‘I don’t even need to look at you to want you,’ Vito said, trailing his fingers deliciously down her collarbone. ‘Just thinking about you makes me hard. This morning in the office I couldn’t do a stroke of work.’
‘Really?’ Lily asked shyly. She’d always thought of Vito as totally in control, whatever situation he was in.
‘Enough conversation.’ Vito’s voice was deep and gravelly as he suddenly pulled her round so she was sitting astride him. ‘This time I’m going to take it slowly.’
‘THANK you for coming with me,’ Lily said. She blinked in the bright light as they left the hospital after her midpregnancy— scan.
‘You don’t need to thank me.’ Vito held her hand as she stepped down into the boat. ‘It was my duty to be there.’
Lily squinted up at him, but she couldn’t read his expression— through the glare reflected off the water. During the scan he had seemed cold and distant, which was not how he’d been with her generally over the last couple of weeks. Since the night they’d made love things had been so different—much warmer, with almost no tension between them at all.
But that was probably because all they did together was make love, she thought with a hint of sadness. At first she’d been overwhelmed by their new-found intimacy and enjoyment of each other. He was the most amazing, generous lover, and he treated her like a princess.
Just looking at him made her heart skip a beat, and the love that she’d finally admitted she felt for him had continued to grow, like a precious secret in her heart. But as time went by she needed more. She wanted to be able to do more together than have sex.
Of course that was wonderful—but it would also be wonderful to be able to talk to him, have a proper conversation.— She was aware that whenever her comments became more than just pillow talk he found a way to silence her. Perhaps with a kiss, or a caress, or with a suggestion of something exquisite he’d like to do with her willing body.
‘Did you mind it when I asked the radiographer the sex of the baby?’ She delved in her handbag for her sunglasses. She wanted to be able to look at him properly, to see if she could detect any clue as to how he was feeling after the scan.
‘My grandfather will be pleased that you are carrying a boy.’ His tone was bland and did not reveal anything about his mood.
She found her sunglasses and put them on, then her eyes came to rest on the scan photos she had tucked carefully into her bag.
‘Do you want one of these?’ she asked, holding the flimsy pictures tightly, as the boat was moving and a stiff breeze was blowing.
‘I’m sure my grandfather would like to see them all.’ He pulled his mobile phone out of his pocket and switched it on to check if he’d missed any calls or emails while they’d been inside the hospital. ‘Put them away to keep them safe.’
Lily gazed at him quietly. His black hair was whipping— about and the jacket of his suit was billowing slightly in the wind—but his face was set in stone. He didn’t look angry. In fact he looked completely devoid of emotion.
It must be hard for him, she knew, believing the child inside her was not his. She still didn’t know why he thought that, but after the wonderful accord they seemed to have reached lately, at least in the bedroom, it seemed so wrong that he still believed something that simply wasn’t true.
A few minutes later they were travelling along the Grand Canal. Even though she had been there many times before, Lily couldn’t help being impressed by the magnificent array of buildings that edged the water. Recently Giovanni had started to tell her some of the history surrounding many of the important families that had owned the palazzi that could be seen from his bedroom window. She’d found it absolutely fascinating.
‘It’s already late morning, so I thought you might like to stop at Ca’ Salvatore,’ Vito said. ‘Unless you’re tired and you’d like me to take you home before I go to the office?’
‘No, I’d like to visit Giovanni,’ Lily said. ‘I want to see his face when he learns he is to have a great-grandson.’ She glanced at Vito, suddenly feeling slightly awkward. The comparison between his grandfather’s pleasure and Vito’s utter lack of interest was uncomfortably obvious.
‘He’ll probably start choosing names. Traditional family names, suitable for the newest Salvatore,’ Vito said. ‘But don’t be concerned. We won’t name the child anything you are not happy with.’
Lily pushed her hair back off her face and looked at him with interest. Just when she thought he was showing— as much emotion and understanding as one of the marble statues at Ca’Salvatore, he took her by surprise. It was the first time he’d said anything that showed he took her feelings into account.
‘I’d like to choose a name that makes Giovanni happy,’ she said. She wasn’t worried about Giovanni’s choice of names for her son. To tell the truth, it touched her deeply to know that her son was truly wanted by his great-grandfather, and was important enough to be included in the family tradition of names. But in the circumstances it was a bittersweet thought. If only Vito felt the same way as his grandfather.
‘I’ll be late tonight,’ Vito said, jumping out of the boat to offer Lily a steadying hand as she disembarked at the water entrance of Ca’ Salvatore. ‘I have a lot to catch up on.’
Lily watched as the boat eased back out into the traffic on the Grand Canal. She’d felt so happy during the scan, seeing images of her baby. But now a heavy weight of sadness was descending on her.
The past couple of weeks had been wonderful, spending time with Vito again. She had pushed her concerns about the future to the back of her mind, telling herself that the intimacy she had rediscovered with him would help rebuild the trust between them.
But this morning his reaction to the scan had told her nothing had changed. Even the awe-inspiring sight of a tiny baby growing inside her hadn’t softened him. By his actions he’d made it very clear that he was just as hard-hearted towards her as ever.
The next few weeks continued in the same way. It seemed impossible for Lily to spend any time with Vito without ending up in his arms.
But she was falling ever more deeply in love with him, and a tiny seed of hope was steadily growing within her heart. If only she could convince him of her innocence maybe things could be genuinely good between them—both in and out of the bedroom.
At last, as her pregnancy advanced, life gradually began to settle into a routine similar to when Lily had first come to Venice to live with Vito. He started taking her out around the city and eating with her in restaurants again, finally giving her the opportunity to talk to him.
But, although it was what she had been hoping so for weeks, she knew she had to be careful to take things slowly, to keep their conversations on neutral ground. She was trying to build the foundations of her unborn baby’s life while she had the chance. She couldn’t risk ruining everything she was working towards with a rash comment.
Then one evening she was surprised to find herself being guided into Luigi’s. It was the first time they had visited the restaurant since their terrible argument when Vito had been horribly suspicious of the kindly restaurateur.
She stiffened unconsciously as they crossed the threshold. It was unbearable that he had brought her here, especially after they had been getting on so well. Luigi was bound to say something, and she didn’t know how Vito would react.
‘Lily, Vito!’ Luigi bundled over to them with an extravagant— flourish. ‘It is wonderful to see you again after so long.’
‘Luigi.’ Vito greeted the proprietor of the restaurant with a neutral tone.
‘Mamma mia! I see congratulations are in order!’he exclaimed— as his gaze settled on Lily’s very obvious bump.
‘Thank you.’ Vito guided Lily to her chair and held it for her himself.
‘And I am so glad to see you back in Venice after the last time we met,’ Luigi said, addressing his first words to Lily. Then he turned to Vito, a protective glint flashing unexpectedly in his eye. ‘You must have been so worried, to think that your love was roaming the streets alone that cold, foggy night.’
It was the comment Lily had been dreading. She couldn’t stand it. She’d worked so hard to make things right with Vito—for the sake of her unborn son and also for her own future happiness. Suddenly, at that awful moment, it seemed easier to bear the shame herself rather than have Luigi think the worst of Vito.
‘It was a silly misunderstanding,’ Lily blurted.
‘No, it was my responsibility.’ Vito spoke calmly and placed his hand over Lily’s, which lay trembling on the white-linen tablecloth. ‘And I wish to thank you for taking care of Lily when I was remiss.’
‘You must be so pleased to have her back,’ Luigi said. He still had an assessing look in his eye, making Lily want to move the conversation on as quickly as possible.
‘It’s—good to be here.’ She stumbled over her reply.
‘She’s my wife now,’ Vito added, his voice deep and intense.
‘Molte congratulazioni!’ Luigi beamed, instantly loosing all of his sternness. He called across to a waiter to bring out a bottle of prosecco.