Challenging Dante(57)

By: Lynne Graham

And Topsy had to admit, she had not heard him utter a single complaint in the three years since she had come to live in Italy. She had insisted on a long engagement and, regardless of Dante’s eagerness to get to the altar, it was a year before the wedding actually took place. Topsy had wanted both of them to be absolutely certain of what they were doing because she really did want their marriage to last for ever and ever.

Deciding to try for a baby had been a big decision and she had waited until she was twenty-six to do so, confident that she would be a more caring parent than her mother had been and convinced that Dante would make a terrific father. It had been something of a shock when she fell pregnant the first month but she was truly excited about her baby.

She had had no difficulty finding a research job at the university and was currently up for an award following the publication of her most recent maths paper. Her career took up a good deal of her time and she was frequently invited abroad to speak and share her research, as well as continually fending off head-hunters desperate to employ her in more profit-inspired fields. Dante had not been able to tolerate living away from her during the week to be at the bank headquarters in Milan. Nowadays, although he made regular business trips, he mostly worked from home.

The fancy-dress ball that had caused so much trouble between them was now a more positive memory for them both for the little girl suffering from leukaemia had travelled to the USA for highly specialised treatment and was now in recovery with every hope of maintaining her improved health.

On a less important note, Topsy still couldn’t drive, had decided she didn’t like driving and flatly refused to get behind a steering wheel with Dante beside her but it wasn’t really a big problem when Dante had hired a local driver to motor her around instead.

Vittore and Sofia and little Agnese, their daughter, who was now a cherubic toddler, had moved into their new home, Casa di Fortuna. Family contact was frequent and informal and everything that Topsy had learned to enjoy with her sister and their families. Kat had given birth safely to her much-longed-for little daughter. Topsy’s relationship with her father was open and affectionate and more than she had ever hoped to have with a parent. Dante had learned to recognise Vittore’s deep love for his mother and the awkwardness between the two men had slowly melted away.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, nothing had changed about Topsy’s relationship with her mother. Odette had been tried in court and had got off the charges through lack of acceptable proof, but the older woman’s jubilation had not lasted long when she realised that all her regular clients had deserted her because they had feared exposure after her arrest. In the end, Odette had closed down the escort agency and retired to the South of France to live on the pension she received from her sons-in-law. Neither Topsy nor any of her sisters had heard from Odette since she had relocated abroad two years earlier and, as the older woman had not written the tell-all book she had threatened to write, her daughters were inclined to think that silence from their mother was a blessing.

‘There...we just made it,’ Dante pronounced with a touch of superiority as he shot the car into a parking spot beside the obstetrician’s consulting rooms.

‘I knew we would,’ Topsy teased, tenderly stroking the back of a lean brown hand where it still rested on the steering wheel. ‘You would hate to miss a scan of our daughter.’

Dante tucked a straying strand of dark hair gently back behind her ear, his reflective green gaze resting warmly on her animated face. ‘I never knew I could be so happy...and just to think there’s going to be two of you. I can’t believe my luck, amata mia.’

Topsy gave him a knowing look that engulfed him in love. ‘I believe we make our own luck.’

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