Pregnancy of Revenge(56)

By: Jacqueline Baird

'I'll show you the way,' Stephanie offered. 'I can remember when I was in your condition and running to the loo all the time. It was hell.' Everyone laughed.

Having completed her ablutions, Charlie smiled at Stephanie. 'I suppose we have to rejoin the fray.'

'Yes, unless you want Jake hammering on the door looking for you. I have never seen him in love before and it is amazing.' She gripped Charlie's hand. 'I'm so happy for you both, and especially for your baby. Jake will make a great father,' she said as they left the bathroom. 'And you don't want to believe all the stories you hear about the women he has supposedly known. Paulo told me they are vastly exaggerated—not that he has led the life of a monk, but Jake is a very moral man, old-fashioned in some ways. So you have nothing to worry about. He will make a marvellous husband and father.'

If Stephanie had sought to reassure Charlie, her information about all the women he was rumoured to have known had the opposite effect. Her determination to give their marriage a chance took a wobble—but face it, she told herself, she didn't have much of a choice.

'Charlotta, I thought you had got lost.' Jake's husky accented drawl, and the arm that curved around her waist, were a welcome relief from Stephanie's unwanted confidences, and her troubled thoughts. 'Dinner is about to be served.' he added and she made no demur as he led her back into the dining room.

The women were all elegantly dressed in the latest designer fashions, and Charlie said a private prayer of thanks to Sophia for guiding her in what to wear. As for the jewels, Jake had been right about that: she would have looked positively bare in this company where the diamonds on display had to equal a king's ransom—and not only on the women, she noted with an amused smile as Jake introduced her to a Signor Dotello . The diamond stud in the man's ear was the size of a gull's egg. His dress shirt was open almost to his waist and an enormous chain circled his neck, but that was not all: a massive diamond crucifix glittered against his deeply tanned chest.

'I believe that is what is called bling,' she murmured to Jake as the man left to take his place at one of the ten circular tables arranged around the periphery of the room, to leave space for dancing in the centre.

'Correct,' he said with a husky laugh. 'Dotello is a New York gems dealer and likes to show his wares.'

'Along with half his chest.'

'Not that you should not have noticed,' Jake declared possessively as he led her to the top table and saw her seated before joining her.

Jake deftly reacquainted her with their table companions. His foster-parents were next to him and then Sophia and her husband Gianni, followed by Paulo and his wife Stephanie who smiled at Charlie like an old friend.

The food was superb and the champagne and conversation flowed freely through half a dozen courses, except for the last couple at the table: Diego and a stunning Russian model called Lenka, who could not speak a word of any language but her own.

'Lenka is a typical Diego type,' Jake murmured to Charlie in a soft aside as Stephanie, having finished her sweet, tried to engage the model in conversation. 'Diego likes his women to be models, mobile and mute.'

'And of course you don't?' Charlie mocked with an elegant lift of a finely arched brow, remembering Melissa. Her blue eyes dimmed and she speared a solitary morsel of gateau left on her plate and popped it into her mouth.

'I have dated several, I can't deny it.' Jake settled back in his chair and regarded her with dark intent eyes. 'But my preference is for a beautiful English blonde, with a penchant for climbing, but not of the social variety, and maybe just a little bit too much mouth.' Leaning forward, he lifted a finger. 'Speaking of your delectable mouth, you have a crumb.' The pad of his index finger stroked the corner of her mouth and lingered.

'Come on, you two, less of the canoodling and lead the dancing,' Diego called with a laugh.

'Shall we?' Jake suggested smoothly as the band struck up the wedding waltz, and, rising to his feet, he took her hand and led her onto the dance floor.

With all his friends watching she could not disagree, but it struck her forcibly how little she really knew of Jake as he slid an arm around her, his hand splaying firmly across the centre of her back as he moved her in close to him. 'Do you realise I have never danced with you? I don't know if I can.'