Pregnancy of Revenge(10)

By: Jacqueline Baird

As for the title, 'The Waiting Woman'—how apt, he thought grimly. She had waited and hoped for two years for Robert Summerville to marry her. A deep, dark frown marred his austere face as the memories flooded back. Jake had been twelve when Anna was born, and to his foster- parents her birth had seemed like a miracle. Jake had adored the new baby, and had watched her grow into a delightful little girl by the time he had left his foster home at eighteen.

He should have kept a closer eye on her. But after university he had been totally involved in his work as an engineer and building his own business. He had not had much time to visit his foster-family, mainly birthdays and holidays, but when he had Anna had always seemed fine. And as the Lasios had never appeared to have any worries about her, neither had Jake.

When Anna had turned twenty-one, Jake, then the head of the vast d'Amato International corporation, had thrown a lavish party on board his yacht for her birthday. Anna had seemed to be a happy, well-adjusted young woman, full of enthusiasm for her fledgling career as a graphic artist. Satisfied she was okay, Jake had carried on his own very busy life and respected that, as an adult, Anna was entitled to do the same.

But not any more.

Rage and regret welled up inside him. How could she have had an affair with, and posed naked for, a man who was old enough to be her father? How could she have driven when hopelessly drunk and killed herself? How could she have let a man do that to her?

There was no answer, and the burden of his own guilt had weighed heavily on his mind since Anna's death. He had lived with Anna from the moment she was born until she was six and with hindsight he knew he should have done much more to protect her.

He had known about her relationship with Summerville. She had told him over one of their infrequent lunches in Nice two years ago. At that time she had still been working and living in an apartment Jake had bought for her, and although Jake had never heard of the man, he had not queried her choice, because she had so obviously been happy, and confident it was only a matter of time before they married.

But now, remembering how appalled he had been when Anna had turned up at his home in Genoa five months ago, he bitterly regretted not investigating Summerville as soon as he'd heard the name.

Looking a shadow of her former self, Anna had cried on his shoulder and told him the whole sorry story of the affair. How she had given up her job and had been living with the man for over a year, but Robert had sent her away three months before he'd died, all because of his daughter.

He had explained she was his only child and had been spoilt by her mother. She was a bit insecure and very pos sessive of him, and flatly refused to meet Anna. He didn't want to upset his daughter, so Anna had to leave while she was in residence. But he had assured Anna it would only be for a few weeks. In other words, to quote Anna, 'Robert's daughter was a selfish little spoilt brat.' Anna had not even heard of his death in time to attend the funeral. For himself, after hearing the tale, if the man had not been dead already, Jake would have quite happily killed him.

Anna's tragic death a few weeks after their last meeting had gutted him, and it didn't help that the man who in Jake's mind was indirectly responsible was already six feet under and out of his reach. As for Anna's parents, they were crippled with grief.

Jake had spent the past three months simply being there for his foster-parents, his work for once taking second place.

This was his first trip abroad since her death, and catching sight of that catalogue in Reception had ignited his fury all over again. But at least he now knew the painting was safely on its way to his home in Italy. He was still angry he had been unable to prevent its showing, but, as he intended to destroy the painting, with a bit of luck Anna's parents need never know it had ever existed. It was the least he could do for them.

Jake considered himself a modern, sophisticated man of the world. He enjoyed women and was rarely without a lover. Over the years he had had several affairs, and at least two of the women, as models, had been displayed naked on countless magazine covers. It hadn't bothered him at all. Yet he saw nothing paradoxical in his reaction to the public exposure of Anna.

But what he did see after meeting the lovely Charlotte was a way to get revenge on the family that had brought about her death...and thoroughly enjoy doing so.

Spinning on his heel, he headed for the bathroom, and a cold shower. His last for some time, he reckoned, a predatory smile curving his firm mouth.

Charlie took one last look at her reflection in the mirrored door of the wardrobe. Slim-fitting grey trousers traced her long legs, and with them she had teamed a soft pink cashmere sweater. A heavy chain belt that fastened with a large clasp was slung low around her hips. A grey hide purse and matching loafers completed her outfit. Comfortably casual, she told herself, but in reality she hadn't much choice: the only dress she had with her was the one she'd worn last night and the rest of her holiday clothes consisted of trousers and casual tops. She tweaked a stray tendril of hair behind her ear, and wondered again if she should pin it up. As it was it fell in loose curls to her shoulders. No, you look good, girl, she decided with a broad grin.