His Mistress with Two Secrets(3)

By: Dani Collins

A wistful sigh filled her, but she held it in. Ironic that she wanted to be there for him as he dealt with his sister’s news knowing full well he would lose his mind once he learned Cinnia was carrying his child.

I told you from the beginning I would never marry you.

Her heart clenched afresh, abraded and stung. Scorned.

“Ms. Whitley,” the nurse said behind her. “I can take you now.”

“It’s really good to see you,” Cinnia said to Trella, holding out her arms for another quick hug. “I’ve missed all of you.”

Most of Cinnia’s interactions with Henri’s family had been over the tablet, but she felt the loss of connection to the Sauveterre clan quite deeply.

“I would ask you to give my regards to everyone, but...” Cinnia trailed off.

Trella’s arms were firm and strong around her. She pulled away slowly, tilting her head so they were eye-to-eye. Would her baby have those Sauveterre eyes, Cinnia wondered with a pang? Babies?

“You and I can stay in touch now,” Trella said with a conspiratorial twitch at the corners of her mouth. Her expression sobered to concern. “Can I call you? I’d like to know why...”

Cinnia knew that keeping the pregnancy from Henri was a losing battle. She just wanted a plan in place before he found out so he wouldn’t feel trapped. Trella was far too close to her siblings to keep her own pregnancy a secret from them for long. Once she spilled those beans, Cinnia’s condition would be quick to follow.

But if she could buy a little time to get her ducks in a row, maybe find out exactly how many babies she was actually having...

She nodded. “If you’re still in London at the end of the week, why don’t we have dinner?”


Two years ago...

CINNIA WAS NOT a social climber, but her roommate, Vera, was. Cheerfully and without apology. Thus, when Vera wangled opening-night tickets from the owner of the hottest new nightclub in London, she demanded Cinnia accompany her.

“I told him about your title,” Vera said. “That’s how I got him to say yes to our coming.”

“The title that belongs to my great-uncle a million times removed whom I’ve never met and who wouldn’t know me from Eve?”

“I might have exaggerated how close you are. But I told him about your granny’s vintage tiara and since his theme is ‘flappers and gangsters,’ and he wants window dressing, he said we could come as staff. No swag,” Vera said with a dismayed wrinkle of her nose. “Just mingle with the guests. Be first on the dance floor, that sort of thing.”

Cinnia was reluctant. Her weekends were her only time away from her job at a wealth management firm to put the pieces in place for striking out on her own. She had set September as her goal and had a mile-long list of to-dos to make it happen.

“You work too hard,” Vera groaned. “Look at it as a chance to rub elbows with potential clients. This will be wall-to-wall, top-tier, A-list celebs.”

“That’s not how it works.”

Cinnia’s mother saw a different opportunity when Cinnia spoke to her over the tablet. “Tell me I can’t wear the tiara so I can tell Vera there’s no point.”

“Nonsense. We’ll get my dress out of storage, too. It’s time they both saw some use. You, too, for that matter.” Her mother had purposely held a Roaring Twenties party on her tenth anniversary so she could wear her grandmother’s modest, heirloom tiara. She had had a beaded dress made special for the occasion.

“You wouldn’t get the tiara from the safe-deposit box when we were broke and I wanted to sell it, but you’ll let me wear it to a nightclub?” Cinnia asked, askance.

“This is why I kept it, for you girls to wear on special occasions. Go. Have fun. There’s bound to be some nice men there.”

“Rich husbands, you mean? They don’t sell them at the bar, Mum.”

“Of course not. It will be an open bar for something like this, won’t it?” her mother returned tartly.

There was a reason she and her sisters called their mum Mrs. Bennet. She was forever trying to find their golden ticket of a husband. There was also a reason she was so determined to do so. The Whitleys had descended from aristocracy. The blue blood cells had been significantly diluted by bright, peasant red, but Milly Whitley was determined that her daughters would make good matches and the Whitleys would return to the lofty position they’d all enjoyed before Mr. Whitley had died and his fragile financial house of cards had toppled around them.

Until then, they would dress the part and hang on to a house that was a money pit and they would attend the sorts of occasions that told the world they hadn’t gone anywhere.

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