That made her laugh. “I did tell you. I told you I didn’t have room in my life for—”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were sick?” he roared.
“Why? So I could see you look at me exactly the way you’re doing? With pity for the poor sick woman who’s probably going to die soon? Are you serious?”
“Don’t say that,” he cried.
“Why not? It’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it?”
He backed up a step. “Don’t ever say that again.”
She shrugged, suddenly too exhausted to speak.
It didn’t matter.
Another backward step took him farther away from her, as though he needed to get out of her radius of contagion.
“I’m going to need some time with this,” he told her.
Wow. Could she predict the future with eerie accuracy or what?
“Of course you are,” she said bitterly, turning her back on him and resuming the search for her sketches.
Tony’s only warning that an invasion was imminent was the jangle of keys in the lock of the penthouse’s front door. And then the door swung open.
It was his sister, Arianna.
A visit from her was the last thing he needed at the end of this hellish week, when he’d retreated to the city to work at the auction house and get his mind wrapped around Talia’s illness.
“Tony!” Opening her arms to him, she smiled with such extreme delight that the guilt threatened to suffocate him. “Oh, my God! It’s so good to see you!”
“Hey.” Working fast, he rearranged his features into something approximating a smile and caught her just as she flung herself at him and wrapped him up so tight he had to wonder if she’d grown an extra arm or two. “What, ah—what’re you doing here?”
Letting go of his torso long enough for him to gasp in a breath, she planted her palms on either side of his face and smothered him with kisses.
“You knew we were coming!”
“Was that today?”
Arianna pulled back, eyes aglow with happy tears. Motherhood really did agree with her. She was still pleasantly plump from her pregnancy but, if anything, it increased her beauty. There was a peaceful serenity about her that was so powerful it almost kept her feet from touching the floor.
“Yes, it was today.” She squinted, giving him a critical once-over. “You don’t look happy. What gives?”
Tony floundered around for an excuse. He was happy enough to see her, he supposed, but it would be better if she’d ease up, just a little. She had a real mother-hen thing going, and he could do without the incessant coddling just now.
He’d seen her back in Cincinnati already, right after the baby was born, and she’d tested the limits of his sanity with all the hovering and worrying. It was a blessing to be back from the “dead,” of course, and a double blessing to be back with a sister who loved him so much, but—
“I just need a little space.” He kept it gentle and to the point, hoping she’d understand. “I’m trying to get my bearings, and I don’t need you fussing around me all the time, so I—”
“That’s why we won’t be here long,” she sang, in what she evidently believed was a reassuring tone. “Just a couple weeks or so.”
“Great,” he muttered.
Arianna completely missed his lack of enthusiasm. She was patting his face again, smoothing her thumbs over the hollowed spaces under his eyes. “You’re still too thin. I need to work on fattening you up a little. If I don’t, who will?”
Irritated, he shrugged away from her clutching hands. He’d been eating just fine, and when you’d spent time as a POW, you were allowed to look haunted and gaunt for a while.
“I don’t need—” he began.
“Excuse me,” said a sarcastic male voice from the hallway, “but can you siblings suspend the bickering long enough for me to come into the house?”
Startled, they stepped back to allow Arianna’s husband, Joshua Bishop, over the threshold. He gave Tony a grim nod as he passed.
Yeah. Tony didn’t much like him, either.
For one thing, Joshua had served time in prison. He’d been freed through one of those innocence programs, true, but prison was prison, and God only knew what kinds of things he’d learned from the real felons in the joint.