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The Unwanted Wife
Author:Natasha Anders
Synopsis:

Chapter One

    \Chapter One

    Theresa fell back onto the mattress, her body slick with perspiration and limp with pleasure. Spasms of her powerful release still violently racked her slender frame. Alessandro had disentangled, detached and distanced himself from her within seconds of their mutual orgasm and lay on his back beside her, his breathing heavy and ragged.

    Theresa turned on her side to lovingly trace his harsh profile with her eyes, yearning to touch and caress the smooth, silky and slightly tanned skin but knowing from experience that her touch would be rebuffed. His words, the ones that were always wrenched from him during his cli**max, still hovered in the air between them and they still, after all these months, hurt more than they should have.

    “Give me a son, Theresa…”

    With those five words, he inevitably killed the afterglow, destroyed the intimacy of the moment and relegated the act into nothing more than a biological imperative. After eighteen months of the same, Theresa had finally realized that it would never change. It wasn’t an abrupt realization, rather it was one that had been growing steadily since the very first time he’d said the words.

    But Theresa had her own five words! They were words that had been on the tip of her tongue for months and should have been spoken long before now. They were words that she could no longer swallow back; no matter how much it killed her to say them. She sat up, nak**ed, her body still trembling and drew her knees to her chest. She wrapped her arms around her legs, pressed her cheek to her knees and watched as his breathing steadied, his own shaking was subsiding slightly. He lay spread-eagled, also magnificently nude, his eyes were shut but she knew he wasn’t asleep. No, he would take a few moments to compose himself before heading for the shower, where she always imagined him frantically scrubbing her scent and touch from his bronzed skin.

    She could no longer contain the words and they spilled from her lips with desperate earnestness.

    “I want a divorce, Alessandro.”

    He tensed, every single muscle in his body went as tight as a coiled spring, before he turned his head to meet her watchful gaze. His eyes were hooded and his upper lip curled mockingly.

    “But I thought you loved me, Theresa,” he taunted with exquisite cruelty and Theresa lowered her eyelids, trying to mask the shaft of pain at his words. When she was sure she had her emotions under control, she once again lifted her eyes to his dark gaze.

    “Not anymore,” she managed, hoping the lie sounded convincing.

    “Hmmm…” it sounded deceptively like the purr of a cat. “What happened to ‘I’ll love you forever, Sandro’?”

    “Things change,” she whispered.

    “What things?” He rolled onto his side and propped himself up onto his elbow, resting his head on his hand. He looked so much like a Roman gladiator in repose, that her throat went dry with desire. She swallowed painfully.

    “F.feelings change…” she stuttered haltingly. Again that husky purr of agreement but Theresa wasn’t fooled by his relaxed posture; he was as tense as a coiled snake. “I.I’ve changed…”

    “You look no different,” he said as**sessed, his voice still terrifyingly tender. “Still the same Theresa I married. The one who claimed to love me so much, she couldn’t live without me. The one whose daddy made

    sure she got exactly what she wanted…”

    And that was when he struck, without moving, without so much as changing his voice.

    “The same timid little Theresa, who can’t even give me the only thing I’ve ever wanted from this pathetic excuse for a marriage.” She flinched but she refused to divert her eyes.

    “A.all the more reason for a divorce,” she tried for blasé but failed miserably.

    “Maybe for you,” he shrugged elegantly. “But I told you from the very beginning, cara, there would be no easy way out of this marriage. Not until I got what I wanted from you and that day looks to be a long way off! Unfortunately, cliché though it may seem, you’ve made this bed and we both have to lie in it!”

    “I can’t live like this anymore,” she buried her face in her knees and fought to keep the tears at bay.

    “Neither of us has much choice…” he sat up and stretched languidly before getting up and walking, nak**ed, to the en-suite bathroom. Theresa heard the shower start moments later and took a few seconds to compose herself, swiping the hot tears from her face with the backs of both hands before dragging on a gauzy peignoir and heading toward the kitchen to make herself a hot drink. While she was sitting on a bar stool, sipping her hot milk, she felt Sandro’s presence behind her and the hairs in the nape of her neck stood on end.

    “You must be cold in only that skimpy little thing you’re wearing…” he observed idly heading to the fridge and dragging out a carton of orange juice. His short black hair was damp and standing up in tufts where he had carelessly towel-dried it after his shower and he wore nothing but a pair of black boxer shorts. He looked as gorgeous as always and Theresa hated him more than ever for that masculine perfection.

    “I’m fine…” she got up abruptly and headed toward the sink to rinse her mug but he grabbed her elbow to halt her movement. She tensed, shocked by the touch… Alessandro never touched her outside of the bedroom. In the eighteen months they had been married, this was the first time that she could recall him touching her without it being a precursor to sex. He leaned closer to her and lowered his lips to her ear. She felt his hot breath on the side of her face before he spoke.

    “There’ll be no more talk of divorce, Theresa… ever,” he told her with a sickening air of finality.

    “You can’t stop me from divorcing you, Sandro,” she responded bravely.

    “You really want a divorce, cara?” He asked tauntingly and she nodded stiffly. “If you get that divorce, your cousin loses her business and she can’t afford that now, not with a new baby on the way. She and her husband need all the capital they can get.” Somehow she hadn’t expected that. She should have but she hadn’t. Sandro had loaned her cousin, Lisa, the start-up capital for her bookshop. Theresa didn’t know what the specifics of that loan were but she had always as**sumed that it was something he had done out of generosity. Staring up at him now, she couldn’t believe her own na?veté. Sandro did nothing out of sheer generosity and that loan was merely another weapon for him to use against her if he needed to!

    “You wouldn’t,” she responded with nothing but bravado. “Lisa has done nothing to deserve this.”

    “Cara, I will do whatever it takes to get what I want from you.”

    “I have money too I can help her…” she began desperately.

    “No, you have a rich father and he had the opportunity to help Lisa when she was looking for the start-up capital for her bookshop but he made his contempt of the idea more than obvious to everyone at the time and you know that he would never support you through a messy divorce, Theresa.”

    “I still don’t believe you would do it! You have a reputation to uphold, you’re an honest businessman, you wouldn’t destroy a small business just to prove a point. What kind of message would that send?” she asked bravely.

    “That I’m not to be trifled with,” he shrugged. “Do you honestly think I care what people think of me, Theresa? Do you think I care what you think of me? I never have and I never will. You’re weak and spoilt…”

    “I’m not…” she tried to defend herself but he made a scoffing sound in the back of his throat before continuing on as if she hadn’t spoken.

    “You’ll get your divorce eventually but there’s something I need to get from you first! You wanted this marriage, remember? You begged for it… So if you want a divorce right now, it’ll come with some heavy penalties attached to it, are you willing to gamble with your cousin’s future?”

    He knew she wouldn’t do it! He knew he had her exactly where he wanted her. There would be no divorce. Not when so much hung in the balance. But there would be changes… Theresa Chloe Noble De Lucci was done with being a doormat! She said nothing, choosing to turn and walk away instead. He watched her go, she could feel his gaze burning into her slender back but he did not call her back. She did not return to the bedroom they had been sharing since the first day of their marriage, opting instead to head for the library, knowing that she could not sleep another wink. Not in that room, not anymore…



    He came downstairs, hours later, for breakfast. It was a Saturday morning and he usually didn’t have any early morning meetings to rush off to on a Saturday, instead he tended to linger over his newspaper and coffee and largely ignore Theresa. That morning was no different. It was as if their early morning argument hadn’t happened at all. They usually ate their casual weekend meals in the kitchen and the homey setting lent a false sense of domesticity to the scene. But while Theresa was uncomfortable and tense in the intimate setting, Sandro always remained as cool as the proverbial cucumber.

    Then again, that was nothing new, as he rarely showed emotion. In fact the “discussion” of that morning was the most heated she had ever seen him. He kept his feelings under wraps but had always made his contempt of her more than clear. It was in the way he refused to meet her eyes, the way he could to her without kissing her on the mouth, the way he could talk past her when he had something to tell her… while eternally optimistic, stupid Theresa, had never been good at hiding her feelings from him. Not from the very moment she’d met him, nearly two years ago. How hopelessly infatuated she had been! How quickly she had fallen in love… She shook herself, refusing to think about things she could not change and instead tried to focus on changing her present.

    Breakfast passed with agonising slowness, the silence broken only by the sound of his newspaper as he carefully perused the business section. She barely ate and hated him for being so unaffected by the tension that he could finish a hearty meal. She picked up her dishes and headed to the sink.

    “You have to eat more than one slice of toast,” his voice suddenly growled unexpectedly. “You’re getting much too thin.” The fact that he had noticed what she’d eaten, despite having hardly glanced at her over his newspaper, startled her.

    “I’m not that hungry…” she responded softly and placed her dishes in the sink.

    “You barely eat enough to keep a sparrow alive,” he lowered his paper and met her eyes for a few seconds before diverting his gaze back to the mug of coffee on the table in front of him. The direct eye contact was so unusual, that Theresa barely restrained a gasp.

    “I eat enough,” she responded half-heartedly, normally she would have let it go but she wanted to see if she could goad him into meeting her eyes again. No such luck, he merely shrugged, neatly folded his newspaper and dropped it onto the table beside his empty plate. He gulped down the last sip of his coffee before getting up from the table.

    She watched as he stretched; his black t-shirt lifting to reveal the toned and tanned band of flesh at his abdomen. Her mouth went dry at the sight of that dark flesh and once again she was disgusted by her reaction to his physical presence. She had spent the first year of her marriage believing that Sandro would come to love her. She had firmly believed that he would get over his anger at being forced to marry her and that he would go back to being the laughing, affectionate man she had known in the first few months after they had met. But after nearly a year she had been forced to face reality, he truly hated her. He hated her so much so that he couldn’t bring himself to speak to her, kiss her, touch her outside of bed or even look at her. Theresa had finally realised that there would be no thaw; their marriage was a perpetual winter wasteland and if she ever wanted to feel the warmth of the sun on her face again, she had to get out of it. Unfortunately, she now knew that escaping would be trickier than she had thought. She would have to find a way out that did not include hurting her cousin. Lisa and Rick were expecting their first baby and while Lisa was having a fairly easy time of it, Theresa was concerned that anything that would upset her could be potentially harmful to her or the baby. Also, while Rick’s advertising agency was fairly successful, Lisa had always prided herself on the fact that she held her own financially in their relationship. Taking her bookshop away could put too much strain their relationship and Theresa didn’t want that on her conscience!

    She sighed heavily and started to do the dishes. She liked to do little household tasks despite the fact that Sandro, who was the president of the bank his father owned, “had more money than God” as her father had once put it. Theresa had even enthusiastically insisted on doing some of the cooking herself. They employed a housecleaning staff, as was practical since they lived in a ten bedroom, five bathroom monster of a house but on Saturdays the staff had the day off and Theresa liked pick up after herself and Sandro instead of letting the staff get to it when they returned. Sandro didn’t pretend to understand her need to have a hand in the every day running of the house and had mockingly accused her of playing house once, shortly after their wedding. He had never seemed to notice it again after that. She stared down at the dishes she had ready to be placed in the dishwasher and quite abruptly abandoned the task halfway through before heading upstairs and leaving Sandro still in the kitchen.

    She changed her clothes from sweat suit to jeans and t-shirt, dragging her pale, shoulder length Titian hair into a ponytail and tugging on a denim jacket to ward off the early autumn chill. She passed by the den where he had retreated with his laptop, probably to get some work done, on her way to the front door.

    “I’m going out,” she casually called through the open door and his head jerked up while his eyes flared with some indefinable emotion.

    “Where…” he began.

    “I don’t know how long I’ll be gone,” she dashed out before he could utter another syllable, grabbing her shoulder bag and car keys on the way out. She had her reliable little silver Mini Cooper fired up by the time he eventually made it down to the front door. With a cheery little wave that she knew had to grate, she reversed out of the driveway and headed out. She had no clue where she was going and knew that there would be hell to pay when she got back but it felt good just to do something so defiantly out of character. Her cellular phone started ringing seconds later and when she stopped at a red light; she switched it off and tossed it aside.

    It was still early, barely nine and because it was Saturday the roads were a bit congested. Still, she felt free and she headed from the relative tranquillity of Clifton, one of the wealthiest suburbs in Cape Town, towards the city. Usually she would go to Newlands and spend the day with Rick and Lisa… but she knew that it was the first place Sandro would look. He knew how limited her social life was. Instead, she thought of all the things she could do with this unexpected time and, deciding to stick with the trend of the day, opted for the most out of character thing she could think of… she went to the movies. It was the purest form of escapism she could think of and if there was anything that Theresa desperately wanted, it was to escape from her life. So she spent her day, going from one cinema to the next; laughing, crying, cringing or jumping, depending on the plot. It was the most unproductive day she had ever spent in her life and she loved it!

    By the time the last show of the day finished it was after midnight and she had a throbbing headache from nothing but darkness and the flickering light of the projector and a slightly upset stomach from a diet of soda and popcorn. It was as she was heading back to her car, that the sudden reality of her situation sank in and she started trembling. She didn’t know what to expect from Sandro… she had never seen him display anything other than icy control, even in bed but it was the first time she had ever done anything like this and while she knew he would never physically hurt her, she also knew that emotionally, his potential to hurt her was unlimited. She cringed at the thought of his icy sarcasm and reluctantly made her way home. The house was ablaze with light when she got back and the dread made her stomach heave. She swallowed down her nausea and bravely parked her car and headed toward the front door. It was wrenched open before she even had the chance to get her keys out.

    She gulped slightly at the huge form of her husband looming in the doorway and stifled a yelp when he grabbed her arm and yanked her inside. He slammed the door shut, gripping both shoulders in his huge hands and backed her up until she was leaning against the door. It took her a few seconds to get over her disorientation and realise that he wasn’t hurting her, his gaze was feverishly raking up and down her trembling body, until apparently satisfied that everything was in relatively good condition he raised his eyes to meet hers full on.

    His eyes, which she’d had so little opportunity to actually look into, were heartbreakingly beautiful. They were chocolate brown and set between incredibly thick, blue-black lashes and beneath sweeping brows and right now they were smouldering with something that, in any other man, might have been described as fury. His hands released her shoulders and crept up to her face… she flinched slightly at the contact but they remained gentle, moving to cup her jaw, his large thumbs brushing over her cheeks. Her breathing became ragged when he leaned toward her, dipping his head closer to hers… he was so near now she could feel his clean, warm breath on her face. He tilted her jaw slightly and she groaned, aching for his lips on hers, wanting it so desperately her legs had just about turned to jelly and the only thing that kept her from falling to a puddle at his feet was his own huge body braced against hers. She could feel his erection throbbing against her stomach and knew he wanted it as desperately as she did… His lush mouth was centimetres away from hers and when he finally spoke, his lips brushed against her mouth.

    “You pull a stunt like this again tesoro mia and I swear to God, you’ll regret it!” She flinched away from him as reality brought her back down to earth with a thump. He let her go and she slid down the door to land at his feet. He raked a contemptuous gaze over her, the ice back and the fire gone…

    “Where have you been?” He asked calmly. She staggered to her feet, humiliated that she had allowed him to affect her to such an extent that she would fall at his feet. She tilted her head back defiantly and refused to answer him. “Theresa… I’m warning you…”

    “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 life 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 realised 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 and she realised that 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 was not 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 when she had managed to land a few angry punches against his hard body. She turned around to face him and was shocked to realise that she had made him bleed. He had scratches on his hands and face, a deep, angry-looking one in his neck… he also had bite marks on his muscled forearms and a darkening bruise on his jaw, where she’d managed to land a lucky punch. He saw her eyes land on the bruise and ruefully rubbed at it.

    “You pack a mean punch,” he said sheepishly, he looked idly down at her hands, before swearing softly. “You’ve hurt yourself.” He lifted one and grimaced down 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 with her back to him. “I really am sorry about what I said… It wasn’t true.” She knew his apology was insincere because while he hadn’t ever said the words, 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. So she had no idea why he felt the need to apologise for words he had definitely meant.

    “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. Theresa had always felt guilty about the baby she had lost after just five months of marriage and three months of pregnancy, she had always felt that the miscarriage was her fault because when she had realised that she was pregnant she had wished the child away and worse, after she had lost the baby she had been ashamed to realise that relief was mingled in along 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 had simply 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 behaviour had been indefensible. But tonight, Sandro’s cruel taunts had quite simply sent her over the edge and she was ashamed to recall how completely she had lost it.

    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 which she had quickly grabbed from her chest on 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!” He 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 harsh 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 unaccustomed emotion or not.

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

    “I’ve decided to move into this room,” she informed quietly and his jaw clenched. She had anticipated having this conversation but not until morning. Sandro was full of surprises today… she had known that he would be upset about her moving out of their bedroom but 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 dismissed.

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

    “My wife…” he placed a lot of 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 hav**ing se**x 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 simply taking what belongs to me?” He asked speculatively, his eyes raking dismissively over her thin, shivering, t-shirt clad body and Theresa crossed her arms over her chest and hunched her shoulders defensively.

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

    “Well, I certainly forked out huge amounts of money for you… that feels like ownership to me.”

    “Look, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she protested in frustration and he laughed softly.

    “And you’re still singing the same tired old tune,” he mocked. “This is beside the point. I have no wish to rehash these details, it achieves nothing. Come on, we’re going to bed!” He grabbed her hand and tugged her back toward their bedroom a few doors down the hall. She was so shocked by the abrupt gesture that she stumbled along behind him, before instinct kicked in and she dug in her heels, leaving him to practically drag her the last few feet.

    Theresa was out of breath and furious when he finally released her hand. They were in the master bedroom, facing each other and she glared at him… refusing to be intimidated by his scowl.

    “When did you become the Neanderthal Man, Sandro? I never thought you would resort to caveman tactics…” he didn’t like being called a barbarian, not her suave, sophisticated, rigid husband, she saw it in the way his mouth thinned and his eyes flared. He grabbed her wrist and dragged her up against him.

    “You haven’t seen the Neanderthal in me yet, cara. I advise you not to push me on this, not unless you want things to get really ugly between us,” he was using his whole body to intimidate her, leaning over and into her, nose to nose with her.

    “I.I don’t see how things can get any uglier…” she whispered.

    “You really don’t want to find out how much worse it can get, trust me on that,” his eyes were boring into hers and her breath was coming in small, shallow gasps. She was suddenly aware of how closely she was pressed against him and felt a betraying flash of heat uncoiling in the pit of her stomach and radiating outward. Even though Sandro never really let himself go in bed, he was still an incredible lover and despite, or maybe because of, the clinical precision with which he conducted the act, he always made sure she cli**maxed. She would have traded any number of those org**asms for a kiss of course, or even a show of affection afterwards but she couldn’t help her reaction to him. He could always make her melt. Chemistry was a terrible thing, sometimes it simply sparked between the wrong people.

    His eyes were still locked with hers and she felt the sudden change in his breathing and his heart rate… he leaned even closer, his mouth nearly touching hers, their breath mingled and came in jagged gasps. If she moved her head, just a fraction of an inch, their lips would be touching… she couldn’t resist and she tensed herself to do just that, when he suddenly swore and stepped away from her. Theresa blinked and felt like someone coming out of a trance.

    “Just go to bed,” he put his hand in the small of her back and gave her a gentle push toward the bed.

    “I’m not going to have…” she began to protest.

    “I know. I’m not exactly in the right frame of mind for it either,” he prodded her again.

    “You won’t touch me?”

    “Not unless you want me to.” He shrugged as if he didn’t care either way.

    “I don’t want you to.” She as**serted firmly.

    “Then you have nothing to worry about,” he turned away from her stripped off his casual shirt, leaving him abruptly nak**ed from the chest up. As always, he stole her breath away and she had to force herself to turn away from the seductive sight of her half-naked husband and head to bed. She crept beneath the covers and kept her back to him but she was achingly aware of every sound he made as he headed toward the en-suite, discarding even more clothes along the way. For such a precise and controlled man in every other aspect of his life, Alessandro tended to be a bit messy in his own space; it was rather endearing the way he would casually drop a shirt here, a sock there… obviously expecting the magical cleaning fairies to pick up after him. That “magical cleaning fairy” was usually Theresa; she was a bit of a neat freak and would quite compulsively pick up and fold everything he dropped. Well not anymore, she suddenly thought fumingly, he could damned well pick up his own shirts.

    She suddenly wryly acknowledged to herself that this resolution would only last as long as it took for the maid to come in and clean it up…the one thing about being fabulously wealthy was that you didn’t have to think about mundane things like picking up after yourself. And Alessandro had been spoiled into believing the universe revolved around him since birth. While Theresa’s family had been wealthy too, she had never taken anything for granted, not when she had an emotionally-detached father who quite relentlessly pointed out her every flaw.

    She sighed softly and turned over to watch the door of the en-suite, he hadn’t shut it completely and a narrow sliver of light streamed out into the darkened bedroom. Steam was creeping out along the edges of the door and she could smell the spicy scent of his soap as he showered. The shower stopped abruptly and she heard the rustling sounds of him towel-drying. She smiled softly to herself as she heard the towel drop to the floor after he finished. She was achingly familiar with every detail of his nightly ablutions; he usually showered, shaved in the shower and brushed his teeth afterwards. Five minutes later the light in the en-suite went out and he stepped out into the dark bedroom. She could just make out his silhouette enough to realise that he was nak**ed and panicked slightly when she realised that he had absolutely every intention of getting into bed that way.

    He usually slept nak**ed but she had honestly believed that he would drag on a shorts or something after the events of that evening. No such luck, she felt him lifting the covers and sliding beneath them. He smelled divine and she had to fight the impulse to turn toward him. He didn’t say a word and made no move toward her, staying on his side of the bed. No surprise there… he usually stayed on his side of the bed anyway, unless he felt the need to work on his long-term project to sire a son, only then would he move toward her, touch her, caress her… do everything but love her. Theresa never instigated their intimate encounters. She had learned early on that any move toward such intimacy was usually rebuffed and her fragile self-esteem didn’t deal well with rejection, so she had stopped trying.

    Ironically enough tonight, after her decree that he not touch her, was the first time in a long time that she was actually tempted to move toward him. She clenched her fists and curled into a ball, trying not to think of all that tempting nak**ed, male flesh lying next to her. She knew he was awake, she could tell from the rhythm of his breathing and obviously he knew she was awake, she was way too tense to be asleep.

    “Just go to sleep for God’s sake,” his impatient voice suddenly rang out in the darkness. “I said I wouldn’t touch you and I won’t… so you can relax!” She tensed even more at the sound of his voice and he swore softly.

    “If you can’t sleep, I have the perfect solution for your insomnia,” he murmured suggestively, leaving her in no doubt as to his “solution”.

    “You’re not helping matters,” she gritted through clenched teeth and he laughed quietly.

    “Well if neither of us can sleep…”

    “We haven’t been in bed long enough to fall asleep… just hush!” She hissed.

    “You know you’re being ridiculous, right?” He murmured in his most patronisingly logical voice. It was a voice that usually drove her absolutely crazy.

    “I don’t care how ridiculous you think I’m being,” she flipped over to face him and could barely make out his profile in the dark. He was lying on his back, with one arm tucked beneath his head. When he felt her turn over he turned his head to look at her. She could see only the whites of his eyes in the dark. “This is what I want, Sandro.”

    “I don’t believe that for a second,” he maintained, reaching out to touch her face with one gentle hand. “The sex has always been good between us, Theresa… that’s one thing that’s never been in doubt. It’s the one damned thing that’s working in this marriage.”

    “It wasn’t working for me,” she muttered defiantly. That bruised his masculine ego; she sensed it in the way he tensed.

    “You weren’t faking those responses,” he negated stiffly.

    “No, I wasn’t. You’re really very good…” she agreed, realising too late that she didn’t sound very convincing at all. “It just isn’t enough for me anymore.”

    “I’m not enough for you anymore?” He asked flatly and she knew she had to tread carefully here.

    “That’s not quite what I meant…”

    “Oh?”

    “Sandro, you’re being deliberately dense.” Okay that wasn’t quite the right thing to say either. She could practically feel him bristling next to her.

    “It’ll probably be best if you didn’t say anything else, Theresa…”

    “Look you’re deliberately misunderstanding me here…” She began.

    “Not another word…” He warned.

    “But…” suddenly she was on the flat of her back with him straddling her hi**ps. She gasped and writhed as she tried to dislodge him.

    “I warned you,” he growled.

    “Get off me,” she hissed angrily pushing futilely at his hot, nak**ed chest.

    “No.” He settled himself more firmly against her, moving his hi**ps until her thighs reluctantly parted and he was lodged between them. Her t-shirt had ridden up to her waist, leaving only her small bikini panties as a barrier between them. She was achingly aware of his bare flesh rubbing against the tender skin of her inner thighs and felt herself responding, moving with him, wanting more contact. He groaned and buried his face in her neck, his lips nuzzling her neck, moving up over her jaw line, her chin, skirting past her mouth before finally brushing over her cheek and capturing one sensitive earlobe between his teeth. It was the blatant avoidance of her mouth that quite effectively doused the flame that had started a slow burn in her gut.

    “This is not what I want,” she said firmly, using all her strength to push him away but he wouldn’t budge.

    “Yes it is,” he whispered into her ear.

    “If you do this, it’ll be against my will,” she as**serted desperately. “And you know what that’s called!” He froze abruptly, before moving off her and back to his side of the bed.

    “You would accuse me of something so despicable?” He sounded mortally offended but Theresa wasn’t about to allow herself to be swayed.

    “If the shoe fits…”

    “What does that mean?” He growled. “Some damned ambiguous idiom that doesn’t apply to this situation at all! There was no force involved in what just happened.”

    “You pinned me down and refused to get off me when I asked you to. That’s a pretty clear example of force…” he didn’t respond and merely lay there seething in outraged silence. She had once again succeeded in bruising his masculine pride and Theresa was human and petty enough to give herself a mental high five. They didn’t speak at all after that and Theresa eventually fell into a restless sleep.