Page 124 of The Amalfi Bride

When he had rested, she crawled on top of him and began to eat him with her tongue. He hadn’t thought things could get any wilder or any sweeter than the first time, but they did.

Sex was like death, he would think later, when he could think. He couldn’t sleep with her and remain whole. Every time he exploded inside her, she stole another piece of his soul. Soon there would be nothing left of him that wasn’t hers.

A year. He’d told the upstart he’d believed her to be she had to stay a year. He’d been furious at her in Austin; out of his mind with rage, totally unreasonable and unable to listen to what she’d said in her own defense.

No matter who she was, or what she was, he wanted her forever.

But he loved her too much to force her to stay.

He rolled off the bed and stood up, feeling weary, despising himself for having forced her to marry him.

He dressed hurriedly and walked out onto her balcony.

Regina didn’t know what to do when she woke up and Nico was gone. She couldn’t believe she’d done the things she’d done, and yet she could. She’d wanted him so much.

Still, she felt hot with embarrassment every time she thought about it. Was he disgusted with the commoner he’d married? It was terrible of her, but thinking about how her tongue and lips had made love to him, especially that huge part, only made her begin to tremble with fresh need.

Where was he? Why had he left her? Had she totally displeased him?

Oh, why had she flung off her robe outside? He probably found that cheap and low-class. Was he angry about it or ashamed of her?

She arose from the bed and, when she couldn’t find her nightgown in the dark, she dragged the heavy satin spread around herself. Trailing red, she was on her way to the bathroom when she saw him slumped on the chair outside, his face white as he stared at the moonlit garden.

“Nico?”

He jumped at the sound of her voice but didn’t turn.

Did he hate her that much?

“I’m sorry,” he said, his low tone filled with loathing.

Suddenly she was truly afraid. “I don’t understand.”

“I was out of control. Not myself. I never meant for all that to happen.”

“You didn’t want to make love to me?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Things have a way of getting out of hand with you and me,” she whispered, her own heart pounding in fright. “I’m sorry, too.”

“I don’t want you to be sorry any longer. I was crazy in Austin to say you had to stay a year. I arrogantly thought you wanted me because of who I was. Because I’m a prince, you see. That hurt. I was angry, furious, and concerned about the baby. I wasn’t thinking.”

“What are you saying?”

“You’re not that person. I can’t force you. I won’t force you. It’s not fair to you or the baby.”

“Do you mean you want me to go?”

She continued to stare at him, unable to think because of the emotions tearing at her.

He wanted out. As fast as possible. That’s all she heard.

“All right then,” she said, when he didn’t answer. “I understand. Thank you. I’ll leave tomorrow with my family. I don’t know what I’ll say to them. They thought we loved each other.”

“You were right. I should never have involved them. I never wanted to hurt them. Or you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what will be written in the papers.”

“I don’t care about the damn papers,” she whispered, but so softly he didn’t hear her. “I love you, just you, you big idiot.”

“I never meant to hurt you,” he repeated, his voice low and dull.

She strangled on a wild sob.

But you did. Because you made me believe, for one stupid, glorious moment that you loved me, that I was lovable and special and that you were satisfied with just me.

What a silly fool she was. Nobody had ever loved her like that.

She wasn’t Susana.

The limousine raced around a curve and Regina saw the beach and the lemon trees and the dazzling blue water where Simonetta was moored.

“Stop!” Regina cried. “Stop the car!”

Dino and David were yelling in the limo while Gina sang the seven dwarves’ song from Snow White, about whistling while you work, so the driver didn’t hear Regina.

Frantic, she pounded on his window. “Stop!”

When he did, she said, “This will just take a minute.”

His expression glazed, her father nodded. He had a bit of a hangover. He and her mother had been in shock ever since she’d told them she was leaving Nico and going home with them. Susana, who’d ordered her to quit being her usual bullheaded self and make up with Nico, wasn’t speaking to her because Regina had said that wasn’t possible.

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