There she was. About damn time.
“Hi,” Talia said, materializing out of nowhere. “What’d I miss?”
Reaching out an arm, Tony gripped the wide curve of her hip, scooped her away from the jostling crowd and nestled her up against his side. He’d developed the habit of always wanting her around so they could confer about breaking events at any given time. It was as though nothing ever really got started, or could be fully enjoyed, until Talia was there with him.
He kissed her temple. “Only these two driving the babysitter crazy.”
Arianna, still listening to the phone, spied Talia, smiled and waved like a maniac.
Talia grinned back. “It’s the new-parent thing, I suppose.”
“Yeah, well, wait’ll you see Apollonia,” he told her. “She’s beautiful. She’s got this little Mohawk thing going on with her hair. And she’s laughing now. If you give her a raspberry on her cheek—she’s got these huge chipmunk cheeks—she’ll go crazy.”
Wow. Was that him, gushing about a baby like that?
“Oh, she sounds adorable.”
Tony kissed her temple again, enjoying the feel of her. In what he considered a major coup, he’d convinced her not to wear a wig tonight and embrace her natural hair, which was growing into lush curls that he loved to finger. She’d worn this sexy-ass dress that was stretchy and purple, with long sleeves and a high neck in front. But in back—whoa. In some amazing feat of modern engineering, there was pretty much nothing, which meant that her toned back was bare all the way down to the twin dimples above her butt.
He couldn’t wait to get her home, to say the very least.
And the engagement ring in his breast pocket—a blazing emerald, because a woman like Talia, who was all about color, needed something more interesting than a diamond—was weighing pretty heavy right now. Tonight was the night. Perfect, right? She was the woman of the hour, with all of New York here to appreciate the brilliance of her mural, and such a special night required a very special ending.
Yeah, he couldn’t wait.
“How do you feel about children?” he murmured in her ear.
She stiffened a little, her smile fading even as she gave the answer he’d hoped to hear. “I love them.”
There it was again. The uneasy vibe he’d been getting from her all evening hit him again, and that shadow streaked across her eyes. Something was definitely up, and it worried him. He’d have to get to the bottom—
“Sorry about that,” Arianna announced, hanging up at last and extending a hand to Talia. “I’m Arianna. I’m so thrilled to meet you. Tony’s told me all about—”
Uh-oh. No telling where that could go.
“Yeah, okay, moving on,” Tony interjected. “This is Arianna’s husband, Joshua.”
Joshua shook Talia’s hand, his eyes bright with subtle masculine appreciation behind his glasses. “How’re you doing?”
“It’s great to meet you both,” Talia told them. “I hear Apollonia’s a real looker.”
“She’s perfect,” Arianna gushed with a new mother’s pride. “Well, not perfect, actually, because she hasn’t burped or pooped yet. So we’re, you know, going to have to leave.”
Tony’s bottom jaw hit the polished floor. What the hell had happened to his sister, who imparted this information with so much gravity you’d think the kid had been diagnosed with a raging case of tuberculosis? “Leave? Are you kidding me? The party’s just getting started. I think the babysitter can handle—”
“Well, apparently she can’t, man.” Joshua tossed back the rest of his drink and clinked the empty glass on the tray of a passing server. “Because if she could, Apollonia would have taken care of her business by now. It was nice meeting you, though,” he told Talia. “Enjoy the party. The mural’s, ah, colorful.”
That made Talia grin. “It’s called Sol Resurrection, by the way. The sun is being reborn.”
They all turned to stare at the mural, which was glorious. The best work of Talia’s Tony had ever seen, no question, and the perfect antidote to the heartbreaking paintings of her dark period. It was as though she’d taken all the exuberance and light of her personality and distilled it into her slashes and swirls, creating something breathtaking. Tony loved it. But of course, he loved her.