“I’m not asking you to give up your career. We’ll find some middle ground on that. But I do intend to have my wife back, that part is nonnegotiable.”
She bit down hard on the inside of her cheek, the salty tang of blood staining her mouth. Once, she would have given anything to hear him say that—that he wanted to fix what they’d broken. In those first few weeks after she’d left, terrified she’d made an irreversible mistake, it had been all she’d wanted to hear. But she knew from experience people didn’t change. You couldn’t heal them no matter how much you loved them. People broke your heart over and over again.
“I won’t do it,” she said quietly. “You can drag the divorce proceedings out as long as you like, but you’re crazy if you think you can just snap your fingers and I’ll come back to you and deliver you an heir. I’m engaged, Lorenzo. I’m in love with my fiancé.”
* * *
Lorenzo absorbed his beautiful wife’s lie with the confidence of a man who’d had enough practice reading her reactions to know it was exactly that. A woman didn’t pronounce her love for another man and mean it while she ate you up with her eyes like she’d been doing with him. When he could tell he had every nerve in her curvaceous body on edge.
The thought of her offering that body to another man made his blood burn. Watching her make that toast to her fiancé when she was technically still his. When she would always be his.
He dropped his gaze to the thrust of her breasts beneath the delicate silk of her dress. Down over the swell of her hips...the length of her amazing legs atop stiletto heels. His body throbbed with a need that had eluded him for so long his skin went tight at the intensity of it. The injustice of it. Always Angelina. Never anyone else.
He returned his gaze to his wife’s face, studied the heat that stained her cheeks with a savage satisfaction. “You think,” he drawled, “that if I touched you, I couldn’t make you forget about him in about sixty seconds? Because you know I could. There’s this thing that happens between us, Angelina, that is undeniable. Pure biological chemistry.”
Her mouth tightened, a layer of ice settling over her face. “I’m not playing any more of these games. Byron will be looking for me. I’d advise you to go ahead and have your lawyers fix their mistake or I will sue you and your law firm for incompetence.”
A smile twisted his lips. “The thought crossed my mind, too. Then I realized it must be a sign we are meant to fulfill the responsibilities we assumed three years ago.”
“You are crazy.” She spun and walked toward the door. “Get out, Lorenzo, before anyone sees you.”
The antagonism in him darkened. She had walked out on him at one of the lowest moments of his life, left him to face a firestorm of Manhattan gossip, to break the news to their family and friends while she’d gone vacationing in the Caribbean. Left their marriage in ashes...
She would not walk out on him again.
“Oh, but I’m not finished.” His quiet words stopped her in her tracks. “You didn’t think I came here empty-handed did you? Without some bargaining power?”
His wife turned to face him, blue eyes apprehensive. “The Carmichael Company is bleeding money,” he told her. “Has been for quite some time. I’ve given your father two large loans to keep things afloat.”
She blinked. “That’s impossible.”
That had been his reaction when Angie’s father had come to him for help. That the Carmichael Company, an over two-hundred-year-old textile dynasty, an American icon with its name on the main campus of one of New York’s most prestigious design schools, could be in the red, deeply in the red, had been inconceivable to him.
He watched the color drain from his wife’s face. “If you bothered to go home, you would know. So many countries are in the mix now, producing high-tech fabrics. Things haven’t been good in some time.”
She shook her head. “If this is true,” she said faintly, “why would you help my family?”
His lips curled. “Because I am loyal to the relationships I form, unlike you. I don’t run when things get rocky. Who do you think is underwriting your studio?”
She frowned. “I pay the rent on my studio.”
“You pay one quarter of the rent. It’s my building, Angie.”
Her mouth slackened. “I hired that real estate agent. Found the space...”
“You found what I wanted you to.” He waved a hand at her. “It made me sleep better at night knowing you were in a safe part of town.”
Her face crumpled as realization set in. “What are you insinuating? That you will pull the plug on the aid you’re giving to my family, toss me out on the street if I don’t agree to come back to you?”