At the first taste of his lips, her anger left her. So did her pride. Her heart thudded slowly, painfully. Then her arms climbed his neck and hung on for dear life.
Yes, for dear life because he was life itself. Because he was everything.
She had no idea how long they sat there on the side of the road while trucks and buses roared past them. Finally, he got control of himself again and gave a hard jerk out of her arms only to gaze back at her in shock.
She was as thoroughly shaken as he. She saw that his hands trembled as he started the Fiat. Somehow that made her feel a little better. So, he wasn’t a total bastard after all.
When he reached the hotel, he cut the engine. Before he could get out and come around to her side, she flung her door open and raced to the hotel. She’d left her key at the desk, so Nico was able to catch up to her at the elevator.
“Go! Just go! Marry your princess! Or principessa! Do whatever! Be happy!”
She punched a golden button on the wall and two gold elevator doors opened. She stepped inside.
The doors closed.
She punched the number to her floor. When she got out, she stepped onto a belvedere and saw him three stories below talking to the same short, plump man she’d seen him with that first night. His cousin, Massimo, she thought. His genie.
They looked up and saw her. Nico’s blue eyes blazed. His dark brows lifted.
A single glance was enough to cut her heart in two.
To hell with him!
She gave a little cry and ran to her room.
N ico paced Simonetta’s deck with a vengeance. Massimo watched him with exasperation and amusement while sipping Pinot Grigio. Then Nico saw a flash of white on shore.
He grabbed his binoculars and ran to the railing to stare at the slim brunette in a white sundress with a flower in her hair. She had suddenly materialized on the seaside bench as if she were a supernatural being.
Massimo laughed. “Naturally. You two are like a pair of brainless magnets in heat.”
“Don’t laugh, Cousin.”
“The paparazzi will love this.”
“They haven’t been around much since Simonetta’s funeral. I’ve been too damn dull.”
“Worse than dull. Dead.”
Nico set down the binoculars and rushed to the stern of Simonetta. He hopped into his sleek, black tender and began throwing off the lines, which Massimo caught with one hand, careful not to spill his wine.
“Do you want a ride to shore?” Nico started the engine.
“No, thanks. She’ll be gone in a day or two. I’ll have you sulking and grieving all to myself soon enough.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“So, enjoy and I’ll kill the last of the Pinot.”
Nico waved. Massimo held up his wineglass in a mock toast.
Two minutes later, Nico was striding up the beach. Cara saw him and got up slowly.
Again she was wearing a white gardenia, and the paleness of the flower made her dark hair and brows and wide, luminous eyes seem all the more dramatic. She looked so young, lovely, and vulnerable, he was thoroughly disconcerted.
“I’m weak,” she said. “I couldn’t bear my room alone, thinking that I would never see you again, knowing you were so near. I’m sorry about—”
“Don’t.” He took her hand, kissed her fingertips. “I understand completely. I’m just so glad you’re here. I want to spend every free second I have with you.”
For the rest of my life, he thought grimly.
“I don’t want to think about the future,” she said, her voice as desperate as his own emotions.
“Are you hungry?”
Her brilliant dark eyes lifted to his. “A cappuccino, maybe.” He read her hunger for other things.
“I know the perfect place, and it has the best gelato in all of Italy.”
“Really?” The excitement in her voice made his throat catch. She was looking at him, and it was easy to see her mind was not on sampling gelato.
“I’m something of a gelato addict,” he murmured.
“I didn’t know that. I’m glad to know that. Gelato, huh? That’s all it takes to tempt you?” She squeezed his hand. “For me, it’s chocolate.”
He threaded his fingers through hers and led her to a nearby terrace restaurant on a cliff overlooking a tranquil cove. Under a canopy of dangling wisteria blossoms, he ordered cappuccinos and grilled calamari. Then more cappuccinos and a vanilla gelato for himself and a chocolate gelato for her, chocolate because she’d pointed to it and clapped like a child.
He liked watching her eat and drink while the gulls sailed above them and the wisteria stirred in the breeze.
“Would you like to go for a boat ride?” he asked as she licked the last bit of chocolate gelato off her spoon.