“That I would cheat on you?” he said incredulously. He came closer, his face blazing with emotion as he reached out to cup my cheek. “From the moment we met, you’ve been the only woman I wanted. Even for the year we were apart—there was no one else for me. No one.”
“But...when I told you I loved you...”
He gave a low, humorless laugh. He shook his head. “You really don’t understand, do you? When I promised myself I’d never marry or have a child, I made sure I would keep that promise by only allowing myself to date women like Claudie...cold, sophisticated, heartless women I’d never be tempted to love. You were different. You were the woman I could not resist,” he said softly. “You made me break every promise I’d made to myself. I wanted to tell you everything. Where you were concerned, I had no self-control.”
I stared up at him, my lips parted.
“When I heard you were pregnant with my child, I was desperate to find you. But once I did, and we were wed, I suddenly knew I’d never be able to tell you the truth. At first, because I was afraid you’d use the information to blackmail me, and try to take my son away. Then because I owed it to Miguel. You were so proud our son would someday be a duke....”
“I never cared about that!” I said fiercely. “All I care about is you. And Miguel...” I looked up at him with an intake of breath. “Your real name is Miguel.”
He gave me a wicked grin. “You can see why I didn’t mind our son’s name.”
My knees shook, because my world was spinning. “But after we were married—surely then you knew you could trust me?”
“You have such an honest heart.” He sobered. “I didn’t want you to have the burden.”
“Burden? Are you kidding?” I gave a laugh that was giddy, almost hysterical. “If you knew what I’d imagined...”
“It’s worse than you think.” His face had turned deadly serious. “My grandmother and I both broke laws with our lies. We could be charged with fraud and possibly sent to prison. For myself, I would have been willing to take the risk, to tell you the truth. But Maurine...” He looked down. “I was afraid to take the risk, for her sake. The idea of her in jail...”
A sudden noise down the quiet street, perhaps a cat knocking over a trash can in a nearby alley, caused us both to jump. I looked at him.
“You can trust me. No one will ever know.” I swallowed and whispered. “Did you really mean what you said in the tavern?”
“That you—” I blushed a little “—actually—love me?”
His eyes went wide. Then, with a low laugh, he pulled me in his arms.
“Oh, querida. I have loved you from almost the first moment we met. Your sweetness, your nobility, your honesty.”
“I was so afraid.... I believed all the wrong things....”
Alejandro wrapped his hands around mine. “And now you hold my heart, my life, in your hands,” he said quietly. “You have the power to take Miguel from me, to go back to Mexico, to walk away.” He lifted his dark gaze to mine in the moonlight. “You own me completely. What will you do?”
“What will I do?” I whispered, tears in my eyes. Putting my arms around him, I pulled him close and pressed my forehead against his heart. “I will love you, Alejandro. Forever.”
WE ROSE FOR a late breakfast the next morning, after a night in our hotel room with much giggling and even more lovemaking. As eager as I was to see our baby after a whole night away from him, I was also lingering, enjoying every last moment of this brief, perfect honeymoon.
No one would ever be able to part us again.
“I think,” Alejandro said thoughtfully as we left the hotel, “that was the best honeymoon I’ve ever had.”
“Best and only,” I said.
“No, surely not only. Our marriage will be nothing but one long honeymoon,” he said huskily, then to prove it, he kissed me. The kiss soon became so intense and deep that Alejandro muttered something about renting the room for another night, and started to pull me back toward the hotel.