He leaned back and put a finger to her mouth. “I’m releasing you from the contract. Whether you decide to marry me or not. Focus on your work with Mario, bring your and Giovanni’s line to market and make me proud. That’s all I care about. All I care about is you.”
Her eyes glistened. “The thing is, I’ve been thinking that I want to do it. For you. I went to see her grave, Rocco, Petra’s, and I’ve let her go now. I think I needed to do that before I could move on.”
He shook his head. “All I’ve done is push you. I won’t lose you, Olivia.”
A tremulous smile curved her lips. “You won’t lose me. I’m the only person who can lose me. And it won’t happen if I have you.”
He rested his forehead against hers as the music drew to a close. “Do you think we could argue about this later? That is, if you are going to marry me today, because I think we should do that now.”
That brilliant smile he loved lit her face, and in that moment he knew everything he’d ever wanted was within his grasp. She nodded and kept her forehead pressed to his. “Just you and me walking down an aisle, right? Nothing to it.”
He smiled against her lips. “Nothing to it.”
His heart ached with an almost unbearable pressure as he changed his grip on Olivia’s hand so she was standing by his side. He nodded at the wedding planner, who looked as if she was on the verge of passing out. The music intended for their walk the other way played, and it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered as the rather stunned-looking priest began the ceremony. Rocco held Olivia’s hand throughout it, afraid to let her go.
He restrained himself, just, as they exchanged rings and the priest pronounced them husband and wife. The opportunity to kiss her had been too long coming, and he made the most of it. Christian made a joke about them getting a room. Rocco let Olivia go reluctantly. Later he would have her, and this time it would be with nothing but the truth between them.
Applause broke out as they walked back down the aisle as husband and wife. Perhaps unusual for such an elegant affair, but on a day like this, anything could happen.
* * *
Olivia didn’t recall much of what occurred after Rocco told her he loved her. There was the receiving line full of his relatives, her parents, friends, dignitaries, celebrities and the Pope. There were canapés and champagne while they took photographs and a six-course dinner served in the ballroom as the night chill set in.
She and Rocco sat at a table with Stefan, Zayed, Christian, Alessandra, Violetta and Sophia. Olivia was grateful for her girlfriends’ presence when Stefan was seated beside her. He had been glowering at her since the reception started, and had murmured in her ear she was damn lucky she made his friend so happy. She was more than relieved to turn Mr. Glower over to stunning-looking Violetta and Sophia in beautiful gowns, who charmed the pants off him and Zayed. Christian and Alessandra remained much more low-key, a surprisingly quiet corner of the table.
Her mother, assigned to keep Sandro Mondelli in line at the table next to them, was doing a fabulous job in her duties while multitasking by flirting with a widowed Saudi prince. Her father and his wife, on the other hand, looked a bit awkward sitting at their table with some of Rocco’s relatives, but as the night went on seemed to loosen up and enjoy themselves.
When Rocco drew her to her feet for their first dance, Olivia’s eyes nearly popped out of her head as Darius Montagne, the aging rock star she had been infatuated with since she was a teenager, took the stage solo with a guitar.
“Oh, my God. You did not.”
“I did.” He captured her hand and led her to the middle of the dance floor, where the spotlight picked them up. “And if you give him one sideways look I’ll send him packing.”
She moved into his arms, finding that funny given how mad she was about the man she had just married. “Oh, Rocco,” she murmured, lacing her fingers through his and swaying into his embrace. “I think you underestimate how badly I have it for you.”
He pulled her closer to his powerful body as Darius Montagne began singing a ballad. “Forgive me for acting a bit possessive,” he growled, “because up until a couple of hours ago, I wasn’t sure on that point.”
“I told you I loved you on the balcony that night.”
“That was a lifetime ago.”
“I’m sorry.” She burrowed closer to him. “One could look at it as suitable payback for that night in Navigli if one were so inclined.”
“One could,” he returned softly, his mouth at her ear. “One could expect retribution for that, too. Very pleasurable retribution.”
A shiver snaked through her at his silky promise. She shut her mouth then because she wanted to enjoy the private serenade Darius Montagne was giving them in his raspy, husky tone.
Her gaze fell on Christian and Alessandra, who had joined them on the dance floor. Alessandra liked him, she knew, maybe more than liked the very stunning blond-haired investment genius. Yet they weren’t looking at each other at all and Alessandra looked miserable.
She pushed back from Rocco, jerking her chin subtly in their direction. “Do you have any idea what’s going on there?”
Rocco looked over at his sister. “She’s been heartbroken without Giovanni. They were very close.”
And maybe you are a blind, blind man. But Olivia wasn’t about to stick her nose where it didn’t belong. She’d caused enough waves today.
Rocco passed her to her father after that for a dance. What should have been extremely awkward given the little communication they’d had with each other over the past years was instead another kind of closure.
“You look happy with Ella,” she said. “I’m glad.”
“As do you with Rocco,” he replied. “Liv, I...”
She shook her head. “It’s okay, Dad. I understand. I do.”
His eyes grew watery. “Sometimes you looked so much like her, it just...hurt to see you.”
A fresh wave of tears pooled at the back of her eyes. She blinked them resolutely away. Sometimes life was heartbreaking. She saw that now. And sometimes you just had to forgive and move on.
“It’s okay,” she whispered, her hand tightening around her father’s. “I’m glad you’re here.”
When she had made the requisite rounds of the dance floor with the rest of the Columbia Four, her husband stole her back for another dance. He, too, had taken some first baby steps with his father, the two of them having had a long talk while she’d been gone. It hadn’t been perfect, but it was a start.
Rocco’s warm, familiar scent wrapped itself around her as she tucked herself into his big warm body. She let most of the song go by before she drew back and looked up at him. “Rocco?”
His dark eyes, almost ebony tonight against the black tux, held hers. “Sì?”