The Sicilian's Marriage Arrangement(51)

By: Lucy Monroe


“Did you sleep with Zia?” she demanded in a voice raw from pain.

“No!”

“No, I don’t suppose you did. I’m sure there was very little sleeping involved.”

“Stop this. You are upsetting yourself for nothing.”

He called adultery nothing? “Were your dinners with her in New York nothing too, Luciano?”

Silence greeted that.

“Maybe you didn’t think I would find out?”

“How did you find out about them?”

“My grandfather.”

“Damned interfering old man.”

“Don’t blame him for showing me what a lying swine you are.” How dared he try to foist the culpability for this awful situation onto someone else? “If you hadn’t broken your promise to me, there would have been nothing for him to interfere over.”

“I have not lied to you. I have broken no promises either.” He didn’t deny being a swine.

She’d like to know how he justified that statement to himself. “You were in the shower when I called, Luciano.”

“This is proof of nothing.”

“It proves you’re in a hotel room with another woman.” Let him try to deny it.

“I am not.”

Getting ready to blast him, she remembered his preference for not staying at hotels and she choked on a bitter laugh. “You brought her to the company apartment? How brazen, Signor di Valerio, but then I suppose she’s been there before.”

“No, Hope. It is not like that.” He sounded like she felt, miserable. She couldn’t trust what she heard in his voice though, not when his actions had already spoken so loudly.

“It is exactly like that. Zia said as much.”

“What Zia said, it was a mistake.”

“Our marriage was the real mistake.”

“No! Amore mia. That was not an error. Our marriage was meant to be. You must listen.”

“Why? So you can tell me more lies?” She was choking on her pain. “Your girlfriend was honest at least.”

He said something to Zia and then the other woman came on the line. “Hope, I am sorry I implied I slept with your husband. I did not,” she said sounding distressed, “you must believe me about this.”

“That’s why you’re there when he’s taking a shower.” Hope wasn’t that gullible.

“I am truly sorry I made this sound like an intimacy. It was not. Luciano was still asleep when I arrived this morning to discuss some business.”

“Oh, please…” He never slept late.

Zia made an impatient sound. “He was recovering from a hangover, I think. He looked terrible.” She paused. “He does not look any better now.”

Luciano drinking to excess? Not likely. “You expect me to believe he got drunk, passed out and didn’t wake up until you got there this morning?”

“Si. Believe, for it is the truth. Your husband cares for you. I am sorry for the part I have played, but it was only a part. Luciano wants no woman but you.”

Hope didn’t understand Zia’s remarks about playing a part, but she no longer believed the fairy tale that Luciano wanted only her. “What kind of business do you have with my husband?”

Why was she bothering to ask? The answer was devastating to her self-awareness. Because she wanted to believe. Idiot, she castigated herself.

“He is investing money for me. A model’s career is not a long one. It is nothing more. I promise you.”

“You were with him in New York.”

“No. I had a show. Our meeting was happenstance, nothing more.”

“That nothing resulted in two dinner dates.”

“Dinner between old friends. That is all. Not dates. Have you never had an evening with a man that consisted of innocent conversation only?”

All Hope’s dates ended innocently, except those with Luciano. “I don’t have your sophistication.” Her voice should have frozen the phone lines, it was so arctic.

Zia sighed, proving it had not. “Nothing happened between Luciano and I. He does not even kiss my cheek in greeting now.”

Hope wanted so desperately to believe the model’s words, but would that be opening herself up for further heartache?

“Hope?” It was Luciano.

She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

“Are you there, cara?”

Beloved. She wasn’t loved by him, but she was his wife. Presumably that fact had finally sunk in with some meaning. “I’m here.”

“I will be home as soon as I can get a takeoff time at the airport for my jet.”

“And?”

“We need to talk. Wait for me at the villa.”

Was she willing to give him this chance?