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Her fierce assurance that their child would be her priority had made something dark spike inside Nico—something almost like jealousy. He told himself he was being ridiculous—that if anything it was a good thing that she felt so strongly about their baby.

Nico left the dining room and went to find Chiara. He was about to give up when he saw the door to the library partially open. He saw her straight away, curled up asleep on a chair, legs tucked under her. A book open, resting on her bump.

He reached down and picked it up. The Collected Poems of William Wordsworth. Nico put it down on the table beside the chair, and when Chiara showed no signs of stirring he reached down, slid his arms under her and lifted her up into his arms.

Chiara was wide awake—she’d been awake from the moment Nico had come into the room, albeit dozing. She’d actually sensed him before he’d appeared, the tiny hairs going up on her arms. Her body the traitor.

Now he was carrying her up the stairs with that awesome ease and strength. It took immense effort not to turn her head into his neck and breathe in his scent, reach out her tongue and taste his skin. But she was still feeling raw and insecure, and she knew if Nico seduced her again she wouldn’t have the strength to say no, and then he would have chipped away a little more at the walls she had left around her.

So when he laid her down on the bed and pulled a cover over her she kept pretending to be asleep, and only opened her eyes when he’d left the a coward.

* * *

The following morning when Chiara woke she was alone. She saw a sleek-looking mobile phone and a charger by the bed on the table with a note on top.

She picked it up.

Call me when you wake, Nico.

Chiara dialled the number that was on the note, and it connected straight away—almost as if he’d been waiting. A silly idea.

‘Morning, cara.’

Chiara wished he wouldn’t call her cara—it felt like a lie. She sat up and made her voice brisk. ‘Good morning. Where are you?’

‘I’m at the airport, about to fly to Rome for some meetings. But I’ll be back this evening. There’s a charity function we’ve been invited to in Syracuse. We’ll leave at seven p.m. One of my assistants will meet you at the castello this morning to go over hiring staff, and also an interior decorator.’

Chiara desisted from saying Aye-aye, sir, and just responded, ‘Fine, I’ll see you later.’

She cut the connection and lay back on the bed for a moment. This was her new reality and she would just have to get used to it.



The young girl smiled prettily. ‘No problem. It’s good for me to have someone to practise on!’

Maria’s daughter was training to be a beautician, and she had helped Chiara to get ready for the function this evening.

She stood back now. ‘You look beautiful, Signora Santo Domenico.’

Chiara grimaced, ‘Please, call me Chiara.’

The girl gathered her things and left and Chiara sucked in a deep breath. She still wasn’t used to seeing herself like this. Dressed up. The only time she could really remember dressing up had been on her twenty-first birthday, when her parents had taken her for dinner in Catania, just a few months before they’d died. Her mother had been so ill, but she’d insisted on going.

Thinking of the dress she’d worn made her cringe now. It had been so old-fashioned and unflattering. She could still remember the sniggers from a crowd of girls they’d passed.

This evening’s dress was dark green, with a sweetheart neckline and a high waist just under her breasts. The top of the dress was lace, with a short lace sleeves. It was elegant and classic and it skimmed over Chiara’s bump, which seemed to be getting bigger by the day now. Carmela had pulled Chiara’s hair back into a low, sleek bun, and make-up made her eyes look huge.

She was just stepping into matching shoes when there was a knock in the door connecting the dressing room with the bedroom.

Nico came in, adjusting his cufflinks. He wore a white tuxedo jacket and a black bow tie, black trousers. And he was breathtaking. Hair still damp from the shower...

He looked at her and stopped moving, an arrested expression on his face. Chiara’s whole body tingled with awareness. That black gaze raked her up and down, and then he met her eyes. She could see the heat in his gaze and it echoed the building heat inside her.

‘You look...stunning, Chiara.’

Unused to compliments, she said, ‘I... Thank you.’

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