“Yes, but it cost me four weeks of my life.” She would pay more than that for Eva and her well-being, but she was still a little shell-shocked from everything that just happened.

 “Claire...it could be worse. You’re going to spend a month at a beach house on Martha’s Vineyard.”


 “With Luca Moretti,” she pointed out. Somehow that made it seem like less of a vacation and more of an obstacle course she needed to survive.

 “So what? Between you and me, I think you need the break. Get out of New York, sit on the beach and breathe in the sea air. It’s beautiful up there this time of year. It’s early in the season, but that means it won’t be too crowded or hot. Let Luca take care of Eva under your watchful eye and be grateful for the time off. How does Japanese food sound for lunch?”

 This trip sounded good on paper, but she was certain that the reality would be very different. She’d barely made it through a half hour with Luca with both their lawyers present. What would she do when she was alone with him for a whole month?

 * * *

 Luca strolled down Park Avenue, heading toward his apartment. He could’ve called a car to pick him up, but he needed the walk. It helped him focus, or in this case think about something else. It took about ten blocks before he could get the sound of Claire’s sigh from his mind. Her steel-gray eyes haunted him.

 He hadn’t expected to have a reaction to her like this. He didn’t want to, either. That woman had been nothing but difficult, despite how politely he’d tried to handle this mess of a situation. And yet, he couldn’t help pushing her buttons just to see the fire in her. Under that prim suit and tightly wrapped bun was a passionate woman, he was certain of it.

 Of course, what did it matter? He was pretty sure that Edmund would advise him strongly not to get romantically involved with Claire. He knew it was the smart thing, but Luca didn’t always follow the advice of others.

 Turning the corner, Luca finally reached his building. Standing beneath the dark green awning was Wayne, the second-shift doorman.

 “Good afternoon, Mr. Moretti. You’re home early today. I hope everything is okay.”

 Luca smiled at the doorman who had worked here longer than he had owned the apartment. “No worries, Wayne. All is well. I’m actually home a little early to start planning a vacation.”

 “You, sir? I don’t think you’ve had one of those since you moved in.”

 Was it that obvious that he was a workaholic? “Probably not. I’ve been working pretty hard lately. I’m going to be gone for a month, though, up to Martha’s Vineyard if all goes to plan. Will you let the building manager know I’ll be away? I’ll need my mail and packages held until I return.”

 “I will, sir. May I ask if you’re doing something fun on your trip?”

 The thought of the rosy blush running over every inch of Claire’s porcelain skin instantly came to mind. That could be fun. Or it could be four weeks of bickering by the beach. “Maybe. It depends on how it goes. I certainly hope so.”

 Wayne pulled open the shiny brass door and took a step back. “Well, I hope you enjoy your time away. You’ve certainly earned it, sir.”

 “Thanks, Wayne.”

 Luca crossed the marble lobby floor to his private elevator. He smiled as he pressed the button that would take him up to his apartment. Claire thought she knew so much about him, but she was wrong on several counts. For one thing, he didn’t live in the penthouse. He lived on the tenth floor of his building. The penthouse apartment was just too large for his needs. His apartment had three bedrooms and an unused maid’s quarters. That was more than enough.

 When he’d purchased the place a few years ago, he was pretty certain he would live there alone for the rest of his life. Despite the fact that he had bent to the will of his doctors and his mother as a teenager by storing the potential for future children at the clinic, he had no intention of ever using it.

 A wife and a family were the furthest thing from Luca’s mind. He’d found that people who lived through what he had reacted one of two ways—they were either desperate for family or terrified by the idea of it. Luca fell into the latter category, although he hadn’t always felt that way.

 The doors of the elevator opened to the marble foyer of his apartment. He unlocked the door, stepping into his living room. Luca slipped out of his coat and headed for his study. There, he poured himself a finger of Scotch and settled down in his favorite leather chair.

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