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The Innocent's One-Night Surrender Kate Hewitt 2022/8/5 16:57:37

Being with Cristiano out of the public eye, with no fanfare or spectacle, no socialising or small talk, was another wonderful blessing. Finally they could simply be with each other, enjoying lazy mornings and lovely, long nights, strolls around Capri and afternoons lounging by the pool. Laurel knew it couldn’t last—in just three more days the requisite two weeks would have passed since that first, fateful night. Three more days and she could take a pregnancy test.

And what if she was pregnant?

It was a question she hadn’t let herself think too much about. In those first difficult days she hadn’t wanted to think about it. Hadn’t possessed the strength to imagine that dreaded what if? scenario.

Now…now she dared not think about it for an entirely different reason. Because part of her, an increasingly large part, was hoping she was pregnant with Cristiano’s child.

Logically she knew she probably wasn’t pregnant. She was fairly regular and her period wasn’t due for at least another week. And in any case she knew a pregnancy wasn’t a good idea. She wanted Cristiano to choose to be with her for her own sake, not just to provide for their child. And yet…she wanted Cristiano to choose to be with her.

That was the truth she had to force herself to face, the reality that crowded in during quiet moments. They most likely had only a handful of days left together, yet in the quiet of her mind she dreamed of for ever.

‘You look deep in thought.’ Lorenzo walked slowly towards the lounger next to Laurel’s and sat down carefully. Laurel had noticed, over the last few days, how slowly he moved, how cautiously, and it made her wonder. Worry.

‘Not too deep,’ she said with a smile and then leaned her head against the lounger. ‘It’s too beautiful a day for deep thoughts.’ The infinity pool shimmered in front of them, surrounded by orange and lemon trees, the roofs of Capri and the sparkling sea in the distance.

‘Yes, perhaps it is.’ Lorenzo settled himself against his lounger with a slight wince, causing Laurel another pang of worry. ‘And where is my son this morning?’

‘Catching up on some work, but he promised to join us for lunch.’

‘I’ve never seen him look so happy,’ Lorenzo said quietly. ‘Thank you.’

Laurel smiled wryly. ‘I don’t know if it’s my doing.’

‘Oh, it is, Laurel, I’m sure of it. He’s in love with you, even if he doesn’t want to realise it.’

She let out a laugh at the older man’s perception, hope struggling with fear inside her, a torment of emotion. ‘That’s the nub of it, isn’t it?’ she asked, trying to sound light. ‘He doesn’t want to.’

‘Cristiano has always had a deep suspicion of any emotion, particularly love.’

‘Yes.’ She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. ‘He told me a little bit about you and his mother. How much you loved each other.’

‘Did he?’ Lorenzo nodded slowly. ‘Of course, he is only remembering it as a child.’

‘Was it different than he said?’

‘I don’t know what he said, but I can imagine.’ Lorenzo sighed, his face looking pale and drawn and old. Again Laurel felt that pang of worry assail her. Lorenzo did not seem a well man. ‘My marriage to Gabriella was tempestuous, to say the least,’ he continued. ‘She thrived on it, all the passion and anger and energy. It made her feel alive, but it drained me.’

‘That doesn’t sound entirely healthy,’ Laurel ventured cautiously.

‘No, it wasn’t. It was exhausting at the best of times, and incredibly dispiriting at the worst. When she died…’ Pain flashed across his face and then was gone. ‘I blamed myself. I shouldn’t have let her run out the way she did. I knew she was in a temper, and the maddening thing now is I can’t even remember what we argued about. That feels wrong, don’t you think—to die for something that you’ve forgotten about? And yet she was in such a rage at the time.’

‘That doesn’t seem like it was your fault.’

‘Perhaps.’ Lorenzo was silent for a moment. ‘Still I regret it. I regret many things.’ He squinted at the horizon, sunlight sparkling off the sea. ‘I fear Cristiano is the way he is because of me.’