The Italian's Pregnant Mistress(9)

By: Cathy Williams

Angelo nodded and headed towards the wooden stairs leading down, thankfully leaving behind most of the shopped-out hordes. It was cooler as he descended the stairs. It was also much emptier. In fact, so empty that only a handful of tables were occupied and, since three of them were filled with families, there left very little doubt as to whom he was going to see.

Yes, she was sitting right at the back, focusing intently on a small Filofax in front of her. Shoulder-length dark hair was tucked neatly behind her ears. Perfect ears. And, even though she wasn’t looking at him, he would have known that face anywhere. He had seen it in his dreams for longer than he cared to remember and the mental image, even after three years, still had the capacity to fill him with burning rage.

Every muscle in his body kick-started into gear. He had to steady himself on the banister. Somewhere in his head, he knew that he should just turn around and go back the way he had come, then tell Georgina that Ms Ellie Millband was no longer a candidate for the job. His decision would have been final. He would not even have had to provide an explanation.

Common sense lasted the length of time it took him to blink, then he was walking towards her. In a moment she would look up and see him, see the man she had rejected three years ago. Anticipation of her shock made his pulses race with sadistic pleasure.

The wheel always turned full circle, didn’t it? Not in a million years had he ever expected to see the woman again, but that hadn’t stopped him from seeing her image in his head. He had striven to wipe her out and, to all intents and purposes, he had succeeded. His life had returned to its driving routine of work interrupted with the occasional fling until the passage of time had dictated that he needed to marry, to settle down and have the family he wanted. But her image had still persisted, creeping out to disturb the ruthless onward march of his career, always leaving behind the bitter taste of impotent fury.

He realised he was clenching his fists by the time he made it to the table. And still she hadn’t looked up. Nor did he say a word. He just stood there until she was aware of a shadow looming over her. Only then did Francesca slowly raise her eyes.

The welcoming smile she had prepared for her prospective client faded into a strangled gasp. Nothing had prepared her for this. What was Angelo Falcone doing here? Was he really here? Standing in front of her? She blinked a few times, willing the image away, but he was still there, bigger, leaner and a whole lot more forbidding than she remembered.

‘Surprised to see me, Francesca? Sorry, it’s now Ellie Millband, I believe?’

‘What are you doing here?’ Francesca whispered, fascinated by the familiarity of his face and terrified at the harshness stamped on it that she had never seen all those years ago when she had been going out with him.

‘Interviewing you, in point of fact.’ He nodded at a passing waitress to come and take his order for a drink, then he sat down and gave her the full benefit of one long, insolent, unapologetically cold stare. ‘Although whom exactly am I interviewing?’ he asked silkily. ‘Since you seem to have changed identities.’ His initial shock at seeing her had given way to ice-cold self-control.

Francesca’s brain cranked into gear. ‘I was expecting to see…’

‘My fiancée.’

‘Your fiancée.’ In her head, he had remained a single man. Stupid, considering the amount of women who would have swarmed around him, hoping to net the biggest fish in the sea. She stared down at her Filofax in confusion, then reluctantly looked at him. Her hands were trembling and she clasped them tightly together on her lap, well out of sight of his black, impenetrable stare. ‘Congratulations,’ she said belatedly. ‘I…that would be…to Georgi…’

‘So who are you?’ Angelo interrupted. ‘Shall I call you by your new name, or was your old one the fabrication? Tell me. I’m interested.’ Her hair was shorter but she looked even better for it and, even though the clothes were different, a tailored suit as befitting someone being interviewed for a big job, he could see that the body was still the same. Still that superbly proportioned body that had once driven him wild.

The memory of how she used to affect him didn’t soften him. It was laced with too much bitterness.

‘Francesca Hayley was the name I used when I modelled,’ she said, steadying herself by breathing in deeply. ‘I no longer model. Look, Angelo, I’m sorry to have wasted your time, and your fiancée’s, but I don’t think there’s any point in our having this conversation.’ She half rose, fumbling to reach for her handbag, which was on the floor by her chair.