The Sicilian's Marriage Arrangement(55)

By: Lucy Monroe

He nodded his head jerkily, his normal confidence for once shaken. “I will leave you to make your call.”

He turned to go and she had an insane urge to call him back, but she didn’t.

She had meant what she said. She needed time to determine if their marriage could survive its conception.

Luciano walked from the room feeling like a dead man inside. His beautiful wife hated him. It had been in her eyes: hatred, disgust, disappointment. Soft pansy eyes that had once looked on him in love now despised him.

She would talk to her grandfather, discuss the sordid events surrounding their marriage. And what would that accomplish? He hoped that time apart would calm her down enough to discuss their future, but an equally strong possibility was that in speaking to the old man, she would lose whatever vestiges of faith she maintained in their marriage.

Luciano had screwed up so badly. He was not used to messing up and knew his apology had not gone off the way he wanted. He had left so much unsaid. Words he found it impossible to voice, words that expressed emotion he had a difficult time admitting he was even feeling. To admit his feelings made him vulnerable and that was the one thing he abhorred above all others. Vulnerability.

But he would say anything, do anything to keep his wife.

He could not even contemplate the empty black hole he would fall into if she left him.

Hope waited impatiently for her grandfather to answer the phone. It was early morning in Boston, but he was already at work.

His voice came on the line. “Hope?”

“Yes, Grandfather, it’s me.”

“Did you find out what was going on with Luciano and those dinners in New York?”

“Yes. I know everything now. Everything,” she reemphasized.

“He told you about the deal?”

“You mean about your blackmailing him into marrying me? Yes, Luciano told me.”

Hope swallowed tears while her grandfather cursed.

“How could you do that to me?” she asked.

“I wasn’t doing anything to you, girl. I was doing it for you. Only one thing you really wanted. I realized that on New Year’s Eve. Luciano di Valerio. You’ve had a thing for him for years, but I didn’t notice until then.”

She didn’t deny her grandfather’s words.

“Figured after the way he kissed you that he wanted you too, but he was going to marry some traditional Sicilian girl and leave you in the cold.”

“He was engaged to someone else?” she asked, horrified.

“No, but it was only a matter of time. I baited the trap and he fell into. With the passion between the two of you, I figured propinquity would do the rest.”

“But he doesn’t love me!”

“Bah! Men like Luciano don’t admit to tender emotions. Just ask me. Only told your grandmother one time that I loved her. The day she had our baby girl. It’s the way we’re made.”

Hope felt sorry for her unknown grandmother. Marriage to Joshua Reynolds could not have been easy. “Well, I wanted to marry a man who loved me and was capable of saying so.”

“You wanted Luciano.”

“Not trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey! Do you have any idea how humiliated I’m feeling right now? I hurt, Grandfather, all the way to my toes.”

“What’s that boy done?”

Momentarily disconcerted at having her ultra-alpha husband referred to as a boy, she waited a second to answer. “It’s not what he’s done. It’s what you did. You set me up.”

“I set you up all right, I set you up with Luciano.”

“You set me up to be rejected by a man whose pride had been stomped on by your ruthless arrangement. You can’t force a man like Luciano to do something so personal as get married and expect it all to work out in the end.”

“Don’t see why not. He had to get married someday. Why not to you?” Joshua didn’t even sound sorry.

“Because he doesn’t love me,” she fairly shouted across the phone lines.

“No reason to yell, missy. I may be old, but I hear just fine. The man wants you and for him, that’s probably as close to love as any woman will ever get.”

She curled her knees up to her chest and rested her chin on them. Could her grandfather be right?

“You should not have done it.”

“Hope, you wouldn’t take anything else from me.”

“I didn’t want anything, just your love.” That was all she’d ever wanted from the two most important men in her life and the one thing she was destined not to get. “I’ve got to go.”

“No, wait, child.”

“What?” she asked with a lackluster voice.

“I do love you.”