Rival Attractions & Innocent Secretary(108)

By: Penny Jordan


‘So why didn’t you?’ she wanted to know.

‘I spoke with Leo.’

‘The doctor?’

Luca nodded. ‘I tried to tell him my concerns, I wanted him to reassure me, and instead he said that I could not hide from my genes. He offered me counselling. I thought he was talking about anger management…’

‘How dare he?’ It was Emma who needed anger management now. ‘How bloody archaic, how dare he imply that you’d be like that too?’

‘No.’ He hushed her. ‘Emma, I woke up this morning and I knew, no matter what he’d said, no matter what history dictates, that I would never, ever hurt you.’

‘I knew that already,’ she said, but she did understand because there was a part of her that had the same sort of fears—that she’d be a lousy mother, that she’d turn forty and some strange force would take over and she’d suddenly walk out on her family. Luca’s words had rung that bell of fear that she’d heard many times before—that there was a certain inevitability to it all. ‘I feel the same sometimes,’ she admitted, ‘that I won’t be a good mum…’

‘You’ll be a wonderful mum,’ he said with absolute conviction.

‘You’ll be a wonderful dad.’

‘If you’ll let me be,’ he murmured.

‘I could never stop that, and I know in the end I’d have told you,’ she admitted.

He ran a hand over her swollen stomach, rued the moments he’d already missed and promised himself that he’d miss not a moment more.

‘You’re nothing like your dad,’ Emma continued. ‘You’re like Pepper!’ How she made him smile! ‘Snapping and snarling, but you’d never bite. Luca…’ She said it with absolute conviction. ‘You’re nothing like him.’

‘Actually, I am nothing like him.’

‘I just said that.’

‘No…’ He blew out a breath, because in all that had happened he hadn’t even had time to really process the news, to even think about it, to explore it, so when he did that for the first time, he did it with her.

‘I’m nothing like Rico because Leo is my real father.’

‘Leo?’ Emma gasped. ‘The doctor, the one who said…?’ She had thought him familiar when they’d met, and now she knew why! That assuredness, that arrogance that Luca possessed had to have come from somewhere—and now she knew where!

‘That is what he was trying to say, about genes. He thought I had guessed, thought I was trying to tell him I knew. Guilt made my mother stay with Rico—and shame. Not just at what others might think but because of what she secretly knew—that she’d been unfaithful to my father even before she’d married him.’

Emma blinked in amazement, trying to take it all in.

‘I love you.’ And it was a different way he said it this time. Not something he dragged from himself, not something he didn’t want to admit. Instead, he told her his truth. ‘People make mistakes. I have just sat and listened to your father’s regret about your mother and you—and I’ve heard my own mother’s regret and guilt too. People bury their shame and fears in the past but they don’t go away, they fester.’ He smiled. ‘Also, I have something else to tell you. Your father is not senile.’ Luca gazed down at her. ‘He told me that today. He knows you think he is, but his truth is that he remembers your mother now with love, and better still…’ He looked at her kind, clear eyes that had never been loved and vowed to make up for all past hurts. ‘Your father says he now has a second chance to love you.’

‘He said that?’ she choked.

‘Yes.’

‘He’s not confused from the stroke?’

‘No.’ Luca grinned, the old Luca, the funny Luca, the Luca who had first won her heart. ‘He’s just a bit uninhibited,’ Luca said, and then he was serious. ‘And so now must I be.’ He stared beyond her eyes and to her soul. ‘I love you, Emma. I always have and I always will. I sat on the sofa that first night we met, after I came in from Paris, and there was a part of me imagining watching that detective show with you.’

He watched a pink flush warm her cheeks.

‘When I left my flat for Tokyo that day, I imagined coming home to you.’

He watched as the colour spread to her little ears, saw the smile wobble on her lips, and so he told her some more.

‘When you held my hand on the plane, I imagined lying next to you every night for the rest of my life.’

She could feel it, the warm glow of his love warming her icy veins, chasing away all the hurt, the fear, the loneliness—bathing her in this deep, rosy warmth and wrapping her in soft, infinite understanding.

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