‘You were dreaming.’ There was such a catch in Kate’s throat that she could barely get the words out. When Luca had cried out her heart had been rent almost in two.
Staring first into her face, then down at her hand, where he still imprisoned it, he blinked with the stunned expression of one desperately trying to disentangle himself from the throes of a deeply troubled sleep. ‘I was?’
‘Luca…do you think you could let go of my hand, please? You’re crushing it.’
‘I did not realise.’ Abruptly releasing her, he moved dazedly into a sitting position. His fingers scrubbed his cheeks, obliterating all trace of that shocking tear, then pressed into his brow as if to banish the lingering traces of his disturbing dream. ‘Forgive me…I did not know what I was doing. Are you all right?’
She didn’t care about the pain in her hand and arm. All Kate cared about right then was what had caused Luca to cry out like that and…incredibly…put tears in his eyes.
‘You shouted out in your sleep.’
‘I was afraid of that.’
‘You called out a woman’s name…Sophia. Who is she, Luca?’
Laying his hand against his chest, he rubbed it a couple of times beneath the fine cotton of his shirt, as if to soothe a spasm, and then exhaled deeply. ‘She was my wife,’ he replied.
‘Your wife?’ Suddenly Kate’s lips had turned so numb she wondered how she’d managed to move them to speak at all.
‘I—I didn’t know you’d been married… What happened? Were you divorced?’
‘No. She died…drowned.’
Drowned? Deepening shock and horror sifted through Kate’s insides. After finally learning what had put those painful shadows behind Luca’s eyes, she was filled with a desperate need to comfort and hold him. In that instant it didn’t matter to her that he had been married, or even that his wife might have been the love of his life. Kate only knew at that moment that she was deeply and irrevocably in love with him. And a fervent hope had begun to burn inside her that perhaps—with the advent of their baby—she could help him see that their future looked much brighter than their pasts?
‘What a dreadful thing to happen! Oh, Luca, I’m so sorry!’
She caught his hand and wrapped her palm round it. For long moments he just stared down at their joined hands, and then suddenly he was the one in command, lifting Kate’s arm closer, to examine the reddening skin round her wrist and further up, near her elbow.
‘I hurt you.’ His voice was throaty and warm and full of regret.
‘You didn’t mean to.’
It seemed as if her heart was so full right then that she felt a burning need to declare out loud that she loved him. How would Luca react to such news when his own heart was still clearly full of sorrow for his deceased wife?
‘How long ago did Sophia die?’ she made herself ask.
Slowly he lowered Kate’s arm. ‘Just over three years ago.’
‘Is that why you seem to put everything into your work—and why you haven’t taken a break when you’ve needed to? Because it helps you stop dwelling on what happened?’
‘It must have been a terrible time for you.’
‘Some events defy description. You wonder how you survive them…how you keep breathing…but you do.’
‘How did it—how did it happen?’
Kate sensed the change in him even before he replied—understood the deep reluctance and the need to self-protect that made him wary of discussing such a painful episode in his life, even if she yearned for him to do just that.
‘Not now, Katherine.’ He grimaced slightly. ‘It is much too pleasant an afternoon to dwell on such things! If we are lucky, the fine weather may last into the evening. I will ask Orsetta to prepare us something special for our dinner, and perhaps we can enjoy it out here on the terrace? Would you like that?’
Swallowing down her disappointment that Luca was clearly not going to confide in her any further, Kate made herself smile to hide her hurt. ‘That sounds lovely,’ she agreed.
‘And you are quite recovered from the flight over? You slept practically all the way.’
‘I’m sorry I was such a dull travelling companion… but I think the events of the morning finally caught up with me. The flight was amazing, though! It’s not every day a girl gets the chance to travel in a private jet!’
‘And how are you feeling physically? You are not in any pain or discomfort after this morning?’
‘Honestly—I’m fine,’ Kate told him truthfully, her dark eyes examining the face that had become so dear to her.