"It's nothing you've done wrong, Bella Mia." Philip spoke softly. "But it's time to move on. For both of us."
Too stunned to speak, Mia gaped at him in disbelief. Her hand lay limply in his. She hadn't seen it coming.
For weeks Mia Manetti had looked forward to this dinner at LoFiglio's, the most exclusive restaurant in Rosemont, NY. But now she wished she was anywhere else.
Oh, it was a beautiful place. Candles glimmered; crisp ivory linens and sparkling crystal graced the tables. Tinkling piano music played softly in the background. Even more glittering than the atmosphere were the other diners, dressed to impress.
But Mia had lost interest in her surroundings. She and Philip had been together for a year. A year of bliss, as far as she was concerned.
And she'd been sure that he felt the same way. Convinced that tonight, on this anniversary of sorts, he'd tell her what she'd been longing to hear from almost the first moment she met him. That he wanted her to be his. Forever.
How could she have been so wrong?
The numbness spread, filling Mia's chest. She felt distant from herself, as if she were two separate people. One of them sat at the table, speechless, staring stupidly at the man across from her. The other floated on the ceiling and looked down, watching helplessly.
She should do something. But what? Scream, cry, storm out in a rage? A public scene would only embarrass herself and Master Philip.
No. Not her Master. Not anymore. He didn't want her.
"We had a beautiful year together," he told her, his voice compassionate but firm. "But now it's over."
It had been beautiful. At last Mia marshaled her scrambled thoughts enough to ask the only question that came to mind. "Why?"
He squeezed her fingers gently. Mia loved the feel of his hand on her, touching her hair, her face. She loved his low, gravelly voice--hearing it always made her feel safe, as though he'd wrapped her in velvet. And she loved his handsome face--the square shape of it, the cleft in his chin. His dark hair was graying at the temples and perhaps thinning a bit, but that made no difference to Mia. The thirty-odd-year age difference between them didn't matter, either. He was everything she wished for in a Master.
If she thought it would change his mind, she'd sink to her knees before him, right here in LoFiglio's in front of everyone: the women in their jewels, the men in their designer suits, the elegant waiters. She wouldn't be ashamed, although a public display would be against everything Master Philip had taught her. It would be wrong to involve the unsuspecting diners in something private between Master and slave.
And it wouldn't do any good. Once Philip made up his mind about something, there was no changing it.
Most people wouldn't understand their relationship. Mia hadn't understood until she met Master Philip. But meeting him had changed her life, had given her everything she never knew she wanted.
She had to do something. Reason with him, argue. She couldn't let him go without a fight. As though he could read her thoughts, Master Philip spoke in a voice that was quiet but firm. "Remember, your actions reflect on me, Bella Mia."