He was right, there was no one there. He must employ incredibly diligent and discreet staff—because while she and he had slept, they’d worked hard to create a sheltered lounge area on the deck that had silk walls and sofas surrounding a sensual plunge pool. Silver platters were scattered on the low table, laden with freshly prepared treats. It was private and beautiful and safe. She wrapped herself in the robe he’d handed her and curled on the plush cushions. She bit into a strawberry, relishing the burst of flavour.
‘Do you often come away on this boat?’ she asked, watching in amusement—and unashamed appreciation—as he slipped into the warm splash pool.
‘Not as often as I’d like,’ he admitted, sweeping his wet hair from his brow and looking too sexy for comfort. ‘I usually bring work with me.’ He angled his head and eyed her wickedly. ‘I guess I brought manual labour with me this time.’
‘Manual?’ She arched her brows.
He held up his hands, then wiggled his fingers. ‘Hours and hours of hard, physical labour.’ He sighed theatrically. ‘Except you slept away so many hours...’
‘I woke once or twice,’ she informed him primly. ‘And found you fast asleep beside me.’ He’d been utterly gorgeous too—handsome and relaxed and not at all reserved. ‘Admit it,’ she dared him. ‘It wasn’t so bad.’
‘I think we both feel better for it.’ He rubbed his jaw with a grin.
She certainly felt better. She couldn’t stop smiling. The more she was with him, the less she could believe this was real. That quiet, reserved, emotionally distant Prince Antonio was warm and funny and kind when relaxed. When alone with her and away from the rest of the world he was charming and witty. And so gloriously sensual.
It was better than any fantasy. She just had to remember it wasn’t for ever.
He’d fallen silent. She realised he was studying her as much as she was studying him but that the laughter in his eyes had faded, replaced by a frown.
‘What’s wrong?’ she asked before thinking better of it.
A shadow flickered in his eyes before he spoke. ‘It’s weird not to be working.’
She felt certain that wasn’t what he’d been thinking, but she didn’t challenge him on it. ‘You’re allowed a break. That’s what you told me, remember?’
‘You know what it is like to devote your life to your career. It would feel strange to miss a day of training for you, right? It’s a calling more than a career.’
‘I chose mine. You were born to yours.’
‘It’s in the blood, I guess.’ He reached out to take her foot, rubbing her scarred skin. ‘When did you choose ballet?’
‘I got my first personal trainer just before I turned two. And a ballet coach.’
His hands stopped the delicious massage. ‘A personal trainer when you were two?’
She chuckled at his outraged expression. ‘I was my mother’s cute accessory that she toted around until I grew too big for her to carry.’ She’d been the pretty little girl. Until she started to attract comment that she was more attractive than her mother. ‘I won a scholarship to study at a dance academy in England when I was ten and eventually she let me go. I loved it. There were no boyfriends, no cameras, no scandal. I could just get on with doing the thing I loved.’
‘But you were away from your mother?’
‘That wasn’t a problem,’ she said wryly. Keeping her mother’s secrets had been a burden she’d been too young for. And she hadn’t liked the vulnerability she’d felt as a teenager with those men around.
He hoisted himself out of the water to sit on the deck and reached for a towel. ‘So you weren’t close.’
‘It was complicated.’ Bella frowned. ‘I loved her very much, but she had a lot going on in her life.’
‘By a lot going on, you mean a lot of men.’
‘Yes.’ Bella refused to deny it. ‘She spent a large part of her life looking for love and she never found it.’
She’d been used and had used lovers herself.
‘Are you looking for love?’ Antonio asked.