He gazed down at her. Possibly for the first time in months he really let himself look, safe in the knowledge that she was oblivious to his attention. She was lying on her side with one knee drawn up and the other leg stretched out. She looked like a graceful gazelle, frozen at the height of an elegant leap.
An unexpected feeling prickled through him, and he acknowledged it for what it was: he’d missed Lily, missed what he thought they’d had together before he’d discovered her betrayal.
This marriage was all about doing what was right for his grandfather—Giovanni deserved to reach the end of his life knowing that his legacy would go on.
But if things continued like last night—their lovemaking— had been nothing short of incendiary—it was going to be much more pleasant than he’d thought when they were still at daggers drawn.
Lily slept late that morning, and when she awoke her body was filled with the languid glow of complete sensual satisfaction. She rolled over and stretched, noticing the time with surprise. But, after the utter lack of inhibition she’d shown with Vito the night before, she was pleased he’d already left for work. She wasn’t entirely sure that she was ready to face him yet.
She made her way to the en suite and ran herself a deep, luxurious bath. With her hair piled haphazardly on top of her head, she lay back in the soft bubbles and thought about what had happened with Vito. She could feel a blush rising to her cheeks as she remembered how wildly she’d behaved with him. His touch had sent her up in flames. They’d made love before—many, many times. But it had never been so intense.
Maybe that had been her body’s way of letting her know that she loved him.
Up until last night her mind had certainly rejected that possibility, after the way he had treated her. But perhaps it was impossible to change the reality of her deeper feelings simply by telling herself what she ought to believe. Her heart still knew the truth.
However, she knew that loving him made her vulnerable. A small sigh escaped her as she stepped out of the bath onto the marble mosaic floor. She must never let him guess the depth of her feelings.
She dried herself briskly and set about getting dressed for her visit to Giovanni. She liked to wear something nice for him. He didn’t see many people, and he often complimented her on her appearance.
Suddenly she caught sight of herself in the mirror, and stopped and stared. Her eyes were shining brightly, her cheeks were flushed, and her hair was bouncing wildly about her shoulders in a riot of curls.
She couldn’t visit Giovanni looking that that! The sharp-witted old man would guess immediately what had caused such a change in the way she looked. She’d simply feel too self-conscious—like a deflowered virgin the morning after her wedding night, wondering if everyone knew what she had just experienced for the first time.
She sat down at the dressing table and pulled her ceramic straighteners from the drawer. Then she hesitated. Vito had said he liked her hair curly. If she straightened it again, it would seem like she was making the point that she didn’t care about his opinion. But, on the other hand, she definitely didn’t want to make it appear that she would do anything to please him—she’d already been down that route when she’d started straightening her hair because of an apparently meaningless— comment he didn’t even remember making.
In the end she did her hair in the same smooth style she’d worn since returning to Venice. She was already late for Giovanni, and she couldn’t let herself waste time worrying about silly details. She had more important things to concern her, like whether the old man would ask her straight out if she’d managed to ease the tension that he had detected between her and Vito.
As it turned out she need not have worried. Giovanni was tired that day and spent most of her visit dozing. When he was awake he told her about the great flood of 1966. It had been more than forty years ago, but his memories were sharp and his descriptions vivid as he told her how the sea level had risen by two metres, washing right through the ground floor of Ca’Salvatore, and causing untold damage to the city.
Walking back home to the palazzo, Lily reflected on her new friendship with Giovanni. He was old, and according— to his doctors did not have long to live, but Lily was so grateful for the time she was able to spend with him. He had accepted her so warmly into his family, and his personal stories about his life and the city that had always been his home meant a lot to her.
Whatever happened with Vito, in years to come she would tell her child how happy Giovanni had been, knowing his grandchild was on the way. She would remember the stories he had told her, so that her child would know about his or her Italian family—even if Vito still refused to acknowledge them.
Vito paced back and forth across his study impatiently. He’d come home to see Lily, but she hadn’t returned from her daily visit to his grandfather.
She was late. And he wanted to see her now.
He’d spent the morning totally distracted, until finally he’d given into his desire to come home and ravish her.
Sex with Lily had always been good, but last night they had taken it to a new level. It had been utterly mindblowing,— and he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it all morning. Thinking about doing it again and again.
He strode over to the window, cursing himself for his lack of control.
Why was he letting Lily get to him so badly? Was it simply that he’d been too long without a woman, and now last night had reminded his body what it had been missing?
He looked at his watch, wondering again what time she would return. Perhaps he should go out in search of her, but although Ca’ Salvatore wasn’t far away there were several routes she could take home.
Suddenly he found himself questioning why she kept visiting Giovanni even though she knew there was no future in it. What did she hope to gain, either for herself or for her child?
He hadn’t stopped her visits because his grandfather seemed to really enjoy them. But it puzzled him that Lily genuinely seemed to enjoy them too.
She wasn’t like the other women he’d known. That was part of what had attracted him to her in the first place.
She really didn’t seem interested in his wealth and status. Spending time together was all she’d ever really wanted from him.
The thought troubled him, but he pushed it to the back of his mind. He sat down at his desk and opened his laptop, determined to get himself back under control.
It was later than usual when Lily got home. As she climbed the stairs to the first floor of the palazzo, a strange feeling prickled down her spine, as if she was being watched.
‘I’ve been waiting for you.’
Startled, despite the fact her senses had warned her Vito was close, she stopped mid-step and looked up to see him standing outside his study.
The sight of him lounging nonchalantly against the door-jamb, oozing self-assurance and sex appeal from every inch of his incredible body, sent her pulse racing. Her breath caught in her throat and she felt butterflies start to flutter wildly in her stomach.
‘I’ve been to see your grandfather.’ The words sounded— husky and she swallowed, determined to keep her cool, even though her body and mind were suddenly beset by vivid memories of their wild love-making the night before.
‘How was he?’ His silky Italian accent shimmied straight through her defences, and her composure started to dissolve immediately.
‘Fine, but very tired. He told me all about the flood.’ She started walking up the stairs towards him, and although she tried she simply couldn’t drag her eyes away from him standing in the doorway.
She watched him remove the jacket of his dark suit and loosen his tie. The effect was alarmingly dynamic—as— if he didn’t intend to keep his immaculate appearance for long. As if he meant business—a different kind of business from usual.
He combed his fingers through his black hair, sweeping— it back from his perfectly proportioned face. His skin was lightly bronzed, and he looked the embodiment of health and vigour.
His blue eyes were intense, locked in his unbroken appraisal— of her. She felt her skin warming in response to his gaze, yet despite that warmth a shiver began at the nape of her neck and tingled all the way down her backbone.
She reached the top step and still he towered over her, shamelessly occupying her personal space. In a moment of nervousness she thought she should carry on walking, move— past him, but it was strangely difficult to move—or— be aware of anything other than Vito. The heat of his body burned through her dress, the sound of his breathing— caressed her ears.
Maybe this was his personal space, she pondered vaguely. It was his scent that enclosed her, his scent that she pulled deep inside her with every breath she drew.
The potent mix of raw masculinity laced with his exotic cologne, the very essence of the man himself, was making her feel dizzy. She found herself swaying.
His hands closed on her waist. The impact was instant. His sharp intake of breath told her he felt it too—like a surge of electricity zinging between them. He lifted her up the final step and stood her directly before him.
Her head fell back and her eyes widened as she looked up at his face, only inches from her own. His eyes narrowed as his gaze swept over her, settling possessively— on her mouth, conveying his thoughts with devastating certainty.