Rival Attractions & Innocent Secretary(104)

By: Penny Jordan

‘There is a good counsellor in Palermo, one I highly recommend to deal with these things.’

‘No!’ He shouted it.

‘Luca, you cannot escape your genes.’ It was like hearing the guillotine fall, the truth was so appalling, and the horrible inevitability had Luca wanting to vomit. But instead he drowned the acrid taste in his mouth with whisky and willed the fear to abate as the doctor delivered his diagnosis that no matter the strength of Luca’s feelings, his unenviable gene pool would claim, not just him but Emma and the baby he was sure she carried.

* * *

‘No!’ It was Emma’s sobs that filled the house—and Luca had to restrain her flailing arms from making contact with his chest as he broke her heart again. ‘You said you loved me.’

‘Emma.’ His voice was detached, matter-of-fact even, as she raged at what he was doing, at what he was saying. ‘I was upset this morning, emotional…’

‘You!’ Emma sobbed. ‘Emotional? You’re a cold-hearted bastard. You looked me in the eyes and said you loved me, and you did love me, I could see it.’ She wanted to lash out again if he would just let go of her arms.

‘People say that…’ Luca’s was the voice of cool reason. ‘Men say that, you know that. Men say these things to—’

‘Get what they want?’ Emma finished for him. ‘You already had what you wanted, Luca. You were already screwing me when you said it!’

‘Don’t talk like a tart.’

‘Well, that’s what you made me, that’s what you did to me!’ And then, because he was holding her arms, because she couldn’t hit him again, she swore at him instead.

And then she swore again, using the most vile epithets she could think of.

He didn’t even flinch.

* * *

She didn’t tell him about the baby, didn’t play her last card.

And for that Luca had grudging admiration.

She didn’t cash in the cheque he sent her, which made Luca worry.

In the weeks and months that followed, every day he waited, for her letter, or her lawyer’s letter, or a phone call—admiring her that it never came, eroding him that it didn’t.

Back in his village for another tour of duty, for the three-month mass to mark his father’s passing, it killed him to be back in the same room, only this time without her.

He lay in bed that morning, not wanting to get up, not wanting to shower, to walk into the bathroom, where he had told her his ultimate truth.

He had hurt her.

Not in the way that he had feared, but he had hurt her all the same.

He had never—except in this—doubted himself.

And he was angry now.

Angry for doubting himself, because after weeks of soul searching he knew—Luca knew—he would never hurt her. His grief on the night of his father’s funeral and in the days that had followed had been real—except it had all been because of losing Emma.

Since she’d left, in the depths of his grief, this proud man had visited a counsellor—although not the Italian one Leo had suggested. Instead, he had sat in a bland beige office in the middle of London and had opened his closed heart to a stranger, explored his closed mind in a way he had never dared to do before, and he knew now.

Knew, despite his heritage, despite what Leo had said, despite the facts and figures, despite the anger of his youth and the unenviable history of the D’Amato men, he knew that his anger would never, could never be aimed at her.

For the very first time he trusted himself, except now it was maybe too late.

‘Luca?’ His mother knocked and then came into the bedroom, placed coffee on the bedside table and handed him the tray then headed to the window, opening the shutters and letting the sun stream in.

‘You did not have to do that!’ Luca protested. ‘I should be looking after you.’

‘You should be looking after Emma,’ his mother pointed out.

She was dressed in black. This was a dark day, but there was a lightness to her—the absence of fear, Luca realised. Oh, she would respectfully mourn her husband, but her duty was done now, there would be no feigned tears—life could be peaceful now.

For her.

‘I thought I was looking after her,’ Luca said, ‘by keeping her away. I thought I was doing the right thing by her.’

‘How?’ Mia begged. ‘I thought you were happy with Martha, but with Emma I just knew… How could you think you were helping her by ending it? Emma loves you.’

‘I did not want to be like him.’

‘I know I said hurtful things to you, out of fear, out of pain, out of guilt, and for that I am truly sorry. But you are nothing like him,’ his mother said fiercely.