Bedded for Passion, Purchased for Pregnancy(2)

By: Carol Marinelli

If only he would behave!

‘He’s on a final warning!’ Even though there were only the two of them in the room, Lydia spoke in a loud whisper. ‘Your father was telling me that apparently the board are sick of Zarios’s caddish ways. They’re uncomfortable with the prospect of him being the majority shareholder…’

‘That’s up to Rocco, surely…?’ Emma frowned.

‘Rocco’s fed up with him, too. He’s given that boy everything, and look how Zarios repays him. If the rest of the directors band together…’ Lydia’s voice lowered another octave ‘…and it sounds as if they might now. If the rumours that Zarios has split up with Miranda are true—she was his one saving grace.’

‘They were only going out four months!’ Emma pointed out.

‘Which is a long time in dog years!’

Oh, how they laughed at that.

Emma’s parents infuriated her at times—most of the time, in fact. The blatant preference they had for Emma’s brother Jake, the way they repeatedly dismissed her career choice, as if by being an artist she didn’t have a real job, and yet she adored them. Her mother was, and always had been to Emma, the funniest woman she knew.

And wrapped in a towel, doubled over in laughter as her mother hooted with mirth and the early evening sun dipped lower over the bay, drenching the living room in gold, somehow, on some level, Emma knew that this moment was precious.

She could have had no idea how precious, rich and good life was that gorgeous summer evening. No idea how many times she’d find herself playing it over and over again.

‘Come on!’ Dabbing her eyes, Lydia hurried her daughter up. ‘Where on earth can I put him?’

‘He’s staying the night?’ Emma’s eyes widened at the very thought of Zarios D’Amilo sleeping here in this house.

‘Yessss!’ Lydia hissed, the joking well and truly put aside now, as her already high stress levels rocketed. ‘I knew Rocco was—but Zarios! He’ll have to have your room!’

‘He jolly well won’t.’

‘We can hardly give him the trundle bed in the study—Jake’s squeezed into his old room, Rocco’s in the guestroom…Zarios will have to have yours. Come on, it’s time to get dressed,’ Lydia said, refusing to debate the point, buoyed at the prospect of having such a high-profile guest. ‘My friends are going to simply die with jealousy—can you imagine Cindy’s face when she finds out? You did buy something nice for tonight, I hope?’

‘Like a bridal gown?’ Emma said, firmly tongue in cheek.

‘Well, he has broken up with Miranda!’

Emma’s sarcasm was entirely wasted on her mother. Lydia Hayes had spent her married life clinging on to the middle rung of the social ladder, and was determined that her children would rise to the heights she had never achieved.

‘Australia’s most eligible bachelor is joining us to celebrate your father’s sixtieth birthday, Emma. Surely you’re just a little bit excited?’

‘Of course I’m excited.’ Emma smiled. ‘About Dad’s birthday…’

‘Get ready, then,’ Lydia chided, and then, wincing slightly, massaged her temples. ‘They’ll be arriving soon…’

‘Mum, calm down.’

‘What if they’re expecting something spectacular?’

‘Then we’ll wheel out Zarios!’ Emma smiled again, but her mother was past jokes. ‘They’re expecting a birthday celebration, which this is,’ Emma said, walking across the lounge and taking her mother’s hands from her temples and holding them. ‘They’re coming to see you and Dad. That’s all that matters.’

‘Jake’s not even here yet!’ Lydia trilled. ‘My own son can’t make it on time. Do you think he’ll have remembered to order the pastries for breakfast?’ Emma could hear panic once again creeping into her mother’s voice and moved quickly to avert it.

‘Of course he’ll have remembered. You go and sort out fresh sheets for my bed, and I’ll go and get ready. And,’ she added with a wry smile, ‘I’ll give my room a quick tidy!’