With a look of resignation, the principessa joined him in the doorway.
Regina wanted to run past both of them and make her escape, but, of course, some reporter would probably find her. Then she would only make more trouble.
With a little shrug, she forced herself to walk slowly toward them. Thrusting her chin upward, she imitated his mother’s haughty carriage so exactly Nico smiled. As Regina’s heels clicked on the parquet, like fingers tapping a keyboard, his mother frowned.
Unable to maintain her regal act, Regina laughed nervously and ran into Nico’s arms. Even though his body felt stiff and wary, he hugged her tightly. His mother’s expression grew arctic.
Inside the limousine, Regina slumped against the leather seat. When Nico got in after another lengthy conversation with his mother, he wrapped his arms around Regina.
“I thought it went fairly well,” he said. “You held your own with her.”
Had she? “My luggage?”
“In the boot.”
The chauffeur slammed doors and started the engine.
“He’s driven on ahead. He’ll meet us. I’m afraid he’ll have to escort you inside once we arrive at your terminal.”
“I understand.” Of course, she didn’t. She was merely trying to sound brave and act sophisticated.
“The last thing I want is for you to be hurt because you became caught up in my life and family’s position and all its complications. I don’t want your name dragged through the mud.”
“I’ll be fine. It could never have worked out. We come from different worlds. This only proves—”
“Cara. Oh, Cara…Sometimes I wonder if all the things that separate us aren’t rather shallow in these modern times. If we simply pursued this relationship, wouldn’t the fuss die down? I’ve been lucky at making money. So what if you don’t have a title or a fortune?”
“And your mother? Would she move on?”
“It wouldn’t be easy for her, not in the beginning, but then she wouldn’t have a choice, would she? She has too many responsibilities to dwell on a single disappointment.”
Regina tried to imagine sharing Christmases and Easters with such a formidable mother-in-law. What would they talk about or do together? What sort of grandmother would she make? What sort of expectations for her grandchildren would she impose on their mother, the commoner?
Nico held her while the big black car sped along the Amalfi Drive
. The limousine swept past spectacular views of mountains and sea. Normally, Regina would have had her nose pressed against the glass window like a puppy. Today, she was too aware of Nico and the short time she had left with him. Burying her head against his shoulder, she snuggled closer. She loved him so much she ached.
“I just wish we’d had today to make more memories together,” she said aloud.
“We have the backseat of the limousine.”
She focused on the square shape of the driver’s head and cap. “But the chauffeur…”
“For a lawyer, you don’t get around much.”
“I’m in Italy.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Nico pressed a button, and a little wall went up between them and the driver. Door locks snapped.
“The windows are tinted,” Nico said. “Our privacy is complete, tesorina.”
The next thing she knew she was flat on her back and naked beneath him, and, as always, the sex was much more than sex. Oh, the gifts to her soul he bestowed with every kiss.
Once they reached the airport, she would never see him again. To say they made the most of what little time they had left would not be saying nearly enough.
M assimo walked Regina through the airport and helped her with her electronic ticket and bags. On their way to security, they passed a newsstand. A close-up of Nico’s angry face, his hands raised to shield Regina from the cameras leaped out at her. His name was splashed across the front pages of two tabloids in twoinch headlines.
Regina’s heart sank. She approached a counter to buy a paper, but Massimo laid a warning hand on her shoulder. “Let me,” he said.
After she’d boarded the plane, alone with her hoard of newsprint, she devoured the photographs of all the beautiful women with whom Nico’s name had been linked. So many women. Then Regina read the articles, and each story chipped away at her self-confidence. Had she really been so special to him?
In the past, she’d read about celebrities, but reading about Nico and seeing her own blurred picture was entirely different. If Nico’s mother had made her feel totally unsuitable, the lurid coverage of his numerous romances reinforced that point for her on a deeper level. His other women were so beautiful, so famous. Could she, who was so bad at love, possibly have held his attention for much longer?