- JUNE 2016 -
~ Expecting the Fellani Heir ~
Ellie was a lawyer, hard working and efficient, with little time for romance. That was how she saw herself.
But Leonizio changed everything. An Italian from Rome, he’d come to England to divorce his English wife, who had not only been unfaithful but told him the little son he loved wasn’t his. His pain touched her heart, and she found herself warming to him. Their one night of love making was shattering for both of them.
When she found herself pregnant Leonizio ’s reaction stunned her. He wanted to marry her and take her to live with him in Rome. She refused, wanting to keep her independence, but also guessing that he didn’t love her. He only wanted their child.
She agreed to spend a little time with him in Rome, knowing he was counting on changing her mind. It was a risk because her feelings for him were growing, But she believed herself strong enough to love him yet still prevent him taking control of her.
Was she really that strong? The weeks they spent together in the beautiful city would tell her if her life had changed for ever.
After indulging in an impulsive one night with Vittorio, Ellie discovers that she is pregnant. She travels to Rome to tell him.
Several minutes passed while she tried to pluck up the courage to ring his door bell. But she couldn’t manage it, and had almost decided to retreat when the sight of him at a window made her draw in a sharp breath. He pushed it open, leaning out, while she stood, tense and undecided. She was just beginning to back into the shadows when he looked down.
His face was in poorly lit but there was no mistaking the shock that pervaded his whole body.
‘Is that you?’ he called down. ‘Ellie? Ellie?’
‘Yes, it’s me,’ she called back.
He was with her in a moment, ushering her inside and towards the elevator which took them up to the second floor. When they were inside his apartment she walked ahead a few steps, then turned and saw him standing by the door, regarding her curiously.
‘I couldn’t believe it was really you down there,’ he said.
He approached and put his hands on her shoulders.
‘Let me look at you,’ he said. ‘It is you, isn’t it?’
‘Can you doubt it?’
‘Maybe. You look like a woman I once knew – just for a short time.’
A very short time, she thought. And we didn’t know each other, except in one particular sense.
Aloud she said, ‘Nobody stays the same forever.’
‘That’s true. So tell me how things are working. Has the divorce hit a new problem at the last minute?’
‘No, you have nothing to worry about. She’s signed all the papers so far, and we’ve fixed a date for her to sign the rest. There are some more for you, and then it will be pretty much over. I’ve brought a few of them with me.’
‘Instead of just putting them in the mail. Thank you so much.’
‘Things can get lost in the mail,’ she said. She was prevaricating as the crucial moment neared, but she knew she must soon summon up her courage.
‘Here they are,’ she said, drawing out the papers.
He seized them eagerly. Watching his face she saw it flooded with relief tinged by melancholy.
‘It’s nearly over,’ he murmured. ‘I’ll soon be free of her. But I’ll also be free of the child who should have been mine, and that’s a freedom I never wanted.’
‘But soon you’ll have the final documents, and then you can make a new life.’
‘That’s what I tell myself, but I keep thinking of that little boy. Even though he isn’t born yet, I loved him so much. But the love must stop.’
‘And now you think you have nobody to love,’ she said gently.
‘That’s one way of putting it.’
‘But it isn’t true. I came to see you because – ’ she paused. Now that the moment had arrived she was suddenly nervous.
‘I needed to see you,’ she said slowly. ‘There’s something I have to tell you.’ She took a deep breath. ‘I’m pregnant.’
She wasn’t sure what reaction she’d expect, but not the total silence that greeted her. At last he managed to speak in a voice so low that it was almost inaudible.
‘What – did you say?’
‘I’m pregnant. That night we were together – there was a result.’
He drew in a sharp breath. ‘Are you telling me that – ?’
‘That I’m carrying your baby.’
‘You’re sure? Quite certain?’
‘Don’t worry I’m not trying to trick you. You’re the father. It has to be you because there’s nobody else it could be.’
‘I wasn’t accusing you of – I only meant – are you sure you’re pregnant.’
‘There’s no doubt of it. I did a test. It was positive.’
Suddenly the tension drained from his face. Now there was only a blazing smile.
‘Yes!’ he cried. ‘YES!’
He tightened his grip and drew her forward against him in a hug so fierce that she gasped.
‘Sorry,’ he said, loosening his clasp. ‘I must be careful of you now.’
‘It’s all right,’ she gasped. ‘I’m not delicate.’
‘Yes you are. You’re frail and vulnerable and I must do everything to look after you and our child.’
He led her to the sofa and nudged her gently until she sat down.
‘How long have you been sure?’ he asked.
‘A couple of weeks.’
‘And you waited this long to tell me?’
‘I’ve been trying to get my head around it.’
‘Is that all?’ he asked quietly.
She felt she understood his true meaning and said,
‘Look, I told you, you’re the father. There are simply no other candidates. There’s nobody else. Please believe me.’
‘I do believe you. You told me before that your relationships tended to be unsuccessful. It sounds like a lonely life.’
‘Yes,’ she said thoughtfully. ‘It has been,’
‘But not any more. When we’re married you’ll have me to care for you.’
‘Wait!’ she stopped him. ‘Did you say married?’
‘Of course. Why do you look so surprised? Did you think I wouldn’t want to marry you?’
‘To be honest, I never thought of it.’
‘But you must have considered the future when you came here to tell me. What did you think would happen?’
‘I thought you’d be pleased. You want a child. I can give you one.’
‘And I can give you a lot, a good life with everything you want.’
‘But I’d lose my career, which I enjoy. I’d lose my country. We barely know each other but you expect me to move into a new world with you – ’
‘And our child.’
‘Our child will live with me in England. But I’ll put your name on the birth certificate and you can see him or her whenever you like.’
It was sad to see how the eagerness drained from his face, replaced by something that might have been despair. He dropped his head into his hands, staying there for a long moment, while she thought she saw a tremor go through him.
‘It’s too soon to make a decision,’ he said at last.
Tact prevented her from pointing out that she’d already made her decision. Clearly he didn’t regard it as final until it suited him.
‘I’m going back to the hotel,’ she said.
‘I’ll drive you.’
‘No need. It’s only a couple of streets away. Just a short walk.’
‘But you must be careful about getting tired now. My car’s just below.’
‘Signor Fellani – ’
‘Don’t you think you could call me Leonizio – in the circumstances?’
‘Yes, I suppose so.’
He put his arm protectively around her. She gave in, letting him take her downstairs, into the car and back to the hotel, where he escorted her up to her room.
‘I’ll collect you tomorrow morning,’ he said. ‘We have a lot to talk about.’ He grew tense suddenly. ‘You will be here, won’t you?’
‘You mean that?’
‘Of course I do.’
‘You won’t just vanish without telling me?’
‘I promise. Why are you getting so worked up?’
‘Can’t you imagine? Things go wrong so easily.’
‘Yes, I suppose they do. But trust me. I arranged to have several days off, so I don’t have to dash back.’
‘Fine. I’ll collect you tomorrow morning.’
For a moment she though he would kiss her, but something made him back off, bid her farewell with a nod, and retreat down the corridor until he was out of sight. With any other man she would have felt that he’d fled for safety, but with Leonizio that was impossible.
After the traumatic events of the day it was good to be alone. She needed to think. Or perhaps just to feel. She went to bed early hoping to sleep at once, but sleep wouldn’t come.
She recalled her mother, whose own marriage ended sadly, saying,
‘Have your own career, your own life. Never be completely dependent on a man.’
Ellie heeded the lesson, took a law degree at university, and qualified as a solicitor with flying colours. She got a job with a firm that specialised in divorce cases. In her time there she had witnessed every kind of break-up for every kind of reason. She soon realised that wretchedly unhappy marriages were more common than she’d thought. Men and women swore eternal love and fidelity, then turned on each other in a miasma of hate and mistrust. She wondered if love was ever successful.
Her own experiences gave her no cause for comfort. There were men attracted by her wit and her lively personality. But the attraction soon died when they were faced with an intelligence often sharper than their own, and an efficiency that tolerated no nonsense.
‘And I’m no beauty,’ she sometimes thought, gazing critically at herself in the mirror.
Her looks were hard to describe. As she said, she was no beauty. Neither was she conventionally pretty. But it would have been an injustice to call her plain. Her face had spirit and personality. It could come alive with a wickedly enticing humour that had won her many admirers. Even if they did not stay long.
‘I’m just not good at the sighing bit,’ she’d once confided in a friend.
‘Pity,’ her friend had observed. ‘Because that’s the bit they want.’
‘That’s what he wanted,’ she mused now, lying in the darkness. ‘When he mentioned marriage I was supposed to collapse with gratitude. Well, think again, buster. I know it isn’t me you want. It’s my little friend in here.’ She let her hands wander gently over her stomach, enjoying the feeling that she wasn’t alone.
‘Who are you?’ she mused. ‘What does the future hold for you and me? How did you just appear out of nowhere to transform the world?’
But it wasn’t out of nowhere, she knew. The child she carried was the legacy of a night when she had become another person. In Leonizio’s arms a new self had come to life, glowing with a fiery light she had never known before, and perhaps would never know again. Which might be a good thing, she thought wryly.
‘And now I have you,’ she murmured to her hidden companion. ‘I will share you with him, but I won’t marry him and let him take me over. My mother did that and she lived to regret it. But things have changed.’
Her mother had been driven into a conventional marriage. But things were different now, Ellie thought. She could make her own decisions, bear her child alone and raise it independently. Leonizio could be part of their lives, but she would not let him dictate to her.
At last, with a contented feeling that the matter was settled, she fell asleep.
From the book EXPECTING THE FELLANI HEIR by Lucy Gordon.
Copyright 2016 by Lucy Gordon
Cover Copyright © 2016by
Harlequin Enterprises Limited. ® and tm are trademarks of the
published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
~ a taste of italy at home ~