Marriage and Miracles(3)

By: Miranda Lee

And a heart of steel, Celeste thought, but declined to say so.

'What did he say about me?' Gemma asked nervously.

'Not a word.'

Gemma looked and felt crestfallen. 'Does.. .does he know I'm here, and that I'm going to the party afterwards?'

'I did mention it in passing, but he didn't seem to care one way or the other. To be honest, I'm a little shocked at Nathan's stand over this divorce business. I've never known him to be so inflexible, or so unfeeling. It's as though he's retreated behind some hard shell that nothing can penetrate.'

'That's just a facade he hides behind,' Gemma stated, and did her best to believe it. Because if she didn't, what then?

'It's time we went inside, isn't it?' Celeste jumped in, deciding a change of subject was called for when she saw a stricken look momentarily flash across her daughter's eyes. God, if that bastard hurt her again, she was going to kill him with her bare hands, something she was capable of. All those years of martial arts training had to be good for something!

'The bell hasn't gone,' Byron replied. 'But yes,' he added quickly on seeing Celeste's withering glance, 'I think we might go in.'

A photographer snapped the three of them as they walked into the theatre, Celeste and Byron flashing him a quick smile. Gemma's face, however, reflected an inner misery that she could not hide. Her faith in her plan was already crumbling, as was her faith in Nathan's love for her.

Their seats were in the middle of the fifth row from the front, the best seats in the house. As the play's producer, Byron had access to this whole row if he wanted. He'd offered seats to both Jade and Ava, but they had declined to come in protest over Nathan's unreasonable behaviour towards Gemma. Both women had declared they would never speak to him again till he came to his senses.

Gemma sat down and began flicking through the programme booklet Byron had bought her on arrival, anything to still the butterflies in her stomach. The sight of her husband's face staring out at her jolted her for a second.

The black and white photograph brought a hardness to his looks that she had never noticed before. He'd always looked like a golden god to her, with hair

the colour of wheat, skin like bronze satin, a classically handsome face, a highly sensual mouth and the most beautiful grey eyes. Now, those eyes stared out at her with all the warmth of a winter's dawn, a slight arching of his left eyebrow adding a cynical edge to their cold expression, as did the twisted curve of his half-smile.

Oh, how she'd always hated it when he smiled at her like that, as though he knew things about the world that she was not yet privy to. Nathan had always declared the world a rotten place full of rotten people. He was cynical through and through about the human race, and the female sex in particular, probably because of the wicked, even depraved women who had played vital roles during his growing-up years.

First there had been his mother, a spoiled rich bitch who had left home as a teenager to live a life of debauchery, drugs and total self-indulgence. Nathan had been illegitimate, his father unknown to him and possibly to his mother, who had spent her entire life going from lover to lover, orgy to orgy, trip to trip.

Gemma had heard about Nathan's mother from several sources—though not Nathan himself. He never talked about the past. Apparently, she had put him in his first boarding-school at the age of eight, dragging him out whenever her latest lover left her or vice versa, then putting him back in school once a new man came on the scene. After she died of a drug overdose when Nathan was sixteen, he had become a street kid up at King's Cross. When Byron had come across him several months later Nathan had actually been living with some woman old enough to be his mother, and there was nothing platonic about the relationship. Byron had befriended the boy and, later, adopted him.

Gemma shuddered to think what might have happened to Nathan if Byron hadn't come along.

Not that Nathan's life as Byron's adopted son had ever been without its problems, especially when it came to the opposite sex. His relationship with the female members of his adoptive family seemed dicey from what she'd gathered, and his shotgun marriage to Lenore had not been a raving success, even if his plays were. By the time Gemma had met Nathan early this year

when he was out at Lightning Ridge on an opal-buying trip, he'd become a rather world-weary thirty-five, divorced from Lenore and about to resign from Whitmore Opals to write full-time.

From the first moment they met, Gemma had been totally smitten by his mature handsomeness, his city glamour and smooth sophistication, while Nathan had seemed equally bowled over by her youthful beauty, countrified innocence and obvious inexperience with men. Gemma had initially been very wary of having anything to do with a divorced man so many years older than herself, but within a few short weeks of her coming to Sydney Nathan had seduced and married her.

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