He drew her fingers to his lips and kissed them.
‘Sleep on it, cara.’
RAFFA SCRAPED BACK his chair and went out onto the terrace, filling his lungs with the fresh clean air and gazing up at the inky black sky that he desperately hoped would give him some perspective on what had just happened.
He took the steps two at a time and struck off along the path, the dogs at his heel. The moon was huge and bare of clouds, and the path to the bay was etched out for him as clearly as it was in his memory.
He reached the rocks and vaulted them easily, trotting onto the sand. The tide was out and he jogged onto hard-packed sand, feeling the tension slip away as each passing wave rolled up to his trousers and shoes, soaking them.
How could he have called it so badly wrong? He’d been so sure that this was the right way. The only way. Was she really so against it? Or was it just her way always to be so damned difficult? Didn’t she know that asking her to marry him was the biggest thing he had ever done in his life? It was the ultimate decision and he had chosen her. Out of all those women who had flung themselves at him over the years, she was the one.
The look on her face had been one of horror, not joy, and that hurt him. It did. She was the mother of his child. All that talk of being an independent single mother… There was no need for that. They should be together, for God’s sake. He had already known the baby was his, but hearing the results had cemented his resolve to do the very best for them all. He would not permit anything to go wrong.
He had fully expected that as the baby’s mother she would want to be with him too. She had to feel their chemistry the same way he did. It bubbled under the surface of every exchange they had. They were explosive together. He ached for her. He’d pleasured himself thinking about her all those weeks when he’d tried to forget her. Her. Only her.
Damn, but this was an impossible situation!
She couldn’t really think there was going to be another way, could she? That he would get the test results then fire up the jet and drop her back in London to take orders for tea and coffee? And, when the bambino was born, did she really think that he would agree to have contact every other weekend? While she lived God knew where and did God knew what. With God knew whom…
Their son was heir to a global business—Romano Publishing. He had to learn about his world from birth, from his father. He had to know about his family and his responsibilities. He had to have everything he would need to grow up happy and healthy. And safe.
How could he look after his son if he wasn’t fully part of his world? It was insane. It was not going to happen. He would have to make her see sense, one way or another.
He turned around to face the house. Lamps had been dimmed along its length, leaving only the kitchen and his suite lit. He stood as the sea rolled in its might behind his back, watching. Finally all the lights were extinguished and the house was in darkness.
Everything was as it should be.
Coral was where she should be.
He hadn’t imagined for a moment that she would reject him, but he should have realised that a woman like her wasn’t going to roll over. She’d proved that spectacularly enough already. He was going to have to be much more careful or she might reject him outright. And that was a situation he was not prepared to endure for a single moment.
He checked his phone. Twelve-thirty. He had a satellite meeting with his west coast team in half an hour, and briefings scheduled with the Argento office in Shanghai. Then he would catch some sleep for an hour or two.
After that he’d figure out his next move with Coral…
* * *
By the time he was finished working, daylight’s grey-blue tones were spreading all through the house. The staff were already busy going about their tasks. The world was slowly waking up to a typical Adriatic December day. He hadn’t slept, he needed coffee, and he hadn’t cleared his head. Salvatore would be landing in a few hours and that situation was going to take a lot of skill to manage.
He opened the dining room door, bleary-eyed, looking for the coffee pot and at least a half-hour of solitary meditation. He needed this time every day—watching the sun rise and the birds wake up, the tide’s ebb and flow. No matter where he was in the world, he needed this time. It stilled his mind, gave him perspective. He’d always treasured these moments alone even as a child—before Salvatore woke up and started needling him.
But there, sitting at the head of the table, framed by the gauzy seascape, sat Coral.
She dabbed her mouth with a napkin and set it down on the table. ‘Good morning. Sleep well?’
He frowned and walked towards the coffee pot. ‘Fine, thanks. And you?’