The night of Luca’s return from Italy was the last night her husband had spent in her bed. Since then, he had moved to one of the guest bedrooms, and every night she would cry her to sleep, wishing she was brave and selfish enough to beg him to come back.
A week, she thought restlessly as she forced herself to take a small bite of her omelet. It had been a week since they had started sleeping apart, and she already felt like she had been damned to eternal condemnation. How worse would it be when Luca decided to kick her out of the house because he wanted to get back to Maria?
In front of her, Luca was helping the little girl back to her seat. “Are you excited about later, principesa?” As he spoke, he pulled the chair next to Eula and took a seat as well, and Vivian tried not to look stricken.
His usual seat was at the head of the table, placing him between Eula and Vivian.
So not only did he not want to share a bed with her now, Vivian thought shakily, but now he couldn’t bear being too close to her either?
Was this how their marriage going to be from here on?
“If you receive an A on your manners,” Luca was saying, “I’ll give you a reward, remember?”
A dark frown crossed Eula’s face. “It’s hard to be a good girl.”
Luca laughed, and Vivian’s chest squeezed painfully at the sound. What would happen if today were the last time she’d hear that laugh again?
Her husband suddenly turned to her, catching Vivian staring at him.
“Is there a problem, cara?” Luca asked pleasantly.
Her mouth opened and closed, but she couldn’t think of anything to say except the one thing she was forbidden to ask. Do you still love me?
“You haven’t forgotten, have you, Vivi?” Eula looked suddenly fearful, and although Vivian was thankful to have a distraction, she was concerned about the expression on the little girl’s face.
“Are you talking about the PTC this afternoon?” she asked gently.
Eula nodded. “You will come, won’t you?”
“Of course I will—-”
Eula interrupted her, adding, “Mummy said she’ll be coming, too.”
“Oh.” Vivian forced herself to smile. “Will she?”
“She called Eula yesterday at school.” Luca’s voice remained pleasant and frustratingly unreadable. “As I didn’t see any problem with this, I hadn’t voiced any objections.” He paused. “Unless you have a problem with it?”
In the corner of her eye, she watched Eula suddenly hold her breath.
Vivian swallowed hard. I mustn’t get in the way of Eula and Maria. They were mother and child, tied to each other by blood. Looking at the little girl, she said gently, “I will do my very best to be there.”
Eula paled. “You mean…you’re not sure?”
“I might be busy—-”
“I’d love to know with what, cara. Mario’s informed me that you’ve already filed a leave of absence with the university.”
Vivian’s eyes widened at the realization that her husband already knew she had stopped attending her classes. “Have you been keeping tabs on me through my bodyguards?”
“I don’t have to.” Luca’s tone was casual. “A glance at gossip websites is all I need to know what you’re up to.”
At his words, Vivian realized she had another reason not to attend Eula’s PTC, and she lowered her fork back to the table, having lost her appetite completely. The university had handed out suspensions to most of the students caught at the party, and in retaliation those same students had been granting interviews to everyone who cared to ask.
They all said the same thing, too, painting themselves as victims of a miserable billionaire’s wife who was jealous of their youth and beauty. It was the most ludicrous argument, but the media had shockingly lapped it all up and Vivian was now the millennial generation’s favorite practice target for online bashing.
When Eula left the table to go back upstairs to her room, Vivian cleared her throat, saying, “About the PTC—-”
“Shall I say it for you?” Luca’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. “You don’t intend to come at all.”
“I only want what’s best for Eula,” she defended herself. “You read the news, too. You’ve seen how much they hate me. What if they show up—-”
“Then they’ll be arrested for causing a disturbance in public,” Luca said flatly. “It’s not your fault they went against the law, cara.”
“I know that.” And she did, but neither did it prevent her from feeling just a little guilty. “If I weren’t there, no one would have a need to call the police and no one would have to find out—-”
“It was still their choice to take the risk of getting caught,” Luca said curtly. “If they cared so much about not having their academic records blemished before graduating then they should have thought about it before getting drunk and high—-”
She cut him off, mumbling, “And what about those who believe in Donald’s side of the story?” She looked away, not wanting to see his expression as she forced herself to speak out. “They think I came on to him because I was drunk and b-bored and that I wanted someone—-”