Bedded for Passion, Purchased for Pregnancy(7)

By: Carol Marinelli


Only then did it dawn on Emma—really dawn on her—that, as difficult as it might have been for poor Rocco, how much harder it must have been on his son.





CHAPTER TWO




STILL, Zarios didn’t appear to be dwelling on it.

If he was here under sufferance he didn’t show it—laughing at Eric’s jokes, and making Lydia blush at every turn with his smouldering smile.

Suddenly the hour had arrived, and the small party moved into the marquee as the band started playing and the guest numbers began rapidly multiplying. Zarios was quickly cornered by Cindy, a good-looking blonde who was a good friend of her mother’s. Emma knew she had to be nudging fifty, but years of botox and bulimia were serving her well tonight. Well, good luck, Emma thought, actually glad of the reprieve.

Zarios unsettled her.

Unsettled each fibre of her being.

Every flicker of his five-star reputation was merited. The question as to how any woman could dismiss such a heartbreak reputation had, for Emma, been well and truly answered—up close he was intoxicating.

Emma suppressed a smile as Cindy laughed a little too loudly at something he said, her hand resting on his arm as she spoke intently—she was welcome to him.

‘Can I talk to you later, Emma?’ Jake came over, waving to a couple of geriatric aunts and smiling as if for cameras—just as he always did.

‘Sure!’

‘Away from everyone…’ he added, and Emma’s heart sank.

‘Why?’

‘Don’t be like that.’ Jake sighed.

‘Are you going to pay me for the pastries?’ If she sounded petty, it was with good reason. If Jake paid her maybe there would be nothing to worry about—maybe she was being surly for no reason.

She truly hoped that was the case.

‘Look, I’m sorry about that.’

‘Jake, it was the one thing Mum asked you to organise. What if I hadn’t ordered them?’

‘But you did!’ Emma could have sworn there was a belligerent tone to his voice, but he quickly checked it. ‘Here…’ He pulled out his wallet and thrust her some notes. ‘Thanks for organising them. I’ll catch up with you later.’

‘Can I ask what it’s about?’

‘Not here, okay?’

Not here, where everyone might find out that you’re less than perfect, Emma thought savagely. But of course she didn’t say it, just gave him a nod and bit hard on her lip, close to tears all of a sudden as Jake walked off.

‘Jake.’ Zarios raised his eyebrows in greeting as Jake brushed past, he’d seen the exchange and Jake must know it. The polite thing to do would be to ignore it, but Zarios couldn’t be bothered with being polite. Shrugging off Cindy, he offered a friendly enquiry as Jake approached. ‘Is everything okay?’

‘All good!’ Jake grinned, but his cheeks were red, his eyes following Zarios’s gaze to his sister. ‘Just family stuff. You know…’

‘Not really,’ Zarios answered.

‘Just…’ Both men stood watching as Emma slipped the money into her purse. ‘Well, it’s difficult for Emma. You help out when you can, you know?’

Yes, Zarios knew—and he knew now he should leave well alone. But his curiosity was well and truly piqued, and when a coo of delighted glee swept around the party as waiters and waitresses walked through with silver trays laden with finger food Zarios found himself making his way back to Emma.

‘You’re looking worried.’

Emma forced a rapid smile. ‘I’ve no idea what my mother’s cooked up for tonight.’

‘Well, she’s surpassed herself.’

Knowing how important keeping up appearances was for her mother, Emma was relieved to hear it. Glancing at the tray a waitress offered, she expected the usual variation on a theme. But a real smile formed on her full lips as she realised that for the first time, where the politics of entertaining were concerned, had listened to her own heart.

‘Oh!’ Emma blinked at the tray laden with tiny little sandwiches. The bread as thin and as light as butterfly wings, yet it was crammed with the strangest of filling choices for such an important function.