“They were amazing, but they weren’t the most beautiful thing I’ve seen.”
Claire snorted at him. “I’m sure being a billionaire has opened doors to plenty of things more beautiful than this, but this is probably as good as it gets for me. Second only to seeing Eva for the first time.”
“My money has nothing to do with it,” Luca argued. “In fact, most of the things I see in my day-to-day life are quite tedious. At least until I met you. You are by far the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
Claire squirmed uncomfortably. “Luca...” she complained, but he wouldn’t let her.
Luca pressed a finger to her lips and shook his head. “No. No arguing with me. I know better what I’ve seen and what I think than you do, thanks.”
Her cheeks flushed pink and her eyes focused on his chest. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m just not used to hearing things like that. It never feels sincere to me.”
“I know, you’ve told me that before, but you need to get used to it because I’m not about to stop. I never say anything I don’t mean, tesorina, so accept a compliment for what it is. If I say you’re beautiful and I desire you above all else, I mean it.”
Her mouth fell open again. Her gray eyes, so much like the water around them, met his. “You desire me?”
“I said it, didn’t I?”
“I know.” Claire bit at her lip, a line of concern forming between her brows. “I just can’t help but wonder if a physical relationship between us is a bad idea.”
“It probably is,” Luca said with a laugh. “I told you I was honest, Claire, not smart.”
* * *
“I don’t know how I’m ever going to adjust to real life again.”
Luca laughed at Claire as he unlocked the door of the house. “How’s that?”
As though he didn’t know what he’d done. “You’ve utterly spoiled me for reality. You take me to this beautiful island and let me spend my days listening to the waves and eating your amazing cooking. There’s no alarm clocks, no bills to pay, no calls to take...”
They stepped into the house, shut the door behind them and slipped out of their coats. The cottage was dark and quiet, so Mia and Eva were already asleep. Luca wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close to whisper in her ear. “And what’s wrong with that? You deserve to be spoiled.”
Claire hesitated to respond as the heat of his touch burned through her dress. Her body was pressed provocatively against his. She wasn’t sure if it was the physical contact or his seductive words, but suddenly the chill of the night was gone. A heat built deep inside her, spreading through her veins. She looked up at him, getting lost in his dark eyes.
“And then today...” she continued, pulling away and moving to the staircase.
“I thought you had a good time today,” he said, following her upstairs.
“I had an excellent time today. The cruise and the whales were amazing. Walking around Edgartown and Oak Bluff was so relaxing. And then our meal at the Red Cat was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.”
Luca reached the top of the stairs and hesitated. An annoyed frown pulled down the corners of his mouth. “Better than my cooking?”
She wasn’t getting caught in that trap. There was no right answer to that question. “They were completely different culinary styles. There’s no comparison and I refuse to try.”
Luca approached her again. This time, when he wrapped his arms around her waist, he held on tight enough for her to not escape so easily. Claire didn’t shy away from his touch. Instead, she let herself melt into his body, each of her soft curves pressing into his hard muscles. She wouldn’t lie to herself and say that it didn’t feel good to be held.
She was beginning to wonder if Jeff had ever held her like this. The simple glide of Luca’s hands over her back had more tenderness, yet more intensity, than any man who had touched her before. She felt sexy and alive with him, valued by him, and she hadn’t felt that way in so long.
His dark eyes focused on her, making her wonder if he knew what she was thinking. His fingertips pressed into the flesh at her hips, leaving no doubt that he wanted her. They’d danced around this whole moment since they’d arrived at the island. Luca had gone out of his way to charm her, to reduce the stressors and barriers in her life that would keep her from enjoying herself. Claire had fought it the whole trip, but she was tired of fighting what she wanted. Now was her moment to indulge.