The Sicilian's Marriage Arrangement(57)

By: Lucy Monroe

Suddenly she found herself on his lap, his arms wrapped tightly around her, his face close to hers. “I never thought of you that way. I was hurting and the only place I could connect with you was in bed.”

“We connected pretty often.”

His sculpted cheekbones turned dusky. “Si.”

“Do you want me to stay only for the baby?”

His face contorted and he buried it in the hollow of her neck. “No. I want you to stay for me. I cannot live without you, cara. Do not go away from me.”

He punctuated the words with tiny kisses that made her shiver.

“But a marriage without love has little hope of surviving.”

His hold was almost bruising now. “I know you have stopped loving me. I deserve it, but I love you, amore mia. You are the air that I breathe. The only music my heart wants to hear. The other half of my soul. I will make you love me again. I can do it. You still want me,” he said as one hand cupped her breast with its already tight peak.

She turned her head and cupped his face between her palms so she could see into his eyes. “You love me?”

“For a long time. Since before New Year’s Eve I think, but to admit it would have been to admit the end of my independence. Fool that I was, I thought that mattered. Without you all the freedom in the world would be a tiny cell in a prison of loneliness.”

Her jaw dropped open. She couldn’t help it. Not only had he said he loved her, but he’d gotten positively poetic about it. “Those are pretty mushy sentiments.”

He shrugged, his Italian nature showing stronger in that moment than she had seen before. Emotion warmed his eyes and his body radiated heat just for her. “I feel mushy about you.” He kissed her softly until her lips clung and then gently pulled away. “Tell me you will stay and let me teach you to love me again.”

“I’ll stay, but I can’t let you make me love you.”

His expression was devastating and much too painful to witness for her to keep up her teasing.

“I already love you. I will always love you and therefore you cannot make me do something I already am…doing that is.”

She wasn’t sure that made sense, but she didn’t care because he looked like dawn was rising in his eyes. “My beautiful Hope! I love you. I adore you.” He went into a litany of Italian phrases as he divested both of them of their clothes.

They made love on their bed, both saying words of love and need they had held back before.

When it was over, she cuddled into his side. “So, I guess this means, you really are fabulously happy about the baby.”

“I am.” His smile would have melted the polar ice caps.

And just to show her how much, he made love to her again, this time touching her stomach with reverence with his hands and mouth and whispering words of love to the bambino growing inside her.

Some time later, she was lying on top of him sweaty and sated. “Luciano.”

“Si, amore mia?”

“You really do love me?”

He sprang up, tumbling her into his lap and grasping her chin so their eyes met. “How can you doubt it? I love you more than my own life.”

“It just seems so unreal. You married me because my grandfather forced you into it.” Would she always remember that?

“He played matchmaker in the most unconventional way, but had I not wanted to be caught, I would not have been.”

She sighed and said nothing.

“It is true. You realize I do not wish to pursue revenge on him now? I am grateful for his interference even if I was too proud to acknowledge it before.”

Could she believe him? Knowing what a shark her husband was capable of being, she shivered a little with relief on her grandfather’s behalf. “I’m glad.”

“To hurt him would hurt you and I will never again do that.”

“Sicilian guilt is stronger than the vendetta.”

He turned very serious. “Not guilt. Love. This Sicilian’s love.”

She so desperately wanted to have faith in his love, but perhaps that was why it was so hard to do so. He had been forced into the marriage. How could he love her like she loved him? “Grandfather didn’t really leave you an out.”

He shook his head. “You do not believe me, but it is true. I had repurchased most of the stock by the time of our marriage. I did not need half of your shares to control Valerio Shipping.”

“But you said…”

“I told you a plan I hatched in hurt and anger, not the truth of my heart, cara. I did not need the shares.”

And that truth was burning in his sexy brown eyes.

“You wanted to marry me,” she said with awe.

“Si. So much, I was in despair you would not believe me about Zia and leave me. I was terrified of losing you.”