The Unwanted Wife(4)

By: Natasha Anders


            “Warn away,” she taunted shakily. “You want to stay married? Fine. But I refuse to let you walk all over me anymore. It’s time you start showing me some respect!”

            “How the hell am I supposed to respect someone who sold herself to the highest bidder?” he growled with tight control, and she gasped, stung. “I have no respect for you, Theresa, not even as the potential mother of my child, because, quite frankly, you can’t even do that right.”

            She lost it, completely, and for the first time in her entire twenty-six years, Theresa resorted to violence. She launched herself at him, hissing, spitting, and scratching like a cat. In that moment she hated him so much that it felt like a living thing trying to claw its way out of her to get at him. When she came back to herself, she realized that he had her in his arms, her back to his front, her wrists in his hands, and her arms crossed over her chest. They were both out of breath. There were terrible mewling sounds coming from the back of her throat, the words of hate she had repeatedly hurled at him having long ago faded into incoherent sobs. His lips were in her hair, just above her left ear, and he was making soothing sounds, not hurting her, just restraining her with his superior strength. She went limp, hanging defeated from his arms.

            “I’m sorry.” She froze; the words were so quiet she wasn’t sure she’d heard him correctly. “That was…cruel and wrong of me.”

            More words? She didn’t know how to respond and so chose not to say anything. She felt him swallowing before he gingerly released her wrists and stepped away from her. She made a show of rubbing them, even though he hadn’t hurt her at all. Instead she seemed to have inflicted most of the damage on both of them. A few of her nails were broken and her fists were bruised from the few angry punches she had managed to land against his hard body. She turned around to face him and was shocked to see that he was bleeding. He had scratches on his hands and face, including a deep, angry-looking one on his neck. He also had bite marks on his muscled forearms, and a darkening bruise on his jaw. He saw her eyes land on the bruise and ruefully rubbed at it.

            “You pack a mean punch,” he said sheepishly, before looking down at her hands and swearing softly. “You’ve hurt yourself.” He lifted one and grimaced at the bruises and broken nails. She snatched her hand from his; she was not sure what this weird act was about and definitely did not trust it. His eyes darkened at her mistrustful glare, and he shoved his hands into his pockets. She pushed her way past him before heading toward the staircase.

            “Theresa…” She stopped but didn’t turn around. “I really am sorry about what I said. It wasn’t true.” She knew his apology was insincere. While he hadn’t ever said so, she knew that he blamed her for the baby she had lost early on in their marriage. The fact that she hadn’t conceived since had merely cemented his low opinion of her.

            “I’m going to bed,” she whispered, ignoring the apology and still not looking at him.

            “Yes…” He moved out of her way and buried his hands in his trouser pockets. She was intensely aware of his eyes boring into her back as she walked away from him, and held her head up as she ascended the stairs to the second floor.

            She made her way to one of the luxurious guest rooms and tears welled in her eyes; Alessandro’s cruel words had struck a nerve. She had lost the baby after just five months of marriage and three months of pregnancy, and Theresa had always felt that the miscarriage was her fault. When she had discovered that she was pregnant, she had wished the child away—her relationship with her husband had been so cold that she had been unable to fathom bringing a child into such a loveless environment. Worse, after she had lost the baby, she had been ashamed to admit that relief was mingled with the heartbreak. She had hated herself for that, had felt that there was something wrong with her for wishing her own child out of existence. She had never shared what she had felt with Sandro, and they had mourned the tiny life’s passing separately, never talking about it. Now she suspected he had known all along, and that it had increased his contempt for her.

            Despite her extreme depression after the miscarriage, she had worked through it on her own. Rick and Lisa hadn’t even known about her pregnancy. She had felt so terrible about her reaction to the baby that she had never told them, feeling that her behavior had been indefensible. But tonight, Sandro’s cruel taunts had quite simply sent her over the edge.

            She sighed, trying to shake herself out of her maudlin mood, and after a quick shower, she fell into bed wearing only the T-shirt and panties that she had quickly grabbed from her chest of drawers in the master suite. Despite the drama of the day, she fell asleep almost immediately. She didn’t know how long she had been asleep before she heard the quiet knock on the door. She immediately awoke and sat up, pushing her tangled hair out of her face.

            “Theresa! Open the damned door!” Sandro angrily thumped on the wood again, and this time it was loud enough to make her jump up and hurriedly unlock and open the door, for fear that he would wake the live-in housekeeper. Despite the fact that his voice had been only a grim whisper through the wood, she was in no doubt that he was absolutely livid. She stood staring up at him in the dim light and was surprised by the flash of hot fury on his face, which was so quickly masked beneath the more familiar mask of icy indifference, that she wasn’t sure if she had imagined the emotion.

            “What are you doing in here?” he asked stiffly.

            “I’ve decided to move into this room,” she informed him, not quite succeeding in keeping the anxiety from her voice, and his jaw clenched. She had not anticipated having this conversation until morning. Sandro was full of surprises today. She had known that he would be upset about her moving out of their bedroom. He enjoyed sex with her and seemed happy to have her conveniently within arm’s reach. Still, it was completely out of character for him to actually come thumping on her bedroom door, demanding an explanation in the dead of night! She had expected a cold and controlled conversation about it over the breakfast table. The light from the landing was just bright enough for her to see the stormy emotion brewing in his eyes, and she swallowed a lump of disappointment when the emotion was doused in ice.

            “I can see that,” he gritted out. “I think the pertinent question is why?” And she could see that it just about killed him to ask it.

            “I’d feel like a hypocrite if I stayed in the master bedroom with you.” She shrugged again. “Just this morning I told you I wanted a divorce, so it wouldn’t feel right if I continued to share your bed as if we’d never had that conversation.”

            “You’re being ridiculous,” he said dismissively.

            “No…I think I’m actually making sense for the first time in nearly two years.”

            “My wife”—he placed sarcastic emphasis on the last word—“sleeps with me. You will come back to our bedroom, if I have to drag you there kicking and screaming!”

            “I-I…m-may have to sleep with you, Sandro,” she conceded, knowing that if he chose to do as he threatened, she would definitely lose to his superior size and strength. “But I won’t be having sex with you anymore.”

            “You would deny me, your husband, this basic marital right?” He sounded frankly astonished by that, as astonished as Theresa felt for even daring to say the words.

            “Yes.”

            His eyes narrowed and he took a threatening step toward her.

            “What’s to stop me from just taking what belongs to me?” he asked speculatively, his eyes raking dismissively over her thin, shivering, T-shirt-clad body. Theresa crossed her arms over her chest and hunched her shoulders defensively.

            “I don’t belong to you,” she said softly.