The Sicilian's Marriage Arrangement(54)

By: Lucy Monroe


“But how would that have gotten you control back of the company?” Hadn’t he said if she divorced him, he only got fifty percent of the shares in the settlement?

“I have purchased all outstanding stock, including that for which your grandfather held proxies. Getting back half of the shares would have fulfilled my pride more than my need. It was part of my vendetta.”

“You never intended me to get pregnant.” Her hand went in automatic protective gesture over her womb.

He looked haunted. “I did not think of it.”

At her look of disbelief, he turned away again and spoke with his back to her. “I went pazzesco. Crazy. Santo cielo! I was only thinking of how you had played me for a fool. How stupid I had been to trust you.”

And his pride, which had already been smarting from her grandfather’s behavior would have been decimated by this turn of events.

“Your carrying my bambino did not enter my mind.” His broad shoulders were tense with strain. “I wanted to hurt you. I admit this. I wanted to make Joshua pay.”

“You succeeded. You should be proud of a job well done.” Too well done. So much for bleeding, she felt like her heart was hemorrhaging from the pain.

He turned back, his face set in bleak lines. “I am not proud. I am ashamed and I am sorry.”

Every straining line of his body spoke of sincerity, his brown eyes eloquent with his regret.

“I believe you.” She sighed, trying to ease the tightness in her chest. She believed that he was sorry, but his apology could not undo the hurt. Repentant, or not, he had married her not because he wanted her, but because he’d been forced to do it. The rejection she felt was shattering.

“I thought you cared about me. I knew it wasn’t love, but this thing between you and my grandfather—it’s so demeaning. The knowledge that our marriage was the result of an arrangement between you and my grandfather so you could get your company back…” Words failed her for several seconds as she struggled to keep the tears at bay.

Finally, she swallowed. “I never would have suspected anything like that, but it explains so much.”

He stepped toward her, his hand extended, “Hope, please, we can make this marriage of ours work.”

She reared back, almost falling off the sofa. “Don’t come near me. I don’t want you touching me.” When she remembered how he had blackmailed her into marriage, using his body as the bait, she shuddered.

His expression was that of a jaguar thwarted of its prey.

“I want some time to think. Alone.”

He shook his head in sharp negative. “We have both spent enough time alone.”

“Whose fault is that?” She slapped the hand away that came within touching distance. “I missed you so much, but you treated me like little more than a whore on tap.”

“No!”

“Yes! Since you got back from your trip, you’ve refused to talk to me, but you’ve been more than willing to use my body. I have to assume that was part of the revenge plan. Make me feel like a tramp and I would hurt even more, right?”

He looked horror-stricken by her words. “That is not the way it was.”

“From where I’m standing, it is. I don’t know if I can stay married to you,” she whispered painfully.

“I will not allow you to divorce me.”

“Contrary to the way both you and my grandfather have been behaving, we are no longer in the Dark Ages. You can’t dictate my life’s terms to me.”

He ran his fingers through his hair in agitation. “I made a mistake, I admit it, but I will rectify it. I promise you this.”

“And you are so good at keeping your promises.” She couldn’t help the dig, but she felt no satisfaction when he winced.

“I did not have sex with Zia.”

“The jury is still out on that one.”

His revenge plot made sense, even down to only pretending to have an affair. Breaking his word would not sit well with Luciano, but she wasn’t ready to let him off the hook on that one. He’d set himself up, he could squirm.

All that aside, how could he keep his latest promise without love? How could he make it better when his lack of love was what hurt the most?

“I need some time alone,” she said again. The tears she’d fought since first looking at him, washed into her eyes. “I want to call my grandfather. I don’t understand how he could have done this to me.”

Luciano’s hand lifted and fell, as if he wanted to touch her but knew she would reject him again. “We will talk again after this?”

She didn’t see how they could avoid it. “Yes.”