The Italian's Pregnant Mistress(10)

By: Cathy Williams

‘Sit back down, Francesca.’

His voice was calm and modulated but imbued with threat. Francesca hastily sat back down. I’m Ellie Millband, she wanted to tell him, Ellie Millband, not Francesca Hayley, but the words wouldn’t come out and, anyway, he wasn’t going to be prepared to let the past rest.

‘We’re old friends and ex-lovers…’ His smile sent a chill of fear racing along her spine. ‘Surely it would be fitting that we fill in the gaps in our respective lives now that fate has brought us back together?’

‘There’s no point, Angelo.’ She had to steel herself to look at him. She recognised the lines of his face, the masculine beauty that she had once found so compelling, but she still felt as though she was sitting opposite a stranger and a stranger who could barely conceal his dislike. ‘I came here to discuss, well, my ideas for a meal…for your wedding. I didn’t come here to discuss the past.’

‘Which just goes to show that we should always be flexible, don’t you think?’ His drink had arrived, something strong in a short, squat glass, and he accepted it without taking his eyes off her face.

With a painful stab, she realised that he was enjoying himself, enjoying this unexpected encounter. His life had moved on and he was more than happy to watch her squirm in front of him. She really couldn’t blame him. If her legs would only start functioning properly she would have denied him the satisfaction, but she had a sneaking suspicion that they might just pack up from under her if she tried to stand up. The sensible mineral water she had ordered twenty minutes before when she had arrived, eager and early, now seemed ridiculously lacking in any ability to fortify her.

‘What do you want to know?’ she asked tightly.

‘Tut, tut. Anyone would think from your tone of voice that you weren’t pleased to see me. Strange, considering you were the one who ended our relationship.’ The old, familiar rage formed a knot in his stomach. ‘Let me see. What do I want to know?’ He took a sip from his glass and stared at her over the rim, his sharp eyes taking in the jerkiness of her hand when she reached for the glass of water. Revenge was an unworthy emotion. He knew that, or at least the cool, logical, intelligent side of him knew it. Right now, though, he could taste the sweetness of it on his tongue and was inordinately pleased that he had not walked away when he had spotted her sitting at the back of the room.

‘I am surprised you gave up your very lucrative modelling career,’ he mused. ‘What went wrong? Europe too small to contain the both of us?’

‘It seemed a good time to come back to England.’ Francesca raised her chin stubbornly, refusing to let him push her into a corner. ‘I’d saved enough money to buy a small place of my own and I fancied a change of job.’ Their eyes tangled and she felt hot and faint and agonisingly aware of the powerful effect he still had on her. ‘It’s no bigger a life change than the one you’ve made,’ she continued. ‘You’ve moved to London and become engaged. I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet her and I don’t suppose I will now, but good luck for the future.’ Her mouth smiled politely but her eyes remained misty with a frantic desire to get away from his presence.

‘And you? Not involved with anyone?’

Francesca thought of Jack, who would be wondering how the meeting was coming along, and her momentary hesitation answered his question. It was an answer he didn’t care for and Angelo felt base, primitive jealousy rip through him like a knife.

‘But of course, you would be,’ he said smoothly. ‘A beautiful woman like yourself.’

‘There’s no need to compliment me, Angelo,’ she said sharply. ‘You hate me. Which is why I can’t understand what we’re doing here, pretending to make small talk.’

‘Hate? There is no mileage in hate. It’s a counterproductive emotion.’ He realised that his glass was empty and resisted the temptation to order another drink. Apart from the stupidity of drinking at this early hour, there was also the small technicality of a certain high-level dinner engagement later that evening. Which he was in danger of reaching late if he didn’t make a move soon. He settled back into his chair and beckoned the waitress across. To hell with it. Another whisky and soda would be okay but he better make it a light one.

‘So indulge my curiosity and tell me about him. After all, you know all about my personal status.’

‘There’s no one.’ Poor Jack. She was pretty sure he wouldn’t like being labelled as no one, not least because she had known him since her early teens, but she didn’t want to start walking down the road of little lies. Although, did it matter any more? Once she left this place she would never see Angelo Falcone again. She certainly wouldn’t be getting the plum job for which she had come so prepared. The wad of recipes she had painstakingly selected to bring with her were still sitting in her capacious bag, making a mockery of her high hopes.