‘You must fix it now,’ Giovanni said. ‘My grandson is a good man. But he is proud. He won’t make the first move.’
‘I’ll talk to him,’ Lily promised, because there was nothing else she could say.
Lily walked through the twisting maze of alleys, past the fabulous jewellery shops and Venetian trinket-stores, deep in thought.
Even her favourite gelateria, which she often stopped at on her way home, did not catch her attention. Even though she was hungry, and ice cream was one of her favourite foods, she didn’t feel like eating. She was thinking about the promise she’d made to Giovanni.
She was also thinking about her mother.
Living her life according to Reggie Morton’s rules had taken a terrible toll on Ellen. She’d lost her confidence— and her independence. Finally she’d become so scared of life that she’d buried herself in project after project, which in turn had left her preoccupied and unable to have a proper relationship with her daughter.
That was what scared Lily the most. She loved her mother, and knew that she was loved in return, but Ellen hadn’t even realised that Lily was facing the biggest crisis of her life. There was no way that she was going to let her child grow up like she had—with no father, and with a mother who’d had her spirit eroded away to the point where she couldn’t communicate meaningfully— with her daughter.
Lily had married Vito for the sake of her baby. Nothing had changed about that. But Vito still refused to acknowledge the baby and, if she didn’t do something— to make him see the truth soon, before she knew it she’d be out on her own again with no further chance to talk to him.
She took a deep breath and steeled herself to have a proper conversation with Vito—whether he wanted to or not.
Vito was late home from the office that night. He opened the door of the bedroom quietly, expecting to see Lily lying still as a mouse in bed and pretending to be asleep. Instead he was surprised to see her sitting in a comfortable— chair, reading one of her paperback books. She put the book aside and stood up immediately, automatically smoothing her hands down the lightweight fabric of her cappuccino-coloured dress.
‘We need to talk,’ she said, pushing her sleek blonde hair behind her and straightening her shoulders.
‘What about?’ Vito crossed the room without breaking— his stride and tossed his jacket onto a chair.
‘About us,’ Lily said. ‘About our marriage.’
‘There’s no “us”,’ he said curtly.
‘But there is our baby,’ Lily said.
‘I thought you understood never to make that claim again.’ Vito reached up and tugged his silk tie off jerkily. He could feel his anger at her betrayal rising once more. ‘I won’t tell you again.’
‘Why won’t you give me a chance?’ She sounded calm, but Vito could see the colour warming her cheeks.
‘Because you betrayed me.’
‘When you proposed you said it was for the baby’s sake,’ she appealed to him. ‘But that was a lie. You know how horrible it was for me, always knowing my father didn’t want me. How can you do that to your own baby? It’s unforgivable.’
‘It’s not my baby,’ Vito grated.
The heartfelt emotion in her voice scratched down his nerves like nails on a chalkboard. She was the one who had done the unforgivable. Everything he had done was for his family—for his grandfather’s sake.
‘I don’t know what else to say to convince you.’ Lily stared at him, a feeling of helplessness suddenly looming— up through her misery.
If she could never prove her innocence to him, what was the point of her staying in Venice? Had she made a mistake staying so long?
Should she give up the fight to make Vito realize he was the father of her baby, go back to London, and see if her old boss, Mike, would let her try out for that job? If only she hadn’t given up the opportunity when it had been available to her.
‘Don’t say anything,’ Vito said. He was studying her in return, and she could see the tension evident in every plane of his face. ‘I keep telling you that.’
‘I just wish there was something I could do to make you believe that I wasn’t unfaithful,’ she said. ‘If only I knew why you think you’re not the father…’
His blue eyes were cast into shadow by brows that were drawn low, but she saw a flash of emotion suddenly flare within them. Emotion so raw it was as painful to witness as it must have been to feel. Then, as she stared up at him, a muscle started pulsing stubbornly— beneath the dark stubble on his jawbone.
Without thinking she lifted her hand to touch his face.
A shock wave of sexual awareness surged through her, and she snatched her hand back. But not before she’d seen an answering glint in Vito’s eyes.
‘Can’t we move past this anger and mistrust?’ she asked, trying to speak calmly, despite the way her heart was beating out a furious tattoo in response to the sizzling energy that was suddenly flowing between them. ‘We can’t go back in time and alter what’s already happened between us—but we could try to get along. Maybe then you’ll be able to trust me again.’
Perhaps she was being too honest, too open about her desire to see Vito acknowledge his child. But it was dishonesty— and lies that had led them to this impasse, where it seemed impossible to get through to him, and pointless— for her to stay with him.
‘What are you doing now?’ Vito asked, his sensual lips spreading into a predatorial smile. ‘You failed to convince me with your emotional appeal, so now you’re trying to tempt me with another more basic form of persuasion?’
‘No, I’d never do that!’ Lily gasped, feeling her cheeks flame as she realised what Vito was implying.
‘You’re not offering sex as a way to manipulate me?’ He stepped closer and lifted his hand to mimic Lily’s earlier action. Except when a frisson leapt between them he didn’t withdraw his hand—he pushed it further, slipping his fingers deep into her silky hair.
A shiver skittered through Lily as her body responded— instantly to Vito’s touch. But she couldn’t let him continue to think the worst about her in every way.
‘All I meant was maybe we could try to patch things up between us, find a way to build bridges. End the hostility— between us.’
‘I’d like to build bridges,’ Vito said, sliding his free hand around her waist, and pulling her hard up against him so that she could feel his erection pushing against her. She knew what kind of bridge between them he wanted to build—and she wanted it too.
‘No, that’s not what this is about,’ Lily said, despite the way her body was trembling with sudden, urgent desire for Vito. ‘I’m just trying to find a way we can reach a truce—find a way to communicate.’
‘You’re right—we always communicated best through sex,’ Vito murmured, leaning close so that his words tickled her ear. He paused to push her blonde hair aside and pressed his lips against the sensitive skin of her neck.
‘That’s not what I meant.’ She drew in a shuddering breath and tried to keep her voice steady as she spoke, but it was difficult with Vito’s tongue flicking a delicious— trail down towards her collarbone.
‘It doesn’t matter what you meant,’ Vito said, putting both arms around her. ‘It’s what you want. What we both want.’
‘Yes.’ Lily couldn’t fight the tide of rising passion any longer. She didn’t want to fight any more. She closed her eyes and leant into his embrace.
Anticipation coiled deep within her and, almost without conscious thought, she lifted her arms to loop them about his neck and tilted her face towards him. He responded in a heartbeat, bringing his mouth down over hers.
His tongue swept past her open lips and she felt herself start to melt in his arms. She kissed him back, revelling in the sinuous feel of his tongue against hers, marvelling in the glorious flood of sensations that washed through her body.
She lifted her hands to cup his face, and gently caressed his stubbled jawline with her fingertips. The feel of his masculine features beneath her fingers was intoxicating. She wanted to touch him all over, run her hands over his body in a way that she knew would drive him mad with desire—but not before she had driven herself wild with growing need.
She pulled back from his kiss breathlessly, and gazed up into his gorgeous face through a haze of longing. He was still holding her close, his hands buried deep in her long, loose hair, and for a moment she was lost in the darkening depths of his blue eyes. Then in one smooth movement he took hold of her zip and pulled it all the way down her sensitive spine.
She shivered in response, waiting to feel his hands slip inside her dress and caress her back, but instead he brought his hands up to ease the dress off her shoulders and pull the front down so that her lacy bra was revealed.
‘Your breasts are even fuller,’ Vito murmured, tracing their shape through the lace then reaching behind her to undo the fastening.
‘A little, I think,’ Lily agreed, hearing the breath catch in her throat as Vito cast the flimsy undergarment away. He guided her backwards and pushed her down so that she was sitting on the edge of the bed. Then he knelt between her knees and took one tingling nipple into his hot mouth.