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Chiara’s legs touched his as she trod water. He didn’t have to—he was so tall. He started to move backwards, though, taking her with him as he moved down the pool.

‘Nico...’ She groaned, hating it that he could manipulate her so easily.

He ignored her, lazily pulling her along as if she was learning how to swim. Chiara gave up and let him tug her. She could feel the damp tendrils of hair where they’d fallen out of her high bun, clinging to her cheeks.

And then he stopped and stood, and Chiara could stand too, now it was shallow enough. He looked at her for a long moment, and there was something almost desperate in his gaze that made Chiara’s heart hitch, but then it was forgotten when he kissed her, and tingling awareness exploded into full-on arousal.

Nico’s hands traced Chiara’s body through the swimsuit, cupping her breasts, her bottom. She ached for him. Every time. He walked her back to the wall and she leant against it, looking up at him, breathing fast. Her peace was well and truly shattered, but she didn’t care any more.

He looked down at her, rivulets of water running down his chest and face, hair flopping forward damply, making him look endearingly young.

She could feel him against her. Hard. Potent. She reached down under the water and pulled down his shorts, taking him in her hand. It was the only time she felt marginally powerful in this relationship—when he looked at her as he was looking at her now, slightly dazed. Flushed.

‘Turn around,’ he said.

She took her hand from him, turning around to face away from the house out towards the sea beyond. Her heart was drumming with excitement. He peeled the straps of her bathing suit down and freed her breasts, reaching around to cup them and tease them to hard, aching points.

Chiara leant her head back against him. She sensed his desperation as he pulled down her suit over her hips and her legs. He was naked behind her, and then he was pushing her legs apart, pulling her back so that he could thrust into her in one smooth but cataclysmic thrust.

Her body clenched around him in need as he slowly began to thrust in and out, building up an inexorable rhythm until Chiara was biting down on her hand to stop herself from screaming out loud. Nico slammed into her and sent her body flying into an orgasm so intense she thought she might pass out.

He wasn’t far behind her, and he collapsed over her back, shuddering his release deep inside her for long moments.

After a few minutes he pulled free and turned her around. She was still dizzy.

‘What do you do to me?’ he asked hoarsely. ‘I didn’t intend on ravishing you in the pool, but I get near you and...’

She looked up at him, the aftershocks of pleasure still coursing through her system. ‘I could say the same of you,’ she said shakily.

It was in these brief moments, in the aftermath of pleasure, that there was some demolition of the wall between them. But soon Nico would recover and return to his cool, solicitous self. She could see it happening now. The raw, open look was fading from his face and he was stepping back.

She felt very naked—because she was naked, she realised. Her swimsuit was somewhere at the bottom of the pool.

Nico said, ‘Stay here. I’ll get you something.’

He waded out of the pool, his body gleaming, muscles rippling, and went up the steps, totally and unashamedly naked. He went into the small cabana by the pool, which held supplies, and when he re-emerged he had a towel hitched around his waist and was carrying a terrycloth robe for her.

He held it out at the top of the steps and Chiara crossed her arms over her breasts self-consciously. ‘I can’t walk out like this—what if someone sees?’

‘They’re all having dinner in the kitchen on the other side of the castello. I was just in there.’

Chiara glared at him. He was daring her. Something rebellious rose up within her—a wish to try and unsettle him, break him out of that cool, impersonal place he went back to whenever they’d been intimate.

So she waded out too, and went up the steps, aware of the water sluicing off her body, which still felt too sensitive.

Nico’s eyes were dark by the time she reached the top, his mouth a tight line. She stood in front of him for a long moment, for once revelling in her nakedness.

Nico bitterly regretted goading Chiara. He should know by now that she was never to be underestimated. She stood before him like a beacon of fertile sensuality—heavy breasts, wide hips, her rotund belly carrying their child. And suddenly he was the one afraid of people looking out of a window and seeing her. He didn’t want anyone else’s eyes on her. Ever.

He put the robe around her shoulders, waited till she’d fed her arms through and then belted it firmly.

He might have thought she was unaware of her power over him—the insanity that consumed him until he was buried inside her and the world returned to sharp focus—but after watching her sashay up those steps like a fertile warrior goddess he knew better.

He could feel himself drawing back, to the place inside where he didn’t feel so raw. He took a step away and saw some of the light in her green eyes fade. He ignored the pang in his chest. He didn’t need that.

‘Maria said dinner will be ready when we come in.’

Chiara forced down the frustration to see Nico so utterly in control again. ‘Fine. I’ll take a shower and clean up.’

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