‘That is good. Tomorrow I will arrange an appointment for you with a specialist in these matters. The sooner you are given a clean bill of health from someone whose judgement I trust, the better I will like it. And then we will be able to relax!’

Whilst she appreciated Luca’s obvious concern about her pregnancy, Kate was anxious to ask him about Sophia, and find out a bit more about the woman who had been his wife. It might give her a clue as to his feelings about having someone new in his life. Specifically discover if he was open to loving someone else. Someone like her? And what Kate was hoping for, too, was a way of somehow reaching into that clearly wounded heart of his and helping to bring about some healing….

CHAPTER NINE

AS LUCA dressed for dinner that night, disturbing threads of the dream he had had about Sophia clung mercilessly to him. Had bringing Katherine here made him dream about the wife he had lost? He hadn’t dreamed about her for months now. Was guilt at the bottom of it? Guilt that he still had a future to look forward to while she did not?

Staring into his own morose gaze in the full-length mirror in his dressing room, Luca could not prevent the unhappy tide of memories that washed over him. The last few weeks of his wife’s life had been the most difficult of their entire marriage, and there had been many despairing moments when he had seriously considered asking her for a divorce. Only the pain and accusation in her eyes every time she looked at him had stopped him. He hadn’t been able to give her what she most wanted and she’d blamed him for it. Therefore didn’t he deserve to suffer? When she had discovered the reason for her inability to conceive lay with her, instead of helping to build a bridge between them for some healing to come about she had simply withdrawn almost entirely, to a place where Luca hadn’t been able to reach her… Where he had increasingly believed she did not want him to reach her… She had shut him out and there hadn’t been much that he could do about it.

At the time he had truly mourned the demise of their once loving relationship, but lately he had found himself wondering whether—if Sophia had lived—he would still be with her now. What future could he have had with a woman whose heart was full of blame and regret? A woman whose whole source of happiness had been tied up with the idea of a baby, and who had withdrawn emotionally, mentally and physically from him as soon as she knew she could not conceive?

Before Luca even realised it, the already fading recollection of Sophia’s features was replaced by Katherine’s in his mind. Genuine warmth and pleasure spread through him when he thought of her waiting out on the terrace, and powerful anticipation arose at the idea of having her all to himself in the house that he truly considered home. His mood began to shift from being morose to a feeling of quiet but undeniable excitement. When she had comforted him after his disturbing dream, he recalled, her beautiful dark eyes had seemed to convey a care and regard that touched him deeply. Struck by the thought, Luca stared harder at his reflection in the mirror, as if for the first time seeing past the pain he carried to the possibility of transforming his life his into something potentially far more hopeful and rewarding.

In deference to the warm evening, Katherine wore her favourite summer dress. It was of peach-coloured linen in a tunic style, with flattering slits at either side of the knee-length hem—a sexy little detail that showed off her firm, shapely legs. Usually she cinched her slender waist with a wide black belt, but—given that she was pregnant, and the soft curve of her belly was getting more defined each day—she had decided to forgo the belt and leave the tunic loose instead.

Sitting out on the terrace, beneath the vine-covered pergola where Orsetta had laid the table in readiness for their meal, she sipped at her glass of sparkling mineral water and waited for Luca to join her. Just the thought of him made her insides flutter nervously.

When he appeared, looking rested and gorgeous after his shower, and dressed in a casual but stylish pair of fawn-coloured trousers and a white linen shirt, Kate knew with certainty that a deep and profound longing was growing inside her to make a truly bonding connection with him that would last a lifetime.

‘Orsetta is convinced we have brought the good weather with us!’ he teased, slipping into the chair opposite Kate’s. ‘She tells me that it has been raining every day for almost two weeks now, and did not stop until yesterday evening!’

‘She believes in signs and omens, then?’

‘Yes…why not?’ The broad shoulders beneath the white linen shirt lifted in a nonchalant shrug.

‘And do you think our unexpected meeting in your office—when I had no idea it was you I had come to work for—could be considered a good omen?’ Kate speculated, her heart hammering as she surveyed him.

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