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‘Let me explain...’ He stopped as his voice was drowned out by a loud wail.

‘Now look what you’ve done!’ she accused, pushing open the door into the living room that separated the bedroom from the nursery wing.

Samuele, a step behind her, stopped short when they entered the nursery, where the wail was now almost deafening. Rosa was standing there with the crying baby in her arms.

She gave Maya a look of gratitude as the baby was transferred to her.

Samuele heaved a sigh of frustration. ‘We’ll speak again in the morning.’

The first thing Maya did the next morning, after she had applied the cold compresses to her eyes to help the puffiness that was the cost of crying herself to sleep, was scroll down her phone to see if she had been as much of a success as she had boasted to Samuele.

She typed in the word Agosti and waited for the results. The news of the gala was there but preceding it was the headline:Italian Banker in Dramatic River Rescue!

She swung her legs over the side of the bed and clicked the viral video attached to the headline.

The video was still playing when she ran into the sitting room where Samuele was sitting on one of the sofas, looking as though he hadn’t slept a wink.

She looked wildly from the phone in her hand to him. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

‘I was waiting for you to wake up.’

‘You jumped off a bridge!’ She was shaking the phone at him, the video still playing.

‘There weren’t many other options,cara.’

‘Maybenotjumping off a bridge?’ Her brain had been frozen with panic, but as it started working she felt dizzy with fright.She could have lost him!‘That’s why you didn’t arrive back on time, isn’t it?’ When she thought of all the things she’d said to him, she could have wept if she’d had any more tears left inside her. ‘Why didn’t you send me a message?’

‘My phone was at the bottom of a river and it took me some time to convince the hospital staff that I wasn’t suicidal myself.’

‘Did he...the man...did he...?’

‘The jumper survived.’ One day he might be grateful he was alive, but not last night—a fact he’d managed to communicate to Samuele as he had dragged him onto the shore before collapsing himself.

The things she’d said last night, the emotions she’d revealed, would be impossible to backpedal from. The only real option that Maya could see going forward was to explain that she’d reacted that way because she was so very much in love with him. In fact, she thought almost numbly, it would be a kind of relief to have it out in the open at last.

It would also be the kiss of death to any sort of ongoing relationship other than as Mattio’s parents. But that wouldn’t change anything either, just speed up the inevitable, because there was no way she could hide her true feelings for him for very much longer anyway. It wasn’t in her nature.

He had moved to stand beside her and she could already feel her resolve slipping as the warmth of him, the well-known scent of his body, reached out and enveloped her. She clenched her hands to hide the fact she was shaking and studied her bare feet.

‘Were you on your way to get the statues or...?’ She despised herself for delaying the moment of truth.

‘I was on my way back, but I never actually got there,’ he admitted huskily.

She looked up to see that he was right there and looking into his dark eyes made her tremble. ‘I don’t understand,’ she whispered.

‘I didn’t get there because I thought you needed me. As it turned out I was wrong, and you were right—you did smash it. I am so proud of you.’ He took her face between his hands. ‘I am such a fool,cara. Even as I was turning the car around to come back to you, I wouldn’t admit to myself why. I was too weak, too scared to admit that I loved you with all my heart.

‘Last night when you said you wanted an open marriage I was devastated. After you sent me away I could see my whole emptysafelife stretching out in front of me without you, and all of the things I worked so hard for, they would mean nothing if you are not in my life, by my side. I know that you wear my ring already,cara, but I never asked you to marry me, not really. So, Maya, will you please be my wife and I promise I will try every day of our lives together to be the husband you deserve? But only if you stop crying,cara, because it is killing me!’ he groaned out. ‘I need you to love me back, but if you can’t I’ll spend my life trying to persuade you!’ he vowed fiercely.

Maya dashed away the tears that were running down her cheeks. ‘Samuele, I love you so much it hurts—’

She didn’t get any further than that because he was kissing her and she was kissing him back.

‘I love you,’ he murmured against her hair when they finally came up for air. ‘Have I said that already?’

She pulled back and caught his hand, lifting it to her lips, loving the way his eyes immediately darkened. ‘Some things can never be said too often. You have shadows under your eyes, my darling...’

‘I spent a very long night realising what a fool I’d been and it was only the fact that I knew you’d hardly had any sleep either that stopped me waking you up... How is Mattio? He sounded pretty upset last night.’

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