Page List


“All this time, I was afraid of loving anyone again. Because I didn’t think I could handle the devastation of losing them. But I think I’ve always been in love with you, Emma.” Reaching out, he cupped her face. “From the day we first met. And I told you that you looked smart. And that I was glad you came into my life.”

A little squeak came out of her lips.

“Do you think I really came to Paris for some deal over a hotel? No.” He searched her gaze. “I was looking for you. When I found out about the baby, I asked you to marry me. Then I slept with you. I did all the things I swore I’d never do. I kept breaking my own rules again and again. Over you.”

“What are you saying?” she whispered.

He looked down at her in the moonlight, caressing her cheeks, running the pads of his thumbs over her pink full lips.

“Where you are concerned, from now on there is only one rule.” He smiled, and her image seemed to shimmer as he said hoarsely, “I’m going to love you for the rest of my life.”

“You—you really love me,” she breathed.

He saw the incredulity in her eyes, the desperate hope. He thought of her years of devotion going far beyond that of any paid employee. Thought of how she’d always been by his side. How she’d always had the strength and dignity to stand up for what was right. Even today.

Especially today.

“You’ve shown me what love can be,” he whispered. “Love isn’t delusion, it isn’t trying to avoid grief and pain, but holding your hand right through it, while you hold mine.” He took her hand, cradling it in his own. “All this time,” he said in a low voice, running his other hand along her pale translucent veil, “I was afraid of loving someone and losing them. I turned it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

She swallowed, shifting Sam’s weight against her shoulder. “It still could happen. I could get sick again. I could get hit by a bus.”

“Or you could stop loving me. You could leave me for another man.”

“Never,” she cried, then suddenly blushed, looking down at her wedding gown. “Er, except for just now, I mean. And I didn’t leave you for Alain, I never thought of him that way.”

“I know.”

“I couldn’t marry a man who didn’t love me. Because I’ve realized it’s love that makes a family. Not promises.”

Slowly Cesare lowered himself to one knee, as he should have done from the beginning. “Then let me love you for the rest of our lives. However long or short those lives might be.” Taking her hands in his own, he fervently kissed each palm, then pressed them against his tuxedo jacket, over his chest. “Marry me, Emma. And whatever your answer might be, know that you hold my heart. For the rest of my life.”

“As you hold mine,” she said as tears ran down her face. Moving her hands, she cupped his face. And nodded.

“Yes?” he breathed, searching her gaze. “You’ll marry me?”

“Yes,” she said, smiling through her tears.

“Now,” he demanded.

She snorted. “So bossy,” she said with a laugh. “Some things never change.” Her expression grew serious. “But some things do. I want to marry the man I love. The man who loves me.” Her eyes grew suddenly shadowed as she shook her head. “And if anything ever happens to us...”

“We’re all going to die someday.” Cesare’s eyes were suspiciously blurry as he looked down at her. Beneath her veil, several pins had fallen out of her chignon, causing her lustrous hair to tumble wildly down her shoulders. He pulled out the rest, tangling his fingers in her hair. “The only real question is if we’re ever going to live. And from now on, my darling,” he whispered as he lowered his lips to hers, “we are.”

* * *


“We’re over here!” she called, but she knew Cesare wouldn’t be able to see her in the villa’s garden. It was August, and everything was in bloom, the fruit trees, the vegetables, even the corn. She tried to stand up, but being over eight months pregnant, it wasn’t easy. She had to push herself up off the ground with her hands, and then bend around in a way that made Sam, now fifteen months old and digging in the dirt beside her with his little spade, giggle as he watched her flop around.

“Mama,” he laughed, yanking a flower out of the ground.

“Fine, go ahead and laugh,” she said affectionately, smiling down at him. “I did this for you, too, you know.”

“Fow-a.” With dark, serious eyes, he handed her the flower. Every day, he looked more like Cesare, she thought. But he’d also started to remind her of her own father, Sam’s namesake. She saw that in the toddler’s loving eyes, in his sweetly encouraging spirit.

“Emma!” Cesare called again, more desperately.

“Over here!” She waved her hands over the bushes, trying to make him see her. “By the orange grove!”

The garden had been transformed. Just like her life. The gold-digging supermodels of London would have been shocked and dismayed to learn that, as a billionaire’s wife, Emma now spent most of her days right here, with a dirty child, growing fruits and vegetables for their kitchen and beautiful flowers to fill the vases of their home. Except, of course, when they had to fly down to the coast and go yachting along the Mediterranean, or take the private jet to see friends in London or New York. It was nice to do such things. But nicer still, she thought, to come back to their home.

The wedding had been even better than she’d imagined. After their breathless declaration and kiss by the lake, she and Cesare had gone back to the chapel arm in arm—only to discover their guests had already given up on them and started to mill back to the villa to gossip about them over some well-deserved limoncello. Even Irene looked as if she’d almost given up hope.

They’d called them all back to the chapel, and with some small, blushing explanation, the wedding had gone forward as planned. Right up to their first married kiss, which had been so passionate that it made all the guests burst into applause, and made Emma’s toes curl as she’d thought she heard angels sing. The priest had been forced to clear his throat and gently remind them the honeymoon hadn’t quite started yet.

She exhaled. They were a family now. They were happy. Cesare still had his international empire, but he’d cut back on travel a bit. Especially since they’d found out she was pregnant again.

“Cara.” Cesare came into the clearing of the garden and took her in his arms for a long, delicious kiss. Then he knelt by their son, who was still playing in the dirt, and tousled his dark hair. “And did you have a good day, piccino?”

Watching the two of them, father and son, tears rose in Emma’s eyes. Slowly she looked over the beauty of the garden. The summer trees were thick and green, and she could see the roof of the Falconeri villa against the bright blue Italian sky. How happy her parents would be if they could see how her life had turned out. Cesare’s parents, too. She could feel their love, every time she looked at Cesare. Every time she looked at their son.

And soon, their daughter would join them. Emma’s hand ran over her huge belly. In just a few weeks, their precious daughter would be born. They had already picked her name: Elena Margaret, after her two grandmothers.

Emma felt the baby kick inside her, and smiled, putting both hands over her belly now. “You like that, do you?” she murmured, then turned her face back to the sun.

“What happened while I was gone today?” Cesare rose to his feet, a frown on his handsome face. “You are crying.”

Smiling, she shook her head, even as she felt tears streak down her cheeks.

Reaching out, he rubbed them away. “What is it?” he said anxiously. “Not some problem with the baby? With you?”

“No.” The pregnancy had been easy. She’d been healthy all the way through, in spite of Cesare’s worry. All her checkups had put her in the clear. She was safely in remission, had been for over a decade, and all her life was ahead of her. “I can’t explain. I’m just so—happy.”

“I’m happy, too,” he whispered, putting his arms around her. He gave a sudden wicked grin. “And I’ll be even happier, after Sam is tucked in bed...”

She saw what he was thinking about, in the sly seduction of his smile, and smacked him playfully on the bottom. “I’m eight months pregnant!”

“You’ve never been more beautiful.”

“Right,” she said doubtfully.

“Cara.” He cupped her face. “It’s true.”

He kissed her until she believed him, until she felt dazed, dazzled in this garden of flowers and joy. She knew they would live here for the rest of their lives. If they were lucky, they’d someday be surrounded by a half-dozen noisy children, all splashing in the lake, sliding up and down the marble hallways in their socks, screaming and laughing like banshees. She and Cesare would be the calm center of the storm. The heart of their home.

He pulled her against him, and they stood silently in the garden, watching their son play. She heard the wind through the leaves. She exhaled.

She’d gotten everything she’d ever wanted. A man who loved her, whom she loved in return. Marriage. A snug little villa. As she felt the warmth of the sun, and listened to the cheerful chatter of their son, she leaned into her husband’s embrace and thought about all the love that had existed for the generations before them. Their parents. Their parents’ parents. And the love that would now exist for generations to come.

Tags: Jennie Lucas Billionaire Romance