She’d never imagined she would see him again.
“You,” he said, almost wonderingly. “New York.”
And part of her was warming, in instant response to the way his mouth curved in one corner. As if Pia was a good memory, as he had been for her. At least at first.
Before the morning sickness had sent her to the doctor to discuss the flu she couldn’t kick.
But Pia couldn’t indulge in memories, good or bad, because she was standing next to her brother. And he was focusing that dark scowl of his on the man still holding Pia’s hand.
“New York?” Matteo asked. Demanded, more like. “Did you say you know my sister from New York?”
But the man, still smiling slightly, seemed unaware of the danger he was in. “I met your sister in Manhattan some months ago,” he said, amiably enough. He smiled at Pia. “Do you go there often?”
“Miss Combe, my younger sister, has been there once,” Matteo growled. “And guess what? She picked up a souvenir.”
“I beg your pardon?”
The man frowned. But in that way very important men did, as if inviting everyone around them to apologize for opportuning them.
“My sister is six months pregnant,” Matteo bit out.
Pia had the sense that she was in some kind of slow-motion car accident. The sort she’d seen in movies a thousand times. She could almost hear the scraping of the metal, the screech of the tires. Yet everything before her seemed to move in tiny, sticky increments. She watched her brother ball up his fists and step closer to the man. The man—who had told her his name was Eric, though she doubted that was real—did not back up.
And they both turned and stared at Pia as if she was some kind of roadside curiosity.
“If your sister is or isn’t pregnant, that is no concern of mine,” the man said.
Far less amiably.
Just in case Pia had wondered if it was possible to feel worse about all of this. Look at that! It was. She rubbed at her chest as if that could make her heart stop pounding the way it was. Or at least, ache less.
“Pia,” Matteo said, dark and furious. “Is this the man?”
“Have you forgotten where we are?” she managed to ask, though she was barely able to breathe.
“It’s a simple question,” her brother bit off.
“Once again, the state of your sister’s womb has nothing to do with me,” the man said.
And he wasn’t just a man.
If Pia had been going to throw away a lifetime of doing the right thing and making the correct choice over any old man, she would have done it years ago. This man was beautiful. Those gorgeous eyes and silky dark hair, a jawline to inspire the unwary into song and poetry, and shoulders to make a girl cry. This man had walked into the party where Pia had already been feeling awkward and out of place, and it was as if a light shone upon him. It was as if his bones were like other people’s, but sat in him differently. Making him languid. Easy.
His smile had been all of that, plus heat, when he’d aimed it at her, there beneath some modern art installation that looked to Pia’s eye like an exclamation point. In bronze.
But best of all, this man hadn’t had any idea who she was.
She could always tell. It was the way they said her name. It was a certain gleam in their eyes. But he’d had none of it.
He’d liked her. Just her.
She’d planned to hold on to that. She’d wanted to hold on to that. But it seemed that would be one more thing she didn’t get to have.
“Thank you so much for asking about my private life, Matteo,” she said to her brother now. In a decent impression of her mother’s iciest tone, which came more naturally than she’d expected. “But as a matter of fact, I have only ever had sex with one person.”
Then she looked at the man before her, and her memories wouldn’t do her any good, so she cast them aside. No matter how beautiful he was. “And I regret to inform you, but that one person was you.”
But that didn’t have the effect she expected it to have.
Because all the beautiful man before her did was laugh.
At her, if she wasn’t mistaken.
“Like hell,” he said.
And that was when Matteo punched him.
Right in the face.
ONE MOMENT ARES was standing straight up, looking one of his past indulgences in the face.
He’d laughed, of course. What could he do but laugh?
Because the truth was, Ares hadn’t forgotten her. He hadn’t forgotten the way her gray eyes had lit up when she’d looked at him. He hadn’t forgotten her smile, shy and delighted in turn. And he certainly hadn’t forgotten her taste.