‘We did,’ he said, matter-of-factly. ‘But making our nightly hot chocolate was a job my mother always liked to do herself. She used to sit Luca and I on the kitchen table—much as you’re sitting now—while she made it.’

‘It sounds wonderful,’ she said with more than a touch of envy. Evenings in the Delaney household had normally consisted of her mother fretting about where her father was.

He cocked his head while he thought about it. A glimmer of surprise flittered across his features. ‘Yes, it was.’

Pepe added the expensive cocoa powder to the warming milk before spooning some sugar into the mixture, whisking vigorously as he went along.

Looking at his childhood from Cara’s perspective, he could see it had been idyllic. His feelings about being spare to Luca’s heir were not something that had developed until he’d hit his teenage years, but Luca had always been the good one, whereas he’d always been the naughty one. Looking back, it was as if his parents’ expectations of him had been lower from the start.

Or had it been that their expectations of Luca had been set too high? His brother had been groomed to take over the family business. He’d had responsibility thrust upon him from the womb. For Pepe, the only responsibility he’d had—and it was a self-imposed one—was to make his serious big brother laugh.

He whipped the milk pan away from the heat right before it reached boiling point, then poured it into the two waiting mugs.

When he turned to pass Cara her drink, his chest compressed.

Her short legs dangled from the table, hovering inches above the floor, and she was chewing on her bottom lip.

He wondered if she knew the top of her robe had parted a touch, giving him a tantalising glimpse of that wonderful cleavage his senses remembered so well. The first time he’d buried himself in those glorious breasts he’d thought he’d died and gone to heaven.

During the intervening months the wonder of that night was something he had suppressed with a ruthlessness he’d never before had to employ. But it had always been there, hovering in the periphery of his memories, taunting him, tantalising him. Often it would catch him unawares, a visual memory or a familiar scent, always with the same end result, a burst of need that would shoot straight to his groin and clutch at his chest. The same burst of need he was currently experiencing. The same need that had been a semi-permanent ache since he’d stood next to Cara at the font at Lily’s christening.

Under normal circumstances, that one night wouldn’t have been the end of them. He would have gone back for more. Hell, he might even have brought her here to Paris as he’d insinuated, but not for the sake of his art collection. No, he’d have brought her here so he could devour that delectable body over and over until he was finally spent and there was nothing left for him to discover and enjoy.

As she reached out a hand to take the mug, her kimono strained against her breasts, moulding them for his hungry eyes, and the need in his groin tightened, straining against the denim he wore.

The hem of the kimono barely covered her knees.

Was she wearing anything beneath it?

‘What are you doing?’ Cara’s voice was a husky whisper.

Without even realising it, he’d closed the gap between them. One more step and he’d be able to part her creamy thighs and slip between them...

Cara’s heart thumped so strongly she could hear it pound against her ribs.

‘I asked, what are you doing?’ How she managed to drag the words out, she didn’t know. Pepe was so close he’d sucked all the air from her lungs.

His large warm hand closed over hers and removed the mug, placing it on the table, out of her reach.

And then he was cupping her cheeks, forcing her to meet his stare. ‘I’m going to kiss you.’

‘No!’ It was more of a whimper than a refusal. She tried to wrench her face free from his clasp but his hold was too strong. And, somehow, too gentle.

‘Sì.’ He brushed a thumb over her bottom lip. ‘Yes, cucciola mia. I am going to kiss you.’

She didn’t want to respond. God alone knew she didn’t want to respond.

Yet when his lips slanted onto hers and held there for long moments before prising her mouth apart, and when his thick tongue slipped into her mouth, the only word revolving around and around in her head was yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

The only answer her body gave was yes.

The hands she tried to ball into fists fought back, tracing up his bare biceps and clinging to his shoulders, her nails digging into the smooth flesh.

And still she tried to fight. Desperately she fought against the growing rip tide of need pulsating through her blood, fought against the moisture bubbling in her most intimate area.

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