After much searching, he tracked her down. She was sitting on the stone steps that led into Lake Como. Only one yacht remained from the handful that had been moored overnight.

 She didn’t acknowledge his presence.


 Today she was dressed in ankle-length tight white jeans and a pale-pink cashmere top, the V plunging down to display a hint of swollen cleavage, the only outward physical sign of the changes taking place within her.

 What other changes were taking place within that gorgeous form...?

 A stark image came into his mind of the perfection of her breasts, the way they seemed to have been made to fit his hands... If he closed his eyes he could still taste them, taste her...

 ‘How are you feeling?’ he asked abruptly, forcing thoughts of her naked body from his mind as he sat on the cold stone beside her.

 ‘About as well as can be expected,’ she replied after a long pause.

 ‘I never asked last night how you’re coping with the pregnancy—physically, I mean.’

 Another pause. ‘So far I’ve been lucky. No morning sickness or anything.’

 ‘I’ve made a few calls and rearranged my schedule so I can stay in Milan for a few days. First thing tomorrow morning, we’re going to see your doctor.’

 ‘I’ve got a shoot to do.’ She cast sharp eyes at him. ‘And, before you accuse me of being selfish again, I’d like to point out that for me to cancel the shoot would mean a good dozen people’s schedules being thrown. We can see the doctor in the afternoon.’

 At least she was willing to see a doctor with him. That was a start.

 ‘Does this mean you are in agreement to us marrying?’

 She fell silent for a few moments, tucking a strand of hair behind an ear. ‘If we marry, we both automatically become our child’s legal guardian.’

 ‘I am aware of that.’ It was one of the things he wanted—his paternity to be recognised by law. Marriage might be destructive and capable of ruining people but it was the only way he could ensure his child had his protection. For that reason alone he was prepared to do it. For their child’s sake, it was no sacrifice.

 She stared at him. ‘If anything happens to me, you have sole responsibility.’

 He felt his blood chill at the sudden solemnity in her tone. ‘Why are you talking like this?’

 ‘Do you know how my mother died?’ she asked in that same thoughtful tone.

 ‘Rocco never liked to talk about her other than to say she’d died when he was seven.’ Alessandra would have been a baby, he realised, doing the maths for the first time.

 Her gaze didn’t falter. ‘She died having me.’

 Theos...

 ‘Rocco never said.’ He shook his head, trying to digest her words.

 ‘Rocco suffered the most out of all of us.’ A faraway look formed in her eyes before she blinked it away and cleared her throat.

 ‘What happened to her?’ he asked, rubbing his chin, trying to imagine the Mondelli siblings as they’d been then: Rocco a child of seven, and Alessandra, so fresh and new-born she’d barely taken her first breath before her mother had been taken away from her forever.

 He racked his pounding brain, trying to remember the age Rocco had been when he’d gone to live with Giovanni Mondelli, their grandfather. Eight, if he was recollecting correctly, which meant Alessandra had been a year at the most.

 She’d never known the love of either a mother or a father.

 At least his own mother had been there. For all her faults, she’d never abandoned him or reneged on her responsibility as a mother.

 ‘She suffered from severe pre-eclampsia,’ Alessandra said, her husky voice soft.

 Red-hot anger flooded through him, pushing away the ache that had formed in his chest at learning of the tragic circumstances of her birth. ‘Why the hell haven’t you seen a doctor yet?’

 ‘It doesn’t affect women until the later stages of pregnancy. For the time being, I’m fine. My mother didn’t know what she was dealing with—she’d already given birth to a healthy child without any complications. Medicine has advanced a lot since then and we can prepare for it. The odds of anything happening to me are remote. But—and this is why I’m saying this now, before I agree to anything—if the worst happens then I need to know that you will rise to your legal and moral duty and raise our child.’

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