Lydia didn’t hear much of the rest.
For whatever reason...
As if it was unfathomable that someone might simply want her for no other reason than they simply did.
It was Lydia who ended the call, and after sitting for a few minutes in silence she looked up when there was a knock at the door.
‘Come in,’ Lydia said, and then gave a wry smile as Raul entered—it was his bedroom, after all.
‘How did it go with your mother?’
‘Not very well,’ Lydia admitted. ‘I’m being overly dramatic, apparently.’
‘Why don’t you have a bath?’
‘A bath!’ A laugh shot out of her pale lips at his odd suggestion.
‘It might relax you. There’s one already run.’
‘I’m guessing I wouldn’t have been bathing alone, had I come up the first time.’
‘Plans change,’ Raul said. ‘Give me your phone and go and wind down.’
‘You won’t answer it?’ Lydia checked.
‘No,’ Raul said.
Her family was persistent.
Raul, though, was stubborn.
The phone continued to buzz, but rather than turn it off Raul went back to lying on the bed, as he had been when Lydia had arrived.
And that was how she found him.
The bath had been soothing. Lydia had lain in the fragrant water, terribly glad of his suggestion to leave her phone.
It had given her a chance to calm down and to regroup.
‘They’ve been calling,’ Raul told her by way of greeting.
‘I thought that they might.’ Lydia sighed. ‘I doubt they’ll give up if Bastiano hasn’t. Apparently Maurice has said he’ll meet him tomorrow and I’m supposed to be there.’
‘And what did you say?’
‘No, of course—but it’s not just about dinner with Bastiano...’
‘Of course it’s not,’ Raul agreed.
‘I think he wants sex.’
‘He wants more than sex, Lydia. He wants to marry you. He thinks you’d make a very nice trophy wife. Bastiano wants to be King of your castle.’
He watched for her reaction and as always she surprised him, because Lydia just gave a shrug.
‘I wouldn’t be the first to marry for money.’
And though the thought appalled her it did not surprise her.
‘I doubt my mother married Maurice for his sparkling personality,’ Lydia said, and Raul gave a small nod that told her he agreed. ‘Would you marry for money?’ Lydia asked.
‘No,’ Raul said, ‘but that’s not from any moral standpoint—I just would never marry.’
‘I’ve generally run out of conversation by the morning. I can’t imagine keeping one going with the same person for the rest of my life.’
He did make her smile.
And he put her at ease.
No, that wasn’t the word, because ease wasn’t what she felt around him.
She felt like herself.
Whoever that was.
Lydia had never really been allowed to find out.
‘You’d have to remember her birthday,’ Lydia said, and sat next to him when he patted the bed.
‘And our anniversary.’ Raul rolled his eyes. ‘And married people become obsessed with what’s for dinner.’
‘They do!’ Lydia agreed.
‘I had a perfectly normal PA—Allegra. Now, every day, her husband rings and they talk about what they are going to have for dinner. I pay her more than enough that she could eat out every night...’
Yes, he made her smile.
‘Do you believe in love?’ Lydia asked.
She actually liked how abruptly he dismissed the very notion.
It was so peaceful in his room, and though common sense told her she should be nervous Lydia wasn’t. It was nice to talk with someone who was so matter-of-fact about something she had wrestled with for so long.
‘Would you marry if it meant you might save your family from going under?’
‘My family is gone.’ Raul shrugged. ‘Anyway, you can’t save anyone from going under. Whatever you try and do.’
The sudden pensive note to his voice had her turning to face him.
‘I wanted my mother to leave my father. I did everything I could to get her to leave, but she wouldn’t. I knew I had to get out. I was working a part-time job in Rome and studying, and I had found a flat for her.’ He looked over at Lydia briefly. ‘Next to the one I told you about. But she wouldn’t leave. She said that she could not afford to, and that aside from that she took her wedding vows seriously.’
‘I would too,’ Lydia told him.
‘Well, my mother said the same—but then she had an affair.’ It was surprisingly easy to tell her, given what Lydia had shared with him. ‘She died in a car accident just after the affair was exposed. I doubt her mind was on the road. After she died I found out that she’d had access to more than enough money to start a new life. I think her lover had found that out too.’