The Rings that Bind(5)

By: Michelle Smart

‘Nico, I—’

‘Let us pause this conversation for a minute,’ he interrupted, getting to his feet. ‘It has been a long day. I could use a proper drink and something comfortable to sit on.’

A drink sounded good to her. Lord knew she needed something to numb the curdling of her belly. Because, for all the seeming indifference of his words, Nico’s powerful body was taut with tension, like a coil waiting to spring free.

She followed him through to the spacious living room and curled up on the sofa while he poured them both a hefty measure of vodka.

It was certainly a day for irony. Vodka had played its part in the start of their marriage and now it would play its part in its demise. She took a long sip, welcoming the numbing burn of the clear liquid, before placing it on the coffee table.

She waited until he had settled in the sofa opposite before speaking. Her words came out in a rush. ‘Nico, this isn’t working.’

‘What isn’t working?’

‘This.’ She threw her arms in the air and gave a rueful shrug. ‘Us. Our marriage. I want out.’


ROSA WAS UNNERVED by Nico’s stillness. He leant forward, his muscular forearms resting on his thighs, his glass cradled between his large hands. ‘Are you getting back together with Stephen?’


His eyes did not leave her face. ‘You left him because he suffocated you.’

‘I’m not getting back with Stephen.’

‘He wouldn’t take no for an answer,’ he continued. ‘You were on the verge of getting a restraining order against him when you married me.’

‘I know.’ She expelled stale air through her teeth and closed her eyes. She had no wish to explain the utter desperation she had felt on her birthday, the horrendous feeling that there was not a soul in the world who cared if she lived or died. ‘Sleeping with him was a mistake that will not be repeated.’ A huge mistake. A massive mistake of epic proportions. But it did have one advantage—it had allowed her to see the enormous error she had made marrying Nico.

‘Is there someone else?’

‘No. There is no one else.’ How could there be?

‘Then why do you want to leave?’

She wished he wouldn’t look at her with such menacing stillness. Nico always kept his cards close to his chest, but she couldn’t help feeling as if he were trying to penetrate through to her brain and dissect the contents. If only she had the slightest clue as to what he was thinking.

‘Because it isn’t working for me any more.’ She reached for a squishy cushion and cuddled it to her belly, hoping the comfort would quell the butterflies raging inside. ‘We agreed from the start that if either of us wanted to leave we could, without any fuss. Nico, I want a fresh start. I want a divorce.’

* * *

Nico remained still as he stared hard at the woman he had married, his eyes flickering down to the gold band she wore on her finger. A ring he had put there.

‘I am well aware of what we agreed, Rosa. However, it is unreasonable for you to suddenly state you want a divorce and not give me a valid reason.’

‘There is no single valid reason.’ She tugged a stray lock of her ebony hair behind her ear. ‘When we agreed to marry it seemed the perfect solution for both of us—a nice, convenient open marriage. No emotional ties or anything messy...’ Her husky voice trailed off. ‘I don’t know exactly what I want from a marriage—I don’t know if I even want a marriage—but, Nicolai, I do know I want something more than this.’

It was the use of his full first name that convinced him she was serious. She had addressed him by his shortened name since they’d exchanged their wedding vows. That, and the fact they were speaking in English.

Rosa adored the Russian tongue. They rarely spoke her native language when together.

His hands tightened around his glass and he took a long sip of the clear, fiery liquid. Rosa was a lot like vodka. Clear and pure-looking, but with a definite bite. In her own understated way she did not take crap from anyone.

He pursed his lips as he contemplated her, sitting there, studying him with an openness he had always admired. He had admired her from the start.

After his PA had gone into early labour he’d had no choice but to approach an employment agency to fill the role. There had been no one in his employ suitable for it.

The agency had duly sent six candidates—all of whom, they’d assured him, were fluent in Russian. By the time he had interviewed the first five he’d been ready to sue the agency. The candidates had been useless. Never mind that their Russian had been far from fluent, he doubted they could have organised a children’s party.

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