‘They asked me if I wanted to know the baby’s sex but I said no… You don’t mind waiting to find out, do you?’

Tearing his gaze away from the photo at last, and raising his head to look at Kate, Luca knew his feelings were transparent. ‘I do not mind…no. It will be all the more wonderful on the day of the birth to find out then! This is such a miracle to me—to see this…’ He shook his head almost with reverence. ‘It is something I thought never to see! God is good, yes?’

‘Yes, Luca.’ Kate smiled. ‘God is good. And I know I have many reasons to count my blessings! Why don’t you keep the picture in your wallet?’

‘I would like that.’ He tucked it carefully into his shirt pocket.

‘And you won’t hold it against me even the smallest bit that I ran away that morning?’

‘No…’ He appeared to be mulling the idea over. ‘But you will have to recompense me…and in a way of my choosing.’

‘Oh?’

Immediately Kate saw that he was teasing her, and her tummy flipped as her body was suffused with the most delicious heat. He was staring at the row of buttons down the front of her dress, and one by one he started to undo them.

Looking up, he caught and held her startled glance. ‘I want to see my woman—the mother of my child—as God made her.’

Letting out a shaky breath, Kate hardly dared move a muscle. Although her need for him was great, she welcomed this unexpectedly gentle side to his lovemaking with a profound pang of love and excitement. The reverence with which he undid her clothing was even more erotic than if he had torn it off her body in a blaze of passionate heat, and she couldn’t help shivering.

Removing her dress completely, he laid his hands on the slender slopes of her shoulders and kissed her once, twice on the mouth, then drew deliberately away again when Kate’s lips would have clung to his for more. Smiling knowingly, lazily, perfectly aware that he was drawing out the tension between them, playing it like the most exquisite harpstring, Luca was clearly revelling in having the upper hand.

Slowly, as if he were painting a picture, he traced a line with his finger from the base of Kate’s throat to the cleft between her breasts. Impending motherhood had changed her body, and she knew with silent satisfaction and a little spurt of pride that for the first time ever she had a cleavage to envy. Stroking his fingers lightly across the fulsome curves of her breasts, Luca let them dip for a moment to press open the front fastening of Kate’s lacy pink bra. She held her breath. Exposed to the softly warm scented air, her exquisitely sensitive nipples throbbed and contracted almost sharply. Her teeth came down hard on her lip. Then a helplessly husky groan left her throat as Luca put his mouth to a breast and suckled gently.

The silken cavern of the inside of his mouth and the slide of his tongue over her bared flesh was like ambrosia from the gods. An arrow of heat found its erotic target, deep in her core, and devastatingly ignited. Lifting his head momentarily, Luca gave the same exquisite attention to her other breast, and Kate threaded her fingers through the soft dark strands of his hair and clung on even as she silently, passionately begged for mercy. Surely this much pleasure couldn’t be allowed? Surely it was visited only on the lucky few ?

Hungrily seeking Luca’s mouth, she accepted his returning rough, hot kiss with an almost unbearable need to have him even closer. She wanted him inside her…to have no distinction between her body and his…to be skin to skin, heart to heart, soul to soul… Her hands all but tore at his clothes, and finally, irresistibly, Luca helped. The erotic game he’d started had given rise to its own wild momentum, and finally they were just reeds, swept away by the powerful rapids that overtook them.

His naked, hard body covering hers, Kate felt her hips soften and her thighs open as Luca’s hands caressed and readied her for his possession. Her heart thumped in a primal drumbeat that steadily grew stronger inside her, and, following the perfect taut musculature of his back down to his buttocks, Kate hungrily reacquainted herself with every fascinating facet, slope and curve of the powerful male body.

‘I will go as slowly as I can.’ Luc smiled ruefully into her eyes as he momentarily stilled above her. ‘I do not want to hurt you, tesoro mio… You must tell me if you need me to stop at any time.’

Stop? Whilst Kate totally appreciated the love and concern Luca was expressing, she wanted to tell him she might not live if he didn’t give them both what they so desperately wanted right there and then and not a second later! Reaching up, she drew her finger softly across a mouth that was so sensually beautiful she almost wanted to weep at its sheer artistic perfection.

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