Rival Attractions & Innocent Secretary(106)

By: Penny Jordan

‘Have you talked to him about it?’ Luca asked.

‘I spoke with him a few months ago, yet we could not properly talk. He was treating Rico, his friend, but we knew we would talk one day soon.’

‘And have you?’

‘Soon,’ Mia said. ‘Still I have to break his heart by telling him all I have suffered, how you, his son, have suffered over the years.’

‘How do you know it will break his heart?’ he wanted to know.

‘Love does not just go away, Luca.’

‘I know.’ He stared out the window at the Mediterranean.

‘You can push it away, you can deny it, you can make excuses, give reasons, but once love has been born, once it has existed, it cannot simply cease to be.’

There were so many questions, so much more he wanted to know from his mother and from his real father, but he didn’t need those answers right now.

It was Emma he needed to see and regardless of whether or not it was too late he had to tell her, which meant there was someone he had to speak with first.

‘You cannot leave now,’ Mia pointed out as he packed his case. ‘There is mass tonight, one more duty, Luca—for familia…’

‘No, Ma.’ He kissed his mother’s cheek to show he was not angry. ‘My duty is to Emma—she is familia now.’


‘CAN I pay Dad’s account?’

‘Of course.’ The supervisor was unusually friendly as Emma came into the office, just a little bit flushed in the cheeks and, well, just a little nicer. ‘You’ve sold another painting.’

It was actually the supervisor who handed her an envelope with a cheque in it and there was a flurry in her stomach as Emma took it. That feel of her baby moving still caught her by surprise, and she smiled, not just at the kicks from her baby but that she had almost paid her debts—and all by her own hand.

All was well.

She chanted those words over and over to herself and out loud to her baby too at times.

All was well.

Her father’s house had finally sold and she’d found a little flat nearby. Thanks to an excellent reference from Luca, she’d landed a wonderful job for three days a week and once the baby arrived they were happy for her to work a couple of days a week from home, which gave her time to concentrate on her art.

She was getting there.

Not quite thriving, but not just surviving either.

She missed Luca—missed him in her days, in her nights, in her life, and she missed him for their baby too.

But there was nothing she could do about that, so she poured her grief into her artwork and scared herself sometimes with her own mind—painting dark, swirling stories of loss and grief and hope and life.

And she’d sold not one but three paintings!

She’d put one up in her father’s room at the nursing home, which a relative of another resident had liked, and things had taken off from there.

Oh, they hadn’t sold for vast sums, but they’d keep the baby in nappies and bottles, and Emma knew that they’d be okay.

All was well, she told her kicking stomach.

They really didn’t need Luca.

Want, however, was an entirely different matter.

She walked down the long corridor towards her father and wasn’t really looking forward to it. He’d noticed her swelling stomach these past couple of weeks and unfortunately a stroke and a touch of senility weren’t stopping him from asking awkward questions.

Emma pulled her coat around her and held a massive photo album over her stomach, hoping a few pictures from the past would be enough to distract him.

And then she saw him.

Saw six feet two with eyes of blue, sitting chatting on the bed and laughing with her dad, and she absolutely, completely didn’t know what to do.

‘Here’s my baby girl!’ Frank beamed as she made her way over.

She kissed her dad on the cheek and ignored Luca.

He watched as she put her father’s pyjamas away and sorted out his chocolate and put some money in a little dish for his newspaper—and he saw the swell of her stomach and the strain on her features, and finally, finally she faced him.

‘Could we have a word?’ Emma said. ‘Outside.’

They walked out to the nursing-home gardens, along the winding paths, and finally she spoke.

‘Don’t…’ Her voice was shaky. ‘Don’t you dare drag him into this! He’s old and he’s confused.’

‘He’s our child’s grandfather,’ Luca pointed out. ‘I’d say he’s already in this…and he knows, by the way.’

‘Knows what?’

‘That you’re pregnant,’ Luca said, and watched her cheeks burn. ‘Were you ever going to tell me?’