“Maria was at Eula’s school yesterday…wasn’t she?”
Ah. He had wondered when she would find out and if she would bring it up with him. “Yes,” he said after a beat. “She was.” When she didn’t say anything else, he said finally, “I didn’t consider it important.”
Vivian didn’t know what to say. His ex-wife from Italy had suddenly shown up out of the blue, and he didn’t think it was important?
Unable to help it, she heard herself ask, “Did you guys have fun with Maria?”
“If you’re asking what I think you’re asking,” Luca drawled from behind her, “then I might strangle you.”
“I d-don’t know what you mean.” She made her tone sound brisk, adding, “And honestly, I think it’s great.”
“Maria showing up is great?” Disbelief colored her husband’s tone.
“Yup. It’s also great timing, especially since I’ll be busier with school.” Every word was a lie, but she just couldn’t stop herself, and when she felt Luca go still at her words, her heart thumped painfully hard.
“Exactly how busy?” Luca asked finally.
“I won’t be able to go to Italy with you tomorrow.” She held her breath as soon as the words slipped past her lips, knowing that Luca had every right to be angry. The trip to Tuscany had been planned ages ago, as soon as they had learned of Eula’s special one-week holiday from school.
When Luca remained silent, she started to babble. “The a-amount of homework they give to college students these days is insane, and I just didn’t expect it to be so hard.”
“I don’t want to bail on you, but since you’re all so happy getting along with Maria—-” She paused, hoping Luca would deny this.
But he didn’t.
“I think your trip to Italy should be a good way for you guys to bond more,” she finished tremulously.
They gazed into each other, and Vivian bit her lip, wishing she had the courage to tell him things like she was jealous, she was insecure, she didn’t want him and Eula to be too happy with Maria—-
Vivian chewed hard on her bottom lip. Stop it, Vivian. Luca didn’t deserve to have his wife act so paranoid.
Luca suddenly lifted himself on his elbow to switch the bedside lamps on, and Vivian shielded her gaze, squinting at the sudden brightness.
When she lowered her hands, she found Luca gazing at her thoughtfully.
“Are you certain you’re not coming with us tomorrow, cara?”
She forced herself to nod, praying that he would try to change her mind.
But instead, her husband only murmured, “It’s regretful that you will not be able to join Eula and me in Italy.”
Vivian paled. Did that mean—-
“We will miss you, but I’ll make sure she understands it can’t be helped.”
—-he wasn’t going to insist she change her mind?
Fudge. Fudge, oh, fudge.
Why had she let pride get the better of her?
“I can reschedule,” she stammered. “I mean, it’s just the start of the semester so I can afford to—-”
Luca stopped her words with a sweet, brief kiss on the lips. “There is no need for you to miss any of your classes,” he soothed.
“Eula and I will never stand in the way of your studies.”
“O-oh?” She tried not to sound miserable. “How, umm, nice of you.” And how dreadfully stupid of her, to even start this game that she didn’t know how to play.
“I aim to please, mia moglie.”
Fudge, fudge, fudge!
He pulled her into his arms, murmuring, “Let’s go to sleep, mm? Eula and I have an early flight.”
And just like that, she found herself fighting back tears the next morning as she waved Eula and Luca off. A part of her wanted to wail out, Take me with you. But pride kept her mouth shut, just as pride was also the reason she only allowed herself to burst into tears when she reached the privacy of their room.
Why couldn’t he have just begged her to go with him?
It was a question she didn’t even hope to have an answer to, but the answer practically came knocking on her inbox’s door, with another Google alert email reaching her. And again, all the articles pointed to one source.
A new photo had been uploaded to Maria’s Instagram account, and this time it showed Luca’s ex-wife…in Tuscany.
Vivian’s phone slipped from her hold.
Was this why Luca hadn’t tried hard, she wondered sickly.
Had he known Maria was coming and he preferred his ex-wife’s company to hers?
It was almost midnight by the time Luca finally had Eula settled in her bed, following an enjoyable but tiring reunion with her grandparents. Stepping out to the balcony, the familiar scent of Tuscan air greeted him, and the billionaire allowed himself a moment to enjoy the picturesque beauty of his family’s land. With their chateau seated atop a small hill, every room in the house enjoyed the most spectacular views of the winery, and beyond it, the azure waters of Mar Tirreno.