He could tell that Claire was relieved by the interruption. They’d been caught up in the moment. Time and perspective would prove it wasn’t the best idea in their situation. It didn’t change how much he wanted her, though. The next morning, when she seemed more open to the idea than he expected, he wasn’t sure what to do. Claire was not a casual romance type of woman, that was obvious. He’d done a better job of charming her than he’d intended to, and suddenly he found himself in a position he hadn’t expected.

 So he pushed back. It was the best thing to do, really. Claire deserved a relationship with a man who could give her everything she wanted, including love and another child. That wasn’t going to be Luca, no matter how badly he ached for her. It was better to put a stop to all this before it went too far.

 Looking back out at the sea, Luca couldn’t help but admire Claire’s figure on display. Despite her claims of excess baby weight, she looked great in her shorts and bikini top. Her skin was golden from their time at the beach, and the blond in her hair seemed to be picking up some lighter streaks from the sun. Her curves were highlighted by the halter cut of the bikini, giving him a tantalizing glimpse of her full breasts.

 There was nothing not to like about Claire. That was the problem. It was too easy to like her. Too easy to find a reason to touch her. His blood would sing in his veins whenever he caught a whiff of her scent. There was a restlessness in every muscle when he lay alone thinking about her upstairs in the dark. It was as if his body knew they had a child together and was ready to start on another one as soon as possible.

 And if Luca could provide that for her, he might be in the water instead of sulking in his chair. But he couldn’t. Luca would rather live his life a bachelor than a disappointment to the woman he loved. His only alternative would be to find a woman who couldn’t have children of her own. They didn’t exactly walk around advertising that fact, however.

 Looking back at the water, he noticed Claire and Eva had moved to drier sand to play with the plastic bucket and shovel they’d carried to the beach with them. Looking at the dark curls of his daughter, all he could do was shake his head. What a bizarre twist of fate that would give him a child. It was like a perfectly imperfect storm that brought two people together to have a child neither of them expected to have.

 Wait a minute... Luca sat up taller in his chair. Claire may very well be that woman. She hadn’t spoken extensively about her fertility issues, but she had to have some or she wouldn’t have been at the clinic. He’d avoided the subject, as well. He didn’t like people knowing he had cancer, much less the kind he’d had.

 Luca wasn’t the type to really believe in fate, but life certainly seemed to be convincing him otherwise. What if Claire was the chance he’d never let himself believe in? If he let their attraction evolve into a relationship, this could be his second chance. It would work out perfectly. They already had a child together. If they were to marry, it would tidy up the whole custody situation. He’d get the full-time family he wanted, and Claire wouldn’t have to be away from Eva when it was his weekend.

 Claire approached his chair with a sand-covered baby in her arms. “I’m going to hose this little monkey off and put her down for a nap.”

 “Okay. I’ll pack up and be back at the house in a few minutes.”

 He watched Claire disappear, their dating scenario playing out in his mind. Wooing her was the perfect solution. It had been dropped in his lap, really. They’d both benefit from the scenario. Claire would get a full-time father for Eva and a man to treat her the way she deserved to be treated. Luca would get the family he never thought he’d have, and he’d get his mother off his back once and for all. It would be nice to have someone to come home to, to talk to. His apartment was becoming unbearably empty.

 Never mind the fact that he’d finally get to touch her. Seducing Claire would be the best part of this plan. No holding back, no excuses, no interruptions. He’d get to run his hands along those long legs and cup her breasts in his needy palms. Luca was hardly celibate, but thinking about Claire made him as eager as a virgin. And as nervous.

 He’d only attempted to be in a relationship once before, and it hadn’t ended well. Even if he’d wanted to try again, he’d hardly had the time. The best he could manage was a few dates with a woman before things got in the way and she’d break it off. Aside from Jessica, he’d never even dated a woman long enough to consider her his girlfriend, much less look ahead to her being his wife. Could he do it now for his daughter’s sake?

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