I like to think it is a Presents story told in 1000 words.
|Sunset over Princess Royal Harbour, Albany, WA where I attended a wedding last week.|
This past year hadn't been what he'd expected. If only he hadn’t walked away, leaving Lily alone. At the time, with his anger threatening to overthrow his control it had been the obvious thing to do. Go away and cool down. Then go back and sort things out with Lily.
Only Lily had been gone. Their room, usually so immaculate, looked like a bomb exploded. There were clothes everywhere. The contents of her jewellery box scattered over the bed. She hadn’t taken a single thing he’d given her.
Twelve months later and he was no nearer finding her. The bedroom was immaculate once more, all her things restored to cupboards and drawers. Her scent had faded, only a whisper of lavender and vanilla when he stirred the clothes in the walk in robe. Soon it would be as if she’d never been a part of his life.
Lily halted the car at the entrance of the Belliconi mansion. Would Nick have changed the codes? Winding down the window, she pressed the keys of the security panel. With a buzz the heavy gates parted. Odd that security conscious Nick hadn’t ordered new codes after she left.
The paved driveway curved up to the portico, the pillars faintly reminiscent of an antebellum plantation house. The double doors loomed impressively and she hesitated. She owed this to Nick…and to Lucas who looked so like his father. Even if Nick didn’t believe her.
The past year hadn’t been what she expected. If only… She shook her head. When Nick asked her to move in with him eighteen months ago, the only fly in the ointment was his spoiled younger brother. Danny, who Nick felt responsible for, so he had him living with him in the ocean front property he called home. He had been in rehab when she and Nick first met at her gallery. It had only taken six weeks for him to destroy everything.
The door chime echoed through the empty rooms, pulling Nick out of his absorption. The latest reports from the private detective were promising. He had tracked Lily to Adelaide, Melbourne and then Sydney through the gallery’s that showed her paintings. Post Office boxes weren’t much help, but they indicated the direction she was moving. Closer to home. He allowed himself to hope.
Striding across the foyer to the door, he quashed it. There was still the issue of the child. How would she explain that small aberration? Dragging open the heavy door, he froze, his heart stopping and then thumping hard. Lily…and the child. A boy, all black curls and bright blue eyes. A Belliconi through and through. It should have been his. Would have been if fate had not thrown his charming brother in Lily’s path just when he needed to be out of the country on business.
“Lily. What can I do for you?” Just the right tone, he congratulated himself. Cool and a little distant.
“I’ve come to see you about Lucas. My son.” Her son. Well the boy was as good as fatherless with Danny back in rehab.
“I suppose you want some financial arrangement. Unfortunate that Danny is unavailable. Perhaps you could come back another time.” In about six months, going on his brother’s usual pattern.
“I know he’s not here. I wouldn’t set foot in this house if he was here.”
“That’s a different story from the last time you were here.”
She sighed, adjusting the child on her hip. He was a solid child and she was so slightly built. Skinny, she called it. Not his usual type certainly. His past women had been tall blondes with plenty up top, and he didn’t mean above the neck. She looked tired.
“You’d better come inside.”
She should have known better than to come back. Nick wasn’t interested in his son. He’d barely glanced at Lucas and his voice, usually so warm, was putting off arctic chill. Seems like he’d believed Danny’s drunken ramblings. Well either way, he would believe Lucas was a Belliconi and that meant he was entitled.
Following Nick to his study, she had an opportunity to study him. He seemed thinner but it was hard to remember after a year apart. The Tee and jeans clung lovingly to his muscular torso and hugged his butt. What was wrong with her?
She was glad to sit down, resting Lucas on her knees while Nick fiddled with papers on his desk.
“I want you to move back in.”
Not quite believing her ears she stared at him.
“I said I want you back. Danny will never be a father to the boy. I can offer that at least. The child will need a father. A proper family.”
“You want me back? Even though you believe I had an affair with your brother, had a child by him?”
He looked uncomfortable, his eyes lowered, avoiding hers. “Yes.”
“What if I said no?”
That brought his face up, the intense blue eyes wide. “Why would you refuse? It’s a good deal. We were good together.”
Lily stood up, letting the anger out. “Because I couldn’t be with someone who doesn’t trust me. Who believes his lying brother before he believes me. I can’t live like that. All I want is financial assistance for Lucas. He should have the chance for a good education.”
“I didn’t believe it once I had a moment to think. But you didn’t come back, so I thought it must be true. I thought you were afraid to come back. I’ve been searching for you all year.”
“Even though you believed that of me?”
“Don’t you know I would forgive you anything? I need you.”
“You never said. I thought it was just about the sex.”
“It was never just that.” He smiled crookedly. “Though it helped.”
He was around the desk in an instant. “My son?”
His arms wrapped around them both. “I love you, Lily.” His lips met hers, soft and tender. She was home.