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Harlequin Presents January 2015 Box Set 3 of 4(254)

By:Lynne Graham

‘Anch’io ti amo. I love you too, Lottie.’

* * *

Pulling apart at last, they moved into the salon. Rafael bent to put a match to the fire prepared in the hearth, then drew Lottie back beside him as they watched as the flames licked around the kindling, crackling it into life.

As he turned to look down at her his dark eyes were brimming with love in a way that Lottie had never, ever thought she would see again. Then he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into the tightest hug.

‘It will warm up in a minute.’

‘I’m not cold.’

How could she be, locked in his arms, with his astonishing words still resonating in her head?

‘Good.’ He paused, running a hand over her tangled curls, tracing the shape of her skull with the flat of his palm. ‘I’m so sorry, Lottie.’

‘No.’ Moving away just enough to look up at his face, Lottie stopped him. ‘I should be saying sorry, not you. I’m the one who ran away, who didn’t have the courage to tell you to your face how I felt.’

‘I didn’t give you the chance.’ Drawing her back against his chest, he spoke the words softly over her head. ‘I was so consumed with guilt...’

He resisted the pull of Lottie against him.

‘No, let me say this—I have to say this. I was so consumed with guilt over Seraphina’s death that it took over everything in my life. I refused to grieve, refused to even let myself witness your grief, because it twisted the knife in my heart still further. Every time I looked at you it was like a permanent reminder of what I had done—to our baby, to you. I thought I had taken away from you the only thing that mattered.’

‘No, of course you hadn’t, Rafe.’ Forcibly loosening herself from the grip of his arms, Lottie tipped back her head to look at him. ‘That wasn’t how it was at all. You have to stop tormenting yourself.’

‘So instead I made it my mission to try and change that terrible destiny. And when it didn’t happen, when the IVF didn’t work, instead of standing back and taking a long hard look at what I was doing, instead of devoting myself to trying to make you happy, I turned into some crazed adrenalin junkie, pushing myself further and further physically and further and further away from you.’ He stopped abruptly, the glitter of tears in his eyes. ‘Can you ever forgive me, Lottie?’

‘Rafael.’ Shrugging off his arms, she raised her hands to his face, brushing away the dark curls from his forehead, grazing her fingers against the ridge of the scar. ‘Listen to me.’

He had no option now but to meet her gaze, see that what she was saying was the truth. ‘You were not responsible for Seraphina’s death. Do you hear me?’

‘But if I had taken you to the hospital in Milan... They had better equipment there—they might have saved her...’

‘It was a much longer journey, Rafe. I might have given birth in the helicopter, and even if I hadn’t Seraphina would almost certainly have died. She was just too premature, Rafe. Too tiny...too frail. You have to accept that. You did everything you could. But ultimately what happened was beyond your control.’ She gazed at his beautiful agonised face, desperate to take away the pain, to make him see that he wasn’t to blame. She lowered her voice gently. ‘Even you can’t control everything, you know, Rafe.’

‘That I do know.’ Rafael’s huff of acceptance finally released some of the tension and a smile touched his lips. ‘I can’t control my feelings for you. I tried to stop loving you, Lottie—Dio, how I tried. But no matter what you did, no matter how much I reminded myself that you had walked out on me, that you had never loved me, I couldn’t stop the love I had for you. And I hated myself for it.’

‘I’m so sorry...’

Rafael brought his lips down on hers for another silencing kiss. ‘No more sorries. No more regrets. We have made a mess of the past but now we have the whole of our future to put things right. And it starts here.’

He took hold of her hand and Lottie watched as he placed it on her abdomen, resting his own over the top. Then their eyes met again with the miraculous realisation. They were a family already: Rafael, Lottie and the baby. Everything was going to be fine.

The fire crackled and popped in celebration.


Last night Contessa Charlotte Revaldi, wife of Conte Rafael Revaldi, gave birth to         a son, Valentine Rafael John, at Ospedale D’Aosta.

As the Conte di Monterrato arrived to visit mother and         baby this morning he announced that they were both doing extremely well and         that he and his wife couldn’t be more proud of their longed-for second         child—a brother for Seraphina.