‘Thank you,’ she said, striving for breeziness.
‘Are you ready?’
‘Let me get my bag and we can go.’ The expansive room seemed to have shrunk in the space of seconds and she was glad to escape, if only for a moment.
In the sanctuary of the bedroom, she sat on the corner of the bed and took some deep breaths. Keep it together, Alessandra.
Keep it together?
At Rocco and Olivia’s wedding she’d been too worried about informing Christian of his impending fatherhood to read too much into the raging emotions sleeping with him had provoked. She’d assumed that, once she’d shared the news, her equilibrium would be restored. She hadn’t thought for a minute it would become more unstable around him, an instability that seemed to increase with every moment spent with him.
She would keep it together. She would. She was a pro at it.
Getting to her feet, she grabbed the gold clutch bag off the dresser and strolled back into the living area. Christian was leaning against the dining table, doing something on his phone. As soon as he saw her, he pressed the button to turn the screen off and quickly put it in the inside pocket of his blazer.
‘Everything okay?’ he asked.
She mustn’t question. It was none of her business. None of her business.
Javier had always been secretive over his phone: hiding to answer calls; speaking in hushed tones so she couldn’t overhear him; telling her it was other private students who deserved his discretion. Naïve idiot that she was, she’d believed him, had never imagined for a moment that the reason his phone never left his person was because he was married to a woman who’d lived through one of his affairs before and checked on him constantly.
If Christian wanted to be secretive, then so be it. She had no emotional claim on him. He had no emotional claim on her.
She forced a smile. ‘I couldn’t remember where I’d left my bag.’ What was a white lie in the scheme of things? She couldn’t tell him his appearance had left her feeling so off-kilter she’d needed a moment to catch her breath and her thoughts.
‘Where are we eating?’ she asked, following him out of the door.
‘At Titos, a French restaurant near the Panathinaikos Stadium.’
‘It is considered the best restaurant in Athens.’
She raised her brows. ‘Can’t we go somewhere...Greek?’
‘This is the most exclusive restaurant in Greece. The waiting list is eighteen months long.’
She pulled a face. ‘I like fine dining as much as the next person but, truly, you can’t relax somewhere like that. Please, just for tonight, can’t we go somewhere normal? You live here—you must know the place that serves the best Greek food.’
Something flickered in his eyes.
‘You do know somewhere! Please, take me.’
‘It’s nothing special,’ he said, his voice guarded.
‘Good! Nothing special is exactly what I’m in the mood for. Plus, if we eat somewhere nondescript, the less chance we have of being spotted by the paparazzi.’ They would be circling the city looking for them. They were nothing if not tenacious.
After what seemed an age, Christian gave an abrupt nod. ‘I know a little taverna in Pangrati, a decent area of the city.’
She beamed. ‘Perfetto.’
They both nodded at the reception staff as they left the hotel and got into the waiting car.
‘Can we walk some of the way?’ she asked once they were enclosed in the back.
Christian stared at her, remembering how on their night in Milan she’d insisted they walk to the restaurant, happily tottering in the black stilettos that had displayed her slender yet shapely legs so well.
The dress she wore now showed them off too, golden thigh close to his...
He preferred to walk too. He’d especially enjoyed walking with Alessandra, the refreshing conversation, her obvious femininity without demureness. He’d enjoyed everything about that evening. He’d enjoyed everything about that night. Except for the guilt that had almost crippled him, especially the next morning.