The Italian Boss's Secret Child(7)

By: Trish Morey

Instead she was giving herself up to the disease, accepting her fate almost as if she was looking forward to being reunited with her late husband and especially Monty, his beautiful wife and the grandchild she knew by this one lone photograph.

The doctors had been sympathetic when the drugs just didn’t seem to work any more in arresting the disease. ‘She has to want to live,’ they’d said. ‘People often need something to live for, a reason to survive.’

Philly had failed her. She’d promised to give her mother a grandchild but now, with a failed relationship, an aborted marriage behind her and not even eligible for IVF, she’d run out of options. Sure, there was a chance she might find a boyfriend in that time, but there was no way she was likely to settle down and form a family within the next twelve months—no way she was going to be able to brighten her mother’s last few months with the promise of a child.

But then, what real chance did she have of even finding a boyfriend? Every time she’d thought about men or dating lately only one man had sprung to mind. Every guy she met paled in comparison. He was better looking, better built, more intelligent and had a charisma that reeled her in.

She shook her head. Work must really be getting to her if Damien DeLuca kept crowding her thoughts. Sure, he had great genes but if she kept comparing every guy she met with him she was never going to find anyone who made the grade. And she couldn’t even say that she liked him—he was far too arrogant and autocratic—though he sure had plenty going for him besides.

What would he be dressed as tonight? Probably a pirate with his looks. A buccaneer, swashbuckling and dangerous, in a soft shirt, ruffled at the sleeves and open over his chest, the stark white a contrast against his dark hair and tanned olive skin, and tucked into tight black breeches…

Her mother tugged a tissue from the box on her bedside table, pulling Philly out of her thoughts with a jolt. Her nervousness at attending this costume ball must be getting to her. Now she was imagining all sorts of strange things.

‘Oh dear, I am getting maudlin,’ her mother said, blotting away her tears and then blowing her nose. ‘Don’t listen to me. I’m just tired.’

‘You get some sleep then,’ Philly said, squeezing the older woman’s hand gently and kissing her softly on the cheek before she picked up the empty cup.

‘I won’t be late.’

She shouldn’t have come.

From behind her sequinned mask she took one look inside the door, saw the myriad of characters in the lavishly decorated auditorium, the mirror balls spinning crazy colours against the bizarre outfits of the crowd dancing to the loud music, and knew she should have stayed at home.

What was she doing here anyway?

Standing in the lobby, tossing up whether or not to enter the party, she didn’t know. Yes, it had been nice to dress up, to put on something pretty rather than shrug into her sensible work wardrobe for a change—Lord knows it had been long enough since she’d taken so much care with her appearance. But what did she hope to achieve by it?

Who did she think she was trying to impress—Damien? Fat chance. In terms of being a woman, he didn’t know she was alive and he probably didn’t even care. The way he’d tried to make her feel so inconsequential when she’d given that presentation…It was pure fantasy to think that she might make an impression on him tonight.

As if he cared.

She wouldn’t go in. There was no point at all. Even if she didn’t harbour a tiny desire to turn the tables on the one guy who’d made her feel as insignificant as a gnat, she was just no good at this sort of thing. No good at mixing with near strangers. Sure, she’d met plenty of pleasant people in the few short months she’d been at Delucatek, but no one she knew well enough yet to term a friend. Though admittedly that was nobody’s fault but her own. She’d been the one to turn down the Friday after work drinks invitations, always too anxious to go home and see to her mother.

And, of course, after Bryce and the fiasco of their wedding, trusting people enough to get close to them hadn’t been high on her list of priorities. Just because he’d made the right decision in calling off the wedding didn’t mean she’d forgotten the pain of cancelling the church and reception and explaining to the invited guests that the wedding was now off.

The external doors behind her swung open as a new party of guests arrived and the summer night air rushed inside, clashing with the air conditioning in a gust that swirled across her bare shoulders and under her slim-fitting gown. She hugged her arms to her, fighting the unfamiliar sensations as she sidled as inconspicuously as possible out of their path, using a potted palm as a screen.

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