Chapter Seven

The chopper was quiet, and the air filled with tension as they flew to Northallerton. Both Giovanni and Sabrina were wrapped up in their own thoughts, and Olivia was busy watching out the window at the sights, as she sat on her father’s strong knee. One way or the other, Giovanni had to open the woman’s eyes before it was too late. If he went with Andre’s timetable, he had less than four weeks to break them up. With a little careful planning, and perhaps a bit of interference on Sandra’s side, he would succeed.

Sabrina arrived home with a flurry of excitement that made her forget her anger. Derek and Kristin’s children saw the Mercedes SUV Creighton sent to Northallerton to meet them pull up the road and ran the distance from their house to their grandparents’. The door was flung open the instant the car stopped, and excited children began pulling her arm. Hugs were exchanged before she could even get out as Olivia huddled to her father, hiding her face in his large chest.

“Let us out,” Sabrina shouted with a smile over the noise and waved her nieces and nephews away from the door.

She climbed out of the back as her parents came rushing down the front steps, hugging and kissing her like they hadn’t seen her in years...which it had been. The last time she was home was for Grace’s first birthday, over a year ago.

“Just put those in the room upstairs,” William told Clark over the noise.

Clark smiled, raising the suitcases above his head to get around everyone as the group grew larger when Creighton and Sandra’s two children joined the crowd.

“We’re so glad you could come home,” Sandra told her sister-in-law, hugging her tightly. “How was your trip?

“Completely uneventful,” she answered, glaring at Giovanni as her brother wrapped her in his strong embrace.

“I really love that plane of yours,” Giovanni told Creighton with a wide smile as Traci Ann took Olivia from his arms and ran off to play with her. “It’s very comfortable and I love the privacy. Nice to use a sofa rather than a cramped seat, too.

Sabrina tried hard to fight the blush from stealing up her cheeks as she turned her back to the man and walked into the house with her parents.

“How’s the research?” Creighton asked when they stepped into the kitchen.

“I haven’t been able to find anything to prove the woman isn’t telling the truth,” Giovanni said, taking a seat at the kitchen table. “She claims the last time she was with Silvano was in France and the timeframe matches to when he was there with father, the year Aryana ran off with Daniel.

“That was the year we met,” Sandra said, catching Creighton’s eye and smiling.

“It was just after that,” Giovanni added. “According to the woman’s story, the last time they were together he had two black eyes and a broken nose. I can only assume that was your handiwork.

“I’m not going to apologize,” Sandra snapped.

“And I’m not going to ask you to. The things Silvano did were inexcusable. There was more than one time I would have loved to do the same thing. I just never had the courage.

“It didn’t take courage,” Sandra smiled, “just a little Kansas backbone.

The room erupted in a round of laughter, making Sabrina’s return instantly feel relaxed and comfortable.

The rest of the afternoon sped by without a single hitch. The party was a huge affair, thanks to Creighton and Sandra. Derek and Kristin tried to reign in the children long enough for the caterers to do their job, while Sandra helped Emma with the stack of presents. Andrew and Cathy arrived shortly before the party began, followed by Irena and Peter.

At last, the entire Ashford family was together in one place, along with half the county. Laughter and music made everyone feel welcome, and the sounds of children playing brought back the lost years of childhood. The food was catered, of course, courtesy of Creighton, with a variety of dishes from barbequed beef to peach cobbler. Once the food was cleaned up and the noise began to wind down, the neighbors bid their good wishes and headed for home. This left the Ashford adults a chance to play a friendly game of football.

Sabrina, Cathy, and Derek were on Irena and Creighton’s side, while Sandra, Kristen, Peter, and Giovanni were teamed up with Andrew. The rest of the family gathered around on the porch with Nana and Papa, William and Emma and the children, who reluctantly were told to sit this game out. They all knew, once the second generation of Ashfords’ started playing, there was bound to be some roughhousing.

The game started off innocent enough, but after two incredible scores by Giovanni and one by Andrew, Sabrina found the strength to kick her energy into high gear. She came around Sandra and kicked the ball out of her path, bouncing it right into Creighton who scored their first goal. Next kick sailed the ball down the pasture, sending Sabrina and Giovanni racing toward it.

Creighton grabbed Andrew’s arm as he turned to follow, holding him back with a look that needed no words. Irena giggled and took Peter by his arm, running to the barn to saddle one of the newly broken horses. Sandra wrapped her arm around her husband’s waist and walked toward the back porch with the rest of the family, leaving Giovanni and Sabrina to fight for dominance over the black and white ball.

Sabrina kicked at the ball the same instant Giovanni tried to kick it but ended up kicking the man instead. He cried out in pain and fell to the ground holding his leg in his hands. Sabrina screeched as she fell to the dirt next to him, panting for air.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, reaching out and touching his shoulder.

“If you didn’t want me to play, you could have just said so, you didn’t have to break my leg.

“I didn’t break your leg…did I?

“It feels like it,” he grumbled.

“Can you walk back to the house?

“I don’t know. Give me a few minutes.

He sat up and very carefully stretched his leg out, then slowly bent it again. A sharp pain traveled up his shin as he moved it, but after a couple of minutes, the stabbing sensation dulled to a throbbing ache.

“Help me up,” he said as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

Sabrina struggled to lift his muscular frame off the ground, helping him balance on his feet. Giovanni took a cautious step forward and was relieved when there was no pain, but as he started to tell her he wasn’t seriously hurt, she wrapped her arm around his waist. It was a perfect situation to keep her close to his side and he was not going to lose his one chance to have her in his arms.

“Can you walk now?” she asked, glancing up to look at him.

“I’ll need your help,” he lied and gingerly took another step forward.

Step after step, they slowly made their way back toward the house, hearing the laughter of children in the yard. As they neared the back of the house, Creighton and Andrew were the first to look up, seeing their little sister holding tight to the limping man. They hurried to her aid and took the man under the arms, helping him back to the house as Sandra hurried in for ice, and Emma began ushering children out of the way.

“What happened?” William asked, opening the back screen-door so they could proceed through.

“I kicked him,” Sabrina said in a shaky voice. “I didn’t mean to. I was aiming for the ball.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Giovanni insisted, feeling suddenly very guilty for making such a fuss. “I’ll be fine. I just need to rest it for a bit.

“Maybe we should call an ambulance?” Emma suggested.

“We have something just as good,” Sandra said as Irena and Peter came in the back door.

“What the hell happened?” Irena asked with a frown as Kristin handed an ice pack to Giovanni.

“Sabrina tried to break Giovanni’s leg,” Andrew teased.

“No, she didn’t,” Giovanni insisted as Peter began to inspect his shin.

Sabrina burst into tears and ran out of the room, followed close behind by Sandra who caught up to her in the front yard.

“I didn’t mean to do it,” she sobbed. “I would never…”

“Hurt him?” Sandra asked. Sabrina nodded as she wiped her tears away with the heel of her hand. “Because you still love him?” Again, she nodded, this time the tears flowed freely, and she fell into Sandra’s arms.

“Oh, Sandra, what am I going to do?” she asked through sorrowful sobs.

“Tell him. Tell Giovanni you love him. He needs to know.

“I can’t,” Sabrina said, sniffing repeatedly as she pushed away from her sister-in-law’s shoulder. “I have a commitment to Andre. I can’t do this to him.

“What about you?” Sandra asked with a frown. “You can’t honestly stand there and tell me you’re going to go through with this wedding and spend the rest of your life living a lie. You and Giovanni belong together. You always have.

“You don’t understand. I can’t just walk away. It’s too late for that.

“Giovanni wants to see you,” Creighton said as he stepped up behind them.

Sabrina nodded and walked back into the house, wiping the tears from her cheeks.

“Stupid damn fool,” Sandra said under her breath.

“Who? Giovanni?” Creighton asked with a deep frown, his full lips pulling into a thin line beneath the dusting of beard covering his upper lip and jaw.

Sandra turned to face him. The anger etched on her face stained her skin a soft pink.

“She just admitted that she’s still in love with him, but she has a commitment to Andre and won’t back out of it, no matter how much she wants to.

“Stay out of it, Sandra,” Creighton warned. “She’s an adult, she has to make the decisions on her own.

“How can I stay out of it when I know she’s miserable? How can you? You’re her brother. You should have run a background check on him when I told you to.

“I did,” Creighton said, catching his wife off guard. “I ran a full background on him and he came out clean. He’s never even had a traffic ticket. Andre Marez is exactly what he claims to be, and he has a rather large trust fund that awaits him when he marries. Sabrina will have everything she has ever wanted.

“Except love,” Sandra said. “I have a good instinct and I’m telling you, Andre is hiding something. I just can’t put my finger on it.

“And I’m telling you, for the last time, stay out of it. If, or when, Sabrina asks for our help, then I’ll intervene, but not a moment before, and neither will you.

“Fine, have it your way. Let your sister surrender her soul to the devil.

Sandra turned to leave when her husband caught her by the arm.

“Where are you going?” he asked with a deep frown.

“Tell your parents I had a headache, or Grace needed to take a nap, I don’t care. I’m leaving before I say something that will just cause problems.

“Sandra, please don’t be like this. It’s my father’s birthday. Come back inside and enjoy the rest of the evening.

“I said I was leaving.

Sandra pushed past Creighton and walked around the corner of the house where she collected Grace. She glanced at Olivia who was playing in the dirt with Brandon, before walking across the large front yard to her own house.

She could not remember being this angry before. She wanted to scream at everyone for being such pig-headed idiots and not listening to common sense, but more than that, she wanted to shake Sabrina until her teeth rattled.

Sandra sat down on the front porch in her favorite rocking chair with her little daughter. Grace was nearly asleep by the time they arrived home and snuggled close to her mother who began rocking. It had been an active day for the child and it took very little to put her into a full slumber, allowing Sandra to continue thinking in silence.

Anger and frustration filtered through every nerve ending she owned as she moved Grace inside, a few minutes later, laying her in the crib in the corner of the living room. Sandra brushed the dirt from her daughter’s cheek then pulled a small blanket up across her and tucked her cloth doll close beside her.

She paced the floors until she was exhausted. She was getting more irritated with the whole situation as time passed. Then she remembered Creighton saying he checked Andre out, which meant he had the report in his office. She quickly looked out the front window to make sure nobody was coming across the yard, then hurried down the hallway. She searched the drawers of his antique desk until she found the report in question. She knew there had to be something Creighton missed. She didn’t trust Andre and she was certain he was up to something. She just didn’t know what.

Sandra took the papers and returned to the living room, checking on Grace to make sure she was still sleeping, then sat down at the table she used for writing. Half an hour later she closed the file more frustrated than when she had started reading. Creighton was right. There was nothing wrong with the guy. He was as clean as Wednesday’s laundry.

Andre Marez was the only child of Gwyn Lewis of Wales and Stephan Marez of Bordeaux France. His father had been a very successful lawyer, and senior partner to his own firm, for more than thirty-seven years, up until he died four years ago. His mother was left a very wealthy woman upon her husband’s death and spent much of her time with her church group, or charity events. The family-owned a large estate outside Bordeaux which Andre inherited once he married. According to Stephan’s will, Andre would inherit the lot of the estate once he turned thirty, which was in February, and only if he was married. That would explain his rush to push the wedding through after all these months of postponing it.

Andre had graduated as a mediocre student from a private Catholic school in Toulouse. After graduating, he chose to ignore his father’s request to attend University, then began a career in photography instead. Like everything else in his life, his career was ordinary, without any notable clients or supporters. He had a few thousand euros in his bank account, he lived in a midlevel flat in Paris, that his mother paid for, and drove his father’s 2001 BMW.

There was nothing substantial about the man. He didn’t go out of his way to make friends, or to bring attention to himself. He didn’t own any stocks or bonds, no real property, outside of that which he would inherit at his next birthday, and he paid his credit card bills regularly…or at least his mother did.

Andre Marez was basically a wallflower. Never involved in any charitable or social activities and nothing of interest that stood out to cause alarm. He was a squeaky-clean Mama’s boy, though Sandra would never accept it. She didn’t like the guy and she didn’t trust him, and nobody would convince her to change her mind.

“Sandra?” Creighton called out from the front hall, causing her to jump as he walked through the door.

She looked up to see him turn the corner of the living room, Brandon in his arms looking dirty and tired. He kissed his son’s forehead and set him down, telling him to go get ready for a bath.

“What are you doing?” he asked, checking on his sleeping daughter before sitting in a chair next to the table.

“I was looking at the file you have on Andre,” she said with a heavy sigh. “I can’t believe there isn’t anything here.

“I told you.

“Can you honestly sit there and tell me you trust him?

“Despite that report, I don’t trust him,” Creighton said wiping at an imaginary spot on the table. “It may be because I know Sabrina won’t be happy with him, or maybe the way he seems to find an excuse to keep her away from the family. I just don’t know.

“I can’t stand the idea of Sabrina being married to that man when she’s still in love with Giovanni. By the way, how’s his leg?

“He’s alright, just a little sore now that the initial shock is over.” Creighton smiled and glanced up into his wife’s beautiful face. “I think he was making it out to be worse than it really was. A little attention-seeking, you might say.

“Well, it worked.

“At least his injuries aren’t so bad he has to cancel their supper plans.

“They’re going on a date?” Sandra asked with a hopeful expression.

“Not necessarily a date, according to Sabrina, but definitely a step in the right direction.

“What are you going to do to make it special?” Sandra asked with a smile as she inspected her husband’s innocent expression.

“Nothing. I told you I’m not getting involved.

“I know what you said. Now, tell me what you’ve arranged.

“I offered the use of The Tornado. Purely out of necessity.

“The yacht?” Sandra gasped. “That’s a brilliant idea.

“I had her brought out of drydock this morning, and suggested they take her out for a maiden run before we start using her this summer.

“For someone who says he’s not a romantic, you come up with some pretty incredible ideas.

“I have a wife who has taught me well,” he smiled with a wicked grin.

“Tell me the truth,” she asked a moment later, a serious expression embracing her eyes. “You don’t want Sabrina marrying Andre, do you.

“No, I don’t. I know she’ll be unhappy, and he’ll do whatever he can to keep her away from the family, even more than he already does.

“If you had the opportunity to stop it, would you?

Creighton drew a deep breath as he tipped back in the chair.

“Yes, I would.

“Then maybe I can help arrange that opportunity. I know you don’t want me to get involved, but I can’t help it,” she said quickly in an attempt to stop his objections. “I love Sabrina as if she was my own sister, and I won’t stand by and watch her make the biggest mistake of her life.

“What did you have in mind?” he asked with a sigh.

“I don’t know just yet, but I’m not going to quit until she says I do, with the right man.

“Just promise me you won’t do anything that will cause a rift between my sister and the family.

“You mean you’re not going to yell at me?” Sandra asked with a surprising edge to her tone.

“I doubt anything I say will stop you,” he chuckled. “The truth is, I don’t want her marrying Andre, so I’ll back off until you need me. But one wrong move and I’ll lock you in your bedroom until you’re too old…or too sore to care anymore.

“Well then,” she said with a happy grin, “let’s see what I can do.

Sabrina stood by the railing of The Tornado as it slowly slipped through the river. Twilight was beautiful. The lights from Creighton’s expensive, refurbished yacht twinkled off the water, shining their path along the River Nene. The air was clear, and the night was warm, allowing for a relaxing trip.

Giovanni stepped up behind her, pausing momentarily. The green strapless dress she wore was stunning against her ivory skin. Her long dark hair hung loose down her back to rest just inches above her narrow waist, her slender legs beneath the knee-length dress ended in a pair of off-white heeled sandals. She was more beautiful than he had remembered, and far more alluring than Andre deserved. He couldn’t remember wanting the woman more than he did at that moment, but he knew he had to choose his moves carefully.

Softly, he cleared his throat and walked forward, two glasses of champagne in his hand. Sabrina smiled and took the glass he handed to her, turning back to the sights of the stone castle of Fotheringhay as it came into sight.

“I thought you didn’t drink anymore?” she teased, hoping her tone didn’t sound as nervous as she felt.

“I figured it would be safe. I have you here to make certain I don’t do anything crazy.

“I’m quite happy you let Olivia have a sleepover with Derek’s kids. They loved playing with her.

“She needs friends and I like your brothers’ families. I’m grateful they volunteered to watch her, so we could have the night alone.

“It’s such a beautiful sight,” Sabrina whispered as she turned to gaze at the castle, trying to ignore the loud thumping of her heart.

“Yes, it is,” Giovanni said, watching her eyes sparkle in the light of the moon.

“I asked Captain Shaw to dock near the castle,” he told her as the engines shut down and the ship came to a halt. “I thought it would be a nice place to have supper.

“I have always loved this place,” Sabrina said with a smile. “Thank you for bringing me here.

“Do you remember the first time we came here?” he asked.

His hand covered hers as it wrapped around the banister of the railing. Sabrina blushed slightly and nodded.

“It was the first time you kissed me,” she answered in a soft voice.

“It took me weeks to get up enough courage,” he chuckled. “I was so nervous, I thought I was going to vomit.

“I’m glad you didn’t,” she laughed. “I might have joined you.

“It would have made the memory much less pleasant,” he said, as they walked to the table where their supper was being served.

They made light conversation as they ate the shepherd’s pie, vegetable salad, and sweet bread. Giovanni successfully kept her talking about her new career and the shows she had planned, confident that she had forgotten her fiancée in the midst of her future plans. She told him about the sales she had made from her first show, and the more she spoke, the more excited she became. Her hard work had paid off, with a little help from Creighton, and she was eager to embrace it and see how far it would take her.

Giovanni listened with interest as she described the upcoming show and her designs. It was like old times for him. They used to spend hours dreaming of what their lives would be like in five years. They had so many ideas and fantasies of love and romance, careers, and family.

She wanted to marry at this old castle, or as near as she could get to it, and immediately have a child. She thought having a baby, nine months to the day after they married would be romantic and memorable. She wanted her wedding to be during the day on a warm summer weekend with flowers and music and ice cream sundaes. She wanted to dance barefoot in the grass and ride off to their wedding night in a horse-drawn carriage. It was a dream Giovanni doubted would be to Andre’s liking.

“What made you decide to take over for your father?” Sabrina asked as their supper dishes were cleared away.

“I wasn’t happy traveling so much with Olivia,” he answered watching her eyes widen as Garman, the ship’s Steward sat the plates of fresh fruit in front of them. Sabrina’s favorite choice of dessert.

“I wanted a home for my daughter and a place where she could have friends and a life that didn’t involve hotels or plane trips every other week. When my father told me, he wanted to retire and Mariella had been riding him to make their relationship public, I wasn’t surprised. When he offered me the chance to give Olivia everything I had ever wanted, I agreed. My childhood home, my family around for comfort and support. It was an ideal situation.

“Why did you come to England instead of going to Italy first off?

“My father told me about a woman who claimed to have been Silvano’s lover. She claims he fathered her child. My father has always been about family and he asked me to check her out and see if the claims are legitimate. She has refused paternity testing and has asked for only fifty thousand pounds. My father doesn’t believe her, so I told him I would verify her story.

“And you found her in France?” Sabrina asked, stuffing her mouth full of grapes, looking much like a chipmunk.

“No, but I did find out she was there at the same time Silvano was. When she met him, he had just broken his nose. A gift from your sister-in-law.

“What are you going to do now?

“I’m trying to get a copy of the child’s birth certificate, but it’s very difficult. Without proving parentage, I have no legal claim. I may have to take her to court to get it and that will take a lot more time then I want to waste.

“I have a client who works at the registrar’s office,” Sabrina said, taking a drink of the water she had sitting in front of her. “Maybe I can work out a deal for you.

“You would do that?” he asked with a surprised expression.

“If it means learning the truth, I’d be happy to. She’s been trying to get me to design a dress for a family reunion she has in October. I could swap services.

“I would be indebted to you forever if you could help me.

“I’ll call her Monday.

Sabrina’s heart skipped a beat as she watched Giovanni stand from his seat and walk around to her side of the table. He lifted her hand and kissed the back of her knuckles before helping her to her feet. They moved to the center of the deck where they could be closer to the speakers playing Creighton’s favorite soft jazz selections.

Giovanni wrapped her in his embrace as they began to move across the deck. They were like synchronized swimmers moving in unison, wrapped in each other’s arms. Sabrina closed her eyes and laid her head against his broad shoulder. It was such a comfortable feeling, a normal feeling. Like old times. She could hear his heartbeat beneath her ear, tapping out a steady rhythm that made her sigh contently. This was a wonderful evening and she was not going to forget it any time soon.

“Do you want to go back?” he asked her in a hushed tone.

“Do you?” she asked, moving away slightly so she could look into his handsome face.

“No,” he answered flatly, staring at her full lips.

“Neither do I,” she whispered, leaning into him and kissing his lips tenderly.

The seconds ticked slowly before he found the courage to increase the pressure, pulling her against him in a tight, gentle hold. The feel of her body in the strapless gown made him forget all thought of taking things slowly. He wanted her, and his body was determined to reacquaint itself with hers.

Giovanni slid his tongue between her teeth and she moaned. She could remember what making love with this man was like, and her body reacted to the images floating behind her closed lids. She felt warm in places she had forgotten had feelings. Her breasts tightened beneath the thin fabric of her dress and she could feel her most intimate places moisten as he continued to kiss her.

“We should stop,” she heard him say, through deep regretful tones.

“No,” she told him, wrapping her arms around his neck tightly. “I want you. I need you. Please don’t let me go.

“Sabrina, you don’t know what you’re saying,” he groaned as his lips caressed her slender neck.

“Yes, I do.

Giovanni leaned back just enough to look into her dark blue eyes, seeing the need and desire burning like ebony in the dark depths.

“Please,” she whispered.

That one word had him lost. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her through the main lounge to the bedrooms that stood empty down the narrow passageway. He paused in front of the room she used when Creighton would take them on holiday, and quietly opened the door. Once inside, he kicked it shut, encasing them in the moonlit dimness. The look on her face spurred him forward as he carried her to the bed and gently laid her across the covers.

Sabrina reached her arms around his neck as soon as he laid her down, pulling him down to her. Their lips touched again, urgently, demanding a deeper contact between the two. She shivered slightly when she felt his fingertips slowly slide down her arms, but the chill faded by the warmth of his large hand that caressed her soft skin.

Her subconscious warned her she was going too far. She had to back off. She didn’t belong to Giovanni. She had a fiancée waiting for her in France, but her heart won over and stomped the voice back into the dormant place of her soul that nobody could hear. She wanted him, she wanted to feel his love again, and she would not deny herself the luxury or pleasure of his touch.

Giovanni felt her complete surrender as he began undressing her and knew he could afford the time to go slowly. His lips moved from her mouth as he eased her onto her back. Tenderly, he began to explore her with his lips. His teeth nipped the tender flesh of her throat, making her gasp, followed by a soft moan. With a gentle pull, he freed her from the bodice of her dress, exposing her breasts to his hot, eager exploration. This was what he had waited six long years for. His beloved Sabrina was once again in his arms, and he would not deny either of them this moment of reconciliation.

His mouth moved over every inch of her breasts, exploring and teasing until she was panting beneath him. He nipped at her nipples, one after the other before sucking them deep into the moist heat of his mouth, causing her to groan with need. Divesting her of her clothing was easier than he would have assumed…that was if he had been concentrating on what he was doing. Seconds ticked by before she lay beneath him completely naked, moist with the perspiration of desire.

Giovanni kissed his way down her sternum to her navel, his hands holding her hips securely as his tongue bathed a hot path down her body to the apex of her need. Sabrina gasped loudly when the tip of his tongue snaked out to caress her smooth labia. Her hands clutched the blanket beneath her as he sucked and nipped each lip in turn. She felt dizzy with need as the heat of his tongue moved swiftly between her lips, finding and tormenting the swollen nub of her clitoris.

Sabrina arched against his touch, growling softly while he positioned himself between her spread legs. She was growing hot and frustrated with his teasing, but just when she was certain she would lose her mind, his fingers slipped into her tight throbbing vagina. She felt the surge of passion wash over her as his fingers began to thrust slowly in and out of her, the heat building to volcanic degrees, forcing her to pant like a wild beast. The thrusting continued until she knew she was spent, begging him verbally to release her.

Obediently, he did as she asked, slipping two fingers into her and pressing the soft pad of skin hiding just inside her opening. Instantly, she cried out, feeling the climax of his touch wash over her like a tidal wave. She clung to the bedcovers and cried out his name, her body convulsing beneath him. She couldn’t think, she couldn’t breathe, all she could do was feel, and before she knew it his fingers were replaced by the rock-hard shaft of his penis. She didn’t know how or when he had disrobed and she didn’t give it a second thought as her legs wrapped around his waist, taking him deeper.

Sabrina could feel him growing harder, knowing he was near exploding and before the knowledge moved past her conscious mind, she felt it. The heat of his climax filled her like the rays of the sun, warming and bathing her with love. Sabrina called out his name as she joined him, riding the turbulent storm in his arms, listening to the deep primal growl of their conjoined release echo around the room.

Several breathless moments passed before they were able to think again. Their breathing a mingled menagerie of pants. Giovanni rose up on his elbows, looking down into the love that shined in her dark blue eyes. He had longed to see her like this and realized in a few short moments how much he had truly missed her. Out of every sight he had seen in the world, every adventure he had ever taken, this was his favorite place to be.

“I love you,” he whispered, covering her mouth before she could agree or object.

Sabrina wrapped her arms around his neck, her lips matching the pressure against his. Reality began to rear its head, reminding her that she was engaged to another man. Pushing the thought aside, she refused to listen to the ugly truth. This one single night belonged to them and she would not allow anything or anyone to interfere with it.

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