Oh, no! No. No!
Cupping her lips, she rushed to the sink and was sick.