Page 3 of The Amalfi Bride

But the instant she’d seen this stranger, who should be unappealing to her, her world had shifted. It was as if the real Regina had gone into hibernation, as if Austin were a remote planet on the other side of a galaxy far, far away.

Intuitive. Dangerous word.

If ever a man was the antithesis of the ambitious, Type-A individuals the real Regina always chased, this G-word guy was it.

Obviously, Adonis was all looks and no substance. Still, his broad-shouldered body seemed made of sculpted teak, with muscles that rivaled Michelangelo’s David. What well-educated girl didn’t appreciate a masterpiece? But could he read without moving his beautiful, carved lips?

Like all Italians, he wore clothes that fit perfectly. Hello! Why didn’t she care whether or not he had a brain? A soul?

She was too entranced by the shallow stuff to dwell on deeper matters. His white shirt was open to his waist, revealing a lean, washboard abdomen. Some fierce mating instinct made her want to tear off his shirt and his ripped, faded jeans, to lick his warm, sun-caressed skin and have him do the same to her. Yes!

Despite the balmy July sea air, she thought of him naked. The idea of tasting him had her so hot she lifted her icy glass of chardonnay to her lips. Rethinking the more-alcohol move, she brought the cool glass to her warm cheek and then placed it against her forehead.

Would his babies be as gorgeous as he was?

Babies? The thought broadsided her. For a long moment she stared into her wineglass. Suddenly, dazzling golden images of a beautiful little boy and a darling little girl materialized, both with thick heads of shiny, black-satin hair, splashing in a backyard pool.

She swirled the wine in her glass so violently a few drops splashed her wrist. When he smiled, she blushed again.

A baby. His baby? No way!

What about E-321, which she’d learned about thanks to her friend Lucy? The sperm from a donor whose profile was so perfect Regina had bought the last eight vials of it from the sperm bank?

Hello, is the real Regina alive and well? The Regina who knows one doesn’t buy sperm and then sleep around?

Okay, so she hadn’t shown up on the day of her appointment for insemination.

But after Bobby, she had had a life-changing epiphany.

Baby first. Finding Mr. Right, second.

Time was running out for her to meet Mr. Right, date him, plan a wedding and get pregnant—in the proper order.

So, why not reverse the order of things?

Why not become a single mother of choice first and find her soul mate later?

So, how did one find the perfect father? Her best friend Lucy, who was now pregnant by sperm donor E-321, had been full of advice. After lots of research, Regina had decided E-321 was the right donor for her, too. Lucy and Regina’s children would be half-siblings. Regina had told her family that she and Lucy and their babies would almost be a real family.

“You’ve got a real family!” her father had thundered. “This is your fault, Sabrina!” It was his habit to blame everything, good and bad, on Regina’s mother. “You shouldn’t have let her read all the time! Or run around with liberals like Lucy. I don’t want to even think about those college loans I’m still paying off.”

Although his temper hadn’t won the day, he’d slumped into a scowling sulk and had remained glued to the television set whenever he was home over the next few days, refusing to speak to anybody, even his adored Sabrina.

Desperate, her mother had called an hour before Regina’s insemination appointment.

“You’re making Constantin unhappy. He’s never gone quiet on me like this. Not in thirty years. It’s summer. Take a vacation. When was the last time you took a vacation? Go to Italy. See your Nana before you do this crazy thing, eh, Cara.”

Her mama always called her Cara, which was short for Carina, Regina’s middle name.

“You can’t control everything, Cara. In Italy, people let life happen. Susana fell in love. You will, too.”

Yes, with Joe. I was in love with him! Susana stole him right out from under me. Why doesn’t anybody, especially you, Mama, ever remember that Joe was mine first?

Regina covered her eyes for a long moment. Then she opened them to a line of ceramic pots overflowing and ablaze with geraniums, to terraces and umbrellas drenched in coppery light, and to him.

Two girls beside him were batting their lashes at him and looking winsome, but he had eyes only for Regina.

He looked at her with such longing, Regina felt a physical ache to simply get up and go to him, to press herself against him, to run her fingers through his hair, to touch him everywhere. To get to it. To do it somewhere nearby, any private place.

She wanted to lie under his lean, hard body on a soft mattress with sea breezes whispering over their glued-together, sweaty bodies. She wanted everything, all things, unnamable things, unimagined things from him.

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