“Lupita we’re going to miss our flight!”
“I’m coming, Brett!”
Thirty seconds passed before he yelled my name again.
“Brett, if you call me one more time, I swear to God I’m going to lose my shit!”
His face appeared in the doorway of my closet where I was throwing a few last minute items into my suitcase. “I’m sorry baby but we really have to get going.”
“I know that,” I said, irritation laced in my voice.
“Is there anything I can help you with?”
He frowned but ducked out of the closet.
Five minutes later, I came down the stairs lugging my suitcases behind.
“Geez, Lupita we’re only going to be gone for three days. Why have you packed for a month?”
“You get one more comment like that before I kick you.”
He fought back a laugh. “Mason’s here. Say goodbye to Malachi.”
“Why can’t he come with us?” I pouted, walking into the living room where Mason and Malachi were watching a cartoon.
“We need some alone time, babe,” he said, kissing me gently. “I want you all to myself for our first Valentine’s day together.”
“Hey!” Mason interrupted. “Just because I’ve accepted that you two are together doesn’t mean I want to see you make out.”
I grinned and pulled away from Brett.
Having Mason as a twin was one of the best things that had ever happened to me. Marcus was incredibly jealous, obviously, but once he got to know Mason, they became great friends. Unlike Marcus and I, Mason was a goofball. The only time he was ever serious was in the office.
Despite everything with father, he was adapting to being in the family quite well. Father was excited to have another child with an eye for business. Within the three months that had passed since we were all reunited, Mason and father had drawn up paperwork to absorb Mason’s company into ours and father was grooming him to become CEO.
“Mason, you’re going to have to get used to it,” I said, patting my brother on the head, before reaching for Malachi. “Come here and give me a kiss cuore mio. We have to go now.”
“Please don’t go, Mommy!” he exclaimed, burying his face in my shoulder. “I will miss you too much.”
I froze and stared at Brett, my eyes widened in surprise. He and Mason looked just as shocked as me. Malachi had never called me that before. Brett was the first to recover.
“We’ll be back in a few days, son. Don’t you want to hang out with Uncle Mason?”
Malachi shook his head. “I want to go with my mommy,” he replied with tears streaming down his face.
“We can’t go now,” I whispered urgently to Brett, kissing Malachi on the forehead.
He didn’t respond and took a tearful Malachi from me, handing him to Mason. I felt myself being led from the room as Malachi called after me.
“Brett, he wants me--”
“Trust me Lupita. Just keep walking. He’ll calm down as soon as we get out of here.”
An hour later, we were on the plane seated in our first class seats and I was still upset.
“You want a glass of wine, baby?”
I huffed and turned toward the window.
I heard him sigh and shuffle around next to me but I refused to look his way.
“Mason? Lupita wants to talk to you.”
Brett’s phone was shoved into my face. I turned to face him in surprise.
“You wanted to check on Malachi,” he said, irritatedly.
I grabbed the phone and put it to my ear. “Mason? Is Malachi okay?”
“Oh yeah! He’s watching Paw Patrol.”
“He’s not crying?”
“He stopped crying right after you guys left when I gave him a snack.”
Brett took the phone from me. “Thanks, Mason. We’ll call when we land.” He hung up and turned to me. “Can you relax now please?”
“How can I relax?! Malachi called me ‘mommy’ and we just left!”
“Did that bother you?” Brett asked quietly after the flight attendant took our drink order.
“Bother me? Why would it bother me?”
He blew out a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair. “I don’t know, Lupita! I keep waiting for you to run.”
“Why would I run?”
“You didn’t sign up to be a parent.”
My gaze softened and I took his hands in mine. “I don’t know how many times I have to tell you I’m not going anywhere. You and Malachi have changed me for the better. I was a cold hearted bitch before you two.”
He scoffed. “Were? As in past tense?”
“Shut up,” I said with a grin. “Anyway, it didn’t bother me in the slightest that he called me ‘mommy’. In fact, I found it rather endearing and I’m honored that he sees me in that way. I love that little boy with all my heart. Wait. Did it bother you?”
It was Brett’s turn to be surprised. “Why would it bother me?”
“I mean this is all moving kind of fast and he is your son.”
Instead of responding, he took my face in his hands and kissed me firmly. “I love you, Lupita. I love you so very much.”
“Wh, what?” I stammered.
“I never thought I would fall in love after everything with Malachi’s mom but you have shattered all of my defenses. The fact that you love and care for Malachi the way that you do just makes me love you even more. I’ll completely understand if you don’t feel the same--”
“I love you too,” I blurted out shocking the both of us.
His eyes widened and before I knew it were kissing again. I pulled at the collar on his shirt as he deepened the kiss, his hands coming around my waist and pressing me into him. The sound of someone clearing their throat interrupted our passionate kiss and we reluctantly pulled away to see the flight attendant standing awkwardly above us.
“Sorry to interrupt, but I need you both to fasten your seatbelts so we can take off.”
I flushed and sat back in my seat, quickly buckling my seatbelt. Beside me, Brett laughed at my embarrassment.
“It’s not funny,” I muttered to myself.
The flight went by fairly quickly as I slept the majority of the way. The trip from the airport to the hotel was uneventful until I realized where we were staying. “Brett you didn’t!”
He chuckled and grabbed me around the waist to pull me back in the window as the cab pulled up in front of Hotel Le Bristol.
I squealed in glee, practically tripping out of the car. “I didn’t know we were staying here!”
“Baby we build hotels for a living, I didn’t think you would be so impressed.”
“Are you kidding?! I exclaimed, reaching for my bags. “I did a project about this hotel in architecture studies class in college.”
"Excusez moi mademoiselle. Je prendrai vos bagages.” A young page boy came and took our bags ahead of us as we followed him into the hotel. Brett was so eager to get me upstairs that we wouldn’t let me revel in the beauty of the storied building.
“I just wanted to look around,” I pouted looking out of the floor to ceiling windows in our suite at the Eiffel tower.
I felt his hands on my back slowly unzipping my dress as he pressed his lips to my neck, peppering gentle kisses on my skin. My breath caught in my throat as the dress fell to the floor and his hands traveled further down my body. “We can look around tomorrow, babe. Right now, we have more pressing matters.”
He squeezed my ass firmly and I yelped in surprise. “Go on in the bedroom. I’ll be there in a second.”
I only hesitated for a moment before quickly obeying his command. I loved it when he took control. I practically sprinted into the room and tried to position myself on the bed in a position he would find alluring. I settled for on my knees with my ass in the air.
He entered the room and I heard him inhale sharply.
“Like what you see?” I said teasingly.
“Love it.” His deep voice vibrated against my inner thigh and I shuddered in delight. When had he gotten so close to me?
He flipped me onto my back and pulled me to the edge of the bed. “I’m going to make love to you my precious Lupita. I’m going to worship your body the way it deserves to be worshiped.”
“Please,” I whimpered beneath him as his hands ran up and down my body. “Take me now.”
“I’m taking my sweet time with you tonight, baby. I’m going to show you just how much I love you.”
Sunlight streamed in from the sheer curtains and fell across my naked body. I smiled at the memory of the night before and crawled out of bed walking over to the window to stretch my aching muscles.
I relished in the silence and watched the buzzing of the people on the streets as they started their day.
“Why are you never in bed when I wake up,” Brett called out to me groggily.
“I’ve always been an early riser,” I replied with a shrug.
He slipped out of bed and pulled on his boxers. “Not according to Marcus.”
I scoffed. “What does he know?”
Brett smiled and kissed me gently on the forehead. “Good morning, baby. You look beautiful.”
I felt myself blushing as he walked into the bathroom. I quickly followed.
“What are we doing today?”
“All of the touristy things we can find.” He squeezed toothpaste onto his toothbrush. “I’ve never been to Paris before.”
“Well, I’ve been here many times and I can’t wait to show you around.”
We spent the day wandering the streets of Paris and I was blissfully happy. We had dinner at a quaint bistro and it was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
“Hmm?” I replied softly, taking another sip of wine.
“I have a surprise for you.”
My eyebrows rose. “What is it?” I asked excitedly.
“We’re leaving Paris in the morning.”
My face fell. “I don’t want to go home yet.”
He chuckled softly and took my hand. “I didn’t say we were going home. But I have some special plans for our first Valentine’s day together.”
“I keep forgetting tomorrow is Valentine’s day.”
“Do you not usually celebrate it?”
I shook my head. “Never really had a reason to. I was wondering why you picked this weekend to come to Paris,” I said with a laugh. “So where are we going?”
“Like I said, it’s a surprise,” he replied with a wink.
I lay awake for a long time after we made love that night, my mind racing to figure out where Brett was going to take me. Maybe to London to see the Harry Potter play? Or maybe another town in France? I really had no earthly idea.
It felt as if I had just closed my eyes when Brett shook me awake. We had a quick breakfast at the hotel before heading to the airport. I wanted to smack myself when we arrived at the gate and I saw where we were going. It was so obvious.
The flight was short and soon we were back in my favorite city in the world, Rome.
“Are you happy, baby?” Brett asked timidly.
“So happy! Paris was amazing but you know how much I love Rome,” I answered with a smile.
He beamed back at me, looking very much like a kid on Christmas. “Good. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“So where to first?” I questioned as he hailed a cab.
“So many questions,” he said teasingly. “Be patient. It will be worth it, I promise.”
He handed the cab driver a slip of paper with an address and we were off. It felt so familiar being there with Brett. Just like the first time we came. All that was missing was Malachi. “Can we call Malachi?” I asked, worrying my bottom lip.
“After the surprise. I miss him too.”
“How much longer?” I asked impatiently after a few more minutes went by.
Brett rolled his eyes. “Turn around and look out the window.”
My jaw dropped and I gasped trying to formulate a coherent thought.
“Wow. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen you speechless,” Brett teased, as the cab pulled to a stop.
He pulled open the door and helped me out. “Welcome to the new and improved Lucia Marino Hotel Rome.”
“It’s breathtaking,” I breathed in awe. The exterior had been completely renewed and everything looked fresh and new. “It’s so high class.”
“Wait until you see the inside,” he said excitedly. “Come on.”
The double doors opened and my hands flew to my mouth as I fought back tears. The remodeled lobby was twice the size it was before and it glittered beautifully but that was not the reason I was emotional. There was a grand fountain in the middle of the lobby and the statue in the fountain was me! It was based on a drawing Brett had done of me after an especially passionate night. The tile around the base of the fountain spelled out my name.
“Brett I can’t believe--”
“There’s more, my love.”
He dragged me from the fountain and my eyes landed on something I loved even more. There was a mural above the reception desk. It was a shot from the Forbes shoot Father, Serena, Mason and I had done before Christmas. Mason and I were in the foreground representing the new era of the Lucia Marino dynasty. At the bottom of the mural was our new motto in beautiful cursive script. “Lucia Marino Hotels: Unparalleled Luxury, from our Family to Yours.”
I didn’t think I could cry any harder as I sobbed openly in the lobby, ignoring the stares of everyone around us. “Brett! This is incredible! You didn’t tell me you had finished up things here!”
“I wanted to surprise you and your father and Mason agreed.”
“It’s so beautiful. I love it and I love you so much.” I kissed him firmly. “Thank you.”
“Anything for you, Lupita, the woman of my dreams. Anything for you. Forever.”