Once a Ferrara Wife...

By: Sarah Morgan


She had no choice but to follow him up the pathway that led to the villa. Inside, she knew, there would be air conditioning so there would be some relief from the blistering Sicilian sun. Unless it was the chemistry between them that burned hotter than the fires of hell.

Cristiano flung open the door and she heard the sound of the car reversing as his driver retreated back to the main hotel complex.

Laurel stepped across the threshold, trying not to remember their wedding night when he’d carried her through the door, both of them frantic in their indecent desperation for each other. ‘Why isn’t he waiting for you?’

He dropped her case onto the tiled floor. ‘Why do you think? Because I’m staying here too.’

The words floated right past her because they made no sense.

‘Please tell me that’s a joke—’ Her voice sounded strange, robotic. ‘There’s only one bedroom.’ One enormous bedroom overlooking the pool and the beach. The bedroom where they’d spent long sultry nights together.

Cristiano gave a bitter smile. ‘Blame Dani again. Her wedding. Her room allocation.’

‘I’m not sharing a bed with you!’ The words flew out before she could stop them and he turned with an angry snarl that was animal-like in its ferocity.

‘You think you need to say that to me? Do you think I would have you back in my bed after what you did? Do you?’

Her heart was hammering and she took an instinctive step backwards even though she knew he’d never hurt her. Not physically. ‘I can’t stay here with you.’ The emotions she’d kept locked down during the horrendous car journey were bubbling up like milk on the boil, refusing to be contained.

‘It’s too—’

‘It’s too what?’ Something about the way he was looking at her made her heart beat faster. He’d always been frighteningly good at reading her mind and this time it was imperative that he didn’t.

She didn’t want to open up. It was way too late for that.

Grateful for years of practice at hiding what she felt, Laurel hauled her emotions back inside her. ‘It’s awkward,’ she said coldly. ‘For both of us.’

He stared at her for another few seconds and then his mouth hardened. ‘I think “awkward” is the least of our problems, don’t you? Don’t worry. I’ll sleep on the couch. And if you’re worried that I won’t be able to keep my hands off you, then don’t be. You had your chance.’ Insultingly indifferent, he strolled away from her but even that didn’t give her breathing space because there were traces of him everywhere.

A tailored jacket slung carelessly over the back of a chair. The glass of fresh Sicilian lemonade, half drunk because he’d been disturbed and too busy to finish. His laptop, the battery light glowing because he worked such long hours he never bothered to shut down. All those things were so familiar, so much a part of him, and for a moment she stood still, unable to breathe, swamped by a longing to turn the clock back.

But turn it back to when?

How could there have ever been a different outcome? Their love had been doomed from the beginning. Together they’d managed to make Romeo and Juliet look like a match made in heaven.





CHAPTER TWO


CRISTIANO downed the glass of whisky in one, trying to blunt the savage bite of his emotions as he waited on the terrace of the villa for Laurel to make an appearance.

He’d promised himself that he would be icily calm and detached. That resolution had lasted until she’d stepped off the plane. His plan to make no reference to their situation had exploded under the intense pressure of the reunion    . The conflicting emotions had been like a storm inside him, made all the more fierce by her own lack of response. Laurel had turned hiding her emotions into an art form.

Wishing he had time to go for a run and burn off some of the adrenalin scalding his veins, Cristiano lifted a hand and slid a finger into the collar of his white dress shirt. Deprived of one stress reliever, he reached for another and topped up his glass with a hand that wasn’t quite steady.

She still blamed him. That much was obvious but, even now, she wouldn’t talk about it.

Immediately after the event he’d tried, but she’d appeared to be in shock, her reaction to the miscarriage far more extreme than he would have anticipated.

His own sadness at the loss of their baby had been tempered with a sense of realism. Miscarriages happened. His own mother had lost two babies. His aunt, one. It was Laurel’s first pregnancy. He’d been philosophical.

She’d been inconsolable. And stubborn.

Apart from that one message on his voicemail, the one telling him not to bother to cut short his meeting because she’d lost the baby, she’d refused to talk about what had happened.

Sweat prickled the back of his neck and he wished for the millionth time he hadn’t switched off his phone before going into that meeting.

If he’d answered the call, would they be in a different place now?

Contemplating the celebration that lay ahead made him want to empty the bottle of whisky. He was in desperate need of an anaesthetic to dull his senses and relieve the pain.