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The Marriage He Must Keep(2)

By: Dani Collins



Why had she opened her heart and taken this unborn infant deep inside it, believing that finally there would be a human on this earth who loved her back?

No one was ever going to love her. She was the only person she could rely on. It was time to face that.

With a sob, she staggered across to where he’d left her phone on the windowsill and snatched it up. Bowing her head against the wall, silently praying, she dialed the number for emergency services and told them to send an ambulance.

* * *

Alessandro Ferrante saw his wife was calling and his pulse tripped. He immediately tamped down on the involuntary reaction, ruthlessly regaining control over himself and annoyed that he let her catch him so easily, even when she was on the other side of the continent.

But some measure of surprise was legitimate. She never called him anymore.

Which he was trying not to let bother him.

“Cara,” he answered, ears straining for clues as to why she was calling now. It was late in London, even later here in Naples, but apparently they were both still up. Perhaps the baby was kicking. She had said a few times that she had trouble sleeping through that. It had made him feel the distance between them quite keenly...

He ignored the stab of something that might have been regret. The separation was necessary. He wouldn’t give in to weak yearnings and wind up putting her in danger. That would be irresponsible.

“Sono io,” Primo said into his ear. It’s me.

Not Octavia then. Disappointment fell through him before he could deflect it. He habitually fought extreme degrees of emotion, never allowing them to rule his actions, but this marriage was becoming so very much not a marriage and it was beginning to frustrate him. It had started with such promise. They had had a remarkable compatibility, particularly in bed, but it had disintegrated into something he didn’t know what to do with anymore.

Not for the first time, he questioned his decision to leave her in London, but all the facts remained the same: she was pregnant and at risk. Her mother had a history of losing babies. His mother’s house in London was in the same city as a world-class specialist clinic, one that had been monitoring her closely. She was also safe from the threats here in Naples. His refusal to bring her home was absolutely the best thing for her and their unborn child.

His wife had taken to avoiding his calls, however. His cousin made all her reports, which was an intrusion Alessandro didn’t appreciate. Why was Primo even still at his mother’s house? How long did it take to get an apartment painted these days?

“Si?” Alessandro prompted his cousin now, tone sharpening with dismay.

“She’s gone into labor,” Primo said bluntly.

Alessandro sat up, arteries stinging with an immediate shot of adrenaline, the desk full of work before him forgotten. This was too early. Almost a month before her due date. He had planned to fly out next week. He reached for his tablet, already tapping out a message to his driver and pilot.

“It all happened very quickly or I would have called you sooner,” Primo continued. “The ambulance was delayed and—well, there have been complications.”

Silence followed.

Alessandro waited.

A knife of dread went through him, impossible to dodge. Primo liked to frame things in as much drama as possible. Sandro had talked to him about it more than once, told him that it only exacerbated situations, but Primo loved to grab and hold attention.

This wasn’t the time.

Unless Primo was truly reluctant to deliver bad news.

Alessandro could hear the ticking of the clock that had been in his family for generations—tick, tick, tick. Like a bomb. He couldn’t breathe. He was paralyzed, completely devoid of feeling and his mind was empty as he held off what he feared would be a repeat of another moment when tragedy unfolded. When tires screeched and—

“Yes?” he prompted, throat raspy and thick.

“They had to take her to the nearest hospital, not the one where she was scheduled to deliver. It’s inundated with a bus crash, but they’re taking her for surgery right now.”

His nerves exploded with a rush of urgency, barely rational.

“Which hospital?” Alessandro demanded, fighting a ferocious grip of emotion that wanted to overstep reason and break down doors and walls and laws of man and nature to reach London. He grappled to stay calm, forcing himself to speak clearly even as his mind and heart raced. “I’m leaving now. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”





CHAPTER TWO

SCORE ONE FOR state-run hospitals, was Octavia’s first clear thought as her muddled brain came back from the anesthetic and worked out that Primo had no access to her son.

While he had followed her ambulance, she had clasped the female paramedic’s hand, a kind of desperate fury gripping her. “Primo is not my husband. Not the father. Do not allow him near my baby. Tell the hospital to keep him out of the delivery room. I will hold you responsible if something happens.”

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