The Unwanted Wife(9)

By: Natasha Anders


            “Some romantic thing that has Lisa dissolving into tears every two minutes or so.” Rick shrugged dismissively, ignoring the way his wife was glaring at him over the top of her round little glasses. “God, the sacrifices I make to keep this woman happy,” he said with a groan, and Lisa gasped in outrage.

            “Well, if you had your way, we’d be watching some macho jerk swear and punch his way through two of hours of relentless explosions, car chases, and gunfire,” she retorted, and he grinned at her.

            “Your point being?”

            “Aaargh!”

            For the first time in a long time, Theresa felt a giggle bubbling up in her throat. Rick suddenly grinned before dropping one arm around his wife’s narrow shoulders to drag her closer. He placed his other hand protectively over her stomach, and Lisa put up a token struggle before sighing contentedly and dropping her head onto his broad shoulder. Theresa watched them enviously for a few moments before trying to focus on the movie. She had thought Rick was exaggerating about her cousin’s response to the overly soppy film, but it was true; Lisa sniffled on an average of every two minutes. Theresa was just managing to get somewhat absorbed in the plot when the doorbell rang. Rick excused himself and jumped up to answer it.

            Lisa watched him go with a slight smile on her face. She was quiet for a while before shaking her head in exasperation.

            “You know, if I didn’t love him so darned much, I would probably have killed him by now,” she admitted sourly, and Theresa surprised herself by laughing out loud in response to her cousin’s disgruntled confession. She couldn’t believe that her sense of humor was still intact after the events of the last forty-eight hours. Rick made his way back into the room, looking uncharacteristically grim, and all the laughter and light drained from Theresa’s face when she saw who was standing behind the tall, blond man.

            “What are you doing here?” she managed to choke out after a moment of shocked silence.

            “I thought I’d join you all for lunch.” He shrugged, nodding apologetically to a still-gaping Lisa. “May I sit down?” He indicated the sofa Theresa was occupying.

            “Yes, of course.” Lisa nodded graciously.

            “No!” Both Rick and Theresa yelled at the same time Lisa agreed. Sandro smiled humorlessly before choosing to ignore their vehement rejection and sitting down beside Theresa. She shied as far away from him as she could, but Sandro chose to ignore that too. He leaned forward and placed his elbows on his spread thighs, with his large, masculine hands dangling down between his legs. He focused intently on Lisa.

            “How have you been, Elisa?” he asked gently. He was the only one who ever called Lisa by her full name, and Theresa could sense Rick bristling. Rick couldn’t stand Sandro at all; he hated Sandro’s coldness toward Theresa. Only Theresa’s edict that Rick and Lisa not interfere in her marriage kept Rick civil around Sandro. Lisa had known almost since the beginning that Sandro and Theresa’s marriage was troubled, and while she wasn’t happy about Sandro’s treatment of her cousin, she offered her support by being there when Theresa needed a sympathetic ear.

            “Fine, thanks,” Lisa murmured, rubbing her hands over her stomach in an instinctively maternal gesture. “A little tired, but I suppose that it’s to be expected when you’re lugging another human being around.” Sandro grinned, he actually grinned, at that and nodded.

            “Indeed.”

            “Rick, for God’s sake, stop hovering and sit down,” Lisa snapped at her still-glowering husband. “I would like to finish watching this movie sometime in this year! We’re having lunch afterward, Alessandro, I hope you don’t mind?”

            “Of course not,” he said smoothly, leaning back and making Theresa feel incredibly claustrophobic as he crowded her with his large body. “What are we watching?”

            Lisa told him, and Sandro did an admirable job of concealing his grimace. Lisa barely contained her own grin before hitting the Play button. Rick rejoined her on the sofa, sending periodic glares over at Sandro, who kept his eyes glued on the screen and looked unfairly relaxed.

            Lisa dropped her head onto her husband’s broad shoulder and resumed her occasional sniffling, and Rick, unable to remain furious for long with his wife draped across him, dragged Lisa close again and snuggled her up against him. His fingers interlaced with the hand she had resting on her stomach, and Theresa felt like she was the only sane person in the room. Sandro was sprawled out beside her, his shoulders and thighs brushed against her every time he breathed; the other couple was snuggled together like a couple of lovebirds; and she, Theresa, felt like she was losing her mind!

            She got up abruptly and left the room, stumbling toward the kitchen, where she stood in the middle of the room taking in great gasps of air. She should have known that he would follow her even there. When she turned back toward the kitchen door, there he was. He was watching her and looking splendid in his own version of casual wear—a pair of faded blue jeans and a black dress shirt with the top button open to reveal the strong, masculine column of his neck.

            “Why did you come here?” she whispered.

            “I thought that we should spend some time together,” he said in a gentle tone that Theresa instinctively mistrusted.

            “But I told you, I don’t want to spend time with you,” she said in a soft, bewildered voice. “I don’t want to be anywhere near you!”

            “Theresa…” he said, still gently, taking a cautious step into the room. Theresa backed up until she hit the fridge.

            “The one place I had…the one place I could come and be myself…” She shook her head, her eyes were wide and shimmering with tears. “And you had to take that from me too.” The tears overflowed and she desperately tried to blot them from her cheeks with the hem of her T-shirt. He made a soft almost dismayed sound in his throat before moving so quickly that she barely had time to register it. One second he was still close to the kitchen entrance, and the next he was right in front of her, sandwiching her between his body and the fridge. His large hands reached up to cup her face, and his thumbs brushed roughly at the tears on her cheeks.

            “Don’t.” His voice was low and gravelly and so thick that she could barely understand that one word. She raised her much smaller hands to his and tugged futilely at his hold, trying to get him to release her.

            “I want to make things less difficult for us, Theresa,” he muttered awkwardly, his face so close to hers that his breath washed over her skin and raised goose pimples all over her body.

            “Why now?” She challenged the ludicrous statement angrily, trying to ignore the effect his closeness was having on her very receptive body. Her soft green eyes snapped up to his through her tears. “Is it because I’m threatening to leave this marriage without giving you your precious son? Is that it?” She dropped her hands down to his hard, broad chest and tried to push him away. He wouldn’t budge.

            “No,” was all he said. “That’s not it…because I know you won’t leave.”

            “What makes you so sure of that?” she hissed, and he was silent for a while before responding.

            “The discussion we had yesterday,” he admitted. She went limp against him, all the fight leaving her abruptly.

            “Well, if you’re so sure that I won’t leave, what’s this sudden need you have to spend your every waking moment with me?” she asked hollowly.

            “We’re married for God’s sake…and we’re like strangers! I know nothing about you!”