To Wear His Ring Again(10)

By: Chantelle Shaw

He looked at her tense face. It must have taken a lot of guts for her to have come back to the house that he knew held poignant memories for her. He thought of the mural of farm animals that she had been painting on the walls of the nursery. The mural was unfinished and the room was empty. He’d sent the cot and nursery equipment back to the shop and never went into the room that had been destined for their daughter.

The miscarriage had broken Isobel, and it was a measure of her strength of will that she had recovered to be this beautiful, self-assured woman—although close scrutiny revealed faint shadows in her eyes that Constantin guessed would never completely fade. One thing was certain. She deserved his honesty.

‘Three years ago we were lovers briefly. The weekend we spent at my apartment in Rome was fun, but...’ he shrugged ‘...I had no desire for a prolonged relationship—and I thought you understood that.’ When he had ended the affair shortly after they had returned to London he had assured himself it was for the best to call a halt before things got out of hand. Isobel had needed to understand that the words long-term and commitment were not in his vocabulary.

He exhaled heavily. ‘But then fate dealt an unexpected card. When you told me you were pregnant you must have realised that I would not allow my child to be born illegitimate. Marriage was the only option. I could not neglect my duty to my child or to you.’

Isobel flinched. Duty was an ugly little word. The realisation that Constantin had proposed marriage because he had felt responsible for her evoked a bitter taste in her mouth. She had told Constantin she was pregnant with his baby because she’d believed he had the right to know. She had been stunned when he’d asked her to marry him. After all, it was the twenty-first century, and being a single mother was no longer regarded as unusual or shameful. When he had proposed, she had convinced herself that he must have some feelings for her. But the stark truth was that she had seen what she had wanted to see.

Yet her stubborn nature still refused to give up the idea that they had shared something meaningful. ‘We had some good times in the beginning,’ she reminded him.

‘I don’t deny it. We were going to be parents, and for our child’s sake it was important to build an amicable relationship with each other, additional to our sexual compatibility.’

Isobel swallowed the golf ball that had become lodged in her throat. Had Constantin simply been building an amicable relationship with her when he had filled the house with yellow roses after she had mentioned that they were her favourite flower? Had she imagined the closeness between them that had grown stronger every day of their three-week honeymoon in the Seychelles?

She stared at his chiselled features and wondered why she had ever believed she had seen warmth in his eyes that glittered as hard and bright as sapphires. What a fool she had been. Despite everything that happened, his coldness to her in the last months of their marriage, deep down she had believed there was a chance that they might one day get back together. That fragile sense of hope had now gone and she was shocked by how badly it hurt.

She turned her head towards the window. The sun streaming through the glass was so bright, and surely it was the glare that was making her eyes water? As if she were looking through a kaleidoscope, she saw the fractured images of a woman pushing a pram through the park with a tall, handsome man at her side. But when she blinked, the vision disappeared, just as her dreams had done.

Somehow she marshalled her thoughts and emotions, and even managed a cool smile when she looked back at Constantin.

‘In that case there’s nothing more to be said. I’ll wait to receive a new divorce petition from your solicitor, which I will sign and return immediately. I understand that the legal proceedings are straightforward in an uncontested divorce.’

‘I’ve instructed my lawyer to offer you a financial settlement.’ Constantin frowned when she shook her head. ‘I don’t understand why you insisted on signing a prenuptial agreement that awarded you absolutely nothing.’

‘Because I want nothing from you,’ Isobel told him fiercely. ‘I’m lucky to be able to earn a high income, but even if the band hadn’t become successful I wouldn’t have accepted a handout from you.’

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