Cristiano looked surprised. ‘Are you telling me you don’t like parties?’

‘I’m getting weary of them,’ Laurel admitted. ‘Tiring of being “on” all the time, getting dressed up, and the hair and make-up and the posing…’ She sighed. ‘I just want a return to some kind of normality. To be able to relax and be myself.’ With you. Admitting that might be a step too far.

Cristiano slid his hand from her foot to her calf, trailing his fingers along her skin meaningfully. ‘I can think of a way to relax.’

‘I’m sure you can.’ Laurel’s breath hitched as he smoothed his hand from her knee to her hip. Over a week and she still hadn’t tired of his touch, not remotely. A single fingertip trailed along her skin and, yes, she still melted. Just like butter.

‘Perhaps we could go somewhere quieter,’ Cristiano said, his hand sliding up and down her leg. ‘Somewhere…relaxing.’

‘You know,’ Laurel murmured, watching his hand move up and down, ‘you can make anything sound like an innuendo.’

‘It’s a gift.’

‘It must be.’

The limo pulled up in front of their hotel and Cristiano helped her out. Laurel’s body tingled with anticipation. Every night this week they’d left a party and gone to Cristiano’s private suite. Every night he’d taken her in his arms, taken her to bed, and she still felt the fizz of excitement, the sizzle of desire.

They rode the lift in silence, and then when the doors opened Cristiano turned to her, as he always did. His teeth gleamed in the darkness.

‘Come here,’ he whispered, and Laurel came willingly. Eagerly.

* * *

She woke up the next morning tangled in navy satin sheets, sunlight spilling through the floor-to-ceiling windows, a sleepy smile on her face. Cristiano was gone, but he usually rose early to work on his laptop, then woke her up by bringing her coffee and croissants. More than once they’d made love amongst the crumbs.

Now he appeared in the doorway, freshly showered and shaven, wearing a pair of charcoal trousers and an open-necked button-down shirt in deep blue. As always, he possessed the power to steal her breath.

‘Good morning.’ He handed her a steaming mug of coffee which Laurel accepted gratefully. ‘I thought we’d do something different today.’

‘Oh?’ She took a sip, her eyebrows raised in expectation.

Cristiano braced one shoulder against the doorframe. ‘You said you were tired of the social whirl, and I think we could both use a break.’ He paused, his gaze resting thoughtfully on her. ‘So I thought we could go to Capri.’

‘Capri?’

‘Yes, the island in the Bay of Naples—do you know it?’

‘I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never been there.’

‘It’s a lovely place. We can take a short flight to Naples and then a ferry to the island.’ He paused, and Laurel tensed, for she could tell there was something more he was going to say. Something important. ‘It’s where my father lives.’

Her eyes widened as realisation shot through her. ‘Your father…? You mean we’re going to—to visit him?’ She could hardly believe it. Cristiano rarely talked about his father, and when he did it was with reluctance, and perhaps even disdain. Their relationship hadn’t been close ten years ago, and it didn’t appear to be any closer now.

And yet…

‘Yes, I thought you might like to see him.’ Cristiano took a sip of coffee, his gaze on the windows and the view of the city stretched out before them. ‘Since you seemed close to him all those years ago.’

‘I was.’ She swallowed, nerves fluttering in her middle. ‘But I don’t actually know if he’d like to see me.’ Lorenzo had sent her and Elizabeth away without so much as a backward glance. Even now, the memory had the power to sting and wound.

‘I’ve already called him,’ Cristiano answered, moving his gaze back to her. ‘And he does.’

* * *

Cristiano watched as Laurel’s lips parted and tears filled her eyes. ‘Oh…he does?’ She sniffed. ‘That’s… Well, that’s wonderful. Thank you, Cristiano.’

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