Convenient Brides
after a moment’s reflection. “The last thing you need is a husband incapable of fidelity. We must find another solution, one which will keep this shameful secret from my father. It would destroy him, to learn that his favorite son has disgraced our family in such a way.”
    He spoke without rancor, and when Callie remarked on it, shrugged philosophically and said, “I accepted long ago that, in my father’s eyes, Paolo is the golden boy who can do no wrong. I’m not saying my father doesn’t love me, too, but my brother…it’s different with him, and that’s just the way it is.”
    “Your father sometimes doesn’t use the sense he was born with,” Vanessa declared, planting a loving kiss on her husband’s cheek. “But I, thank goodness, do!” Then, turning to Callie, she said, “We’ll figure out a way to help you, honey. I take it you’ve seen a doctor?”
    “Yes. He pointed out my choices—abortion, adoption or keeping the baby.”
    “And?” Vanessa eyed her anxiously.
    “I can’t terminate the pregnancy. I couldn’t live with myself, if I did.”
    Visibly relieved, her sister asked, “What about adoption?”
    “Oh, Vanessa!” Callie’s eyes overflowed again. “I don’t think I could go through with that, either. Giving my baby away to strangers—” She stopped to mop her tears. “I’m so ashamed. How am I ever going to face Mom.”
    “Never mind the shame,” Vanessa declared. “The point is, pregnancy isn’t something you can keep secret for very long. Soon, everyone will know, including Mom.”
    “No! I could move away. Get a job. Save my money—”
    “There is no need to worry about money,” Ermanno said quietly. “That is one thing I can do something about.”
    “And you have to tell Mom, Callie. She’ll be shocked, of course, but you know she’ll stand by you. Maybe, with her help, you’ll be able to keep the baby.”
    “I don’t think I can stand to see the disappointment in her eyes,” Callie said miserably.
    As it turned out, she didn’t have to. Tragically, on the drive home from Florida, their mother was killed in a headon collision in North Carolina. She never knew she was about to become a grandmother.
    The hot splash of tears on her face drew Callie back to the present—that, and Paolo’s voice, low and concerned, observing, “What did I say to make you cry, Caroline?”
    “You asked me why I didn’t go to Smith,” she said, swiping her fingers over her cheeks. “If you must know, it was because of my mother’s death.”
    How plausibly the lie rolled off her tongue! Accepting it without hesitation, he said, “Ah, yes! I remember now that she died not long after Ermanno married Vanessa.”
    “That same summer. My father left us when I was six and Vanessa eleven, so for most of my life it had been just my mother, my sister and I. Then, in the space of two months, I was alone.”
    Except for your babies, of course!
    That had been the next shock to hit her.
    “Definitely twins,” the obstetrician to whom her doctor referred her had declared confidently. “Two for the price of one, young lady. You’re going to have to take very good care of yourself for the next five months. We don’t want a premature delivery.”
    Oh, the blistering shame, to be the youngest daughter of the late, respected Audrey Leighton, president of the Junior League, pillar of society. To be pregnant and unmarried—with twins. Oh, God! Oh, God!
    “You weren’t really alone. You still had your sister, and Ermanno, too.”
    Oh, yes. More than you can begin to know! “I seldom saw them. They were traveling all over the world for the better part of a year.”
    “So they were—until Vanessa was put on bed rest because of her pregnancy. They stayed in California then, until after the twins were born, didn’t they?”
    “Yes,” she said, with guilelessly misleading honesty.
    “And you were there for the birth?”
    Callie stared fixedly at the moonlit sea, hating that she had

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