“You look tired,” she said, her voice gentle.
“I am. A little.”
“Do you want to—” she nodded shyly “—come in?”
He stepped inside and shut the door, and then they both stood there, aware of each other and yet unsure of each other, as well.
Suddenly, she realized how much she wanted to be alone with him, had wanted it all night during the long, drawn-out dinner. Only she hadn’t wanted to admit it. And now that she had him all to herself, she didn’t know what to do or say. Or even what to think.
What if she simply slipped out of her dress and ran naked into his arms?
Her hand went to the zipper at the back of her dress. Watching her and perhaps reading her intent, he turned on his heel and strode into the kitchen. Cabinet doors banged open and closed until he found her liquor supply. Quickly, he poured himself a double shot of Scotch.
With an acute ache in her heart, she watched him go to her living room and sink into the soft cushions of her deep couch, his dark head falling backward across the navy cushions. His shoulders slumped as he stretched out his long legs and tore his tie loose. She turned a light off. But not before she saw the lines and the gray shadows beneath his eyes again.
He’d flown all the way from Rome. He was probably jetlagged and utterly exhausted from dealing with her.
“You could sleep here if you wanted,” she offered. “I have a spare bedroom. Two, in fact.”
His brows lifted in wary surprise. For a long, unnerving moment it seemed to Regina that the word bedroom hung heavily in the air.
She didn’t know what else she could say or do, so she stood motionless and silent.
“Thank you.” He drained his Scotch. “For the offer.”
Feeling awkward and yet rejected when he didn’t move or state his intentions, she fled down the hall to her own bedroom. Deliberately leaving her door unlocked, she undressed. As she slipped into her sheerest nightgown and washed her face, even as she brushed her teeth, she tried not to think about Nico sprawled on her couch in the living room.
Despite attempts to busy herself in her bathroom by straightening her towel on its towel rack and scrubbing out an immaculate soap dish, all she could think about was him.
Did he still want her? Or was theirs to be only a marriage of convenience? Every time a board creaked in the house, she would glance toward her door, hoping he’d be there.
All of a sudden, nothing mattered except that she was having his baby and he was going to marry her. If they lived together as man and wife, maybe there was still a chance.
She’d forgotten her own anger and all his harsh words and accusations and even the domineering way he’d proposed. He’d been sweet to the children and considerate of her family, considerate of her, too, at least, around them.
There was no logic to explain the reason her desire for him began to feel like a pulsing, all-consuming need. The simple truth was she could not be around him for long without loving him and wanting him, even when knowing he could be as bad tempered as an angry skunk.
She thought about going in to check on him, hoping he’d notice her in her sheer nightgown. Instead, she pulled back the sheets and climbed into bed, her heart beating faster and faster.
She turned out the light and waited breathlessly. The little clock on her bedside table ticked and ticked and ticked, and in the dark she began to count those maddening passing seconds. Finally, crazed, she grabbed the clock and stuffed it under a pillow.
Should she go to him? Should she try to explain again? Her mind whirled, caught in one of those tangled loops.
Hours later, when she was only half awake, she started at what she thought were heavy footsteps in the hall. Her heart thudding, her mind blurred with exhaustion, she looked up and saw a shadowy, wide-shouldered figure looming in her doorway.
Her eyes snapped open. Her heart thundered.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He leaned against the doorjamb and combed his thick hair with his fingers. “The Scotch must have hit me pretty hard. I fell asleep. I’ll be going to my hotel now.” His husky voice sounded infinitely weary.
“I know you must have had a long day. You don’t have—”
“I’ll call you. First thing tomorrow.”
His manner was cool, businesslike. Final. Abruptly, he turned on his heel.
She heard her front door close softly and the limousine drive away.
“It already is…tomorrow.”
Filled with conflict and doubts, she lay tossing and turning. Would he come back? Or was he finished with her?
She was still awake when the sky turned rosy and the phone rang.
“I’ve chartered a jet,” Nico said. “We leave after lunch. I spoke to my mother an hour ago.”