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The woman looked at her bump. ‘Due soon?’

Chiara put a hand on her bump. ‘In a couple of weeks. But I’ve been warned it could go over—most first babies do.’

Then the woman said, ‘I’m sorry—how rude of me. I’m Patrizia Sorellani. Pleased to meet you.’

Chiara took her outstretched hand. ‘Chiara Santo Domenico.’

The woman held on to her hand. ‘You’re married to Nicolo Santo Domenico?’

Chiara nodded. ‘Yes. Do you know him?’

The women pulled her hand back and nodded. She looked sad. ‘Yes, I a way. I’m his mother.’

Chiara absorbed the shock. ‘You knew who I was before you came over?’

The woman nodded unhappily. ‘I’m sorry. I hope you don’t mind. I’ve been trying to get him to meet me for some time now, but he keeps rebuffing me. I thought that maybe—’

‘What are you doing here? You are not welcome.’

Both women looked up to see Nico towering over them. He was glaring at his mother in a way that Chiara recognised from their first meeting. She barely knew the other woman, but she knew instinctively what she should do—even though it would incur Nico’s wrath.

She stood up. ‘Your mother is here because she wants to speak with you.’

Nico turned his glare on Chiara, but she met it full-on.

‘Can’t you give her just five minutes?’

For what seemed like an aeon Nico said nothing, and then, finally, ‘Very well. Five minutes. Come with me.’

He turned and stalked off. Patrizia turned to Chiara for a moment, saying emotionally, ‘Thank you so much.’ Then she hurried after her son.

Chiara sat down again, a little shell-shocked.

It was about fifteen minutes before Nico reappeared, and he looked grim.

Chiara put down her glass. ‘What is it? Is everything okay?’

He took her arm. ‘We’re leaving.’

He all but marched her out of the function room to where his car was waiting outside. Once in the back of the car, and when it was moving Chiara said, ‘How did it go with your mother? She seemed...nice...’ she finished lamely.

Nico was looking out of the other window, his whole form tense. ‘I listened to what she had to say.’


He turned to her. ‘Something else has come up. I’m going to drop you at the hotel and then I’m going to fly to Rome tonight. The plane will return to take you home in the morning. I’ll be back tomorrow evening.’

In other words he wasn’t going to discuss his mother or whatever else was going on.

/> They were pulling up outside the hotel now. Nico got out and came around to let Chiara out of the car. He escorted her inside and left her at the lift. By the time she was in the suite and kicking off her shoes frustration was bubbling up inside her.

Maybe Nico did have a crisis to attend to—maybe he didn’t. But one thing was clear: she was not welcome to stray out of the clear boundary zone he’d put her in all those months ago.

Chiara undressed and undid her hair, cleaned off her make-up. Then she pulled on a thick robe and went on to the outdoor balcony, leaning on the railing, drinking in the view of Naples at night, this thriving, hectic, chaotic city.

She sucked in a deep breath. It was time to face facts. Nico wasn’t going to miraculously fall in love with her. He was going to continue to operate like a lone wolf and punish her for getting too close by shutting her out.

The future she faced was stark. It was also lonely. And Chiara needed to figure out what was best for her and her baby.