‘Wonderful! I took him for a walk in the park, and right now his nanny is watching over him as he’s having his afternoon nap… Which is why I’m waiting for you in the lobby, my darling!’
‘You are here? At the hotel?’ Luca whispered fiercely, moving even farther away from his friend and clenching his jaw as the small buzz of heat inside him suddenly grew hotter.
‘Why don’t you come and find me?’ Katherine replied teasingly. ‘But hurry, because if you’re much longer than a couple of minutes I might just change my mind and go home again on my own!’
‘Dio! Wait and see what will happen to you when I find you! Do not say I did not warn you!’
‘I can’t wait! I have the most vivid imagination, Luca—you know that… And now you’ve deliberately put all kinds of delicious ideas into my head!’
‘You are killing me—do you know that?’ He shook his head from side to side in wonderment, in not a little physical discomfort.
‘I’m sorry. I know I’m a tease. But I can’t help it! I love you so much. And now, with this new baby coming, I love you even more!’
‘Anch’io… Ti amo, Katerina,’ he crooned into the phone, with a brief glance over his shoulder at the almost too patient Hassan, whose beaming smile seemed to be growing ever wider! Luca had pretty much guessed the other man knew who was keeping him so preoccupied on the phone. In fact, he was beginning to suspect that his friend also knew that the lady in question was waiting for him in the lobby!
‘Hurry, Luca! I’m waiting…’
Luca returned to where he’d stood before the phone call. ‘Katherine has turned up and is waiting for me downstairs…’ He started to explain to Hassan, his jaw reddening helplessly.
The older man’s smile was as impish as that of a small boy who’d been up to some mischief. ‘Yes, I know. We arranged the surprise between us, your delightful wife and I!’ he confessed shamelessly.
Luca shook his head. ‘You do not mind if I leave the party early?’
‘I will make your apologies to everyone. They will understand, seeing as your beautiful wife is pregnant again and needs her husband to be home with her!’
‘You are a good friend, Hassan.’ Luca shook the other man’s hand with not a little haste, his mouth quirking upwards into a conspiratorial grin. ‘And I will see you when you are next in London, in a few months… I promise!’
‘It has been a pleasure and a delight doing business with you, my friend,’ Hassan warmly responded. ‘Go well. And do not forget to give my best regards to the exquisite Katherine!’
‘What is the meaning of this?’
Feigning a cross expression, Luca stalked across the lobby to where the bewitching brunette in a red silk dress was drawing admiring glances from hotel patrons, as she sat on a leather sofa, rubbing one delightfully shaped stockinged foot, with her discarded high-heeled satin shoe on the floor beside her.
Her expression one of innocence personified, Katherine stared up at Luca as if utterly perplexed as to why he should apparently be so mad at her. ‘You took your time!’ she scolded him. ‘Another minute and I would have jumped in a cab and gone home again!’
Ignoring her completely irrational answer, Luca shook his head and sighed, then sat down beside his wife on the sofa. ‘What is the matter? Are your feet hurting again?’ he demanded, taking one of the aforementioned feet tenderly between his hands. ‘It is your own fault, Katherine! You should be at home, resting, not haring around London like a teenager! You are pregnant, remember?’
‘Are you saying that I’m too old to be haring around?’ she asked sweetly, batting her curling black lashes at him. ‘By the way…did you give my love to dear Hassan before you left?’
‘I did no such thing!’ Luca replied, horrified.
They had been married for a year and a half, but he was still prone to flashes of quick and intense jealousy if Katherine even joked that she found another man remotely attractive—much less told him to pass on her love to one! He knew she did it just to provoke him, and although he was intensely glad to see her now, Luca wished they were at home, so he could quieten her teasing with an afternoon of torrid lovemaking. At least until Orlando woke up from his nap! Perhaps if they hastened home now they could do exactly that?
Anticipation building inside him, Luca sighed. Hassan was perfectly right, of course. Luca was a lucky man. The luckiest man in the world as far as he was concerned! After the pain of his past he could never have imagined a future so bright and so full of love. His feelings were beyond grateful. ‘Katherine?’