To Wear His Ring Again(6)

By: Chantelle Shaw

Before she could argue, Isobel found that she had been steered into the sitting room, and there was a faint click as Whittaker departed and shut the door behind him. She didn’t understand what Constantin was playing at. It was clear they had nothing to discuss that could not be dealt with by their respective divorce lawyers. Her immediate thought was that she was not going to be a puppet controlled by the master puppeteer as had so often happened during their marriage.

She reached for the door handle just as the door opened and the butler entered carrying a tray with a silver teapot and a cafetière.

‘I remembered that you prefer Earl Grey tea, madam,’ he said, smiling as he held out a cup and saucer.

Good manners prevented Isobel from storming out of the house. She had always got on well with Whittaker, and her problems with her marriage were not the elderly butler’s fault. Suppressing her irritation that Constantin had got his own way as he had so often done in the past, she wandered over to the window. The view of the park was familiar and evoked painful memories.

‘I’ve just spoken to my lawyer and instructed him to send a new divorce petition for you to sign. You’ll also have to give a written statement saying that we have lived apart for two years.’

At the sound of Constantin’s clipped voice Isobel jolted and slopped tea into her saucer. She spun round, disconcerted to find him standing close to her. For such a big man he moved with the silent menace of a panther stalking its prey, she thought ruefully. The black jeans and polo shirt he had changed into emphasised his lethal good looks. His hair was still damp from his recent shower and the citrusy fragrance of soap mixed with his spicy cologne teased her senses.

‘Giles still thinks I have good grounds to divorce you for desertion.’ Constantin’s anger that she had thwarted him was evident in his harsh tone. ‘But the legal advice is that it will be quicker to go with the fact that we have been separated for two years. The one thing we can both agree on is that we want a swift end to our marriage,’ he drawled sardonically.

Determined to hide the pang of hurt that his words evoked, Isobel turned her gaze back to the window and stared once more at the pretty park at the centre of Grosvenor Square.

‘When I was pregnant, I often used to stand here and imagine pushing our baby in a pram around the gardens,’ she said softly. ‘Our little girl would have been almost two and a half now.’

The shaft of pain in her chest was not as sharp as it had once been, but it was enough to make her catch her breath. Coming back to the house where she had lived when she had been pregnant had opened up the wound in her heart that would never completely heal. She had chosen one of the bedrooms at the back of the house for a nursery, and had been busy planning the colour scheme before she and Constantin had made that fateful trip to Italy.

She watched him pour himself a cup of coffee and felt a surge of anger that he had not reacted to the mention of their daughter. Nothing had changed, Isobel thought grimly. When she had lost their baby, twenty weeks into her pregnancy, she had been numb with grief. A few times she had tried to talk about the miscarriage with Constantin, but he had rebuffed her and become even more distant, and eventually she had stopped trying to reach him.

‘Do you ever think about Arianna?’ The nurse at the hospital had advised them to choose a name for their baby, even though she had been born too early to survive.

He sipped his coffee, and Isobel noted that he did not meet her gaze. ‘There’s no point dwelling on the past,’ he said shortly. ‘Nothing can change what happened. All we can do is move forwards.’

Two years ago, she had been chilled by his lack of emotion, but as she looked closely at him and saw a nerve flicker in his cheek she realised that he was tenser than he appeared.

‘Is that why you’ve begun divorce proceedings? You want to bury the past?’

He winced at her deliberate use of the word bury, and Isobel wondered if his mind pictured, as hers did, the small white marble tombstone in the grounds of the chapel at Casa Celeste—the De Severino family’s historic home on the shores of Lake Albano—where they had laid Arianna to rest.

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