The Italian's Pregnant Mistress(6)

By: Cathy Williams

‘Why do you say that?’

‘You know why. Because my work involves a lot of travel. As does yours. Angelo. Do we have to talk about this right now? I’m exhausted. Honestly. It’s late.’

‘No time like the present.’

‘Let’s just leave things the way they are. You asked me whether I was happy and yes, I am. Very.’ She smiled at him and closed her mind to the thought of what lay ahead. Over the past months she had become an expert at living in the present. It was such a good place to be.

‘Happy seeing me now and again? Happy getting diaries out so that we can work out schedules and arrange our meetings like business partners trying to find a convenient date to see one another?’

‘Whatever. Happy being with you when we do meet. It’s good enough for me.’ Please, let’s drop this.

‘There’s no need for you to be based in Paris…’

‘I have to be based somewhere and Paris is the most convenient place. I mean, my work is all in France or Italy, aside from shoots in the Far East.’

‘Which is slightly odd, considering you are from England.’

Francesca went very still, but he didn’t pursue that line of speculation. Instead he murmured gently, ‘You must have some hankering to return to your roots. I know you’ve told me in the past that the only time to be adventurous is when you are young, but you could shift your base to London and continue to be adventurous.’

Francesca released her breath on a sigh. ‘London, Paris—where’s the difference? You’re still all over the place, Angelo, and I accept that. I’m not one of these women who wants to pin you down. You know you’d hate that, hate feeling as though you’ve been put in a trap—how many times have you told me that as soon as a woman starts smelling the aroma of permanence, you start getting restless?’ She tried to lighten the atmosphere with a gentle smile. ‘Maybe I prefer you to be with me now and again and wanting it rather than risk having you around more often, with the danger of you losing interest…’

‘And maybe there is another option.’ Angelo felt the sudden, overwhelming buzz of stepping off the side of a precipice. It was a more terrifying feeling than waiting on the edge of any big deal he had ever done in his life before. And to think that he had always considered himself a man who had gone beyond ever feeling that basic, gut-wrenching emotion called fear!

Francesca’s eyes widened.

‘I’m going to be setting up some pretty big ventures in London. Property. A couple of small architectural firms I want to get involved in. I’ve kept myself to America and Italy and now I intend to move to London, base myself there. Come with me.’

The world seemed suddenly to have tilted on its axis. Francesca sat up abruptly and drew her knees up, clasping her arms around them and leaning her head down in the posture of someone trying to fight off a sudden attack of violent nausea. She could feel the desperate thudding of her heart beneath her ribs, like a train that had shot its tracks and was gathering momentum in its free fall.

Eventually, she turned her head so that she was looking across at him.

‘My work…’ she ventured weakly.

‘Could be done there. You no longer need to confine yourself to catwalks in Italy. You can go into the magazine side of things. Don’t tell me that’s not a hell of a lot more lucrative. You can have lots more money to squirrel away.’

She heard the smile in his voice as he spoke and caressed her spine with one long finger.

‘And there would be more time for us. Less travel for me…Who knows, you might find your homeland more tempting to your wandering soul if I were there, hmm? And things between us would no longer be this clandestine. We meet in this apartment in Venice or else in hotel rooms in various parts of Europe, and I weary of it after this length of time.’

‘You’re not meant to settle, Angelo. You said so! You have a wandering soul. Just like me.’

Angelo picked up the thread of panic in her voice and dismissed it. He was offering her something he had never offered any other woman in his life before, had never come close to offering! She was afraid that he would tire of her if they saw too much of one another, if they removed the breathless excitement of the clandestine. It was, he told himself, understandable.