She swallowed. Was he suggesting what she thought he was...?

 His lips brushed against her earlobe. ‘Until we are legally married I will have to satisfy myself with memories of our night together in Milan.’

 Her skin fizzed beneath the warmth of his breath while heat such as she had never experienced surged through her, settling in the V of her thighs. He stepped closer still and placed a hand on her thigh, close enough that she could feel his erection jut through the cotton of his towel and press against her belly.

 She tilted her head back and gazed into his eyes. It was there, that desire: stark, open, unashamed.

 What would he do if she were to loop her arms around his neck and kiss him? If she were to clasp his towel and yank it off him...?

 He must have read her mind for his lips brushed against her ear again. ‘Anticipation makes fulfilment taste so much sweeter.’

 She pulled away. ‘Do you know that from experience?’

 A strange look came into his eyes, a half-smile tugging on his lips. ‘Only in a professional sense. I look forward to finding out if it’s as sweet when it comes to us making love again.’

 ‘I thought you said it would depend on whether I wanted anything to happen,’ she said, her voice hoarse.

 ‘And it will.’ Now his eyes glittered, no mistaking the feeling behind them. ‘But we both know the anticipation is driving you crazy too.’

 While Alessandra stood there, unable to deny what he’d said, too full of the heavy, pulsating thickness swirling through the very fabric of her to think clearly, Christian strode into the bedroom of his suite.

 ‘So, what did you want to see me for?’ he asked, disappearing from view.

 Forcing her brain to unfog itself, she followed him to the door but stopped at her side of the threshold.

 She took a moment to compose herself, but that very composure almost fell to ruins when he emerged back in view, now wearing a pair of black boxer shorts that only enhanced his strong physique.

 He opened his dressing-room door and disappeared again, re-emerging moments later with a pair of grey trousers on. Looking at her, he slipped his arms into a pale blue shirt. ‘Alessandra?’

 ‘Sorry.’ She put her hand to her mouth and cleared her throat. ‘I just wanted to discuss the guest list.’

 ‘Everyone has accepted.’

 ‘Apart from Rocco?’

 He nodded, his mouth tightening.

 She watched as he deftly did the buttons of his shirt up.

 ‘I think you should reconsider inviting your mother,’ she said.

 He didn’t react, other than a slight narrowing of his eyes.

 ‘It doesn’t feel right, us marrying without you having any family there.’

 ‘You haven’t invited your father,’ he said pointedly.

 ‘That’s because my father is an alcoholic who likes to pretend I don’t exist. She’s your mum—wouldn’t she want to see her only child get married?’

 ‘Just drop it. She’s not coming and that’s final.’ He tucked his shirt in and pulled the zip of his trousers up.

 ‘No. I won’t drop it. If you won’t invite her then can you at least tell me why?’

 His mouth set in a forbidding line, he reached for the silver tie on his bed and walked over to the mirror on the wall, his back to her. He met her eye in the reflection.

 ‘No. I can’t.’

 ‘Why not? Christian, we’re getting married in three days. You know everything about me and my past—what is so bad that you don’t want me to meet your mother? Are you ashamed of her or something?’

 ‘Or something about sums it up,’ he said grimly. ‘But, no, I’m not ashamed of her.’

 ‘Really? Because it looks like you’re ashamed of her from where I’m standing.’

 His nostrils flaring, his jaw clenched tight, he knotted his tie. ‘Can you not take my word for it?’

 ‘I’m sorry, but no.’ This was too important a topic to back down from.

 He must have seen something in her reflection that made him read the stubbornness of her thoughts. He shook his head angrily. ‘If it means that much to you, I will show you.’

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