But Luca knew it was not okay. It was not enough. She deserved to be happy, but he had taken that chance away from her. And now it was up to him to make things right.
Luca slowly came to his feet. “I have a proposition for you.”
Her entire body jerked at his words.
“If you truly want me to stop bothering you, then I need you to agree to something.” Taking a deep breath, he said, “I want you to come back to live in our house.”
She shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
“I want you to live there until you’re…okay again—-”
“Luca, I don’t think it’s possible—-”
He cut her off again, saying, “You don’t have to worry. I’ll be moving out, and it will just be you and Eula.”
She paled. “What are you saying?”
The eyes that met hers were devoid of emotion, and so was Luca’s tone when he said, “You deserve to know happiness again, Vivi. I know I can no longer give you that, but my daughter can. Because you miss her, do you not? You love her, and you know she loves you like you are her own mother.”
She could barely wrap her head around what he was suggesting, knowing how much his daughter meant to him. “Why are you doing this?” she asked brokenly. “Eula’s everything to you—-”
“She is. I love her with everything in me—-” His gaze met hers. “And it is the same way that I love you.”
Breathing deeply, he said in a tightly controlled voice, “If you agree to that, I’ll have papers drawn up and you will never see me again.” Shoving his hands deep into his pockets to control the urge to reach for her one last time, he continued, “And you must not worry about how this will affect my relationship with my daughter.” His lips twisting, he said, “Rest assured you are not the only clever one here. I would never have suggested this if I thought it could adversely impact my daughter in any way. But I know Eula, and Eula knows me. She will never think I abandoned her, and I will make sure that she understands this is not a permanent arrangement.”
She whispered shakily, “You don’t have to do this.”
He shook his head. “You’re wrong, Vivi.” His voice was painfully gentle. “I have to do this, and there is nothing else except this. I love you, always remember that even if you can never believe me. I love you, and I will do everything to make you happy again.”
They stared at each other.
And he wanted to beg her one last time, Take me back.
But he couldn’t.
“That’s it, I suppose,” he said roughly. “I wish you a happy life, Vivi. You deserve nothing else.” And then he swung away before he made things awkward for her again by succumbing to the urge to grovel at her feet.
She watched him walk away, both her mind and heart too battered to make immediate sense of everything. Even now, a part of her couldn’t believe in him, couldn’t make herself risk getting hurt again by believing in his words.
But then she thought about what he was giving up—-
Eula was everything to Luca, the one person that he would risk everything for, even to the point of hiring a wife that he believed Eula would need.
He was giving his daughter up for Vivian.
“Wait,” she whispered. A part of her expected him to punish her the same way she had ignored him calling out to her that last time. Even as she started to cry and hope and despair warred inside of her, she was half-expecting him to keep walking away from her, even just to teach her a lesson.
But he did none of those.
When he turned towards her, she couldn’t help crying harder, because he did so with such a lack of grace that it was just not like Luca Valencia at all. And when she heard him say hoarsely, “What is it, cara?” she could no longer stop crying.
But this time they were tears of joy.
Because looking at him, seeing the pain he had tried his best to hide from her so that she wouldn’t feel guilty—-
It freed her.
And to love him again.
Luca came to stand in front of her. “What is it, Vivi?” His own voice was rough with emotion.
She reached up for his face with both hands. “I love you.” He jerked, and she laughed and cried even as she drew his head down. “I love you s-so much.” And this time, she whispered it against his lips, just before his mouth suddenly pressed hard on hers and his arms wrapped around her body.
A powerful shudder racked his body as she kissed him back, and his arms tightened around her.
Pulling away, he stared into her eyes so that this time she would know that his words came without any strings attached and that everything he had to offer was hers.