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He kissed her again, moving between her legs, pushing them apart. The height of the table aligned her body with his perfectly. She could feel the potent thrust of his body through their clothes and, acting totally on instinct, she reached down and undid his trousers, finding him and pulling him free of his clothes.

He drew back, a breath hissing out of his mouth. Chiara looked down, and the sight of her hand wrapped around all that majestic masculinity almost undid her.

Nico caught the front of her dress and pulled it apart, baring her lace-clad breasts to his gaze. He pulled the straps of the dress down, found the clasp of her bra and pulled it off and threw it aside. Now she was bared to his gaze, and breathing so fast she was almost hyperventilating.

Nico cupped her breasts, his thumbs grazing her nipples. ‘I’ve dreamed of this...of many times.’

For the first time Chiara felt a pang of regret that she’d run. But then any coherent thought fled as Nico bent and sucked one hard nipple into his mouth, tonguing and nipping at the sensitive flesh.

Chiara squeezed the stiff column of flesh in her hand. She could feel the tension in Nico and knew she wouldn’t be able to hold on. She was too close.

She took her hand from him.

He lifted his head and looked at her.

‘Now, Nico.’

Nico reached under her dress and found her panties, pulling them off and down her legs till they dropped to the floor. He spread her legs even further and positioned himself between them.

Chiara was panting. On some level she wondered what on earth she was doing, sitting on Nico’s desk in broad daylight, about to—But then he joined their bodies in a smooth but cataclysmic thrust and she didn’t care about any of that. She only cared about this. The inexorable glide of his body in and out of hers and the exquisite climb of tension, higher and higher.

She pushed his open shirt off his shoulders, exploring his chest, wrapping her hands around his neck,

pressing her body even closer. Nico put a hand under her bottom, lifting her so that he could go even deeper. Chiara bit his shoulder to stop herself from crying out.

Her belly was pressed against him and Chiara felt him touch the very heart of her as she shattered into a million pieces within seconds, every part of her pulsating and contracting as she drew every ounce of his own climax from his body.

They were sweating...shaking...breathing like marathon runners. When Nico could move, he extricated himself from Chiara’s tight clasp and stood up. He felt dizzy. Undone. But also regenerated.

Her face was flushed and her hair was wild. Her nipples were wet and her breasts were pink from where he’d touched her and from the hair on his chest. She looked up at him. Eyes huge and dazed.

A feeling of intense satisfaction rushed through him. He couldn’t even feel regret that he’d taken her on his desk like an animal. He’d never taken a woman with such urgency. Not even her. The thought was fleeting and he batted it away, not wanting to look at that significance now.

He tipped up Chiara’s chin so she had to look at him. Her eyes were too big, seeing too much. Nico felt exposed.

‘There will be no running away again, mia cara moglie. And you don’t need to cook for me and create some domestic idyll. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in this, and in having you by my side when I need you, and in you being the mother of my children. That’s why I married you.’

* * *

When Chiara woke the shutters were closed in the bedroom and the light was dim. She was totally disorientated. Her body felt heavy and lethargic. The baby moved and she put a hand on her belly—and then it all came rushing back, because she remembered Nico splaying a big hand across her belly and saying, ‘There will be no running away again...’ and ‘That’s why I married you.’

He had married her to be his trophy wife...when she was the most un-trophy-like wife in the world. And to be the mother of his children. Not to cook or create a cosy domestic home. Which was exactly what Chiara had wanted to create here all her life, in this huge place that had always felt more like a mausoleum than a home. And that was because it had never been theirs.

Nico had left her under no illusions that things would be different now. He’d reminded her all too brutally, albeit pleasurably, of her role.

She rolled over on her side and then realised that she was naked under the sheet. She went hot all over, belatedly remembering how Nico had had to carry her upstairs to the bedroom, and how he’d laid her down, taken off her ruined dress, before pulling a cool sheet over her still tingling body.

She got up, pulled on a robe and opened the shutters, noticing the setting sun. She’d slept through the whole day. He’d put her into a pleasure-induced coma.

Feeling thoroughly discombobulated, Chiara took a shower and dressed in leggings and a maternity shirt—nothing that could be considered remotely provocative. She twisted her damp hair back and up and secured it onto her head with a clip.

When she went downstairs Maria was walking from the dining room. She saw Chiara and smiled. ‘I was about to come and wake you. Signor Santo Domenico said you weren’t to be disturbed till dinnertime. He’s in the dining room.’

Chiara forced a smile while feeling out of place, because she was usually the one making dinner and serving it up. With a pang, she realised that that was unlikely to happen again. And then she mocked herself. She had to be the only woman on the planet who felt hard done by for having less work to do.

She steeled herself to see her husband again and went into the dining room. He sat at one end of the imposingly large table. There was another place set to his left, and Chiara went over and sat down. He put down the paper he was reading and watched her the whole way. She felt acutely self-conscious, wondering if he was thinking, What is it about her?

‘You had a good rest, cara?’