‘That is all right, then.’
‘Sì. Now I can relax, tesoro mio.’
Before Kate realised his intention, Luca had dropped down onto the bed beside her and was stroking his hand over her hair. She heard the muted thud of his shoes hit the carpet as he kicked them off and her body quivered almost violently.
‘You don’t mind?’ she whispered. ‘That I love you?’
He chuckled, and the deliciously sensual sound was like being wrapped in the most luxurious warm towels after a deep, fragrant, longed-for hot bath.
‘Do you know what it is like for a man who has more or less given up on the possibility of happiness for ever to hear a woman he cares for deeply say that she loves him?’ His hand swept her hair back from her face and tenderly cupped her cheek. ‘I fell in love with you the night of the party, my dear Katherine. This is true. It was a party that I did not want to give…but by the end of the evening I was glad that I had—because I met you.’
‘And you’re not still in love with your wife, Luca? From time to time when you seemed to hold back from me I thought it was because of that!’
‘If I did hold back it was because I did not want to overwhelm you with my desire for you…nor potentially harm the baby! When you had that scare this morning, before we flew out to Milan, I was devastated at the thought that something might happen to you or our unborn child! Listen to me Katherine. I know my own heart and it belongs to you now…not to poor Sophia! It was a terrible tragedy that she died the way she did, but it is you I love! You need never fear that I am lying about that!’
‘All this time?’ She pulled his hand away from her face and held it. ‘You’ve loved me all this time, Luca?’
His gorgeous smile, delicious voice and incredible eyes all made Kate feel weak…deliriously, happily weak.
‘But when you left like you did the next morning I was thrown into confusion! My pride was hurt too, so I did not try to find you. Then three months later you miraculously appear, only for me to learn that our night together had resulted in you falling pregnant! And it seemed to me that you had made no effort in all that time to even let me know! For a while I confess that I had the most terrible suspicions that the baby might not be mine. I will tell you now that I was tormented by the very idea that you had been with another man after the incredible night we had shared!’
‘I made you miserable.’ Kate’s sigh was heavy with regret. ‘But I didn’t mean to. I really did want to get in touch with you, Luca, but I was petrified of making another mistake after what had happened to me before…when my ex did what he did… That night stirred up a lot of painful stuff from my past…difficult and hurtful memories that really stung. Mostly it stirred up my old feelings of not being good enough! That’s why I ran away that morning in Milan. I feared that in the cold light of day you would reject me anyway, and therefore I should spare myself the pain and leave you first!’
Gazing into Luca’s eyes, she let her slender shoulders slump a little.
‘My mother died not long before I got together with Hayden, and my confidence was badly shaken by her death. That’s the truth. I think that’s why I deluded myself about him. I just wanted somebody to really care about me because I was frightened of being alone. But I could never have gone with another man after being with you, Luca…never!’
Levelling his arresting glance on her with seriousness and concern, Luca entwined his fingers tightly with Kate’s as he spoke. ‘Hear this. I will never reject you—and neither do I want you ever to feel not good enough again! You have no reason to believe that about yourself, no matter what anyone else says or does! You are a lovely, beguiling woman, and as well as your outer beauty it is the beauty of your soul that touches my heart the most, sweet Katherine.’
Barely knowing how to answer such a wonderful declaration, Kate leaned forward and touched her lips gently to Luca’s cheek. The whisper of sandalwood-scented cologne and the soft/rough texture of his skin was a sensual cocktail bar none.
‘You don’t know what it means to me to hear you say that! And now I have something to show you.’
Leaning across him to reach the cherrywood cabinet beside the bed, Kate retrieved her purse and took out what looked to be a black and white photograph. Handing it to Luca, she tucked her hair behind her ear and smiled.
‘This is a picture of our baby in my womb. The hospital gave it to me after I had my ultrasound.’
He was staring down at the photograph as though studying the meaning of the universe. There was the brief movement of a muscle contracting at the corner of his mouth, and Kate saw how affected he was. She had experienced the same mixture of awe and elation when she’d first seen the picture.