The Unwanted Wife (Chapter Eight)

"You are an extremely difficult patient, cara," Sandro gritted out from between his teeth three days later. It was mid-afternoon and he had walked into her workroom, only to find her guiltily standing in the middle of the room. She was clutching the sketchbook that she had crept upstairs to retrieve, to her chest.

"I was bored," she whined. "So I thought if I had my sketchbook handy, I could work on some designs."

"Why didn't you call me or Phumsile to get it for you?"

"You were catching up on some work," and he had missed enough of it already, taking the week off to stay with her. "And Phumsile has dashed out to do some shopping."

"This is ridiculous," he growled, reaching her in one stride and swinging her up into his strong arms as if she were a featherweight. "You're being impossible. Why didn't you watch some TV, or read a book or take a nap, or anything until Phumsile got back?"

"Because I'm bored now," she complained sulkily and he muttered something in Italian beneath his breath.

"What does that mean?" She demanded to know and he slanted a wry sidelong glance at her before snorting softly.

"I said, 'God save me from stubborn women'," he obligingly translated and she scowled.

"I am not stubborn," she insisted stubbornly and his gorgeous lips twitched in amusement.

"Of course not," he shook his dark head in a most condescending manner, that Theresa immediately took exception to.

"And you don't have to patronize me," she seethed. "I'm not made of glass…"

"You're just spoiling for a fight aren't you?" He mused, his lips curling up slightly and she simply folded her arms over her chest and kept her gaze mutinously fixed on his strong jaw. He sighed dramatically and hoisted her further up against his chest before making his way downstairs. When they got back to her room he deposited her gently onto the side of her bed and stood staring down at her implacably with his hands shoved into the pockets of his navy blue cargo pants. She loved him in cargo pants, they rode low on his lean hips and certainly did wonderful things for his already gorgeous backside. Now, while he brooded above her, her mouth went dry at the picture of masculine perfection he presented in those pants and his favourite old t-shirt, a torn, stretched grey thing with a Batman emblem on the front. His hair was a mess and he was in serious need of a shave but he looked absolutely gorgeous and she was suddenly breathless with desire for him.

His eyes narrowed speculatively on her suddenly flushed face and he seemed to clue in to what was happening immediately, the corners of his lips tugged upward as he stretched suddenly, adding a jaw-popping yawn to the movement. His t-shirt rode up over his toned, ridged abdomen, revealing his smooth bronze skin and Theresa nearly groaned out loud as she squelched the urge to reach out and stroke the satiny skin on display just inches from her face. The elaborate stretch finally ended and he groaned as he rolled his head on his shoulders, working the kinks out of his neck.

"I'm exhausted," he informed her huskily, sinking down beside her and she hurriedly scooted closer to the headboard. He ignored the evasive movement and threw himself backward, lying down with his knees over the side of the bed and his feet braced on the floor. Once again his shirt had ridden up and Theresa stared at the tempting skin of his ripped torso mutely. He lifted his hands to cover his face, hitching the shirt up even further, and he sighed again. "Just let me rest here for a couple of minutes, cara. I need to recover my strength after hauling you down those stairs. You have put on a lot of weight over these last few months…" she was so captivated by the delectable picture he made, laid out like a buffet in front of a starving woman, that it took a moment for the words to sink in. When they did, she yelped in outrage and thumped his hard bicep in response. His mouth, the only part of his face that she could see beneath his hands, shifted into a lazy smile.

"You hit like a girl," he smirked, keeping his eyes covered and she attempted to hit him again, only he was ready for her this time and grabbed her clenched fist to tug her towards him until she was awkwardly sprawled on top of him. She tried to shift off him but his arm tightened like an iron band around her waist, keeping her in place with the barest of efforts.

"Let me go," she demanded between clenched teeth, wriggling urgently as she tried to get away from him. To her frustration she could barely move and eventually she wore herself out and stopped moving. Her hands were braced on his hard broad chest as she tried to keep her upper body away from his, one of her feet was dangling over the side of the bed and the other was trapped between his legs. She glared down into his face but his eyes were closed and he looked so relaxed that for an implausible moment she actually believed that he might have fallen asleep. His eyelids lazily drifted up when she stopped moving.

"Just relax will you?" He implored wearily.

"I can't relax like this," she whispered and he groaned before, with seemingly great effort, he shifted until they were both lying in the middle of the large bed. He was on his back, his sock-clad feet, he had somehow managed to kick off his sneaker in the process, crossed at the ankles, with her stretched out beside him, one hard arm was wrapped around her waist and the other was curled up beneath his head. How he had managed to change their positions without once releasing her remained a mystery to her.

"You're still not relaxed," he observed after a few minutes of silence and she lifted her head from where it was resting just beneath his armpit and frowned grumpily up into his face.

"Of course I'm not," she snapped. "How am I supposed to relax when you're exactly where I don't want you to be?"

"You brought this upon yourself," he shrugged in unconcern.

"How on earth did I do that?"

"By not following the doctor's orders," he mumbled, sounding half-asleep. "This is the only way I can be sure that you'll bloody well stay in bed."

"I'm not going to have sex with you," she finally said and he sighed, the sound so long-suffering that Theresa's hackles rose.

"No. But you are going to sleep with me," he informed her, his voice filled with grim purpose. "So you might as well relax." She said nothing, merely remaining tensed up like a coiled spring beside him. The hand he had resting at her waist began sweeping lazily up and down her side, while he brought his other arm around to lay his large hand low on her abdomen, where the baby rested. She tensed even further at his actions but he did nothing more threatening that pet and stroke her gently. Gradually she began to relax, allowing her thoughts to drift slightly.

"Have you thought of names for the baby yet?" He asked after nearly half an hour of increasingly comfortable silence and Theresa was so relaxed by that time that she couldn't even summon up any outrage at what she considered a forbidden topic.

"Hmmm…" she moaned, inhaling his warm, clean scent with visible pleasure. "I like the names Kieran and Ethan. Liam maybe but I'm leaning toward Alex…" her voice trailed off awkwardly as she realized what she had revealed and hoped that he wouldn't notice. But this was Sandro and he was sharper than the proverbial tack.

"Alex?" He observed casually. "Alexander?"

Stupid, stupid fool! She berated herself angrily. How could she have revealed that she was leaning towards naming her son after him? He said nothing further on the subject and she relaxed after a few tense minutes.

"What about girl names?" He finally asked. "You haven't thought of any?" Of course she hadn't thought of any! She was having a boy. She refused to answer his question.

"I like the name Lily," he murmured, his voice almost dreamy as he continued to gently stroke the slight mound of her abdomen. "Or Sofia… Lily would have black hair like mine but beautiful green eyes like yours… but I think a Sofia should have red hair and brown eyes, don't you?" He didn't wait for her response, merely continued on in that same dreamy voice. "Lily would be a sweet child… but Sofia… she's temperamental. She likes to throw things…"

"Stop it," she finally hissed angrily. "There will be no Lily or Sofia! There will be a Liam or an Ethan, maybe a Kieran or an Alex… and he will have red hair and green eyes. He will be a sweet and lovable child." He didn't comment, merely kept up the soothing, non-threatening movements of his large, strong hands. A while afterwards, the lazy stroking slowed down, before stopping completely and his hands became heavy on her body, his large frame slumping heavily against hers. A soft snore confirmed that he had fallen asleep and Theresa sighed quietly before allowing herself to drift off as well.

The natural light in the room had a warm orange glow to it when she woke up later and she realized it was just after dusk, meaning that she had slept for nearly five hours. She sighed lazily, feeling remarkably warm and comfortable with her head cushioned on Sandro's warm, hard chest, her neck supported by his upper arm, which was curled around her shoulders; his big hand snuggled just under her right breast. One of her hands was tucked under her cheek and the other was… she tensed abruptly when she realized where her audacious hand had come to rest. It was cupped over the firm bulge of his crotch, a bulge that was rapidly swelling and hardening beneath her palm.

"Don't panic…." Sandro's sleep-roughened voice growled the deep tenor of his voice rumbling through the chest beneath her head. "Don't… it's nothing."

"It doesn't feel like nothing to me," her own voice was husky with sleep and she amazed herself when, instead of following her first instinct and snatching her hand away from his crotch, she gently and almost tentatively, curled her hand around the thickening shaft of flesh.

"Madre de Dio, cara…" he choked out on a strangled voice. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Nothing," she murmured, her small hand petting and stroking him in much the same way he had done earlier, only a lot less innocent.

"Theresa," his voice was strained. "Sweetheart, please… if you keep doing that I don't know… I don't think…"

"'Don't think'…" she purred, lifting her head from his chest to meet his pleading brown eyes. "That's a good idea."

"What the hell has gotten into you?" Theresa didn't really know the answer to that, only she had missed having him in her bed, in her arms… in her body the last few months and while, logically, she knew that her raging hormones had a great deal to do with her unwanted urges, she also knew that a large part of it could be attributed to her annoyingly undying love and desire for him.

"Theresa, I don't think this is what the doctor had in mind when he recommended bed rest and… you don't really want this…" he muttered, reaching down to drag her hand away from his straining, fully erect length.

"I do," she protested, trying to pull her hand free of his strong grip.

"No… you're… I don't know… your hormones are out of control because of the pregnancy, that's why you feel like this," his voice trailed off when one of her slender thighs moved up to where her hand had just been, he moaned helplessly when she applied slight pressure and relaxed his hold on her. That was all she needed and she was straddling him before either of them realized her intention. Suddenly her warm feminine mound was grinding up against him and both of them were groaning. Theresa watched as his head tilted back on the pillow and smiled in catlike satisfaction when his hands dropped to her thighs to drag her even closer. She braced her hands on his broad chest in order to maintain her balance and continued to sensuously rub herself against him.

"I think you may be right," she eventually gasped. "About the hormones… I want you but I don't want to want you." Her frustration with herself and the situation were clouding her clear green eyes and his eyes went stormy with some kind of ruthlessly repressed emotion.

"Sssh… sweetheart… I read that pregnant women sometimes… well most times, get really…" his voice trailed off as he struggled to find the right word, his mind obviously not on what he was saying as sweat started to bead his brow and his eyes took on a glazed, faraway look.

"Horny?" She supplied and she sensed the utter shock in his absolute stillness. She had never said the word before, even though he had on numerous occasions.

"Yes…" he finally said, after clearing his throat awkwardly.

"Because I am," she reiterated, enjoying his discomfiture immensely as she continued to move sensuously against him. His hips were starting to strain upward slightly with each lazy movement she made and she relished the absolute power she had over him.

"You said there would be no sex," he reminded desperately, his breathing becoming more laboured. "And I don't think we can have sex while you're on bed rest…"

"But maybe we can fool around a bit?" She smiled down into her husband's shocked face, feeling like the cat that had stolen the cream. He lifted one of his arms and covered his eyes, biting back a cry of pleasured anguish as she exerted more pressure right where it counted. He lifted his arm from his face and his fevered gaze bored into hers, his face was taut with the control he was exerting over himself, the harsh planes standing out in sharp relief beneath his tanned skin. He reached up and tangled his large hands in her tousled red hair, tugging her towards him until their lips were a breath apart but Theresa smiled serenely down into his strained face and pushed her hands down onto his heaving chest to force some distance between them. He reluctantly let her go, relinquishing the opportunity to use his larger size and superior strength against her, obviously content, for now, to let her control events.

"Theresa, please," he finally begged. "Give me your mouth. I need to taste you… per favore"

"No lips," she shook her head. "This isn't…" she hesitated and his eyes flared and his body went still beneath her, taut with tension.

"Isn't what?" He demanded and she blinked down into his suddenly furious eyes. "Isn't what, Theresa?"

"Personal…" she completed on a whisper and was shocked and dismayed when she surprised a flash of hurt in his usually unreadable gaze.

"This feels pretty damned personal to me, cara," he hissed.

"I just… need you," she half-sobbed and he shook his head, grabbing her narrow hips between his large hands.

"Not me," he shook his head, keeping her hips steady as he ground himself against her. She shuddered in involuntary pleasure. "This!"

"Yes," she cried out, pushing herself against him. "Please…"

"I won't let you use me like that, Theresa," his voice was so brittle it cracked.

"Why not?" She keened, tears of frustration, anger and heartbreak sliding down her cheeks. "You used me in exactly the same way… and you kept it impersonal too. No kissing, no cuddling, no intimacy, no talking, no warmth… nothing! You stripped the act of everything but the bare essentials and right now, that's all I want from you."

"What is this? Some kind of payback? You want me to see what it feels like to be used? Well you're doing a pretty damned good job of it, Theresa. Consider it a lesson well-learned…" he finally used his superior strength and lifted her off of him as if she weighed nothing and she curled up into a humiliated ball, tears finally slipping down her cheeks as her entire body clenched with sexual and emotional frustration.

"I wasn't trying to prove anything," she protested thickly. "I just didn't want to get emotionally involved again! I didn't want to start thinking there was anything other than physical attraction between us. I can't afford to make that mistake again…"

"Mi dispiace, cara," he said regretfully as he got up and shoved his hands into his pockets to stare down at her. "I can't give you what you want. Not the way you want it…"

"You've done it before," she pointed out, sitting up and swiping at her hot, wet cheeks. "We can just go back to that…"

"There's no going back to that," he negated harshly. "Never again…"

"I know I'm not your type," she strove to sound casual about that painful fact and ignored the slight sound of dismay that seemed to rumble out from deep within his broad chest. "Compared to all those supermodels and actresses, I know I've always been Miss Dull and Dowdy… but you overlooked that once. I thought maybe…"

"Are you fishing for compliments?" He asked in an insultingly suspicious voice, his face creased into an incredulous glare. "Because I know that you cannot be serious with this load of tripe!" She blinked up into his outraged face and he barked out a disbelieving laugh at the confusion in her eyes.

"Well… how do explain the fact that you can barely stand to look at me?" she finally found her voice again and he winced at the painful embarrassment and anguish that she couldn't manage to disguise. "I know how much you hated touching me and I may have been a virgin when we married, Alessandro, but I knew enough to realize that a man who has to drink himself into a stupor before touching a woman, a man who can barely exchange a civil word with her and has to scrub her scent and touch from his skin as soon as he's capable of getting up after sex… a man like that has to be repulsed by the woman in his bed." Another harsh sound was torn from his chest and he lifted both hands to scrub them over his face and eyes and up into his hair, leaving it in messy peaks. Finally he simply stood there, staring down at her with his fingers linked in the nape of his neck, seemingly unable to respond to her pained words.

He sat down next to her and dragged her back into his lap with a helpless groan, arranged her until she was straddling him again. This time he dragged his knees up to support her back and wrapped his arms around her slender frame, building a fortified human cage around her trembling body.

"Theresa…" he groaned, burying his face into her soft, fragrant hair. "I do want you, cara. I've always wanted you…" He cupped the back of her head in the palms of his large hands and stared intently down into her eyes, trying to convey his earnestness through sheer force of will. Theresa's tear-drenched gaze swept over his deadly serious face and she couldn't read it. Once again he had his emotions under tight control and even though he was saying the words she couldn't tell if he was being sincere or not.

"You don't have to lie," she finally whispered, dropping her head to one of his broad shoulders and closing her arms around his broad back, feeling safe, warm and protected. "I'm sorry I brought this up again, Sandro. I didn't mean to. I don't mean to keep throwing the past back into your face like this. I do recognize how difficult the situation must have been for you and…"

"Stop it," he finally interrupted the burble of words that she couldn't seem to control. "Just stop it… yes the situation was beyond my control. It was, and still is, incredibly difficult but this does not mean you deserved the treatment you got from me and it certainly doesn't mean that I never wanted you. Theresa, most nights I could barely keep my greedy hands off of you."

"You couldn't?" She lifted her head from his shoulder to stare up into his grim face.

"Why do you think I insisted that we share a bed?" He pointed out. "That way, I didn't have to go and find you when my need for you overrode all else."

"Oh…" she responded stupidly.

"Yes… 'oh'," he nodded. "And despite all of my idiotic stratagems to keep intimacy between us to a minimum, remember I blamed you for this marriage as much as I did your father, I could never get enough of you."

"Oh…" she muttered redundantly and his lips twitched into a little smile.

"That's why I never slept with those women the tabloids kept pairing me up with," he whispered, his long thumbs stroking back and forth across the satiny skin stretched over her high cheekbones.

"You really didn't sleep with any of them?" She asked in a small, uncertain voice and he nodded, never shifting his eyes from hers, as if he could make her believe him through sheer force of will.

"Why would I? When I had you waiting for me at home," he growled and she blinked back her tears, which threatened to overflow.

"Why should I believe you?" she finally asked.

"Why would I lie to you? I have nothing to gain from it, we're getting divorced, going our separate ways in a few months' time… right?" The last emerged a bit uncertainly and Theresa blinked at the unwelcome reminder.

"Right. Of course…" she nodded.

"So lying about this now would achieve nothing…" he shrugged.

"Thank you," she wasn't sure what she was thanking him for… telling the truth? Not sleeping with those women? All she knew was that she felt incredibly relieved because the public humiliation hurt so much less now that she knew the rumours of his many infidelities had been unfounded. She shut out the painful, lingering memory of the omnipresent Francesca and dropped her head back onto his shoulder. He stroked her narrow back gently, there was nothing sexual in their embrace anymore, just comfort and support which Theresa needed a lot more than the physical release she had been craving before.

"You must be starving," he finally murmured into her hair, lifting his head to smile down into her eyes. "I'll get us something to eat. We can have dinner and watch a movie in bed, okay?" She nodded and reluctantly allowed him to lift her from his lap. He dropped a sweet kiss on her head and left the bedroom with a gentle smile.