Once a Ferrara Wife...

By: Sarah Morgan

Her kindly neighbour craned her neck to get a better look. ‘Who do you think he is? They don’t have a royal family, do they? Must be someone important if he can skip Customs and just drive onto the runway. And what sort of man needs all that security? I wonder who he’s meeting?’

‘Me.’ Laurel rose to her feet with all the enthusiasm of a condemned man preparing to walk to the gallows. ‘His name is Cristiano Domenico Ferrara and he’s my husband.’ Mistake number two, she thought numbly. But not for much longer. She was about to become an ex-wife. A wedding and a divorce in the same trip. Killing two birds with one stone.

She wondered about that saying. What was good about killing two birds?

‘I hope you have a really nice holiday in Sicily. Make sure you try the granita. It’s the best.’ Ignoring the worried look of her kindly neighbour, Laurel removed her bag from the overhead locker and walked down the aisle to the front of the plane, grateful that she’d worn heels. There was something about high heels that gave you confidence in a tight situation and she was definitely in a tight situation. Passengers whispered and stared but Laurel was barely aware of them. She was too busy wondering how she could get through the next few days. It would be the biggest test of her life and she had a feeling it was going to take more than a pair of killer heels to see her safely through it.

Stubborn, arrogant, controlling—why had he come to meet her? Was he punishing her or himself?

The pilot hovered at the top of the metal steps. ‘Signora Ferrara, we had no idea we had the pleasure of your company on board—’ His forehead was shiny with sweat and he cast a nervous glance towards the formidable welcoming committee assembled on the tarmac. ‘You should have made yourself known.’

‘I didn’t want to be known.’

His fawning attention was uncomfortable to witness. ‘I hope you enjoyed your flight with us today.’

The journey couldn’t have been more painful if she’d been tied to a cart and dragged back to Sicily.

How stupid of her to have thought she could just arrive in her own time and that no one would notice. Cristiano had probably had the airports monitored. Or maybe he had access to the passenger lists.

When they’d been together, the extent of his influence had left her open-mouthed with disbelief. In her job she was used to dealing with celebrities and the super-rich but the Ferrara world was nothing short of extraordinary.

For a short time she’d lived that life with him. That glittering, gilded life of immense wealth and privilege. It had been like tumbling onto a bed of goose down after a life spent sleeping on concrete.

Seeing him standing at the bottom of the aircraft steps, Laurel almost lost her footing. She hadn’t seen him since that day. That awful day, the memory of which could still make her run to the bathroom and heave up her guts.

When Daniela had insisted that she stick to her promise and be her maid of honour Laurel should have pointed out the impact of that request on everyone involved. She’d thought there was no limit to what she’d do for friendship, but now she realised she’d been wrong about that. Unfortunately that clarity of thinking came too late.

Reaching into her bag, Laurel pulled out her sunglasses and put them on. If he was playing that game, then so was she.

With the pilot standing nervously behind her and all the passengers absorbed in the unfolding drama, she lifted her chin and stepped through the open door.

The sudden punch of heat was a shock after the chilly fog of London. The sun blazed down on her, spotlighting every reluctant step. Her heels clunked on the metal and the only thing preventing her from falling was her death grip on the rail. It was like descending into hell and he waited on the tarmac like the devil himself—tall, intimidating and unnaturally still, flanked by dark-suited security men who waited at a deferential distance for his command.

It was so different from the first time she’d arrived here, full of excitement and anticipation. She’d fallen in love with the island and the people.

And one man in particular.

This man.

She couldn’t see his eyes, but she didn’t need to see them to know what he was thinking. She could feel the tension—knew that he was being sucked back into the past just as she was.

‘Cristiano.’ At the last moment she remembered to inject casual indifference into her tone. ‘You didn’t have to break off from closing another mega-deal to come and meet me. I wasn’t exactly expecting you to hang out the welcome flags.’

That hard, sensuous mouth flickered at the corners. ‘How could I not meet my dear, sweet wife from the airport?’

After two barren years it was a shock to be face to face with him. But the bigger shock was the fierce hunger that burned in the empty pit of her stomach, the deep craven wanting she’d believed had died alongside their marriage.

Despair hit her because feeling like this felt like a betrayal of her beliefs.

She didn’t want to feel like this.

Cristiano Ferrara was a cold, hard, unfeeling bastard who no longer deserved a place in her life.

No, not cold. Automatically she corrected herself. Not that. In fact it might have been easier had he been cold. To someone as emotionally cautious as Laurel, Cristiano with his volatile, expressive Sicilian temperament had been dangerously fascinating. She’d been seduced by his charisma, his blatant masculinity and by his refusal to let her hide from him. He’d dragged an honesty from her she’d never given to anyone else.