After a vacation in paradise, Marianna Amatucci returned to her family vineyard determined to make a fresh start. But her plans changed in an instant when two blue lines on a pregnancy test revealed she'd returned with a souvenir!
When she finds the father, Ryan White, he's nothing like the laid-back surfer she met on the beach. In a tailored suit, he oozes masculine authority, and he's staying in the penthouse! What will walking into his high-flying corporate world mean for their baby ?
The Vineyards of Calanetti
Saying "I do" under the Tuscan sun
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Marianna Amatucci stared at the door of the Grande Plaza Hotel's Executive Suite and swallowed. With her heart pounding in her throat, she backed up to lean against the wall opposite. A glance up and down the corridor confirmed she was alone. Up here at the very top of the hotel all was free from bustle, the very air hushed.
She patted her roiling stomach. You will behave. Usually by mid-morning her nausea had eased.
It wasn't morning sickness that had her stomach rebelling, though. It was nerves. She stared at the door opposite and her skin broke out in a cool sheen of perspiration. She twisted her hands together. She had nothing to fear. This was Ryanblond-haired, blue-eyed, tanned surfer boy Ryan.
An image of his long-limbed beauty and sexy smile rose in her mind and her heart started to flutter in an altogether different fashion. She pressed one hand to her abdomen. Mia topolino, your papa is utterly lovely.
She moistened her lips. No, she had nothing to fear. Her news would startle him of course. Heavens, the shock of it still reverberated through her own being. But he'd smile that slow, easy smile, pull her into his arms and tell her it'd all be okay and she'd believe him. He'd come to see that a child would be a blessing. Wouldn't he?
The corridor swam. She blinked hard and chafed her arms, the chill of the air-conditioning seeping into her bones. She stared at the door and pressed steepled hands to her mouth? It was just what on earth was Ryan doing in the Executive Suite? She couldn't square that with the man she'd met on a Thai beach two months ago. A man more at home in board shorts and flipflops and his own naked skin than a swish hotel that catered to Rome's elite.
Stupid girl! What do you really know of this man?
That was Angelo's voice sounding in her head. Not that he'd uttered the words out loud, of course. But she'd read them in his eyes in the same way she'd read the disappointment in Nico's. As usual, her brothers had a point.
What did she know of Ryan? She moistened her lips. She knew he made love as if he had all the time in the world. He'd made love to her with such a mixture of passion and tenderness he'd elicited a response from her that had delighted and frightened her simultaneously. She'd never forget their lovemaking. The week of their holiday fling had been one of the best weeks of her life, and while they'd made no plans to see each other againtoo complicated with her in Italy and him in Australiabut her head lifted. Maybe this was fate?
Or maybe being pregnant has addled your brain?
And standing here wondering why on earth Ryan was currently ensconced in the Executive Suite wouldn't provide her with an answer. Fortune smiled on men like Ryanmen that oozed easy-going good humour and warmth. The check-in clerk could simply have taken a shine to him and upgraded him, or a friend of a friend might've owed him a favour or something. There'd be a logical explanation. Standing out here tying herself in knots was crazy, a delaying tactic.
She was no coward!
Marianna pushed away from the wall, wiped her palms down her skirt and straightened her shirt before lifting her hand and finally knocking. A thrill coursed through her. She and Ryan might not have made plans to see each other again, but he'd never been far from her thoughts during the last two months and maybe
The door opened and Marianna's breath caught and held, suspended between hard pounds of her heart. The haze in front of her eyes slowly dissolved, and in sluggish bewilderment her brain registered that the stranger standing in front of her dressed in a bespoke suit and a crisp cotton business shirt and tie was
She blinked and peered up at him. 'Ryan?'
He leaned towards her and then frowned. 'Marianna?'
The stranger was Ryan! Her pulse jumped as she took in the dark blond hair, the blue-green eyes, and the sensual curve of his lips. Lips that had started to lift, but were suddenly pressed together into a grim straight line.
She stared at that mouth, at the cool light in his eyes. How different he seemed. Her stomach started to churn with a seriousness that forced her to concentrate on her breathing for a moment.
'What are you doing here?'
That was uttered in a voice she barely recognised. She dug her fingernails into her palms. Smile. Please. Please just smile.
Her inner pleading did no good. If anything, his frown deepened. She stared at him, unable to push a word out of a throat that had started to cramp. Keep breathing. Do not throw up on his feet!
He glanced away and then back at her, and finally down at his watch. 'I have a meeting shortly.'
A chill chased itself down her spine as her nausea receded. Why would he not smile? 'I wish you'd called.'
She reached out to steady herself against the doorjamb. He was giving her the brush-off?
He lifted his wrist to glance at his watch again. 'I'm sorry, but'
The words blurted out of her with no forethought, without any real volition, and with the force of one of Thailand's summer storms. Her common sense put its head in its hands and wept.
He stilled, every muscle growing hard and rigid, and then his eyes froze to chips of blue ice. 'I see.' He opened the door wider, but the expression on his face told her he'd have rather slammed it in her face. 'You'd better come in.'
She strode into the room with her back ramrod straight. Inside, though, everything trembled. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. She'd meant to broach the subject of her pregnancy gently, not slap him over the head with it.
She stopped in the middle of the enormous living room with its plush sofas and ornate tables and furnishings and pulled in a deep breath. Right. Take two. She touched a hand to her stomach. Mia topolino, I will fix this.
Setting her shoulders, she turned to face him, but her words dried on her lips when she met the closed expression on his face. It became suddenly evident that he wasn't going to smile and hug her. She did her best not to wobble. Couldn't he at least take her hand and ask her if she was okay?
Except why would he smile at her when she stood here glaring at him as if he were the enemy? She closed her eyes and did what she could to collect herself, to find a smile and a quip that would help her unearth the man she'd met two months ago. 'I know this must come as a shock'
'I take it then that you're claiming the child is mine?'
She took a step back, her poor excuse for a smile dying on her lips, unable to reconcile this cold, hard stranger with the laid-back man she'd met in Thailand. Fear had lived inside her ever since she'd discovered she was pregnantand she was tired of it. Seizing hold of that fear now, she turned it into anger. 'Of course it's yours! Are you attempting to make some slur on my character?'
She didn't believe in slut-shaming. If that was what he was trying to do she'd tear his eyes out.
'Don't be ridiculous!'
Oh, so now she was ridiculous, was she? She could feel her eyes narrowing and her fingers curving into claws. 'I'm just over two months pregnant. Two months ago I was'
'On a beach in Thailand!' He whirled away from her, paced across the room and back again. His pallor made her swallow. He thrust a finger at her, his eyes blazing. 'Pregnancy wasn't part of the plan.'
'There was a plan?' She lifted her hands towards the ceiling and let loose a disbelieving laugh. 'Nobody told me about any plan.' 'Don't be so obtuse!'
Ridiculous? Obtuse? Her hands balled to fists.
'We were supposed to to just have fun! No strings! Enjoy the moment, live in the moment, before sailing off into the sunset.' He set his legs and stabbed another finger at her. 'That's what we agreed.'
'You think ' Her breath caught. She choked it back. 'You think I planned this?'
If anything the chill in his eyes only intensified.
Her brothers might think her an immature, irresponsible piece of fluff, but it knocked the stuffing out of her to find Ryan did too.
Maybe they're all right.
And maybe they were not! She slammed her hands to her hips. 'Look, I know this has come as a shock and I know it wasn't planned, but the salient fact is that I'm pregnant and you're the biological father of the child I'm carrying.'
Her words seemed to bow him although as far as she could tell not a single one of his muscles moved. She pressed a fist to her mouth before pulling it down and pressing both hands together. She had to think of the baby. What Ryan thought of her didn't matter. 'It it took me a little while to get my head around it too, but now.'
She trailed off. How could she tell him that she now saw the baby as a blessingthat it had become a source of excitement and delight to herwhen he stared at her like that? The tentative excitement rose up through her anew. 'Oh, Ryan!' She took a step towards him. 'Is this news really so dreadful to you?' 'Yes''
The single word left him without hesitation and she found herself flinching away from him, her hands raised as if to ward him off, grateful her baby was too young to understand its father's words.
Ryan's chest rose and fell too hard and too fast. His face had become an immobile mask, but the pounding at the base of his jaw told her he wasn't as controlled as he might like her to think.
It was all the encouragement she needed. She raced over to him and seized him by the lapels of his expensive suit and shook him. She wanted some reaction that would help her recognise him, some real emotion. 'We're going to have a baby, Ryan! It's not the end of the world. We can work something out.' He stood there like a stone and panic rose up through her. She couldn't do this on her own. 'For heaven's sake.' She battled a sob. 'Say something useful!'
He merely detached her hands and stepped back, releasing her. 'I don't know what you expect from me.'
That was when some stupid fantasy she hadn't even realised she'd harboured came crashing down around her.
You are such an idiot, Marianna.
A breath juddered out of her. 'You really don't want this baby, do you?'
'The bathroom?' she whispered.
He pointed and she fled, locking the door behind her before throwing up the crackers she'd managed for breakfast. Flushing the toilet, she lowered the lid and sat down, blotting her face with toilet paper until the heat and flush had subsided. When she was certain her legs would support her again, she stood and rinsed her mouth at the sink.
She stared at her reflection in the mirror. Screw-up! The accusation screamed around and around in her mind.
She didn't know that man out there. A week on a beach hadn't given her any insight into his character at all. She'd let her hormones and her romantic notions rule her as she always did. And now she'd humiliated herself by throwing up in the Executive Suite of the Grande Plaza Hotel. It was all she could do not to scream.
With a superhuman effort, she pushed her shoulders back. She might be impulsive and occasionally headstrong, she might be having trouble reining in her emotions at the moment, but the one thing she could do was save face. Her baby deserved far more than that man out there had to give.
She rinsed her mouth one more time, and dried her hands before pinching colour back into her cheeks. With a nod at her reflection, she turned and flung the bathroom door open and almost careened straight into Ryan standing on the other side, with his hand raised as if to knock.
She might not recognise him, but the familiarity of those lean, strong hands on her shoulders as he steadied her made her ache.
'Are you okay?' His words shot out short and clipped.
She gave a curt nod. He let her go then as if she had some infectious disease he might catch. It took a concerted effort not to snap out, Pregnancy isn't contagious, you know?
He stalked back out into the main room and she followed him. 'Can I order something for you? Food, tea iced water?'
'No, thank you.' All she wanted to do now was get out of here. The sooner she left, the better. 'I'
'The fact that you're here tells me you've decided to go ahead with the pregnancy.' 'That's correct.'
He shoved his hands into his pockets, his lips pursed. 'Did you consider alternatives like abortion or adoption?'
She had, so it made no sense why anger should rattle through her with so much force she started to shake. 'That's the male answer to everything, isn't it? Get rid of it make the problem go away.'
He spun to her. 'We were so careful!'
They had been. They'd not had unprotected sex once. Her pill prescription had run out a month before she was due to return to Italy, though, and she'd decided to wait until she'd got home before renewing it. They'd used condoms, but condoms, obviously, weren't infallible.
Her heart burned, but she ignored it and straightened. Not that her five feet two inches made any impact when compared to Ryan's lean, broad six feet. 'I made a mistake coming here.
What had she thought?
Anger suddenly bubbled back up through her. 'What's this all about?' She gestured to his suit and tie, his Italian leather shoes, angry with him for his stupid clothes and herself for her overall general stupidity. 'I thought you were '
His lips twisted into the mockery of a smile. 'You thought me a beach bum.'
She'd thought him a wanderer who went wherever whim and the wind blew him. She'd envied him that. 'You had many opportunities to correct my assumption.'
He dragged a hand down his face. 'That week in Thailand ' He shook his head, pulling his hand away. 'It was an aberration.'
'Aberration?' She started to shake with even more force. 'As I said, I made a mistake in coming here.'
'Why didn't you ring?'
She tossed her head and glared. 'I did. A couple of days ago. I hung up before I could be put through to the Executive Suite. It didn't seem the kind of news one should give over the phone.' It obviously wasn't the kind of news she should've shared with him at all. This trip had been an entirely wasted effort. I'm sorry, topolino. She lifted her chin. 'I thought you would like to know that I was pregnant. I thought telling you was the right thing to do. I can see, though, that a child is the last thing you want.'
'And you do?'