To Wear His Ring Again(5)By: Chantelle Shaw
Heat scalded her cheeks, and she did not trust herself to say anything else to him that wouldn’t result in them having one of the vicious arguments that had been a regular feature of the last months of their marriage. Dignified silence seemed her best strategy, but as she swung away from him his gravelly, accented voice stopped her from marching up the stairs.
‘You have often been in my dreams these past two years, Isabella. The nights can be long and lonely...can’t they?’
Could she possibly have heard regret in his voice? Was there any chance that he had missed her even half as much as she had missed him? Slowly, she turned back to face him, and immediately realised that she had indulged in wishful thinking. He was lounging in the doorway, bare-chested, beautiful and totally aware that he turned her on.
How could she have thought that Constantin might hide a vulnerable side beneath his arrogance? The idea that she had hurt him when she had left two years ago was laughable, Isobel thought bitterly. If he had a heart, he kept it locked behind a wall of impenetrable steel that nothing and no one could breach.
‘I don’t imagine you have spent many nights alone,’ she said tautly, ‘not if the stories in the tabloids linking you with numerous beautiful models and socialites are to be believed.’
He shrugged. ‘There were occasions when it was necessary for me to invite women to social events—’ he sent her a piercing glance ‘—since my wife wasn’t around to accompany me. Unfortunately the gutter press thrive on scandal and intrigue, and if none exist they fabricate lies.’
‘Are you saying that you didn’t have affairs with those women?’
His mocking expression gave nothing away. ‘If you’re trying to lead me into admitting adultery as a reason for us to divorce—forget it,’ he said coolly. ‘You’re the one who walked out of our marriage.’
Frustration surged through Isobel and she wanted to demand a straight answer from him. The idea that he had slept with the women he had been photographed with made her feel sick with jealousy. But as Constantin had pointed out, she had been the one to leave, and she had no right to ask him about his personal life. He was a red-blooded male with a high sex drive, and common sense told her that he was unlikely to have remained celibate for the past two years.
The adrenalin that had pumped through her veins when she had psyched herself up to see Constantin drained away, and she suddenly felt weary and strangely deflated. It had been a stupid idea to come here.
She looked down at the divorce petition in her hand and calmly ripped it in half.
‘I want a divorce as much as you do, but for the reason that we have lived apart for more than two years. If you continue to state my desertion as a reason, I’ll begin divorce proceedings against you, citing your unreasonable behaviour.’
He jerked his head back as if she had slapped him and his eyes glittered with anger. ‘My behaviour? What about how you behaved? You were hardly a devoted wife, were you, cara?’ He made the endearment sound like an insult. ‘In fact you went out with your friends so often that I almost forgot I had a wife.’
‘I saw my friends because, for some reason that I have never understood, you had turned into the ice man. We were two strangers who happened to live in the same house. But I needed more, Constantin. I needed you...’
Isobel broke off as the hard gleam in Constantin’s eyes told her she was wasting her breath. ‘I refuse to take part in a slanging match,’ she muttered. She gave a hollow laugh. ‘It’s a telling indictment of our marriage that we can’t even agree on how we’re going to end it.’
She swung away from him and marched up the stairs, her back ramrod-straight. Reaching the ground-floor level, she hurried towards the front door but was forced to halt as the butler finished speaking on the house phone and moved to stand in front of her.
Whittaker held open the door to the sitting room. ‘The Marquis requested that you wait in here while he takes a shower, and he will join you shortly.’
She shook her head. ‘No, I’m leaving.’
Whittaker’s polite smile did not falter. ‘Mr De Severino hopes that you will stay and continue the discussion you began a few minutes ago. Shall I bring you some tea, madam?’