Romano clenched his teeth as the girl wiped the cloth across his back. He felt her eyes bore into his flesh, heating him more than the warm water. What manner of idiot was he? There had been no shortage of women during his absence from Castello DiSanto. But none had he allowed to bathe him. So why did he request it of Mariella when he was more than capable of doing it for himself?
Forcing his thoughts away from the girl, he turned insightful, feeling as if he'd taken God's gifts for granted. He returned to the castello solely because of his father's death. Not because he came home to grieve. His sire did naught to deserve a son's grief. There was more to accomplish, a sense of belonging, mayhap to settle down permanently and find a wife.
Romano chided himself in silence. What did he know about marriage and family? His mother died not long after his birth, and his father blamed him. Alberto DiSanto did not immediately take another wife. He preferred to wallow in his loss, to take out his grief on his only child. And when Alberto discovered Romano's secret, the elder baron beat him until blood covered Romano's young body.
"My lord baron knight?"
The soft voice calling to him should have relieved his revived tension on the subject of his sire. It didn't, but Romano did release the thoughts provoking his seldom lost ire. It was his generally calm nature that won battles...and respect among his men and the sovereigns he'd fought for and against.
"Are you ill?" she inquired. "Should I fetch Giorgio?"
The genuine concern in her voice baffled Romano. After all, they were virtually strangers. "I am not ill." He turned his upper body to look at her. "I think my back is quite clean. If you scrub it any further, I fear you'll scrub the flesh off." He curled his fingers around her upper arm and moved her to the side of the tub. "There are other parts of me that need a good cleansing."
His mind included.
Romano chuckled as he studied her features. Her nose was straight yet suited to her face and softened the high set of her cheekbones. Her abundance of hair appeared destined to flee the constraints of the braid. What would it do to him to see that beautiful red fanned out over his pillows?
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