It was strange to think of himself merely enjoying a woman’s company for company’s sake but with Alessandra he did. Until their impromptu date, all his dealings with women had been for two reasons: business, at which he refused to blur the lines between personal and professional; and pleasure, the women he dated with the sole intention of bedding them. He’d enjoyed the time spent with them but it had been a means to an end, the end being in bed naked.

 Alessandra was the first woman he’d gone on a date with whom he’d had no intention of bedding. He’d found her wildly attractive but she’d been so off-limits he’d curbed that side of his thought process with her. After a few glasses of champagne had loosened them both up, he’d found himself wildly fascinated by her, the mind beneath the beautiful face, not just the body beneath the dress she’d worn.

 For the first time, he looked back on his behaviour before he’d met Alessandra with a sense of shame.

 How many women had he bedded in his thirty-two years?

 He couldn’t even hazard a guess.

 He’d hopped from bed to bed without a second thought.

 For the first time, he considered he’d been running, not hopping. Running as fast as he could.

 Alessandra was the only woman whose bed he’d run from without immediately hopping into another.

 From their first night together until she’d approached him at Rocco and Olivia’s wedding, there had been no one else. There still hadn’t been.

 He hadn’t promised fidelity to her. So long as he was discreet, he could bed whomever he chose.

 The problem, as he was learning, was that just because he could act like a kid in a sweetshop, his taste at that moment was for only one particular sweet. That sweet went by the name of Alessandra.

 He didn’t believe he’d ever worked as hard as he had these past three weeks. He’d always been a hard, diligent worker but since his university days he’d always ensured there was time for fun.

 The only fun he wanted now came in a slender package with a mane of glossy chestnut hair. There were times, especially late at night, when he heard movement from her room, when he would fight to remind himself why he couldn’t allow their relationship to be anything but platonic.

 In his eyes, she was a princess.

 He was a gutter rat.

 He wasn’t good enough for her.

 He would only bring her misery.

 Better to keep things platonic for both their sakes and for the sake of their unborn baby.

 It was harder than he’d ever imagined.

 He straightened as Alessandra descended the stairs, the jewellery she wore around her wrist clanging against the railing she lightly gripped.

 She never failed to take his breath away.

 Tonight she wore a floor-length turquoise silk gown with only one long sleeve, gold and diamond beading around the neck line that slashed under her bare arm. The material layered like descending waves down to her feet, displaying her slender curves but hiding the slight burgeoning of her waistline. Tonight her neck was bare, the only complementary jewellery a chunky Egyptian bracelet and a pair of gold teardrop earrings. Her hair had been swept up into an elegant knot, her eyes dramatically darkened, her lips conversely painted a nude colour.

 The Egyptian bracelet only accentuated the idea of an Egyptian queen having sprung to life.

 An ache formed in his chest, a much different ache to the one coursing through his loins.

 That bare, golden arm and shoulder were her only real bits of bodily flesh on display but the effect on him was as dramatic as if she’d walked down the stairs naked.

 His mind filled with visions of peeling the dress from her...

 He swallowed the imagery away and stepped forward to her, being greeted with a cloud of her sultry perfume in return.

 ‘You’re beautiful,’ he said.

 She smiled. ‘Grazie. You look good yourself.’

 Alessandra had always found men wearing dinner jackets attractive—there was something so sophisticated and suave about the look—but Christian made other men’s attempts look like little boys playing dress-up. There was something about the way he filled it that made her pulses skip and her skin tingle.

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