“The ceremony was small and private. We simply couldn’t invite everybody,” she’d whispered, wondering why she had to do this on her wedding day.
“And quite sudden, I understand.” He’d leaned closer, scribbling furiously.
“I—I…Yes. I suppose it seemed sudden.”
“Why the hurry?” When his eyes bored into her, Regina’s stomach had rolled.
“I—I don’t feel—” She’d arisen and run. Now, she was terrified that she’d given away her secret pregnancy.
Her wedding ring and the red wallpaper blurred. Feeling dreadful about her first failure with a journalist, she walked to her balcony and watched the swans on their placid pool.
Well, at least the ceremony was over.
For Regina, the hasty preparations, the wedding, her family’s joyous arrival, which had infected the palazzo with gaiety, had all passed as if in a dream.
Only yesterday, Princess Viola’s staff had announced that there was nothing to the rumors of marriage regarding herself and Prince Nico Romano, that they had always been and would continue to be just “good friends.” When Nico had been asked to comment, he’d been unavailable.
Nico’s “good friend” had not attended the marriage of Prince Nico Romano to Signorina Regina Carina Tomei, which had taken place in the magnificent Salon d’Or in the midst of a sea of lilies, roses and orchids.
To Regina, the civil ceremony had felt cold and rushed. Nico’s mother hadn’t smiled during the ceremony nor during the celebratory reception afterward for one hundred people.
Nico’s mood had been equally severe during both events. He’d said all the right words, slipped the ring on her finger, but his lips had felt stiff and cool after doing so.
Only little Gina, and Regina’s father and Nico’s grandmother, who’d enjoyed causing a stir by upsetting her daughter, had acted happy. Seconds before the wedding, the old lady had arrived unannounced in green veils and wearing so much gold she’d looked like a Gypsy.
Regina’s father had been flushed with pride as he’d led her down the grand staircase. He hadn’t been the least bit intimidated by the palazzo or by Nico’s mother or even by his older sister, Principessa Carolina, who’d flown in from Madrid, demanding to know why she hadn’t been told about the wedding sooner.
Maybe it was the morning sickness blurring her senses, but the whole, horrible affair didn’t seem real to Regina now.
I’ll wake up, she thought, back in Texas…where I belong.
She heard a sound and turned. Gloriana, in the same smartly tailored white suit she’d worn to the wedding, stood there.
Wasn’t there some rule that a mother-in-law’s outfit should not compete with the bride’s?
Her blue eyes were huge and luminous and filled with profound grief. She couldn’t have looked sadder if she’d buried Nico.
“People are asking where you are. You’re upsetting Nico.” As always, her voice was pleasant and well modulated.
“How long will it take me to learn that appearances are everything?”
“I should think you would want to be at the reception in your moment of triumph.”
“You would think that.”
“You caught him when he was weak, grief stricken.”
So that was what she thought.
“He is not in love with you. When he comes to his senses, he’ll hate you. This marriage is a huge step down for him. You’re not even from a princely family, much less a royal one, as he is. You are not even rich. Who are you? An attorney, who was fired for incompetency? How many languages do you speak?”
“I love him.”
“I hope, for his sake, that you do.”
“We both love him. At least we have that in common.”
“No, I love him. Someday, soon, you’ll know how deep a mother’s love is. I want what’s best for him.” She drew a deep breath. “All I ask is that you at least pretend you love him. Don’t hurt him any more than you already have.”
“You must teach me how to pretend.”
Where this conversation would have gone would always be a mystery because Nico appeared. His mother whirled, her lovely face instantly serene.
“I will leave you to enjoy your bride,” she said in a sweet, false tone.
“No time for that—yet. I was looking for both of you. More pictures need to be taken.”
“So many pictures? I feel a little like a movie star,” Regina said, wishing only to be alone with him.
“These are for the newspapers and television. They won’t take long.”
After more photographs, Regina stood beside Nico on a balcony and watched a fireworks display in their honor while flashbulbs flickered constantly beneath them.