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THE SMOKE ALARM BLARES, jolting me awake. I jump up off the couch and sprint to the kitchen, throwing open the oven and pulling out the charred remains of a loaf of banana bread.
Opening the window, I wave a tea towel near the smoke alarm as I swear under my breath.
Luca appears in the kitchen doorway, rubbing his eyes with his fists. “Everything okay?”
“I ruined the banana bread.”
The smoke alarm finally stops, and I drop the tea towel on the countertop. Glancing at the blackened loaf, I let my shoulders drop.
Luca pads toward me, wrapping his arms around my waist. “Don’t worry about it.”
“I was looking forward to a slice,” I say. “Been thinking about it all day. Now I’m out of bananas.”
I know I’m whining. My bottom lip is jutting out in an exaggerated pout, and I almost feel like stomping my foot.
It’s not about the banana bread. It’s just everything else. The stress of the bakery, the influx of work, the turnover of staff. Our daughters are fighting a lot these days, and I feel like everything is falling apart. Giselle is getting married, so she hasn’t been able to work for me. I have a thousand and one things to do, and no time to do them.
Luca runs his hands over my shoulders.
“We can get some more. You have plenty of banana bread at the bakery.” Luca spins me around to face him, leaning his forehead against mine. “It’s okay, Ivy. We don’t need any banana bread.”
A tear leaks out of my eye, and Luca starts chuckling. He swipes it off my cheek with the pad of his thumb before pressing his lips to mine.
“I think you need a vacation,” he says.
I shake my head. “I can’t leave the bakery. It’s getting almost too busy to keep up with, and with the King’s birthday coming up, I need to make sure the royal order is perfect. And when I say perfect, I mean perfect. Which means I have to do it myself, so I need to start doing some practice runs before the actual birthday. After that, we have a couple of weddings coming up, so I need to—”
Luca silences me with a kiss. At first, I don’t want to give in. I want to feed the stress inside me, but Luca’s lips are too tempting. Sighing, I melt into his embrace. When we pull apart from each other, I glance at the charred loaf on the counter and shake my head.
“Maybe I do need a break.”
“We can drop the kids off at Dante and Margot’s place. The King’s birthday isn’t for two weeks. Why don’t we go for a quick trip away?”
I chew my bottom lip, and Luca arches an eyebrow.
“Shh,” he says softly. “Just say yes. Two days, that’s all I ask.”
Luca’s eyes sparkle, and I know I can’t resist him.
“Fine. But it can’t be a weekend.”
My husband winks at me, leaving me in the kitchen to throw out my failed loaf.
It takes Luca less than a day to organize our trip. When I get home from the bakery the following day, Luca is waiting for me in the living room. He has two small bags packed for us, and two bags packed for our girls.
I glance at the bags and at our eight-year-old daughters, patiently reading beside him.
“What’s all this?”
“Margot’s expecting us within an hour,” Luca explains. “And the jet is prepared.”
“You said it can’t be a weekend, and we had to get away before the King’s birthday.” Luca grins. “That leaves today and tomorrow, and then we’ll be back by Friday. You’ll have all of next week to prepare for the royal birthday.”
Coco, the oldest twin by ten whole minutes, glances up at me. “Go get ready, Mom. We want to go see Hope. Aunt Margot said we could walk the dogs tonight if we get there before dark.”
Luca’s grin widens. He knows he’s won.
It doesn’t take long for me to take a quick shower and put on some comfortable travel clothes. I try to ask Luca what I should wear, but he gives me cryptic answers and tells me not to worry about it. He won’t let me anywhere near the suitcases to peek at what he’s packed, so all I can do is get ready for a plane ride.
The twins hardly seem fazed that we’re leaving at all, which is both reassuring and a little insulting. When we get to Margot’s house, they give us each a kiss on the cheek and then run towards their aunt and cousins. Margot smiles, waving us away.
“Have fun!” she calls out, ushering the girls inside.
Luca grins at me and starts driving toward the Farcliff airport.
No matter how long I’m married to the man, I still can’t get used to going everywhere in a private jet. Being whisked through airport security in a private line and driven straight to the plane on the tarmac never ceases to amaze me.
When we’re settled in our seats, Luca puts his hand on my thigh and smiles.
“Good,” he laughs. “You’re going to love it.”
“If you say so. Will you at least tell me how long this flight is going to be?”
He tilts his head from side to side. “About eight hours, give or take.”
“Eight hours?! Where the heck are you taking me?”
Luca squeezes my thigh, grinning. “Just trust me.”
Pinching my lips, I settle into my seat. If I was with anyone else, I wouldn’t be happy about this. I’d want to know where we were going and what to expect.
With Luca, though, it’s different. It’s always been different. I trust him in a way that I didn’t even know was possible. I let him take me out of my comfort zone, because I know he’ll always be there to support me.
And let’s be honest, there are worse places to be than a private jet with the prince of my dreams, going to some unknown location for a couple of days’ vacation.
AFTER SERVING A DELICIOUS meal on board, the flight attendant prepares a bed for us. Surprisingly, I fall asleep right away and am only awakened by the staff telling me we’re nearing our destination.
Stretching my arms, I look at Luca. He rubs his hands over his eyes and smiles at me.
Excitement curls in the pit of my stomach as I make my way to my seat. The flight attendants serve us a light breakfast and tuck the bed away, strapping it down for landing. When I feel the plane start its descent, I lift the screen on the window and glance outside.
Seeing the familiar shape of the Eiffel Tower, my breath catches. “Paris,” I breathe.
Luca groans. “I should have had those screens locked down. It was supposed to be a surprise.”
“It is a surprise,” I laugh, glancing from him back to the famous landmark.
My Prince winks at me, leaning over to kiss my temple. A spark of heat flashes in the pit of my stomach, and for the first time in a long time, a wide smile stretches my lips.
The landing is smooth, and a limousine is waiting for us when we disembark.
“Where are we headed now?” I ask, glancing at my husband. “Eiffel Tower? Arc de Triomphe? Champs Élysées? The Louvre? I want to see them all!”
Luca smiles. “Later. First, we have a pit stop to make.”
My grin widens. This is why I love Luca. With just one burned loaf of banana bread, he was able to tell exactly what I needed.
He knows that I’ve always wanted to go to Paris, if only to taste a real French croissant. He knows that a couple of days away is exactly what I need to relax, even when I don’t know it myself.
But it’s not until we pull up outside a large, futuristic-looking rectangular building that my heart really explodes.
“Le Cordon Bleu,” I whisper, pressing my nose to the limo’s window. Turning to look at Luca, my eyes widen. “What are we doing here?”
“I may have pulled some strings,” he grins. “You can take the girl out of the bakery, but you can’t take the bakery out of the girl…or something. I asked George to talk to his connections here to get you a private lesson with the top pastry chef. He thought you would prefer to have time away from baking completely, but…” Luca grins.
“But you know me better than that,” I laugh.
“Can’t keep you out of the kitchen, even if I tried.”
My heart thumps as the vehicle comes to a stop. I watch the driver get out of the car and head toward the back door to open it for us, and I turn to Luca. Sliding my hand over his cheek, I let out a breath.
“Thank you,” I whisper.
“Anything for you, my love,” he answers, pressing his lips to mine.
I’M SURPRISED WHEN LUCA follows me inside, and even more surprised when he pulls an apron over his head. Grinning, he arches an eyebrow.
“What, did you think I’d let you have fun all on your own?”
I laugh, leaning my head against his shoulder. From there, our grey-haired pastry master whips us into gear. He’s tough, but so knowledgeable I feel jealous of his skill, inadequate about mine, and completely in awe of what he creates.
By the end of the day, I’ve perfected a puff pastry recipe and learned how to make heavenly, delicious eclairs. Luca has succeeded in making me laugh, but his baked goods aren’t exactly up to the standard of the Cordon Bleu.
It doesn’t matter, though, because we’re here together.
At the end of the day, Luca takes me back to our five-star hotel and we’re whisked up to the top floor. The Honeymoon Suite is gorgeously decorated, with gleaming white floors and plush sofas, a breathtaking view of the city’s twinkling lights, and an immense king-sized bed.
“Oh, Luca,” I breathe, shaking my head. “This is incredible.”
“You’re incredible,” he quips.
When he wraps his arms around me, it feels like the first time. His touch still sends shivers tumbling down my spine, and his lips ignite something in my core. Sparks fly between my thighs as he crushes his lips to mine, making my whole body burn for him.
When I first met Prince Luca, I fought the attraction I felt for him. I tried to keep myself from him, to deny myself the pleasure that he wanted to give him.
I don’t fight anything. I sprint toward him, wanting to take anything he’ll give. I run my fingers greedily over every inch of his body, knowing that it belongs to only me. I carve out his muscles with kisses, running my tongue over his skin with abandon.
It’s not just the luxury jets and the beautiful hotels. It’s not just the world-class pastry class, or the fact that he’s a Prince.
Luca is Luca. With one burned banana bread, he knew exactly how to make me take a break. He understood that a break for me isn’t time away from the kitchen, it’s time to play in the kitchen.
And now, with every kiss and every touch, he shows me what else he knows about me. He knows how to make me melt in his hands. He knows how to make me burn. How to make me want him like I’ve never wanted anyone else.
Luca throws me over his shoulder and carries me to the bed. I laugh when he tosses me down onto the down pillows, spreading my arms toward him.
With darkened eyes and a wicked grin, Luca moves on top of me, and my world is complete. We make love in that penthouse in Paris, and I fall for Luca all over again.
When it’s over, we lie tangled in the bedsheets with a thin sheen of sweat over our bodies. I throw an arm over my forehead, letting out a sigh as I shake my head.
“That was nice.”
Luca grunts in response. His eyelids are heavy, and a soft sigh escapes his lips.
“We should call the kids,” I say, glancing at the time. “They should be home from school now.”
Luca nods, throwing his leg over my body. “Yeah, let’s call them. I’ll just close my eyes for a second.”
I smile, trailing my fingers through his hair as I reach for my phone with my other hand. Luca snores softly on top of me, and I talk to my daughters for a few minutes.
Lying in that bed, with my daughters telling me about their day at school and my husband sleeping peacefully beside me, I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.
In a couple of days, I’ll go back to Farcliff and be at work again. The orders will come in, and I know I’ll be swamped. I’ll be covered in flour and sugar from morning until night. My feet will hurt, and things will undoubtedly go wrong.
As I hang up the phone, I let out a sigh.
Even when I get stressed, I can’t forget what I have. I can’t forget what Luca’s given me, or how lucky I am to have the life we’ve built together.
He’s everything to me. I press my lips to his forehead, groaning softly as I wipe his sweat off them. Luca stirs, blinking his eyes open.
“What time is it?”
“You’ve been asleep half an hour.”
“Let’s call the girls.”
“I already did,” I smile.
“Oh,” he answers as disappointment flashes across his face. He sighs, laying back into the pillows and curling his fingers into mine. In an instant, he’s asleep again.
I keep his hand in mine, watching his chest rise and fall with every breath until sleep takes me away with him, peaceful, content, and completely in love.