‘I hope so.’ Luca smiled.

His reply seemed to lack conviction, and disappointment sat like a stone on her chest.

‘By the way, you look very beautiful tonight,’ he added, the force of his sky-blue glance burning her like little wisps of carnal flame licking across her body.

Struggling to contain the shockingly intimate heat that flooded her, Kate had to draw on every ounce of willpower she owned not to let his disturbing gaze distract her and throw her off track. ‘I hope that you—that you have no regrets about bringing me here, Luca?’ she commented.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well…after what happened earlier. You seemed so upset…that’s all. I wondered if you might be having second thoughts?’

‘Because of my dream?’

‘Yes. You were dreaming about your wife, Luca. The wife you obviously once lived with here. I thought you might—might resent another woman being here instead of her.’

‘Well, your conclusion is a wrong one!’ He tore his glance away for a moment and stared down hard at the table, as if trying to bring whatever fierce emotion had surfaced inside him under strict control. ‘What happened is all in the past, and that is where it should stay! Besides…I would rather not think about that part of my life tonight. I have something important to ask you, Katherine.’

‘Something important?’ Kate echoed, all her thoughts nervously suspended.

‘Sì. I think we should get married. I believe it is the right thing to do, under the circumstances.’

‘The right thing…?’

‘Yes. I would like you to be my wife, Katherine… will you agree?’ His previous emotions tightly corralled, there was no sign at all on Luca’s arrestingly handsome face of what he was feeling.

In contrast, Kate knew she hadn’t a hope of disguising what she was feeling…nor did she want to! Apart from her initial elation at Luca’s proposal, confusion and not a little anger also pulsed through her.

‘What you mean is that you think we should get married purely because of the baby.’ Her hands clenched tightly round the wrought-iron arms of her chair.

‘Not purely because of the baby. I do believe we have something between us worth building on, Katherine…do you not agree?’

‘Something worth building on?’ It sounded as though he were talking about one of his upcoming projects at work, and it wasn’t what Kate had hoped to hear at all!

‘Besides…’ He shrugged, as though not quite sure what to make of her indignation. ‘Is it not an honourable enough reason that I should ask you to be my wife because you are expecting my child?’

‘Forget honour for a moment! Let’s be real here, shall we?’ Her heart pounding, Kate held her hands in her lap to still their sudden trembling. ‘You’re asking me to marry you as if my feelings about it hardly matter at all! I’m not just a receptacle for a baby, you know! I’m a woman too! A woman with hopes and dreams that might involve something a little bit deeper than a practical marriage of convenience! How am I supposed to raise a child with you, Luca, when you clearly intend keeping me at a distance? Emotionally, at least! You won’t even talk to me about the things in your life that have shaped you or hurt you. Like your wife, for instance. You told me the most shocking thing this afternoon…that she drowned. But when I asked you wouldn’t even tell me how it happened! You completely shut down about it and clearly shut me out! Whilst I understand that you don’t want to keep revisiting the pain and torment you must have gone through, how can you contemplate marrying someone else if you won’t at least share something of what happened with them? That’s how we get to know each other in a relationship—by sharing our sorrows, joys, hopes and dreams, not just sleeping together!’

Looking as stunned by her outburst as though he had just survived some force of nature that had been unexpectedly unleashed, Luca exhaled a long, slow breath and moved his head from side to side.

Unlinking her hands, Kate forlornly realised she had no hope of keeping them from trembling. None! There was simply too much at stake here to remain calm. Luca still hadn’t spoken. Unhappily believing that he obviously wasn’t going to answer any of her highly charged questions, Kate felt hope die inside her. She felt like crying.

But then, with the tension around his sensual mouth lessening just a fraction, surprisingly he seemed to change his mind. ‘We were holidaying with some friends on their yacht on the southern coast…Amalfi, to be precise.’

Her attention irrevocably captured, Kate relaxed against the back of chair, her hands resting protectively over her stomach.

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