Nico’s smile faded. ‘You shouldn’t be. She owes you an apology. She was unbelievably rude.’
Chiara looked at the wide marble stairs behind him. ‘Do we have to go back in there?’
Nico almost shuddered. ‘God, no. I’m done.’ He surprised her by taking her hand. ‘Are you tired?’
There was still too much adrenalin pumping around Chiara’s body. She shook her head.
‘Good. I’d like to show you somewhere—it’s not far.’
* * *
Chiara groaned appreciatively. ‘This is amazing.’
‘I know. Have you ever tasted better gelato than this?’
She shook her head, then said with a rueful smile, ‘But I haven’t exactly travelled a lot.’
‘You’ll have plenty of opportunities to travel with me.’
Chiara looked at him. ‘We’ll have to see how that works with the baby... I’m not leaving her for any length of time, Nico.’
He took a sip of his espresso and inclined his head. ‘I know, and I have to commend you for it. I haven’t had the benefit of selfless maternal love, so I’ll have to trust your judgement.’
‘I’m sorry that you didn’t know your mother.’
Nico shrugged. ‘You can’t miss what you don’t know.’
Chiara did not agree, but she didn’t want to shatter the peace so she took another piece of ice cream, relishing its tart lemon taste as it slipped down her throat. The gelato parlour was right on the seafront and very busy, mainly with groups of laughing joking teenagers.
Nico had given Chiara his jacket against the breeze coming in off the sea, so she sat there now under the fluorescent lights in his jacket and her evening dress. She loved it. And she loved it that he had brought her here, away from that stuffy party. Away from her.
‘How did you know about this place?’
Nico looked around. ‘My father told me about it. He used to come here on boat trips from Calabria with his father when he was small.’
They sat in silence for a moment as the gang of teenagers moved off down the seafront. Chiara envied them their light-hearted ease and friendship.
Nico put down his small espresso cup and leaned forward. He had undone his bow tie and opened the top button of his shirt. He looked rakish and sexy.
‘I know you want more, Chiara.’
Chiara looked at him, shocked. Had he seen into her mind?
‘I saw your collection of romance novels, hidden behind other books in the library. Unless they we
re your mother’s?’
Chiara knew she could laugh breezily and lie, but she didn’t want to. ‘Yes, they’re mine. What do you mean by knowing I want more?’
‘Just that I think you were hoping for love...and romance. Not a marriage of convenience.’
Chiara shrugged and played with her ice cream spoon. She was terrified he’d make the link between her running away after their wedding night and her deepest most secret dreams. Nonchalantly she said, ‘I’m not a total fantasist, Nico. I know life doesn’t always turn out how you expect it to.’
He sighed. ‘I just wanted to say that while I can’t give you everything you want, I promise to do my utmost to make you as happy as I can.’
Chiara looked at him, and the little flame of hope that had sprung up when he’d felt the baby kicking withered a little inside her.
‘I appreciate that.’