Fifteen minutes later, I heard steps approaching the door and quickly backed away. Papà opened the door and beckoned me in. “Everything okay,” he said when he saw my worried expression. I walked in. Bibi sat on the sofa, her cheeks wet with tears, while Dante and Scuderi stood near the window, talking in quiet voices. I hurried over to her and sat. She gripped my hand immediately and I squeezed. Her parents came in when Dante turned to us. “The men most likely responsible for Tommaso’s death are dead. There’s no punishment to dole out, so I rule the case closed.” I almost sagged with relief.

“Does that mean we are allowed to look for a new husband for our daughter? Recently the habit of waiting a year has been loosened,” Bibiana’s father said and was of course referring to me. That bastard. Bibiana had barely been freed from one husband they had chosen for her and they were already eager to find someone new.

Dante’s answering glower made the other man lower his head. “Bibiana is pregnant with Tommaso’s child.”

My eyes flew to Bibi who gave me a small happy smile. “I suspected a while, but I got confirmation this morning,” she whispered.

Her parents looked like they’d been punched. They could hardly marry off a pregnant widow. That would be in bad taste. Bibi met their disappointed glares head on. “I’m not going to move back in with you.”

“I give you my word that your daughter will be safe in the house she shared with Tommaso,” Dante said.

I had to hide a smile. Bibi’s parents couldn’t argue with that. After that, Dante and I drove Bibi back to her house. Although we didn’t talk about what had really happened, Bibi’s relieved expression left hardly any doubt. She tried to look solemn whenever she remembered herself, but most of the time her relief spoke too loud.

I was glad Dante knew the truth. He would have figured it out anyway. When Bibi had gotten out of the car and we were on our way home, I put my hand on his leg.

Dante’s eyes registered surprise. I usually honored his reluctance of public displays of affection. “Thank you for helping Bibi.”

“I did it for you,” he said simply. That was probably as close to a declaration of what – love? Affection? I’d ever get from him.

“Thank you.” I pulled my hand away again and rested it in my lap but Dante took me by surprise when he reached for my hand, brought it up to his face and pressed a kiss against my knuckles. My breath caught in my throat and immediately tears gathered in my eyes. Such a small gesture shouldn’t have meant so much but it did, and pregnancy hormones didn’t help. Dante didn’t let go of my hand and sent me a questioning look. “Valentina? Are you alright?”

“It’s the hormones. I’m sorry. Just ignore me.”

Dante rested our linked hands on his thigh and drove with one hand. He didn’t comment as I wiped my eyes and pressed my free hand against the small bump of my stomach.CHAPTER TWENTY-TWOIn the weeks following after Tommaso’s death, Bibiana blossomed to new life. She seemed to thrive in the solitude of her home. I wished I could handle loneliness as well. Dante was busier than ever. He wanted to make sure that the rest of his men were behind him one-hundred percent. That didn’t leave much time for me, except for the nights he woke me with caresses and kisses. Since I’d asked him to make love to me after Antonio’s death, he’d allowed more closeness during sex, had often held me in his arms, but I had a feeling he still preferred to be behind me as it allowed him to keep his distance.

I spent my days either working in the casino, or with Bibiana or Ines, who’d become a stronger presence in my life as my pregnancy progressed. Today Bibiana, Ines and I had agreed to go shopping together. Of course baby clothing was the number one item on our agenda for the day.

When we walked into our first baby store, Ines asked the question I knew she’d been dying to ask for hours. “So how’s Dante dealing with the pregnancy?”

“He’s not dealing at all,” I said casually. I didn’t want Ines to know how much it bothered me that he hadn’t asked me about our baby directly once. He always inquired how I was and was increasingly more careful when we slept together, but he never put the word baby in his mouth. He hadn’t even asked if it was a boy or girl yet. “Most of the time he pretends there is no pregnancy.”

Ines eyed my protruding stomach. It still wasn’t too obvious when I wore a loose-fitting blouse as I was only twenty-six weeks along but of course Dante saw it all the time. “He’s being impossible. Do you want me to talk to him?”

“God, no,” I said quickly, then sent Ines an apologetic smile. “But thank you. Dante would be furious if you interfered.”

“You’re probably right. I still don’t like it. Sometimes I don’t understand men. Why can’t they admit when they messed up?”

I shrugged. It was something I’d wondered so often, but it never got me far. Bibiana held up a cute onesie with ‘Lock up your boys, my Dad owns a gun’ written across the front. “Not that anyone needs the reminder, but why not? You should get something like this.” She grinned, then sobered. “Is something wrong?”

I wasn’t sure. There was a strange twinge in my lower abdomen. Maybe my little baby was lying in an awkward position and pressing down on my kidneys. “I’m fine,” I said. I picked up the same onesie. “I don’t even know if it’s a girl.”

“I really hope it is, then our girls can play together.” Bibiana was only eighteen weeks along but she had already asked the doc about the gender. She’d been relieved when she found out it was a girl because she worried a boy might remind her too much of Tommaso.

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