Page 69 of The Amalfi Bride

Surely, heaven couldn’t best Ravello. The jewel-like, medieval village seemed to hang suspended from its mountainside over the AmalfiCoast. The views from Regina’s hotel, formerly a fourteenth-century palazzo with crumbling, vine-covered walls and Moorish arches, were breathtaking even now when the shadows were lengthening.

Flowers perfumed the balmy sea breezes. The bees were gone, and the church bells were ringing. Cliffs and villas alike seemed to tumble to a dark, turquoise sea.

Not that she was all that interested in the white yachts or Simonetta or the sparkling water or even the palazzos. She was too consumed with excitement and fear.

“Pick up, Lucy,” she whispered, tapping a bare foot with impatience on the sun-warmed stones. She could hardly stand feeling so alone and uncertain.

“Pick up!”

Pacing while she waited, she spotted Nico four floors beneath her. He was also striding back and forth on a terrace near the aqua pool, looking just as impatient and upset as she felt.

Did he want to be with her, or did he hate his work and dread the time he’d be spending with her? Or was it his conversation that had him on edge?

She wished his phone hadn’t rung. She wished he’d look up and wave reassuringly, but his dark head was bent over the phone, and he seemed so absorbed she wondered if he’d forgotten her existence.

His cell phone had buzzed just after he’d ordered champagne, strawberries and an assortment of cheeses, and had suggested they get into the hotel’s white, fluffy bathrobes and enjoy a drink on her balcony. When he’d recognized the caller’s name in the little blue window on his phone, he’d frowned. Then he’d cupped Regina’s chin, kissed her on the forehead, and apologized because the call was too important to ignore. He’d answered the phone with a smile and endearments in Italian and had excused himself, which had made Regina curious about the caller’s identity, and a little jealous.

Was it a woman? A client? Whoever it was, the call was very important to him.

Just as Regina was worrying that her attraction to Nico might be heading toward an obsession—something she’d never experienced before in her orderly, controlled life—Lucy finally answered, her voice breathless.

“Hi!”

Lucy was pregnant by the sperm donor who she and her partner Beth had agreed was a perfect fit for them. They had pictures of him and his children, future half siblings to their own much-wanted child, posted all over their apartment.

“You’ll never believe where I am,” Regina began.

She went to the closet, pulled out the painting of the little boy playing in the sand, then returned with it to her balcony.

“Italy!” Lucy answered.

“I mean—” Regina stared down at Nico again “—where in Italy? And you’ll never guess what I’m doing….”

The little boy’s painted hair shone like black satin, exactly as Nico’s did.

“You probably just got through jogging and are about to treat yourself to some tomatoes and fat-free mozzarella while you make long lists of must-see tourist attractions for tomorrow.”

“Ravello! Which is the best place ever. I don’t think anybody has ever heard of fat-free cheese over here, either. Are you familiar with MaxfieldParrish’s paintings?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Ravello is like those paintings.” Regina lowered her voice. “I’ve met a man.”

“Those are the four most dangerous words any other woman could say…especially if he’s an Italian. But then you’re you, so he’s probably smart, ambitious…”

“He’s not! But don’t worry, this isn’t serious. He’s absolutely gorgeous, the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen. But…”

“But what? With you, when it comes to your men, there always has to be a but.”

For a long moment, Regina hesitated. She almost regretted calling Lucy.

“But? I’m waiting!”

“I—I think he might be a gigolo.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

Regina remained silent.

“That is such a cliché. And not a good one. Not for you! You’ve got to come home now! You’ve definitely been over there too long. You were supposed to relax, enjoy good food, art, pretty scenery, visit your grandmother in Tuscany….”

“I think the art may be part of the problem. The sculptures here are so erotic.”

“Pay him and then drive straight to the airport,” Lucy ordered.

“But he’s so hot. I feel like I’m burning up.”

“Did he slip something in your drink?”

“No!”

“Don’t do it! This is all because Bobby said you were uptight and frigid and because you were pushing yourself at work way too hard. You don’t have to prove you’re a hottie in disguise. You don’t! Now you know you called me because you wanted to hear the voice of reason.”

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