The Italian's Pregnant Mistress(4)

By: Cathy Williams

He thought about later, lying in bed, telling her what he had to tell her, picturing her face.

‘Is that right?’ Francesca said dryly. ‘And I call eating this very fattening bread and cheese flirting with a few calories. When I put on vast amounts of weight and can no longer do my job, I shall blame you.’ She stood up and headed towards the bathroom, chatting to him as she walked, knowing that he would be grinning as he looked at her from behind, appreciating every line of her body, which he refused to accept was anything but perfect.

In her quiet moments, she often thought of the price she had paid for her so-called perfection. Small lies she had told, cowardly lies that told him things she knew he wanted to hear, little images built up of her over time that bore no resemblance to the unsavoury truth. How had all those little lies become an avalanche? Francesca tried never to think about it. The temporary nature of their relationship made it easy.

‘You’ll have to give it up one day,’ he said suddenly.

‘Where did that come from?’ Francesca turned to him, leaning lightly against the bathroom door, and raised her eyebrows in a question.

‘A model’s life is a short one by its very nature,’ Angelo pointed out, pausing as he brushed past her to plant a quick kiss on her parted mouth. ‘You know what they say about beauty. Here today, gone tomorrow.’

‘You do know how to make a girl feel old.’

‘And what will you do then?’ He sat on the edge of the big free-standing bath with its clawed feet and switched on the taps, testing the water with his hands until the temperature was just right, before tipping in a liberal amount of bath foam.

The smile faded from her lips. For the first time since she had met him, he seemed different today. His mood was odd, swinging from teasing to gravity in the space of seconds, and it was disconcerting. Was she supposed to answer his question seriously? Or was she misreading him? Maybe he was tired. Exhaustion could do weird things and, face it, he had been on several long-haul flights over the past few weeks, barely leaving himself sufficient time to draw breath in between.

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ she answered lightly, ignoring the shift in atmosphere. ‘Maybe I’ll start a new line of Francesca Hayley cosmetics. Isn’t that what all ex-models do? Or I could go into acting…’

‘Acting? I would never allow it.’

‘I didn’t realise that you would have a say.’ She folded her arms and looked at him steadily, sure now that something was going on but uncertain as to what it could be.

‘You’re my woman. Of course I would have a say.’

‘Whoa! All that arrogance! Your Italian ancestry is showing again.’

‘You love it. Admit it.’

Love. There it went again. Francesca stepped into the bathroom and pretended to concentrate on the water, bending over to swirl her hand through it. ‘Anyway, it’s a crazy thought,’ she said. ‘I would never go into acting. I can’t think of anything worse. All that falseness.’ She shuddered and then it struck her that she was the last person who had any right to look down on people who spent their lives pretending. ‘Tell me what you’re working on in New York,’ she said, changing the subject. ‘Still that deal to buy property in Greenwich Village?’

‘Wrapped that one up. I’m working on a joint venture with people in New York and London.’ He switched off the taps and seemed to be lost in thought as he stared down at the water.

‘Top secret deal?’ Francesca teased, stepping into the bath and lying back with her eyes closed. ‘Honestly, Angelo, I’ve told you before, only undercover secret agents have a right to be secretive about what they do.’

‘You, my dearest, have no idea how the world of business operates. One wrong word in the wrong ear and bang, a deal can be flushed down the drain before you have time to draw breath.’

Francesca smiled, eyes still shut. ‘You make it sound very exciting.’

‘It is.’

‘But you’ll have to give it up some day, Angelo. You know what they say about stressful jobs and high blood pressure.’ She opened her eyes and gazed at him with burning appreciation as he lowered himself into the bath opposite her. ‘And you’re not getting any younger. What will you do then? Perhaps you could consider a more restful career in your own line of cosmetics for men? The Angelo Falcone range of moisturisers?’

Angelo burst out laughing and, distracted for a few moments, he leaned towards her, ordering her to swivel around, which she did with some awkwardness, then he began to wash her hair. He did a very efficient scalp massage. She relaxed utterly, enjoying the feel of his fingers as he tipped shampoo into her hair and began working it up to a lather. It was way too late to be doing this, having her hair washed. She would never have the time to do a thorough job blow-drying it, but she didn’t care. No work for the next few days. She could actually luxuriate in the blissful freedom of not caring how she looked.