Page 52 of The Amalfi Bride

“Doesn’t it bother you at all that you’ll break their hearts?”

“I don’t intend to break anybody’s heart. That’s your specialty.”

“I don’t want to break anybody’s heart,” she whispered.

To that he said nothing.

“You didn’t have to be so nice to them, you know. Especially so nice to the children.”

“Was that so bad? Do you really think everything I do is to hurt you?”

“After tonight, they’ll never understand how awful you are. They’ll always be on your side.”

“Stop being a lawyer. What if there aren’t any sides?”

“There are always sides.”

“No. Not always. Two people can become one.”

“Not us,” she whispered.

As though he were very tired, he leaned back and shut his eyes, seemingly weary of fighting her.

Was he right? Did there always have to be sides? Could two people as different as they were, two families as different as theirs were, live in harmony for the rest of their lives?

She remembered the golden, hazy perfection of Ravello. The pink sunsets, the sea breezes.

What if they could? What if…

When she glanced at him and saw the blue-black highlights gleaming in the lock of hair that fell over his brow, she felt a dangerous softening in her heart.

Chiseled profile, olive skin, black hair, sensual lips. Did he have to be so incredibly handsome? To act so nice, at least, when he wasn’t furious? She marveled at his patience, reading Cinderella to Gina three times.

Suddenly, Regina wondered where he was staying tonight. The intoxicating memory of him standing naked and as glorious as a well-endowed god or Michelangelo’s David in her hotel room came back to her.

When the limousine stopped, he let her out and walked her to her front porch. Without a word, he took her key and deftly unlocked her door. She crossed her threshold and then stopped without inviting him in. She was surprised and disappointed when he didn’t assume he had the right to follow her inside. Hesitating, she flipped on the light in her foyer and noted the deep shadows under his eyes.

“You look tired,” she said, her voice gentle.

“I am. A little.”

“Do you want to—” she nodded shyly “—come in?”

He stepped inside and shut the door, and then they both stood there, aware of each other and yet unsure of each other, as well.

Suddenly, she realized how much she wanted to be alone with him, had wanted it all night during the long, drawn-out dinner. Only she hadn’t wanted to admit it. And now that she had him all to herself, she didn’t know what to do or say. Or even what to think.

What if she simply slipped out of her dress and ran naked into his arms?

Her hand went to the zipper at the back of her dress. Watching her and perhaps reading her intent, he turned on his heel and strode into the kitchen. Cabinet doors banged open and closed until he found her liquor supply. Quickly, he poured himself a double shot of Scotch.

With an acute ache in her heart, she watched him go to her living room and sink into the soft cushions of her deep couch, his dark head falling backward across the navy cushions. His shoulders slumped as he stretched out his long legs and tore his tie loose. She turned a light off. But not before she saw the lines and the gray shadows beneath his eyes again.

He’d flown all the way from Rome. He was probably jetlagged and utterly exhausted from dealing with her.

“You could sleep here if you wanted,” she offered. “I have a spare bedroom. Two, in fact.”

His brows lifted in wary surprise. For a long, unnerving moment it seemed to Regina that the word bedroom hung heavily in the air.

She didn’t know what else she could say or do, so she stood motionless and silent.

“Thank you.” He drained his Scotch. “For the offer.”

Feeling awkward and yet rejected when he didn’t move or state his intentions, she fled down the hall to her own bedroom. Deliberately leaving her door unlocked, she undressed. As she slipped into her sheerest nightgown and washed her face, even as she brushed her teeth, she tried not to think about Nico sprawled on her couch in the living room.

Despite attempts to busy herself in her bathroom by straightening her towel on its towel rack and scrubbing out an immaculate soap dish, all she could think about was him.

Did he still want her? Or was theirs to be only a marriage of convenience? Every time a board creaked in the house, she would glance toward her door, hoping he’d be there.

All of a sudden, nothing mattered except that she was having his baby and he was going to marry her. If they lived together as man and wife, maybe there was still a chance.

She’d forgotten her own anger and all his harsh words and accusations and even the domineering way he’d proposed. He’d been sweet to the children and considerate of her family, considerate of her, too, at least, around them.

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