Bound to the Sicilian's Bed - Page 35
‘Could we start again, Nicole?’ he said huskily. ‘Or continue where we left off? Is spending the rest of your life with me something you would ever consider?’
Her lips seemed to be closing in on themselves and as he saw her struggling to contain her emotions, Rocco desperately ached to hold her, but he knew he must not. Because the answer to his question had to come of its own accord. Not because he was stroking her or kissing her. It needed to come from the mind and the heart, not the body.
Say yes, he prayed silently. Say yes, my love.
It seemed to take an eternity but eventually she nodded. ‘Yes, I would,’ she said, in a rush. ‘Of course I would. For all my life if you want it. Oh, Rocco… Rocco,’ she said falteringly.
‘Let it out, tesoro,’ he prompted shakily, though he knew he had no right to tell her to connect with her emotions when he’d been so cut off from his own for so long. But Nicole’s emotions had been repressed too—and wasn’t she as much of a novice in all this stuff as he was? ‘Just let it out.’
His soft entreaty must have worked because that was when she started to cry—great big tears welling up from those beautiful green eyes and sliding down her cheeks like rain. He held out his arms and she went into them, burying her head against his shoulder while he smoothed down the wild tumble of her curls. She cried until there were no tears left and he suspected she was crying for their lost baby as well as for the wasted years apart. And when he had dried her cheeks with his fingertips, he touched his lips very gently to hers.
‘Where we live and how we live is up to you. Tell me what you want and where you want to go,’ he said unevenly. ‘And I will do everything in my power to make that happen.’
Her eyes were very bright and for the first time a smile lifted the corners of her lips. ‘I don’t care where we go or what we do,’ she said simply. ‘The places or the trappings aren’t important. I only want to be with you, Rocco. That’s all I’ve ever really wanted.’
ROCCO’S VOICE WAS thick with emotion. ‘Tesoro, he is…bello.’
‘Isn’t he?’ Nicole looked down into the crib at the sleeping baby, then gazed up into the proud eyes of his doting papa. ‘And the image of his father.’
‘Then let us hope he has his mother’s good heart and sense,’ responded her husband drily as he pulled her into his arms, smoothing his hand over the crown of her head. ‘I thought today went well, didn’t you?’
Brushing her lips against his neck in a drifting kiss, Nicole smiled. Today had been their son’s baptism—a joyous day, celebrated first in the Sicilian church where she and Rocco had been married all those years ago, and then afterwards at a champagne reception outside, in the fragrant lemon grove on the Barberi complex. They had named their son Turi in honour of the patriarch who had died peacefully last year—contented to see Rocco and Nicole reunited at last and taking great pleasure in the role he had played to help bring that about.
Turi hadn’t lived to see his great-grandson, but he had doted on the twin girls who had been born exactly a year after Nicole and Rocco had decided to make their permanent home in Sicily, albeit with trips to C
ornwall whenever their schedules allowed. With their raven corkscrew curls and bright blue eyes, little Lucia and Sofia would have melted the heart of any statue, but they had adored Rocco’s grandfather, who had been their biggest fan.
‘It was a perfect day,’ Nicole said softly. ‘Perfetto. I liked your brother’s latest girlfriend and I thought your sister looked very well.’
So much had happened since that day when Rocco had walked onto the aircraft and declared his love for her in front of a planeload of passengers. Approaching their future in an orderly way, her husband had accompanied her back to Cornwall, to help her find someone to take over her little shop—someone who would cherish it as much as she had done.
They had returned to resume their married life in Sicily—not just because Turi was old and frail, but because Nicole found herself valuing the simplicity of life there. And this time she felt she belonged. This time she was no longer the outsider with no legitimate place. Rocco had sold the Monaco apartment and started delegating as much work as possible, in order to spend as much time with the people who really mattered.
His family. The twin daughters who had him wrapped around their little fingers, and now his new son. And Nicole, of course. A day didn’t pass without him telling her that she was key to his happiness and none of this could have happened without her.
He had built her a studio with a kiln where, whenever Lucia and Sofia allowed her a rare spare moment, Nicole would craft the vases and the bowls which were gaining her something of a reputation. She had already exhibited in Palermo and Rocco had spoken about buying her a shop there, but she’d told him not to rush anything. That there was a time and a place for ambition and she wanted to enjoy the gifts she had been given. She wanted to give silent thanks that three children had now worn a little romper suit which had lain unused in a drawer for so long…
‘Are you sleepy, tesoro?’ Rocco’s softly accented voice broke into her thoughts.
She shook her head. ‘Not in the slightest.’
‘Then shall we sit outside? Drink some limonata on the terrace and watch the stars unfold?’
The complex was quiet after the excitement of the party, which had included most of the villagers and gone on throughout the afternoon and well into the evening. Nicole had listened to smatterings of conversation and had understood most of them, because she had quickly realised that becoming fluent in her husband’s language was a necessity and not a hobby. She recognised that communication was key, so she had knuckled down to regular one-to-one lessons with a local schoolteacher and was growing more confident with each day. It amused Rocco no end to hear his English wife calling to him in dialect!
The ice was chinking in her glass and the sweet-sharp limonata made from the estate’s lemons was cool and refreshing. Above them the darkening indigo sky had begun to glimmer with the promise of the brightest stars Nicole had ever seen and she sighed.
Did Rocco hear her? Was that why his head turned towards her.
‘Felici?’ he questioned softly.
‘Oh, yes. Totally happy,’ she said.
Rocco smiled. Who would have realised he could find everything he wanted here, in the arms of his beautiful wife, amid his rapidly expanding family? Sometimes he thought about how much Nicole had taught him. How to face up to your feelings, even if they brought you pain—because with pain came understanding and, from that, true contentment. She had taught him how to love and in so doing had taught him how to live.
He glanced over at her, where she had kicked off her sandals and was wiggling toes which were painted a violent shade of orange. She tied her hair back much more frequently these days because the twins tended to use the thick strands like ropes—but tonight she had shaken the curls free so that they flowed down her back in a dark cascade. Her ankle-length dress in filmy pink chiffon was still more Boho than classic, but that was okay. She looked beautiful in whatever she wore—and she was an artist, after all.