He laughed. ‘He must have been delighted to know we’d fallen apart.’
‘No,’ she said thoughtfully. ‘When he realised I was actually in love with you, the chip he’d been carrying went. He became my brother again.’
His lips were so close to hers. She craned her neck forward, suddenly desperate to feel them upon her, to be cradled in his embrace but he gripped her neck at the side, gently but with enough firmness to stop her moving.
‘So, you do love me?’ For the first time she saw his vulnerability.
‘Yes. I love you. With everything I have.’
She’d hardly finished speaking before his mouth crushed hers, his essence filling her with such sweetness the tears really did fall.
‘Oh, my love,’ he said, wiping her tears away. ‘I never want to see you cry.’
‘They’re happy tears,’ she said with a sniff. ‘You’re not the only one who’s always felt unworthy—I’ve spent my whole life feeling like a poisoned chalice, put on Earth to destroy anyone who gets close to me.’ She stroked his cheek. ‘I wanted you to employ Kerstin because I thought she was the perfect woman for you.’
Incredulity spread over his face. ‘You were trying to engineer me being with her?’
‘I thought she could make you happy. You wouldn’t have to compromise your time or sacrifice...’
Her words were cut off by a hard, possessive kiss.
‘You’re perfect for me,’ he said when he pulled away, cradling her cheeks to gaze into her eyes. ‘Just you. We’ve both made sacrifices. I would make them again a thousand times over.’ He bowed his head and brushed his lips against hers. ‘I love you. You’re my world.’
‘And you’re my everything,’ she answered softly.
For the first time Alessandra felt a tinge of sympathy for her father, who had gone so off the rails when he’d lost the love of his life. After a fortnight without Christian, she had a little insight into what he must have gone through. She would never be able to forgive him, not for the way his actions had so hurt Rocco—and they had hurt her brother more than her because Rocco remembered a time when their father was a loving man who had adored his small family—but a whole chunk of the bitterness she felt towards him fell away.
‘I love you, Christian.’
And they did.
‘IT’S A GIRL!’
Alessandra didn’t know who was the most excited at the giving of the news—the obstetrician or her husband, who announced it in unison while the midwife held the baby—her daughter—up for a few brief seconds before the cord was cut and they whisked her away to clean her up
Christian was back at the top of the table, bed or whatever it was she was laid upon, raining kisses all over her face, muttering prayers and thanks in Greek, English, Japanese, Cantonese and any other language he could conjure.
‘You are wonderful,’ he said into her ear in a reverential fashion.
‘You’re pretty wonderful yourself.’ She laughed, stroking his hair.
It felt good to laugh.
It felt even better when they placed her daughter on her, allowing a little skin-on-skin time before whisking her back off for swaddling.
‘Look in my bag,’ she whispered.
‘Just look. There’s an envelope in the side pocket.’
Doing as he was bid, Christian tore the envelope open and studied the document inside.
After long moments he faced her, his eyes brimming with so much emotion it was like looking into an overflowing bucket.
‘Thank you, Kiria Markos.’
‘You’re welcome Kyrios Markos.’
It was a document making official Alessandra’s name change from Mondelli to Markos.
This was her gift to him, her statement to them both as much as to the world that they were a unit. Their love was for keeps. Cut one and both would bleed. Their baby made them a family. She wanted their little family all to have the same name.