Page 48 of Sinful Temptation

He hesitated, trying to form the words around his twisting mouth. The words didn’t want to come out. “She’s…got cancer.”

It was hard to say whose eyes opened wider, Arianna’s or Joshua’s. For the first time, Tony had a taste of what it must be like for Talia every time she told someone she’d been sick.

“Cancer?” Arianna echoed faintly.

“Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Tony clarified.

They sat in silence, letting the words sink in.

“Oh, Tony,” Arianna said. Her eyes filled with tears, and they fell down her pretty cheeks, making the conversation a million times worse.

“For God’s sake, Arianna.” Resting his elbows on his knees, Tony hung his head and tried to keep it together. “You’re killing me here.”

“I know,” Arianna said. “I’m trying to stop. See? I’m stopping. Right now.”

With a silent eye roll in his direction, Joshua plucked a tissue from the side table, passed it to Arianna and rubbed her shoulders. “It’s okay, baby,” he said in a soothing voice. “But you need to pull it together. Tony needs us to be strong right now.”

Tony felt his brows inch higher with surprise. If anything, he’d expected Joshua to punch him in the mouth for speaking that way to Arianna, but apparently the brother could be an ally when he wanted. Good deal.

“You’re right. You’re right. I’m going to stop crying.” Ducking her head, Arianna sobbed harder, pressing the tissue to her mouth.

Joshua chose his words carefully. “Arianna’s had a…rough time with her…emotions, since the baby was born,” he explained.

Arianna’s head came up. “Why are you trying to sugarcoat it?” she snapped. “I have a little postpartum depression. It’s perfectly normal. A little moodiness. The occasional mood swing—”

Joshua’s brows rose toward his hairline, but he said nothing.

“—And a little moodiness. Big deal. But why do we have to tiptoe around it? I’m doing better, aren’t I?”

This time, Tony thought he caught a glimmer of a smile in Joshua’s glance at him.

“Yep. You’re doing much better, baby. The medication is really working for you. I can tell a huge difference.”

This seemed to perk Arianna up. With a final sniffle, she blew her nose, pocketed the tissue and turned back to Tony. “So what are you going to do?” she demanded crisply.

“Do?” Tony asked stupidly.

“Yes, do, you big oaf,” Arianna snapped. “What. Are. You. Going. To. Do?”

Joshua’s hand ran over Arianna’s shoulders again, taking some of the fire out of her eyes. “If I know anything about your brother, baby,” he said carefully, his steady gaze resting on Tony, “he believes there’s nothing more important than being with the person you love and supporting them. No matter what. Isn’t that right, Tony?”

Joshua and Arianna stared at him, waiting.

Was that what they thought?

“Of course I’m going to be with Talia,” he told them. “I’m just praying I have the strength to do what she needs when she needs me.”

Talia decided early that Friday evening, as she flopped onto her bed and wallowed in the familiar downy softness of her Navajo-patterned comforter and mountain of pillows, that it was great to be back in her own apartment, even if it was only for a weekend break from all the hard work she’d been doing on the mural.

Not that she’d been out in the Hamptons for that long, or that they’d mistreated her. If anything, her time at Tony’s house had been like a luxury retreat from reality, with five-star accommodations, all the gourmet food Mickey could cook up for her, and that spectacular oceanfront setting, which made her seriously wonder how she’d survived so long in her landlocked little two-bedroom apartment.

It was just that she needed the soothing comfort of home right now, with the pale gray walls that she’d painted herself, her sandalwood-scented candles burning on the dresser, Chesley lounging in the corner chair with her paws draped over the arm, and Gloria.

Every now and then, she really needed her sister.

Even if Gloria did tend to get on most—if not all—of Talia’s nerves.