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At The Boss's Beck And Call(9)

By:Anna Cleary

Occasionally, though rarely now, she’d suffered a cold twinge of fear that he might actually have flown all the way back from Harvard Business School only to find that she’d failed to show up, but she always rationalised that worry away. Of course he wouldn’t have. His mid-semester break had only been a few days long. Even if he hadn’t had a fiancée he was keeping under wraps, from her at least, what man would have flown all the way back from the other side of the world?

That was what she’d consoled her grieving heart with, anyway. Afterwards, after all the nights of weeping, when she’d recovered her equilibrium and had time to see it all in perspective. After the magazine article she’d stumbled upon in the doctor’s waiting room about the wedding, when she realised what a fool she’d been, how much he’d deceived her. He probably agreed to trysts to meet women on towers all over the world.

Though at the time, on the day, she’d been green enough to believe that he’d keep the rendezvous. She certainly would have if she could. She’d been mad keen to go, clinging to the forlorn hope that he’d turn up like her own Cary Grant. If Fate hadn’t intervened in that cruel way she’d probably still be there, texting the number that never answered, looking at her watch, wishing and hoping.

‘Hey, darl, wake up.’

The voice of Josh, her colleague who occupied the desk opposite hers, snapped her back to the present. He leaned over and flicked her arm. ‘What do you think he meant about us having to invest our free time?’

‘There’s no way I’ll be doing that,’ she said swiftly. ‘What about Vivi?’

Josh tilted back in his chair. ‘You won’t have to worry. You’ll be safe. Tell him you have a little mouth to feed and he’ll take one look at your big blue eyes and crumble. Italians are crazy about kids.’

Something like a major earthquake redistributed her insides. ‘Yeah?’ she said faintly. ‘Where’d you hear that? Surely every nationality is crazy about their kids.’

Josh’s eyes, as blue as her own, were earnest. ‘No, honestly. It’s true. Genuine Italians-the real Italians from Italy-are particularly family oriented. I know, because there was an article about it in last month’s Alpha.’

Amidst the laughter that followed, no one would have noticed that hers had a false ring. She’d read those things about Italians too. Their horror of broken families and children brought up without both parents. The sacrifices even the poorest of families were prepared to make to clothe and educate their children with the finest money could buy, as a matter of family honour. And what if they were a proud, aristocratic family? Would a marchese be happy to leave his child on the other side of the world?

Now that crunch time had arrived, would she be telling him about Vivi, and what exactly? The scenarios that opened before her if she did were frightening to contemplate. Six years were a long time. The things she’d understood about Alessandro then with such certainty were now all adrift. It was clear she’d never known him at all.

He had a right, of course, to know about his child. But what if he were one of those men who snatched their children and whisked them out of the country? Vivi wasn’t a little tree who could be uprooted and transplanted across the world in London, or Venice. She was five, for heaven’s sake. A baby. She only knew Newtown and her grandma, her school, the park…The King Street shops and the library, her little friends…

After Alessandro’s reaction to her this morning, Lara needed to decide what to tell him, and how. Calm, brisk and unemotional would be best, of course, if she could be like that. The interviews could start at any minute. If she could just work out something she could say-maybe write it down and rehearse it…#p#分页标题#e#

Er…By the way, Alessandro, I think you should know…Incidentally, Alessandro, have I mentioned…?

The interviews started after morning tea. People either came back with worried expressions, or exclaiming over things Donatuila had said. How sinister Alessandro was. How scary, how gorgeous.

They found themselves speaking in whispers. ‘Oh, my God. Did you see his eyes? Those lashes are an inch long, I’ll bet.’

‘And his voice. That accent. What is it, London mixed with Italian?’

‘That’s not ordinary Italian. That’s Sicilian. Betcha.’

A frightening rumour did the rounds that David from Finance had been told to empty his desk and given his marching orders.

The usual small congregation around the photocopier failed to materialise, and for once everyone resisted getting coffee from the machine between breaks to take back to their desks. Lara waited for her turn, struggling to work while she contemplated the things she would say to the stranger who was the father of her child.