‘Not really,’ she said with a shrug. ‘Before Grace married Luca we often said we’d like to open our own gallery—she’d do all the art and I’d run it. But life takes over. I was very happy at the auction house.’
‘Speaking of galleries, we’ve got a few hours to kill before we go to the exhibition tonight,’ he said, referring to the opening of an up-and-coming new artist’s work he’d promised they would attend. ‘Shall we go for a swim?’
She pulled a face. ‘My bikini line hasn’t been done for weeks.’
‘So? It’s only me who’s going to be looking.’ He would be doing a lot more than looking. He’d be doing a lot more right now but for Monique bustling around in the kitchen, liable to barge into the living room at any moment.
A whole week without Cara had felt interminably long.
‘I’d still feel self-conscious.’
‘I can do it for you.’
Cara didn’t trust the gleam that came into Pepe’s eyes. ‘Do what?’
‘Your bikini line.’
‘Because...’ Because she still wasn’t comfortable with him being down there. Blame it on her Catholic upbringing—which was an irony in itself—or blame it on her reaching the grand old age of twenty-six before getting naked with a man, but, whatever the reason, she had a hang-up about her nether regions. Not Pepe’s though. She adored his nether regions.
He arched an eyebrow. ‘Because?’
She was stumped for a good answer.
She was still stumped for a good answer fifteen minutes later, sitting naked on a towel on the sofa in Pepe’s bedroom.
‘Relax, cucciola mia,’ he purred, kneeling before her, having placed a jug of hot water on the floor beside him. He also carried a couple of razors and a tube of shaving gel. To make her feel less self-conscious he’d stripped off too. Or so he’d said.
‘I need you to spread your legs,’ he said, pouring some gel onto his palm.
Swallowing, she did as she was bid and parted her thighs.
She took a deep breath and exposed herself to him, resting her head back in a futile attempt to do as he’d suggested and relax.
‘I won’t hurt you,’ he said with the utmost sincerity, before planting a kiss on her inner thigh. ‘Trust me.’
Mixing the gel on his palm with a couple of droplets of the hot water, he rubbed his hands together to form a lather, then carefully swiped it over her bikini line, taking great care around the delicate area.
She closed her eyes. Happy to wax her legs, she’d always drawn the line at waxing her bikini area, preferring the less painful route of shaving.
Never in a million years would she have believed she’d allow someone else to do it for her.
When she finally dared look, she found his head bowed in concentration.
Trust me, he’d said.
With a jolt of her heart she realised that she did trust him.
She trusted him as she’d never trusted anyone other than Grace.
But this was a different form of trust. This was a deeper, more intimate trust, a trust she’d never expected to find with a man, with anyone.
‘Okay?’ Pepe’s dark blue eyes were looking up at her.
She nodded and gave a half-smile. Her legs and torso were no longer tensed; indeed, her entire body had now relaxed.
‘What do you think about Charlotte for a girl?’ she said.
He looked up briefly, his lips pursing the way they always did when he was considering something. They’d already agreed on Pietro for a boy, in honour of Pepe’s father. Choosing a girl’s name had proved trickier. At first she’d thought he was being deliberately awkward when he dismissed the names she kept coming up with...until the penny dropped that he was, in his own subtle fashion, trying to avoid naming their child after any of his ex-lovers. Not all the names, thank God. A few he dismissed for other reasons, like thinking a particular name was ‘wet’.
She’d now taken to throwing a name at him, watching him purse his lips and then shake his head, all the while hoping she never came across one of his ‘friends’ who shared that particular name.
This time, there was no shake of the head. Instead, a broad grin spread across his handsome face. ‘That is perfect.’ He nodded, still grinning. ‘Charlotte Mastrangelo-Delaney. Sì—perfect.’
When he refocused his attention to his current handiwork, Cara tried to shake away the jealousy coursing through her blood, knowing she was being irrational. So what if Pepe had been prepared to marry Luisa so they and their child could all share the same surname? In those days he’d been little older than a child himself with romantic ideals that had no place in the real world.