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The Sicilian's Innocent Mistress Carole Mortimer 2022/8/5 17:02:26

Luc became very still, moving back slightly to look down at her searchingly, his own emotions catching in his throat as he saw her tears and the becoming blush that had coloured her cheeks. ‘Darci, are you telling me what I think you are?’ he murmured gruffly.

She hesitated. ‘That I’m a twenty-eight-year-old virgin?’ She gave a self-derisive grimace. ‘Yes, Luc, that’s exactly what I’m telling you.’ She gave a shaky smile. ‘So, you see, you really wouldn’t want to have an affair with someone as inexperienced as me!’

The emotions that surged through Luc at that moment were so overwhelming that he found he couldn’t speak for several seconds. He had thought, half-guessed the day of the picnic, that Darci was so skittish because she was a virgin. But to know it was a fact…

‘You’re right, Darci. I don’t want to have an affair with you,’ he finally confirmed softly.

Darci’s mouth trembled slightly. ‘I didn’t think that you would once you knew the truth,’ she replied slowly.

Luc straightened, holding her away from him slightly. ‘Darci, I realised after you walked away from me just now that I had forgotten to tell you one important thing. No—’ he sighed, shaking his head firmly ‘—I did not forget.’ His accent deepened along with his emotions. ‘I did not tell you because I was still intent on protecting myself,’ he admitted huskily. ‘Darci, I was not completely honest with you just now. I do not want an affair with you. I do not want to live with you, either. At least, not unless—Darci, will you marry me?’ He held his breath as he waited for her answer.

Darci stared at him—at his tightly clenched jaw, at the bright glitter of his eyes—totally unable to read anything from the harshness of his expression.

‘Isn’t that rather an extreme step just to get me into bed?’ she asked.

He gave a small smile. ‘Very extreme—if that was all I wanted,’ he allowed. ‘Darci, Wolf spoke to me earlier this evening. He explained to me how it was between him and Angel when they first met. How he came to realise that he could not live without her in his life. How he knew that he would do anything, be anything, if she would only stay with him,’ he added fiercely.

Darci couldn’t breathe—certainly couldn’t have spoken if her life had depended on it!

Luc gave a self-derisive shake of his head. ‘Darci Wilde—sweet, beautiful, maddening Darci Wilde,’ he murmured softly as his hands moved up to cradle each side of her face and he looked down at her wonderingly. ‘I’ve realised this evening that is exactly how I feel about you!’

She moistened dry lips. ‘You do…?’

‘I do,’ he conceded. ‘I love you, Darci. I love you to the point of distraction!’ he declared shakily. ‘I know with certainty that I will love you for a lifetime. I will love you beyond a lifetime. I love you now beyond everything and anything. I will never love anyone but you,’ he vowed fiercely. ‘I love—’

‘Luc, I think I get the message!’ Darci broke in, even as she stared up at him in wonder.

Luc loved her. He wanted to marry her.

‘But I deceived you,’ she reminded him achingly. ‘I deliberately set out to—’ She broke off as Luc put a silencing thumb over her lips.

‘It does not matter,’ he assured her. ‘You were protecting your friend.’

‘A friend who didn’t need protecting,’ she reminded him guiltily.

It seemed too miraculous to be true!

‘You did not know that,’ Luc dismissed firmly. ‘You are a loyal and true friend, Darci, as you will be a loyal and true life partner.’ He told her what he had known two days ago. ‘Whereas my own life has been—’ He broke off momentarily. ‘I have never cared enough about anyone to even contemplate doing what you did, Darci. My own life has been one of selfish pleasure, of taking what I wanted and giving very little back—’

‘Please don’t talk like that, Luc,’ Darci interrupted him.

‘But it is the truth,’ he insisted heavily, deeply aware of the fact that he had fallen in love, irrevocably in love, with a woman who hadn’t even said she loved him. ‘I was so determined that I wouldn’t ever love any woman in the total, emotion-consuming way that my father did my mother, excluding my brother and me, that I barely brushed the surface of relationships. I preferred to remain detached from all emotional commitment. Meeting you, falling in love with you, loving you, has shown me how selfish I have always been.’