Her father didn’t care about any of Regina’s accomplishments. All he could talk about was Susana and the grandchildren. Not that Regina wasn’t smitten by the children herself. Not that she didn’t hate herself sometimes for feeling the way she did.
The green monster, especially when it involved a sister, had to be one of the most hatefully twisted feelings ever.
“Put Gina on,” Regina whispered, biting her lips.
Gina’s racking sobs got so loud Regina had to hold the phone away from her ear.
The poor, poor darling.
“Gina. It’s Aunt Reggie. Listen to me, sweetheart. Papaw loves you. He was just teasing.”
“I hate the baby brothers!”
Regina remembered all the times she’d felt as though she’d hated Susana just for being cute and petite and blond and adored, when Regina had been beanpole skinny in middle school. Not to mention flat-chested and too tall for all the boys.
“No, you’re a good big sister. You love your little brothers. Dino and David need a good big sister. Papaw is being a bad Papaw! He does that sometimes. Everybody has a weak moment once in a while.”
“You’re beautiful and adorable! Everybody loves you, darling. Especially me.”
“And Pawpa,” Regina said, even though she’d always secretly believed that once Susana had been born, he hadn’t really needed his oldest daughter anymore.
“I love you, Aunt Reggie! Chocolate cake! Bye!”
“They’re about to cut the cake,” Susana said. “She’s just like you when it comes to chocolate. Just like you in so many ways.”
“You know I’m her biggest fan.”
“I’m just glad I caught you.”
“Me, too. Kiss all your darling children for me. I’ve missed them so much. I’ve bought two suitcases full of clothes and toys for them.”
“Joe says hi.”
Joe. Regina chewed on her bottom lip. What if Joe had married her? And she’d had children?
Susana hung up.
Her eyes misting, Regina couldn’t stop thinking about her father and the hole he’d carved in her heart.
Now that I’ve got a new, cute daughter, I don’t need you anymore.
For a long time, she stared at the dark gulf and the huge white yacht in the harbor.
Before Susana, her father had adored her. Regina had worked hard in an attempt to regain her number-one position in paradise. Always, always, she’d had to be a high-achiever, hoping against hope. But it hadn’t worked.
Susana had been charming and flaky, intuitive as she put it, and so adorable that nobody minded her bad grades or lateness. They hadn’t cared when she’d dropped out of college to marry JoeHunt. Or even noticed that she’d stolen Joe from Regina, and Regina had been brokenhearted.
He’d been gifted, too. Law Review. Killer work ethic. He’d been her beloved boyfriend, but the moment he’d set eyes on Susana, the numerous things he’d had in common with Regina hadn’t mattered anymore.
Too bad for Regina that Joe had been the only man she’d ever really loved.
Everybody in the family thought she was over him.
And she’d told herself constantly that she was. Just as she’d told herself that all her orgasms with Bobby had been real, too.
She didn’t want to think about the fact that Nico was tall and dark and looked a little like Joe.
“Did you call Viola?”
Nico frowned. His mother, Principessa Donna Gloriana Lucia Romano—to mention only a few of her illustrious names and only one of her numerous titles—whose close friends called her Glory, was speaking Italian to him over his cell phone and quite rapidly, of course. Not that she liked Italian.
She’d been educated in Paris because her mother, Nico’s grandmother, with whom Princess Gloriana was bitterly estranged, had had a French mother and had preferred all things French.
Both Nico’s grandmother and mother loved the French language more than any other, but he preferred Italian or English, so his mother was humoring him. Because, as always, unlike Grand-mère, who wanted only his happiness, his ambitious mother wanted something from him.
“Not yet,” he said.
“Nico, tesorino, why do you keep putting this off?”
“Maybe it’s my gypsy blood.”
She ignored his comment. She never liked being reminded that their original ancestor had been a gypsy king.
“You did promise to call the Principessa Donna Viola Eugenia di Frezano today when we lunched,” she said. “You did say that you’d court her and that you’d ask for her hand in marriage as soon as possible.”
“I did. And I will. You have instructed me as to my duty for my entire life. Have I ever failed in my duty?”