Slowly, as if in a dream, Regina walked toward the lemon trees and the bench where she’d been sitting when she’d first seen Nico. She sat down and stared at the blue water that was so beautiful it hurt. Why did it have to be the exact shade of Nico’s eyes?
Simonetta blurred. Tears, tears that she didn’t feel any shame for or try to brush away, leaked out of her eyes and streaked her face.
Everything was the same, but nothing was. She fingered the ornate cross at her throat. She’d felt so much love here. She wondered if such emotions lingered in a place and made it magical for others. Had ancient lovers been here before them? Would someone else find true love in this exact spot?
She buried her face in her hands and sobbed, praying such lovers would be luckier than she was.
She was sobbing so violently she didn’t hear him at first.
“Cara, darling. Tesorina.” Then in a deep, dark voice he began to caress her in Italian. “Your sister came to me earlier.”
“Nico?” She stood. She couldn’t believe he was really here. Then his arms came around her from behind, and she felt his heat against her hips and spine as he molded her against his body.
“Why are you crying, my love?” He stroked her back and her hair.
“Oh, Nico. I know I don’t deserve you. I’m not nearly good enough.”
“You are perfect in every way.”
“Your mother wouldn’t want me underfoot all the time.”
“My mother has her own household, her own homes, you know.”
“I thought you lived with her.”
“No. My main residence is outside Florence.”
“Why are we talking about houses?” she whispered.
“Maybe because we’re afraid of what we feel, of how much we care.”
She whirled, half-blind with tears. “Then why did you send me away?”
His dark face was a blur.
“Is that what you thought? You broke my heart when you left.”
“Are we both crazy?”
“Crazy in love. All lovers are a little crazy.”
When her sobs subsided, she wanted to kiss him. She wanted to kiss him so badly.
“Not here,” he said, his eyes scanning their surroundings for cameras.
He took her hand. Then they were running toward his tender and speeding across the blue water to Simonetta.
Once they were safely inside his stateroom, she threw her arms around him, and he kissed her.
“I love you,” he said, many torrid kisses later.
“I love you, too. Always.”
“That, too,” he murmured tenderly. “Always.”
He lifted her hand and began sucking her fingertips. He was tugging her down onto the floor when she remembered.
“Oh, my God!” She ran to a window and stared at Amalfi.
“I forgot all about my family. They’re in that limousine—still waiting for me.”
He pulled out his cell phone and snapped it open. When he hung up, he smiled and said, “Susana said she wanted you to call her as soon as you can. She takes full credit for this happy ending.”
Regina grinned. “That may be a while.”
“Yes, she’s on her way to the States.”
“I have a feeling we’ll be pretty busy, too,” she murmured.
“It’s more than a feeling. It’s a certainty.”
Then they were on the priceless Persian carpet, and she was staring up at him in fascination as he tore off his jeans and then his shirt. He was lean and brown and gorgeous, not to mention, swollen with desire.
Yes—to mention. And he was huge. And all hers.
He loved her. She was loved for herself, just like Susana. She didn’t have to be more or perfect or even an attorney. She could just be herself. And that was enough.
Then he was disrobing her, kissing each part of her as he removed an item of clothing. Soon, with his lips pressed against intimate, secret flesh, she had no time for thoughts. Only for love.
When he kissed her on the mouth again and began to murmur in Italian, her whole being caught fire.
“Will you marry me for more than a year?”
“Forever,” she whispered. “Forever. I love you.”
“Then show me.”
And being a commoner, she did.