“We’re going. Out. Now.” He gathers the basket, then takes my hand in his spare one and plants a wet kiss on my knuckles. “Come on.”
“I didn’t know this was here,” I comment, as Dominic and I walk side-by-side up a long pier that overlooks the sound. It’s a bit overcast today, keeping us cool, but the scenery is no less stunning. “It’s only a few miles from my condo.”
He nods and gazes out at the water, then frowns at the chain-link fence with locks of all different shapes and sizes hanging from it.
“Locks of love,” I murmur with a grin. “I guess they’re trying to copy the place in Paris?”
“I don’t get it,” he says, before glancing down at me with a raised brow. “Is it supposed to be romantic?”
“It’s supposed to be symbolic,” I reply with a shrug. “You know, obviously if we place a lock here with our initials with all of the rest, our love is true.” I smirk and shake my head. “It’s like Valentine’s Day.”
He blinks in surprise. “Okay, you have to explain that to me.”
We lean against the railing and watch sailboats float past. The water is deep blue and choppy. We shed our shoes at the base of the pier, along with the basket and wine. Dom takes my hand in his and lifts it to his lips, planting a firm kiss right on the back of my hand as I lean my cheek against his shoulder and take a deep breath of the salty air.
“It’s a gimmick,” I say simply.
“You’re so not a romantic, tesoro.” He chuckles and kisses my hand again, and I’m not sure why, but that doesn’t sit well with me.
“I am,” I insist, and turn to lean my back on the railing so I can face him. “I am when it comes to what matters.”
“What matters?” His voice is quiet, but insistent, and his deep blue eyes are pinned to mine.
“Romance isn’t about proving to someone you love them with flowers and greeting cards and chocolate. Or even a lock on a fence. It’s a daily reminder. It’s saying, I choose you. Today and every day.” I shrug, and look down, embarrassed now. Why in the bloody hell did I say that?
But Dom tilts my head up and smiles down at me in that gentle way he does. “I hear you.”
I turn back to the water and take a long, deep breath. “God, I love it here.”
“Why?” he asks suddenly.
“Why?” I repeat and frown at him.
“Why do you love it here?”
I glance back out at the water and then to the tall, dark man next to me. “Are we not looking at the same scenery?”
“Don’t be difficult. What is it about this place, this water, that you love?”
I sigh and turn my gaze to the water, the islands, the birds, the boats.
“It centers me. I knew when I bought my condo that I had to be on the water, and I scrimped and saved until I could afford my place. There was nowhere else I wanted to be.” I take Dom’s hand and lead him down the pier toward the grass. “I love everything about the waterfront. The smell, the way the wind hits my face and filters through my hair. There’s nothing like watching a parasailer, or catching a glimpse of a sea lion in the water.”
Dom lifts the basket and the wine and I take my shoes and the wine glasses and follow him out into the wide grassy area, where we drop everything and sit facing each other.
“This is my home.” I shrug one shoulder and pluck a blade of grass out of the dirt.
“I get it,” he replies with a nod. “It’s where you fit.”
“That’s how the vineyard is for me,” he says, and squints as he gazes out at the water. “And Italy.”
“I would love to see Italy. Tell me about it.”
He grins, and then before I can react, he’s pulled me in his arms, and onto my back in the grass, covering me with his solid body.
“Close your eyes.”
“There are children nearby,” I reply dryly, making him laugh.
“Close your eyes,” he repeats. I wrinkle my nose at him and then do as I’m told, relaxing in the grass.
“I’m not even going to think about the bugs that could be crawling around in my hair right now,” I comment lightly.
“I’ll protect you,” he replies and suddenly, his fingertips are grazing along my cheekbone, and I melt. “Italy is unlike anywhere else. Tuscany, specifically, is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.”
His fingers journey up my temple, along my forehead, and over my eyebrows, making me sigh in contentment. Dear sweet Jesus, the man is good with his hands.
“The villages are busy, bustling with people, but they’re the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.” His fingertip drifts down my nose. “And the colors are just spectacular. The hills are vibrantly green. The sky boldly blue, but when the sun is hanging just right, everything is gold.” The last few words are whispered as he traces my lips with the pad of his thumb. “Watching the sunlight bounce off the dew on my grapevines is as close to heaven as I’ll ever be. It smells…clean. New. Every day is new.”
Now he sinks his other hand in my hair, brushes tiny tendrils off my forehead and cheeks, sending sparks of awareness through me, yet I’m the most comfortable I’ve ever been.
His voice is soothing. His hands are calming. I can’t believe how gentle his touch is when I know how rough he can be.
I can’t get enough of him.
He leans in close and whispers in my ear, “I can’t wait to show it to you. Italy is going to love you.”
Before I can respond, he covers my lips with his, in a long, slow, sweet kiss, in that way he does that feels like it’s the first time he’s kissed me all over again. His fingertips continue to tickle my forehead, while his other hand drifts down my side, barely brushing over my breast, down to my hip, where he holds me as his lips brush back and forth over my own. He nibbles his way to the corner of my mouth, then licks along my bottom lip, tugs it with his teeth, and settles in to kiss me long and slow once more.
When he finally pulls back, I can’t open my eyes. My lids are heavy with desire and need, and his fingertips on my skin are making me nuts.
He kisses my cheek, then my nose, and whispers, “Open your eyes, cara.”
They flutter open and I’m staring up into the brightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen, surrounded by dark lashes, olive skin, and raven hair.
“How do you always kiss me like it’s the first time?” I ask breathlessly.