I blushed at her words. It really meant something coming from a woman like her. “Thank you for saying that.”
“It’s the truth.” She put her half-finished glass down. “Now I must go. I have an early morning.”
I stood with her. “Thank you, Melania.”
“Thank you for inviting me to have a drink with you, Madam. It was very kind of you.”
“The pleasure was all mine,” I said with a smile.
Then we wished each other goodnight and she walked out of the room. I wandered over to the fireplace and stared at the dancing flames. I was caught up with my own drama. I had not looked at the situation with the calm logic that Madam had. Why had Luca married me? He was not in love with me. That much was clear. If he simply wanted to keep me here longer all he had to do was ask. Surely it was crystal clear I loved being in this splendid house.
What was there not to love?
Even now when it was winter and the days drew to a close too quickly it was like living in a fairytale, but once spring came I could spend longer in the greenhouse and the outdoors, it would be my definition of heaven on earth. Besides I was so appreciative of what he was doing for my father I would have stayed with him forever in a hut if he’d only asked. And that’s not even taking into consideration what he didn’t know… that I was deeply and irrevocably in love with him.
The phone rang. I ran toward it. It was him.
“Hello,” I whispered.
“Everything okay?” he asked.
I closed my eyes to savor his voice. “Yes. Everything is okay.”
“I’ll be back tomorrow, then I’m taking you with me to Italy the next day. So prepare yourself to go away for a few weeks.”
My eyes flew open. “A few weeks? Italy?”
“Yes. A few weeks. Italy.” He sounded amused. “Have you got a passport?”
“I have,” I answered automatically.
“Good,” he said crisply.
My brain felt scrambled. “Why are we going to Italy?”
“So you can meet my parents.”Chapter 47LucaShe was quiet, quieter than I had ever known her to be.
We were on my private plane on our way to Sicily. At first she had seemed stunned by how easy and pleasant it was to fly without the normal constraints imposed on commercial flights. Without the long queues, humiliating pat downs by burly TSA staff, having to walk through radiation emitting metal detector machines.
As we took our seats opposite each other one of the crew members came up to us.
“Can I get you something to drink?”
“Any kind of juice is fine,” Skye responded quietly.
“I’ll have a whiskey,” I said.
“Great. Here are your menus,” she said, putting two cards down on the table in front of us.
Another hostess came and placed a plate of fruit in front of us with two small forks. Skye picked up a fork and speared a piece of watermelon.
I didn’t know why but she looked sad, as if weighed down. I had forced her to marry me and maybe she just wasn’t ready for it.
“We don’t have to stay married for too long,” I said softly. “After this whole situation with the FBI blows over, you’ll be free to go.”
She stilled, but didn’t turn to look at me. “Okay,” she said and placed the fruit in her mouth.
“Anyway, this marriage has to look real so I got this for you.” I pulled out the ring box from my pocket and leaning forward, placed it on her table. She stared at it, and then turned to me with her eyes wide. “You got me another ring?”
I nodded. “The one you’re wearing is a wedding ring. You need to have an engagement ring too.”
“Oh? Is it… is that necessary?”
“It is. My parents will expect it.”
Her gaze fixed on the velvety black box. Then she put the fork down and reached for it. She opened it and gasped. “Wow!” She looked up at me. “My God. Is this real?”
I took the box from her, extracted the ring, and slid the ring onto her slender finger. For a second she did nothing, just stared at her finger in shock. It was a beautiful ring. I chose it from a selection offered from the best jewelers in Beijing and Shanghai, but I did not expect her to be this overwhelmed.
She moved her hand and the sparkle from the main diamond was blinding. She looked up at me. “It’s really, really beautiful, Luca. It must have cost a lot.”
She nodded a few times. “Did you buy it in China?”
“Yes, I had the best jewelers in Beijing and Shanghai send their wares to my hotel room, and I decided on this one. It is designed by an Italian designer called Aldo Morro.”
“Well, it’s beyond beautiful. I’ll take good care of it and return it before I leave.”