Bedded for Passion, Purchased for Pregnancy(6)

By: Carol Marinelli


The cat soon found the mouse.

He sat beside her, just a tiny bit too close for her liking. There was no contact, none at all, but she could feel the heat from his body, feel the weight of him, the ancient springs in the leather couch tilting her just a fraction towards him.

He invaded her space—but perhaps that was his trick. No one watching could testify to intrusion; you had to be beside him, or looking at him, to feel it. Taking a sip of her champagne, she wished she had chosen whisky, too—wished for something, anything, strong enough to douse the nerves that were leaping like salmon in her chest.

‘I take it Jake and his wife will be coming tonight?’

‘Just Jake.’ Emma gave a tight smile.

‘They have twins now, don’t they?’ Zarios checked, watching her closely, seeing the brittle smile on her face slip into a more relaxed one as she described her niece and nephew.

‘Harriet and Connor—they’ll be three in a few weeks’ time.’ On cue her brother arrived, bustling into the room.

‘Darling!’ Lydia practically fell on to her son’s neck, the lateness of his arrival immediately forgiven. ‘It’s so good to see you.’

‘Sorry, sorry…’ Jake beamed. ‘The traffic was an absolute nightmare.’

‘On a Saturday?’ Emma couldn’t help herself.

‘The football’s on!’ Lydia beamed. ‘The city’s hell around this time—it’s just wonderful you made it, darling. You did remember the pastries for tomorrow…?’

There was a tiny, appalling pause as Jake’s fixed smile slipped just a fraction, his frantic eyes darting to his sister. Lydia’s mouth opened in horror mid-sentence. Emma was almost tempted not to intervene, to refuse to save the day yet again for her brother and let them see that the one thing, the one thing he had been asked to contribute, had proved too much for him. But, as Jake well knew, she couldn’t do that to her parents.

‘Oh, I forgot to tell you, Mum—the bakers rang to confirm Jake’s order. They’ll be here first thing.’

‘Oh, Emma!’ her mother snapped. ‘You could have let me know!’

‘Where is Beth?’ Rocco frowned, voicing the question Lydia had clearly hoped he wouldn’t. ‘And where are the twins? I was looking forward to seeing them again.’

‘Tonight’s for adults only’ Lydia beamed again, but there was a rigid set to her lips.

‘Why?’ Rocco had been single too long, and missed the warning signs flashing from Lydia’s eyes to simply drop it. ‘Children are part of the family…they should be here…’

Surprisingly, it was Zarios who saved the day.

‘Oh, come on, Pa…’ Zarios gave a thin smile, and Emma was sure there was just a flash of contempt as he halted his father—could hear the slight drip of sarcasm in his expansive deep voice. ‘Surely you remember how hard it is settling little ones to bed at a family function—and all those things you have to remember to bring?’

‘Absolutely!’ Lydia nodded furiously. ‘We’ll see the twins next weekend—oh, and Beth, of course…’

‘Don’t worry.’ Zarios gave Emma a tight smile as the conversation drifted on. ‘My father is a master of the “don’t do as I do, do as I say” school of thought.’

‘Meaning?’

‘Nothing.’ He took a slug of his whisky before concluding, ‘It does not matter.’

Oh, but clearly it did!

He dismissed her frown with a shrug. ‘It is strange seeing my father in this setting—looking forward to seeing little children and catching up with friends. Usually the only time I socialise with my father is at work events…’

‘And family—’

‘No.’ He cut her off, and she winced at her own insensitivity—her parents were Rocco’s family. ‘It is strange to see him amongst a family.’

She had always known that once his mother had left Zarios had been raised at a boarding school; her mother had told her how hard poor Rocco had had to work, jetting between the two countries to keep up with the fees, and how devastated poor Rocco had been when sometimes he couldn’t get back to see Zarios.