Dante’s lips curled into a wry smile. “I’m a man who prides himself on his self-control. Believe me, most men wouldn’t have been able to resist your charm. To be honest, when I found out I would be your first I had an even harder time holding back. It’s probably a male thing, but I wanted to put my claim on you.”
“That sounds very animalistic.”
“It is. Before I married you, I didn’t want an inexperienced bride, but once I knew the truth about you, I had a hard time thinking about anything else than making you mine.” Dante’s eyes darted to my round belly where his hand was still resting. “And the knowledge that you’re carrying my baby makes me proud, though it really isn’t something that should cause that notion in me. After all, it’s not a great achievement to impregnate your wife.”
I shook my head with a smile that slowly died on my lips as my eyes sought out Dante’s. “I love this. I love talking to you like a real husband and wife. Please don’t pull back from me again. I can’t go back to being lonely.”
Dante cupped my cheek. “I won’t. Today was the wakeup call I needed. I’ll try to be the best husband I can possibly be, which probably is still much less than you deserve. I’m not an emotional man, and I hate public displays of affection, but I won’t go back to ignoring you. That I can promise.”
I kissed him. “Thank you.”
We lay in silence beside each other until I felt our daughter move. I quickly shifted Dante’s hand so he could feel it too. He stilled.
“Do you feel her moving?”
Dante nodded. He didn’t say anything but I knew this it wasn’t because he was unaffected by what was happening. Smiling, I put my head back down on shoulder.
“When can I return home?”
“Tomorrow. They want to keep you over night.”
“Okay.” I wasn’t really happy about this. I worried about being separated from Dante for that long; not because I was clingy or couldn’t be alone; no, I was worried that despite his promise, Dante would find reasons to retreat from me once more if we weren’t together so shortly after we’d come to an understanding.
“I’ll stay with you. I won’t let you alone in this place,” he said as if he knew about my worries, and my heart swelled with gratefulness. “And I already told Leo that he would have to handle the casino alone for a while.”
“You don’t want me to work anymore?”
“The doctor said you need to stay in bed as much as possible, so you won’t be able to work. Once our child is born and you’re feeling well enough, we can still talk about finding you a new job.”
“That’s reasonable,” I said, then pulled back and kissed him again. Now that he let me, I wanted to do it over and over again. Soon my breathing quickened but Dante drew back with a small shake of his head. “We shouldn’t. You need rest.”
“Did the doctor say something about sex?”
“Because of the rupture sex is too risky. It could lead to an infection or cause the rupture to widen.”
“So we can’t have sex for three months if I’m going full-term?”
“Yes. That’s right.”
I knew some men started using mistresses when their wives got pregnant. I didn’t think Dante was the type, but it still worried me. And it wasn’t as if I didn’t enjoy sex. Three months, and possibly longer, without any kind of relief sounded like a challenge.
Dante smoothed out the furrows between my brows. “What are you thinking?”
“Will you be okay with it?”
“You mean with no sex?” he asked with a hint of amusement. “Yes. As I said self-control isn’t my problem.”
“I hope you have enough for both of us.”
Dante kissed a spot below my ear. “I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I always want you, Valentina. You drive me insane with want, but I won’t do anything that could endanger our child.”
“I know. Me neither.” I smiled. “I still can’t believe that we’ll have a little girl soon. When we’re back home tomorrow, I’ll have to show you something I bought today.” I couldn’t wait to see his face when he saw the onesie. I hated that something as horrible as a rupture of membranes had finally brought us closer together, but I was glad it had. Now we could look forward to the birth of our daughter together.
Dante kept his arm around my waist as he led me into our house, though I was perfectly capable of walking on my own. I felt good. Maybe the medication was helping. Or maybe our little girl had decided she liked it in my belly now that her parents had figured things out. Of course I knew I had to be careful. I couldn’t risk going into labor in the next couple of weeks. Our girl still had quite some growing to do.
Dante was about to lead me into the living room, but I shook my head. “I really want to take a shower.” Instead of guiding me toward the staircase, he picked me up and began carrying me upstairs. I was tall and it couldn’t have been easy for Dante to manage the stairs with my added weight. When he set me down at the top, I said, “You don’t need to carry me. You won’t always be around when I need to take the stairs.”
“I don’t want you to use the stairs, Valentina,” he said, his voice not brooking an argument. “If I’m not around to carry you, then you’ll call for one of the guards.”
I could tell that he wouldn’t budge on the subject and I was glad that he was trying to take care of me. “Okay. I promise.”
As we stepped into our bedroom, I saw that someone, probably Gaby, had carried up the bags with my purchases and set them down on the chair in front of my vanity. With a smile, I walked toward it and pulled out the onesie I’d bought yesterday before things had taken a turn for the worse. I held it up for Dante to see. “So what do you say?” My voice brimmed with excitement. I almost felt bad for feeling so exuberant after what had happened yesterday and what could still happen to our baby girl, but I was too hopeful to let worries overshadow my other emotions. Dante raised one eyebrow. “I doubt anyone will need the reminder.”