Nico had looked at her earlier as if she’d had two heads. When she’d asked if she looked all right he’d just said a gruff, ‘You’re fine. We should go.’
She also felt far too jittery and far too aware of him. It was the first time she’d seen him in a tuxedo, apart from in photos on the internet, and she still hadn’t got her breath back fully. How could one man be so distractingly gorgeous?
She was the only pregnant woman here. Every other woman was about a foot taller than her and the size of a stick.
‘Everything is all right with the baby, if you must know. I was seeing a very nice doctor in Dublin.’
Nico made a non-committal sound. ‘We’ll still see a specialist here, and I’ll make sure we have the best doctors available on stand-by in Sicily.’
They reached their table and Nico pulled a chair out for Chiara. ‘I’m not due for another four months,’ she pointed out as she sat down.
Then she noticed that Nico was walking away and a spurt of panic gripped her. Wasn’t he meant to be sitting beside her? He took a seat directly opposite, but as the table was about six feet wide he might as well have been on the moon.
She noticed that he was in between two very beautiful women, a blonde and a redhead, who both seemed to be vying for his attention. She felt a spurt of dark emotion. Something she’d never experienced before—jealousy.
He looked across at her and raised a brow. She forced a smile, determined not to let him see how affected she was.
She felt very exposed and gauche, and at that moment a tall and very regal-looking woman took the chair on Chiara’s right-hand side, while an ancient-looking man took the seat on her left.
To say Chiara was dreading the ordeal ahead was an understatement, and when the scary-looking woman asked, ‘Well, then—who are you and what do you do?’ Chiara’s stomach fell to the floor.
She said truthfully, ‘I’m no one important at all. I’m here with my husband—Nicolo Santo Domenico.’
The woman immediately perked up and looked Chiara up and down, taking in her protruding belly. ‘Very interesting. First of all, never tell anyone you’re not important—because it’s simply not true. Now, you must tell me all about yourself because if you’re Santo Domenico’s wife then I’m sure you have an interesting story... You know everyone used to call him “the man who can’t be tamed”?’
The woman glanced across the table to where Nico sat and then winked at Chiara, saying, ‘I’d say you’ve put the cat among the pigeons this evening, my dear.’
* * *
‘What did Princess Milena say to you?’
Chiara looked at Nico, sitting in the back of the car in shock. ‘She was a princess?’
He nodded. ‘Princess Milena of Genoa. One of the oldest royal lines in Italy.’
Chiara absorbed this. ‘But she was lovely...we had such a nice conversation.’
Nico sounded sceptical. ‘She’s famously taciturn and intolerant of people, and yet every time I looked over at you she was laughing.’
Chiara shrugged. ‘We were talking about everything and anything.’
‘Did she ask about me?’
Chiara raised a brow, intrigued by this glimpse of a less arrogant Nico. ‘Paranoid?’
His jaw clenched. ‘I went to her looking for investment once and she refused to see me.’
‘She was curious as to how we met.’
‘What did you tell her?’
‘The truth...that it was through the castello. I see no point in hiding the facts. Obviously I didn’t elaborate on the business end of our arrangement, but I don’t think she believes it’s a romantic match.’
‘No marriage in that world is a romantic match. It’s so rare you’d be more likely to see a unicorn at one of those functions.’
‘I don’t believe that. Why are you so cynical?’
‘Because in my experience love is a myth peddled by writers, poets and artists to distract from the reality of life—which is that inevitably you’re on your own.’