‘Well, then, that’s all I need to know.’
‘Have you been living here?’ Chiara asked, suddenly curious.
‘Only for a few weeks here and there. I was in New York a lot. I’ve taken over your father’s study—I hope you don’t mind. And I’ve been sleeping in the master bedroom. Our bedroom...’
Chiara could feel the heat climbing up her neck and face again and cursed silently. She was hardly a blushing virgin any more!
She spoke fast, to detract from her self-consciousness. ‘Of course I don’t mind about the study. And the bedroom...the bedroom—’ she nearly choked ‘—that’s fine too. I can use my old room.’
There was a taut silence for a moment and then Nico said, ‘No, cara, we will be sharing a bedroom. There’s been enough speculation about this marriage without adding fuel to the fire. Unless that will be a problem for you?’
Chiara could feel her blood drain south while at the same time her pulse-rate tripled. A very disconcerting sensation. ‘I can sleep in the room adjoining the master bedroom. It used to be a dressing room. That way it won’t be so noticeable.’
Nico moved closer and Chiara’s levels of panic spiked.
‘What do you have to be afraid of? We shared a bed before...’ He directed an explicit look at her belly.
Chiara was terrified that if she protested too much it would give away why she was so reluctant to expose how she reacted to him. While he was only insisting she sleep with him for appearance’s sake.
‘I’m not afraid of anything... I just don’t sleep well at the moment. The baby is very active at night. I’ll keep you awake.’
‘Don’t worry about me, cara,’ Nico responded silkily. ‘I can survive on very little sleep.’
A COUPLE OF hours later Chiara was still feeling angry and jittery at having been so neatly routed by Nico. Sharing a bed.
She’d felt a sense of complacency when she’d had her own room at his apartment in Rome. And now not even being back in familiar and well-loved surroundings was helping much.
She heard a noise and looked up from where she was stirring a pot at the gas stove in the kitchen.
Nico stood in the doorway, hands on his hips, frowning ferociously. He’d changed into worn jeans and a casual long-sleeved top, and it took all Chiara’s control not to let her eyes drift and linger over his body.
‘What are you doing?’
She lifted the wooden spoon, almost wishing she could smack him with it for corrall
ing her into sharing a bed with him. ‘I’m cooking dinner.’
‘Where is the housekeeper?’
Nico had hired a middle-aged local woman—Maria—who had been bustling around the kitchen when Chiara had explored earlier.
‘I told her she could go home for the evening. I usually cooked for my parents.’ She was a good cook.
Nico came into the kitchen, still frowning. ‘My wife is not a cook. That’s why I hired a housekeeper and why you will be interviewing more household staff over the next few days.’
The fact that she was irritating him was some balm to Chiara’s own irritation. ‘I enjoy cooking. It’s no problem.’
He came closer and seemed to sniff the air. She saw the flare of interest in his eyes before he could hide it.
‘What is that smell?’
‘It’s pollo alla cacciatora. Not very original but one of my favourites.’ She stopped, and felt a bubble of hysteria mount. ‘I don’t even know if you’re vegetarian. We’ve never actually shared a meal...apart from last night.’ When they’d been separated by a table wide enough for a football game.
Nico looked grim now. ‘I’m not vegetarian.’
Chiara gestured to where she had set the wide wooden kitchen table. The place where she’d spent most of her time growing up—learning how to cook with her nonna, doing schoolwork, reading...dreaming.