Instead, thanks to his silence this morning, she had found out what she had always known.
It was sex he wanted from her—and nothing more.
She showered, wishing the water could wash away her shame, her stupidity. She, Emma Stephenson, had been so sure she could handle it, so sure she would never succumb to his fatal charms. Eventually, like all the rest, she had. Bit by bit, each rule, each guideline had been chipped away—each time she had promised herself that this would be the last…
Till next time.
Turning off the shower, she shivered and reached for a towel that wasn’t there. Walking across the bathroom, she— stood naked as he walked in, her hands moving to cover herself as she leant against the sink.
‘Don’t you ever knock?’ She attempted a smile to save face, and hoped the steam and the water from the shower would hide the evidence of her tears.
But he saw her.
Saw the body he had missed for weeks and saw the changes too.
Full, ripe breasts made his throat catch, and he noticed the dusting of weight on her hips, although there was something else too that he couldn’t define, an— added dimension to her femininity.
She was like a drug that kept beckoning. Never had he cared for someone like this before—last night he had accepted the release she had offered, not for escape but to go back, to return, to savour the feelings they had once created in one another.
He had told her some of it, he had told her, and she hadn’t blanched or turned away from his horrible past—and he was finally glimpsing a future, a future where bathroom doors were open, where you kissed and made up and you tried again.
Where you were there for each other.
‘Why would I knock?’ he teased gently.
‘Because…’ She was starting to cry and couldn’t help it. ‘Because…’
He pressed her against the sink with his kiss—naked, gorgeous,— she made today possible. He had sworn to never again make love with her, he had sworn to just let her go, let her be, keep her safe, but he was finally seeing things differently.
She was safer by his side.
Safer with him than without him.
He kissed her as if it was the first time, relishing her all over again.
‘You do make things better. With you things are better.’ — And that he remembered their words, that each conversation they’d ever had was in his head the same way it was in hers, brought assurance. ‘You could always make things better…’
‘This isn’t just sex.’ She wept out the words as he lifted her to the edge of the sink. His mouth lowered and suckled her swollen breast as her fingers knotted in his hair.
‘No,’ he murmured, because it wasn’t. This was it, this— was him and this was her and this was the place he always wanted to be. He lifted his head and kissed away her tears, kissed her mouth as his hands followed the curve of her thickening waist.
‘Don’t hurt me again, Luca…’ she begged brokenly.
His eyes jerked up to hers, his mouth pulling away simultaneously with her words. Was that what he had done? Yes, he acknowledged. In protecting her, he had hurt her badly.
He could never hurt her again, never would hurt her again. Of that, at this very moment, he was absolutely certain.
‘Never.’ He growled out his truth.
‘And tell me this isn’t just sex,’ she pleaded as his hips parted her thighs, because it wasn’t just sex for her, because— she could never be so real, so open, so exposed with anyone other than Luca. His fingers spread her pretty butterfly lips and he saw changes there too, and he was awash with this fierce surge of protection, assured— in his answer.
‘No.’ His mouth was in her neck, he was as close to weeping as he had ever been. Her curls, wet from the shower, draped his face and as he slid inside her, he was certain of the moment. He was smelling her again, tasting— her again, inside her again, and he was truly home, deep, deep inside her. His arms circled her, his mind wrapped around hers, and this was nothing like anything he had ever envisaged. Then she was arching towards him and he didn’t have to hold back, he didn’t have to do anything except love her, and that was so scarily easy.
The passion that blazed in his eyes should have assured her, but then he lowered his head. Nuzzling her shoulders, her neck, he drove deeper into her, only she couldn’t give in, couldn’t let herself be swept away by the building current, because she couldn’t risk going under again.
Her body was twitching, her legs wet and wrapped around him, and it was Emma who sought release now. She could see his jet curls, see him slide in and out of her, and knew he was ready, knew he awaited her—but she was too scared to trust, too scared to hand over that last little bit of her heart to him.
She wanted his love, wanted a father for her baby, wanted— him no matter how her head denied it.
She knew he was close and, locked into a rhythm, his body begged her to join him. He was saying her name over and over, his lips kissing the back of her neck, his hands cupping her damp bottom, and she could feel his abandon.
‘I love you.’ He groaned out the words as if it hurt to say them. She’d never thought she’d ever hear him say them, but he was saying them again and again, saying them over and over as he spilled inside her, rapid, urgent thrusts that took her to this heady place where she gave in to him, gave in to her body, and she was saying it too.
He was kissing her passionately, his tongue circling hers, as finally she joined him, and he dragged from her that last restraint. His mouth stifled her sobs as she gave that piece to him and then his tongue soothed her as he slowly kissed her back to the world.
‘You,’ Luca said slowly, wrapping a towel around her, holding her shivering body, comforting her on a day when it should be her comforting him, ‘make this day bearable.’
SHE was pregnant.
Of that he was sure.
That the baby was his there was no doubt.
He stood in the church, supporting his mother, his weeping sister, and stared beyond the priest to the baptismal font. He tried to comprehend the fact of the D’Amato name carrying on after all—his baby, the future, the family name continuing.
Tried to imagine himself as a father.
Could he do it—could he break every promise he had made to himself?
Today he did his duty, threw a handful of dirt on the coffin and then stepped back.
It should be over—and yet the cycle might now continue.
His mind was a blizzard of conflicting emotions, every— tombstone reminding him of his history, of his legacy, of the true meaning of his family name. He wanted to go back to this morning, to the certainty he had felt then, the assuredness that no harm would ever come to someone he loved.
The priest was talking about faith and hope and love.
His faith had long since gone.
He desperately wanted to hope.
And he was terrified to love.
But he was dangerously close to accepting a different future.
He needed to think.
‘Come…’ Mia was calmer. Her tears had filled the church but now she seemed resigned. ‘The cars are waiting.’
‘I will make my own way back.’ Luca looked over at Emma. ‘You go to the house.’
‘You need to greet the guests,’ she pointed out.
‘I want to walk.’
‘You must come back to the house,’ Mia said in exasperation. ‘As his only son, it is tradition…’
‘I will be back.’ Luca refused to be swayed. ‘But right now I need to be alone.’
He did, he needed so badly to be alone, because this was too big to leap into without serious thought.
Soon Emma would tell him, soon he would formally know that he was to become a father, and his response had to be right.
He walked around the graveyard then stood for a pensive moment.
He could hear his mother’s bitter words from the past as clearly as though she’d just said them to him. You are no better than him—you are the same. You are a D’Amato through and through.
‘Luca!’ Leo stood beside him as he stared at his father’s new grave. ‘Can I give you a lift back to the house?’
‘I am not going back yet—I want to walk.’
‘Do you mind if I join you?’ He was about to decline the offer of company, only Leo was wise. Surely, at some point over the years, he must have treated his mother’s wounds or at least seen what was going on—maybe— the older man could give him answers.
They walked in silence—through the winding roads and to the next village, where finally they sat. Luca ordered coffee and whisky and wondered how to ask without telling.
‘Emma seems a lovely woman.’ Leo broke the silence.
‘She is,’ Luca agreed.
‘It is good to see you two supporting each other, Luca. To know even in sad times you can find peace.’
‘Can I speak with you as a doctor?’ Luca asked bluntly.
‘I think she may be pregnant,’ he revealed. The doctor didn’t offer congratulations; instead he waited to hear what else Luca had to say. ‘I have questions, Leo. Things I need to know about my past, about me…’
‘Then ask,’ Leo offered, ‘and I will try to give honest answers.’
‘Always I feel different from my father—my mother says I am the same, that I am like him…’ He watched as Leo’s drink paused near his lips. ‘Do you understand what I’m saying?’