Page 66 of The Amalfi Bride

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.

I don’t know his name. He hasn’t even spoken to me and I want to make love to him like an animal.

Still, she knew his voice was low and deep and thick with amusement, because she’d heard him talking to the girls at the table next to his earlier.

In her real life across the Atlantic Ocean, she would have wanted to know where Adonis had gone to school, what were his life plans, who was his family. But this half-naked girl with the gardenia in her hair felt more than thought.

She was beginning to become a little scared. It was as if vital pieces of her being were rushing toward him and he was claiming all as his due. The hunger to be in his arms, to kiss him, to taste him, to know passion, real passion, maybe for the first time in her life, kept intensifying.

So, if he were a G-word guy, did that mean he could be hers…for a night? If she was willing to meet his price? Or did he just service a privileged few?

Blood rushed from her head.

But what about those eight precious vials of E-321’s you-know-what stored at the sperm bank? What about E-321’s picture and profile taped to her fridge? What about Lucy—brilliant, well-meaning Lucy—and their plan to raise their children together as siblings?

A sexy stranger was not for a health nut and control freak like Regina, either! She might catch something.

No. Something told her she wouldn’t.

Maybe she’d gone without sex for too long. Maybe it was the voluptuous, naked statues dotting the landscape and decorating the palazzos all over Italy that had her hormones hot to conceive the old-fashioned way.

Regina believed sex was for committed relationships and marriage. Period.

What about for procreation? whispered the hormones. You’re thirty-three and single and nearly too old.

You should be married, whispered another voice. All her life, Regina had been known for her brains, her old-fashioned morals, her perfectionism, her goal-setting abilities, and her quick decisions. What if she let herself go just this once?

Her lips parted. She nudged her skirt above her knee and waited for life to happen. How exactly did one go about hiring a gigolo anyway—if he was a gigolo?

Was there some secret signal? Should she lift her skirt even higher? Or maybe lower her lashes and wink seductively? Or should she walk over to the bar, open her purse and show him the money? Or should she just sit here and wait for him to make the move, whatever that was?

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