Pregnant With The De Rossi Heir(10)

By: Maggie Cox

Truth to tell, it hadn’t been the lack of all those things that had left Kate so vulnerable. No. It had been the lack of demonstrable affection from her only parent that had got to her the most. Worn out with working too hard and worrying how to make ends meet, Liz Richardson had grown a hard shell around her heart that had kept her daughter from getting anywhere near her emotionally. But coupled with a legacy of childhood bullying and the sense of low self-esteem that she had perhaps naturally inherited from such an upbringing, Kate had found her own heart becoming guarded and wary. Even when men had told her they found her attractive, there had always been a part of her that never quite believed them, secretly waiting to hear the truth. That she was none of those desirable things they said she was, that she was still the poor girl with the scruffy hair who was at the posh grammar school on sufferance—not because she was actually bright and deserved to be there.

When, one glorious Sunday morning during a walk in Hyde Park, Hayden had surprised Kate with an engagement ring she had honestly been stunned. He loved her, he had said, and had hardly been able to think about anything else other than getting her to marry him. She’d promised him she’d think about it—saying that it was perhaps too soon to agree to such a commitment when they had only known each other a few short months at the most. But Hayden had worn her down with his persistence and, finally convincing herself that he must indeed love her—even though her own feelings had still been less than clear—Kate had foolishly agreed to the engagement. In her own defence she’d still been in the early stages of bereavement, and she saw now that she had probably unconsciously been craving the love and attention she’d so long been denied. Maybe that was why Hayden’s proposal and declaration of love had been so appealing?

The night they’d got engaged Kate had surrendered her virginity to her husband-to-be, and had even started to feel excited at the prospect of getting married and setting up a home together. But just one week later all her dreams of a happy future—of a devoted husband and longed-for children—had come crashing down around her ears with an ear-splitting crack.

The day it had happened Hayden had told Kate that he was flying out to Amsterdam on business, and that when he returned in the evening he would pick her up and take her to dinner at one of his favourite West End restaurants. But during the morning at work Kate had developed painful period cramps that had become progressively worse as time went on. By lunchtime she had felt quite ill with the pain, and her boss had told her to take the afternoon off and go home and rest. Hayden had had a house in an exclusive mews in Chelsea, and it was much closer to work than Kate’s flat in north London. He had given her his spare key to hold on to, in case he ever got locked out, or if she got off work earlier than he did and needed to meet him there. As soon as she let herself into the low-ceilinged, stylish hallway, Kate’s senses had immediately alerted her to the fact that the house was occupied.

Her heart pounding, in case the occupant turned out to be a burglar—Hayden hadn’t rung her to say his meeting was cancelled—Kate had just been nervously and perhaps rashly negotiating the stairs that led to the bedrooms when she’d heard the unmistakable sound of female laughter. Holding tightly on to the stair-rail, her mouth as dry as wood-shavings, she had made herself go up to the main bedroom door and open it wide. There she had found her fiancé and a voluptuous redhead at least ten years older than herself in bed together.

Kate remembered standing there dazedly telling herself that what she saw could only be some bizarre figment of her imagination because she wasn’t feeling well. As hard, cold reality had kicked in, like ice water being poured down her neck, she remembered she’d started to tremble from head to foot—partly in shock and partly in fury. But a worse shock was to follow, when Hayden had given her a disparaging glance, wiped his hand across his mouth and then laughed. It was the coldest, most haunting laughter Kate had ever heard.

‘You stupid little bitch!’ he’d declared. ‘What the hell made you turn up here in the middle of the day?’

That was when Kate had discovered the man she had planned to marry was not the happy-go-lucky work-driven individual with a secret sensitive side that she’d believed him to be. That was when she had discovered Hayden Michaels was a liar and a cheat, with a lover he’d had for over two years who he had no intention of giving up. In fact he’d been furious that Kate had gone and ruined it all by turning up when she had.

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