Marriage and Miracles(2)

By: Miranda Lee

It had only been three days since Gemma had found out the truth, yet already she had forged a bond with her father and mother that was astonishingly close and full of love. They were both tremendous people, in her opinion. Not saints, of course, either of them, but basically good souls with deeply caring natures who only wanted the best for their long-lost daughter. The added news that they were finally going to get married had made Gemma very happy.

Her own marriage was another matter...

Gemma's stomach began churning. Her plan to get Nathan back had seemed a good one in theory. In practice, it was dangerous and risky and nerve-racking. But what alternative did she have? She loved Nathan more than life itself and felt sure that he loved her back, despite everything. She couldn't let cruel twists of fate and unfortunate misunderstandings destroy their marriage. Certainly not now, when she might possibly be pregnant.

'What's taking Byron so long?' she said worriedly after the photographer had scuttled away. 'I hope he's not trying to play peace-maker between Nathan and me. I asked him not to meddle.'

'Please give Byron more credit for intelligence than that, Gemma. He realises any influence he has over Nathan is at a low ebb at the moment. Nathan was far from impressed to find out Byron had slept with me while he was still a married man. Then when he added that we were going to get married...' Celeste's eyes rolled expressively. 'He said Nathan stared at him as though he were mad.'

Gemma sighed. 'Poor Byron. He deserves better than that from Nathan.'

'Yes, he does. Frankly, Gemma, everyone deserves better than they're getting from Nathan. Why you still love him after what he's done amazes me. Keeping my identity from you was despicable enough, but when I think how he.. .he —'

'You promised not to speak of that again,' Gemma broke in sharply. 'You know that Nathan was out of his head when he did that. If I can forgive and forget, why can't you?'

Celeste pursed disapproving lips. 'I'm sorry, but I can't abide a man perpetrating any violence against a woman, no matter what the provocation. Still, I won't mention it again. It's your life and I can see you're determined to try to save your marriage.'

'And you promised to help me any way you could.'

'God knows why,' Celeste muttered.

Gemma reached out and gently touched her mother on the wrist. 'Because you love me?' she said softly.

Celeste was stunned by the rush of maternal love that flooded her heart, tears pricking her eyes. Blinking madly, she nodded acknowledgement of this, squeezing her daughter's hands before finding her voice. 'I suppose I'll just have to take your word for it that Nathan is worth fighting for and not the coldest, most cynical bastard I've ever laid eyes on.'

'Lenore thinks he's worth it,' Gemma argued with a quiet intensity. 'And she was married to him for twelve years.'

Celeste sighed. 'Whatever his faults, he certainly knows how to inspire loyalty in his wives.'

'He's only had two!' Gemma protested.

'So far. If he divorces you as he says he's going to, that leaves the field clear for number three.'

'Nathan and I won't be getting a divorce,' Gemma said with a stubborn set of her mouth. 'And there won't be any number three!'

'Oh? And how do you intend to change his mind?'

'By whatever means are at my disposal.'

'Mmm...' Celeste gave Gemma the once-over, a sardonic gleam coming into her eyes as they carefully assessed her appearance. 'I was at a loss earlier on

to understand what you hoped to achieve coming here tonight. Now I see it's not your attending the play you had in mind but the party afterwards.'

Gemma felt a guilty heat seep into her cheeks but she refused to succumb to embarrassment over her appearance, or shame over her plan. Nathan was her husband, after all! Besides, she wasn't nearly as provocatively dressed as she'd seen Celeste on occasions. OK, so her red crepe dress was very form-fitting, the wide beaded belt emphasising her hour-glass figure. And yes, the deep V neckline showed clearly that she wasn't wearing a bra. But that was hardly a crime these days, was it?

'I only want to talk to him,' she lied outrageously. 'I can't achieve anything unless I talk to him, can I?'

'People who play with fire often get burnt,' Celeste warned softly. 'I should know. I've been there, done that.'

'And you ended up with the man you love, I noticed,' Gemma said. 'I aim to do the same.'

Celeste blinked in surprise at the hard edge in her daughter's voice, till it came to her that Gemma was a chip off the old block. Both her parents were pigheaded people who didn't know when to quit. She almost felt sorry for Nathan.

'Ah.. .here's Byron now.' Celeste smiled and linked arms with him. 'We thought you'd got lost, darling. How are things backstage?'

'Everyone's a bundle of nerves. Except Nathan, of course. That man had nerves of steel.'

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