The Italian's Pregnant Mistress(6)

By: Cathy Williams

‘And maybe there is another option.’ Angelo felt the sudden, overwhelming buzz of stepping off the side of a precipice. It was a more terrifying feeling than waiting on the edge of any big deal he had ever done in his life before. And to think that he had always considered himself a man who had gone beyond ever feeling that basic, gut-wrenching emotion called fear!

Francesca’s eyes widened.

‘I’m going to be setting up some pretty big ventures in London. Property. A couple of small architectural firms I want to get involved in. I’ve kept myself to America and Italy and now I intend to move to London, base myself there. Come with me.’

The world seemed suddenly to have tilted on its axis. Francesca sat up abruptly and drew her knees up, clasping her arms around them and leaning her head down in the posture of someone trying to fight off a sudden attack of violent nausea. She could feel the desperate thudding of her heart beneath her ribs, like a train that had shot its tracks and was gathering momentum in its free fall.

Eventually, she turned her head so that she was looking across at him.

‘My work…’ she ventured weakly.

‘Could be done there. You no longer need to confine yourself to catwalks in Italy. You can go into the magazine side of things. Don’t tell me that’s not a hell of a lot more lucrative. You can have lots more money to squirrel away.’

She heard the smile in his voice as he spoke and caressed her spine with one long finger.

‘And there would be more time for us. Less travel for me…Who knows, you might find your homeland more tempting to your wandering soul if I were there, hmm? And things between us would no longer be this clandestine. We meet in this apartment in Venice or else in hotel rooms in various parts of Europe, and I weary of it after this length of time.’

‘You’re not meant to settle, Angelo. You said so! You have a wandering soul. Just like me.’

Angelo picked up the thread of panic in her voice and dismissed it. He was offering her something he had never offered any other woman in his life before, had never come close to offering! She was afraid that he would tire of her if they saw too much of one another, if they removed the breathless excitement of the clandestine. It was, he told himself, understandable.

‘Are you not tired of wandering?’ He frowned. ‘Of intermittent meetings, making love knowing that time is not on our side because before too long one of us will have to leave to hop on a plane to somewhere? I want to be able to take you places with me, meet the people I work with, who work for me. I work in a very visible field. Expensive hotels and exclusive resorts. I want you on my arm, by my side…my perfect, well-bred, eminently presentable woman.’

Francesca felt sick. She couldn’t remain crouched on the bed. She had to get up and move around. Without warning, she flung back the duvet and stuck her legs over the side of the bed, then walked over to the chest of drawers an yanked out some underwear and a tee shirt from the small collection of clothes she kept at the apartment. Yes, he was so right. Clothes that were a testimony to a life on the move. Some here, most in her flat in Paris, some already in a suitcase just in case she got a call and had no time to pack.

‘What are you doing?’

Before she knew it he was out of the bed and coming towards her, and she hugged herself. Her legs felt cold but it was better standing up, made her stomach feel a little less queasy.

‘It’s not a good idea, Angelo.’

Panic, he could have dealt with. But the sudden flatness in her voice was like a punch in the gut. He gripped the sides of her arms with his hands and propelled her back against the wall.

‘What are you saying?’

‘Please, Angelo. Let’s just leave things as they are. It works for us. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?’ She tried a laugh but it died as quickly as it had come, leaving the sour aroma of tension in its wake.

‘You needn’t be scared that spending more time with one another will jeopardise our relationship. We have been together for over a year. It is time for us to take the next step forward.’ Angelo tried again but there was a beating in his head that was getting louder. Yes, he had been scared of jumping off the precipice into the unknown, but he had pretty much expected his landing to be soft. He certainly hadn’t expected to find himself falling in thin air with the distinct suspicion that his landing was to be a bed of rocks.

‘There is no step forward, Angelo.’ She made herself do it. Made herself look at him straight in the face, and God, it was the most difficult thing she had ever had to do in her entire life. It made every painful turning in her life seem pale in comparison. And of course she knew why. Because she had fallen in love with him, hopelessly, blindingly and stupidly in love.