Page 70 of The Amalfi Bride

No, Regina had called Lucy because she’d wanted to share something that felt important.

“I think I’ve been having doubts about E-321. I think Italy has made insemination just seem way too impersonal. I’m not you, you know. I can…be with a man.”

“We talked about this, girlfriend. E-321 has gone through numerous screenings…. Use a condom with this Italian fellow if you don’t come to your senses! What do you know about him except he’s hot and that he charges gullible women like you a bundle for the pleasure of his body? I would think there would be plenty of free, horny Italians over there.”

“Not like him.”

Even three stories below her, Nico’s tall, dark figure in jeans and a white shirt radiated power, assurance and masculinity. And something more.

When he looked up and smiled warmly, her breath caught in her throat.

She waved, as thrilled as a high-school girl with her first crush.

“I—I feel this weird, totally powerful connection to him.”

“And you haven’t even had your first orgasm! Not good. Run for your life! This is not a good thing.”

“But it feels like a good thing.”

“This is very, very bad.”

Regina’s cell phone began to beep. She saw Susana’s name. Her flaky baby sister, who didn’t have a digital gene in her body, never called her.

The name Susana flashed in bold blue.

“Oh, my God! Today’s the day the twins are being christened. Susana’s calling me! She’s actually calling me—in Italy! I’ve gotta go! I totally forgot to call Susana!”

“One word! Airplane!”

“I’ll call you right back.”

“That sounds like a plan!”

Regina punched a button and took Susana’s call. There was a loud wail on Susana’s end, which meant either Regina’s niece, Gina, who’d been named after her, or one of her twin nephews was unhappy.

“Hi, there,” Regina said, feeling guilty. “How was the christening?”

“It’s you! It’s really you! Gina, she answered! I can’t believe I really got you…on my fourth try even! All the way to Italy. Not that you know where that is, Gina, sweetie!”

“How’s the christening going?”

“Everybody’s here…except you.”

Regina’s guilt deepened.

“We’re all out in the backyard. It’s so hot. But you know Daddy. He had to grill. Mama’s hovering to make sure he doesn’t burn the steaks like he did last time. She keeps saying maybe you’ll meet a man in Italy. She’s still upset that you dumped Bobby. She hasn’t given up on you meeting an Italian even though we all know that’s not why you went. Don’t tell her I told you, but she made me call you. She even dialed. She wants to know if the love bug has bitten.”

Regina stared down at the extraordinarily good-looking man on the terrace and then swallowed. “Right.”

“It has?”

“No!”

“She’ll be so disappointed. She was sure Italy would do the trick.”

Regina swallowed, her throat feeling extremely dry all of a sudden.

“Gosh, I miss you,” Susana said. “Gina asks about you every single day. When are you coming home?”

“Three days.”

“Gina’s crying her head off. She wants you here. We all do. Especially since Daddy just said the most awful thing to her.”

“What did he say?”

“I don’t know what gets into him. I quote, ‘Now that we’ve got two new cute baby boys, we don’t need you anymore.’”

Oh! “He didn’t! Not again!”

“Again?”

“Nothing.”

Nothing…only…

Time whirled backward. Instantly, Regina was transported to the day when a darling, bald Susana had been brought home from the hospital in a flurry of parental excitement. Flushed with pride at being a big sister at last, three-year-old Regina had run to the baby carrier.

Her father had knelt, and she’d climbed into his lap and had thrown her arms around him.

They say you don’t remember things when you’re three, but they’re wrong. His words had been like poisoned darts wounding her soul.

Now that I’ve got a new, cute daughter, I don’t need you anymore.

Regina had backed away from him, and he’d picked up Susana.

“Why don’t we sing ‘Rock-a-bye Baby’?”

Regina had raced to her own room and had hidden in her closet. Ever since, she’d been jealous of her sister and had doubted her father’s love. Instead of abating with maturity, her dark feelings had grown more intense since Susana had married Joe and had given birth to her precious trio.

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