“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.
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.