Page 38 of The Amalfi Bride

He heard telephone buttons being punched, no doubt by a stubby-fingered, little hand. Then the line went dead. The toddler had hung up on him.

Maybe it was for the best. Cara had her life. He had his.

He clenched a fist. Feeling bleak and empty, he lifted his glass and drained it. Lucky for him, the whiskey was real, its effects strong.

Or maybe not so lucky.

With his guard down, memories of Cara’s face, body and smiles consumed him. He thought of the recent nights when he’d awakened stiff, hard and throbbing because of his hot, lascivious dreams in which she writhed beneath him or licked him all over with her tongue.

He stared at his phone, but instead of reaching for it again, he got up and poured a second shot of whiskey.

Eleven

D avid and Dino were both yelling at full volume from their cribs. Regina felt close to tears herself when Gina, who had grabbed the phone away from her to say hi to Nico, snapped it shut.

Was it only yesterday that RobertRiley, Sr., had echoed DonaldTrump’s favorite phrase?

You’re fired!

What had Rebecca thought would happen when she’d sashayed into RobertSr.’s office and tossed the Hewit complaint on his desk? After she’d insisted on voicing all of her reservations and objections about the case, he’d ordered coffee. As he stirred in sugar and cream, he’d explained, in the careful, softly modulated tones that one would use with a child, exactly how many hours the firm billed each year to Black Boar.

When she hadn’t backed down, he’d fired her. Just like that. For the first time in her life, she had no plan.

What she did have was a large credit card bill from her trip to Italy and stacks of unpaid bills on her desk. She’d spent half the night on her computer, tweaking her résumé. But she was clueless about what kind of job she might want. What she did know was that as soon as she was near a pay phone, she’d make an anonymous call to Rebecca and recommend a more gifted attorney than the one she had now.

“Gina, why’d you hang up on him?”

Gina’s eyes gleamed with mischief. Then she frowned, her chubby face twisting in innocence and confusion. When she cocked her head playfully, her rhinestone tiara toppled to one side.

She was wearing her blue satin princess costume, and Regina’s dark Ray-Bans. Only the overlarge shades were upside down and hovering on the tip of her nose, about to fall off as the child bit off another chunk of chocolate chip cookie.

The babies’ cries turned to screams in their cribs.

“You shouldn’t have grabbed the phone. My friend will think I hung up on him.”

Gina shrugged and chomped off more cookie. “We can call him back!” She threw up her hands.

“And no more cookies, young lady, for either one of us.”

Clutching the remnants of her cookie, Gina raced to a far corner. When it came to chocolate chip cookies, Gina did not have a stop button.

The babies were still yelling and Regina was leaning down to pick up the tray and all the spilled cookies, when the doorbell rang.

Regina ran for the door and peeped through the window shade.

“Lucy!”

Regina flung the door open and hugged her radiant pregnant friend before allowing her to waddle across the threshold.

“Chocolate chip! My favorite!”

“Join the club.”

Lucy plucked a cookie off the tray. “What’s all the ruckus?”

“Thank goodness, you’re here. I’m pretty overwhelmed. Watch Gina while I change the babies.”

Lucy ran a hand through her short, spiky red hair. “There was an accident on Lamar. The traffic was horrible.”

Gina smiled coyly at Lucy from her corner.

“What have you got there, Princess?”

Tina opened her mouth, displaying her tongue and chewedup cookie.

“Are you a princess today?”

“Cinderella.”

“My favorite fairy tale. Do you want me to read it to you?”

“I can read it myself.”

Ten minutes later, each woman had a baby guzzling a bottle in her lap while Gina sat on the floor at their feet with her dolls and books, waiting to be read a story.

“I can’t wait for mine to be born,” Lucy said. “Babies are so sweet.”

“But trouble. Lots of trouble.”

“They’re worth it.” Lucy petted Dino’s dark head. “Aren’t you a cutie-pie?”

Now that the children were temporarily under control, Regina remembered Nico’s aborted call and wondered if he was okay. She’d bought all the tabloids that had stories about his romance with Viola. Prince and princess: they sounded perfect for each other.

Why had he called her?

Don’t think about him.

I can’t help it.

Yes, you can. You can do anything you want to do.

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