“How did you know? We didn’t tell anybody yet.” Not that I didn’t want to but it was Dante’s decision if he wanted to make it public.
“You didn’t drink any wine during dinner and you kept touching your stomach.”
I flushed. “I wasn’t aware it was that obvious.”
“Probably not to a man. You aren’t showing yet.”
“Please don’t tell your parents about it. I don’t think Dante wants people to know.”
Ines shifted her daughter because she was too fussy to latch on properly. “Why not?” It strange to think that this would be me in less than a year.
“Are you two having problems? Isn’t he happy that you’re pregnant?”
“I think he needs time to get used to the idea.”
“He did something stupid, didn’t he? He’s my brother. I know he can be stubborn.”
“Stubborn doesn’t even begin to describe it. Has he ever apologized to you when he did something wrong?”
Ines laughed. “No. Sometimes I think he can’t speak the actual words. Most of the time he tries to ignore the problem until I give up and don’t expect an apology from him anymore.”
That sounded familiar.
“The anniversary of Carla’s death is in one week.”
“Oh,” I said, freezing. I’d completely forgotten about that.
“I just thought you should know. Dante is always in a particularly bad mood on that day. Maybe you should try to avoid him.”
That wouldn’t be a problem.
My morning sickness had finally stopped and physically I felt perfect. When I left the guest bedroom on June 1st, the day of Carla’s death, I expected Dante to be either out of the house or hidden away in his office. I jerked to a halt when I found the door to the room where he kept Carla’s old things ajar. I could hear rummaging. Was he in there looking at old photos of them together? I remembered what Ines had said. That I should leave Dante alone, but it had been more than five weeks since I’d moved out of our bedroom. I missed our moments of intimacy. Yet pride rooted me to the spot. The door opened and Dante stood in the doorway, carrying a moving box.
I smiled apologetically. “Sorry. I didn’t meant to…” I trailed off, not sure what to say to him.
My eyes darted to the moving box. “What are you doing?”
“I’m moving these boxes out of the house.”
“All of them?”
He nodded. “Enzo and Taft are going to dismantle the furniture later and throw it away.”
I swallowed. “Why?”
“We can put the room to better use. It would make a good nursery.”
A lump rose into my throat. “That’s true. But we don’t have furniture for a nursery yet.”
Dante cleared his throat. “You could go shopping in the next few weeks.”
“I could come with you.”
I nodded. “If that’s what you want.”
He didn’t say anything. Why couldn’t he make this easier on the both of us? Did he think I’d fall on my knees from relief? He hadn’t even apologized. This was the first time he acknowledged that we were going to be parents, and only indirectly. He hadn’t even admitted that he was the father of my child.
“Do you need my help carrying boxes?” I nodded toward the boxes piled behind him in the room.
“No. You shouldn’t carry anything heavy.”
“I’m not that far along.” Again silence and an expression I couldn’t read. I turned around, ready to go downstairs and have breakfast. “I want you to move back into our bedroom, Val.”
I stopped. It was a request worded like an order. He hadn’t apologized. Despite all that, I heard myself saying, “Okay.”
That evening I returned to our bedroom and when Dante’s hands started rubbing my back and butt, and he whispered ‘I want you’, I nodded and relaxed under his touch.
A few days later, after I’d left Bibi’s house, I let Enzo drive me to the pharmacy for something against my nausea that had flared up again in the last couple of days. As usual Enzo stayed in the car to give me privacy. Bibi had also asked me for a pregnancy test because she suspected she was pregnant but she didn’t want Tommaso to find out; he’d only get furious when her suspicions didn’t prove right. That man didn’t deserve her. I strolled toward the aisle with the pregnancy tests.
“Val,” someone whispered. I turned slowly, knowing that voice from somewhere.
Shock rooted me to the floor as I stared into the face of my first husband. His hair was shoulder-length, and much lighter than it used to be. He was wearing glasses that he couldn’t possibly need and had gained some weight. He was almost unrecognizable, especially with the way he dressed. Like a college student who’d rolled out of bed without much thought for what he was going to wear. It was a good masquerade.
“Antonio?” I asked shakily, starting to feel faint. I couldn’t believe he was actually in front of me, alive and in one piece. How was that even possible? They’d found his body; a badly burned body without a head. “Shhh,” he said quickly. “Not so loud.”
Antonio approached me and pulled me into a tight hug. At first I was board stiff, but then I sank into the embrace. “We need to hurry. I saw your bodyguard outside in the car. I don’t want him to get suspicious and come in.”
Tears burned in my eyes. I drew back, my eyes tracing the familiar lines of his face. “You are alive.”
He smiled. It was slightly off. “I am.”
“Does Frank know?”
“Yes, that’s why he wanted to meet with you. I sent him.”
“Why didn’t he tell me?”
“Because I wanted him to figure out your loyalties first.”
My loyalties? Had Antonio worried that I would tell Dante about him? I frowned. “Okay…why did someone try to kill me when I met with him?”
Antonio laughed. “I didn’t try to kill you. I aimed a couple of feet above your head. I had to help Frank. Dante would have killed him if I hadn’t done something.”
I still didn’t like that he’d aimed anywhere near me. The bullets had hit the wall less than two feet above my head. “So you were there the entire time and didn’t tell me?”