He turned, his expression dazed. For a long moment, it was as if she weren’t there.
Was he brokenhearted over having lost Viola?
“Cara?” His dark face registered surprise. He stood up straighter. “Did you sleep well?” His tone was polite, formal.
Regina found his perfect manners, so like his mother’s, unendurable. Were they to be man and wife and yet strangers, never to talk about what mattered?
“You said you’d come for me.”
“You were asleep.”
“I just saw Viola,” she whispered.
“For the first and last time.”
“You broke your engagement with her?”
“I explained the situation to her. She was very understanding.”
“She looked hurt, devastated.”
“I never told her about us, you see. Her staff will speak to the press later today.”
“And what will she say?”
“Whatever she wants to say. She will have to move on. As we all will.”
“I’m sorry for all the trouble. If you love her, if you prefer her…”
“It is done.” He crossed the space that separated them, and yet he felt as far away as ever. “Shall we go down to breakfast together?”
He took her hand. His palm felt cold, and she noticed that he did not bring her fingers to his lips.
“My mother is expecting us.”
Would they eat with her every morning? Would they never be alone like a normal couple? Share their own private confidences? Have their own lives? Were they always to live here, with his family?
If only they could have eaten alone this morning.
The Principessa Gloriana was already at a table shaded by a melon-colored umbrella. As they walked up to her, hand in hand, she sipped coffee, patted her lipstick with her napkin, and then gave Nico a chilly smile. Again, she treated Regina as if she didn’t exist.
Maybe that was for the best.
“Isn’t it a lovely morning,” Gloriana said to Nico. “All the dark clouds gone and our glorious Amalfi sun shining so brightly.”
“Yes.” Regina nodded even though she knew she had not been addressed. “The terrace has such breathtaking views of the water and cliffs.”
“It does indeed,” Gloriana said. “How lovely to see you again, my dear.” Her words were polite, but her blue eyes, so like her son’s, were colder than polar ice chips. “I do hope the flight wasn’t too tiring and that you rested well. For the baby’s sake.”
Regina’s throat went dry.
Nerves, she hoped. Not morning sickness.
Hot bile climbed her throat. Near panic, she fought to swallow.
Feeling more miserable by the second, she forced a smile. When her mouth twisted, Nico’s hand closed over hers.
Then a manservant brought a cart brimming with fruit and cheeses and all kinds of breads including buttery, rich croissants, Regina’s favorite. Tiberio Abruzzi, who was standing behind the man and his cart, stared down his nose at her and asked in a lofty tone what the signorina would like.
Regina’s gaze flicked across luscious thick white lumps of buffalo mozzarella, to raw eggs, omelet makings and then to thick slabs of ham.
“I—I’m not hungry.” Clammy with sweat, she sank back in her chair as the awful stuff in her throat bubbled higher.
Terrified of embarrassing herself before Nico, she tried to swallow. But it was hopeless.
Her chair scraped the table as she stood up. Not knowing where a restroom was, she bolted. Behind her, china shattered and the principessa gasped. Regina barely made it to the nearest hedge before she was on the ground losing the contents of whatever she’d managed to eat on the plane.
She flung herself toward the palazzo, desperate to escape them all, even Nico. A violent cramp shot through her stomach, and she realized she was going to be sick again. There would be no escape. Weakly she stumbled back to the hedge and fell to her knees a second time.
Even before she finished, she felt strong arms around her, supporting her and then Nico was lifting her, holding her tightly because her knees were so rubbery she couldn’t stand.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“Don’t apologize. Don’t ever apologize,” Nico said.
She caught the citrusy tang of his aftershave, usually a pleasant scent. She swallowed again because she so longed to stay in his arms, but that faint fruity odor ruined it.
“Your aftershave…lemons…awful. I’m sorry.” Feeling fuzzy, she fell to her knees again. Only this time, her stomach was empty, so she only had the dry heaves.
Nico’s face was lined and grim as he led her back to her room.