Proud Revenge, Passionate Wedlock

By: Janette Kenny

Then too soon the hot Latin lover who’d swept her off her feet on the beach and caught her up in his privileged world suddenly became too busy building an empire to spend more than stolen moments with his wife and newborn child.

She’d made excuses for him that he needed time away from a fussy infant and frazzled wife. She’d waited for her lover, her husband, her hero.

But he never came.

The sun slanted just so through the windows to catch the gilded edge of a lone picture frame on the far étagère. For a moment she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, couldn’t move.

She crossed to the étagère on legs that trembled. Her hands shook as she reached for the picture, her grip too tight, her heart beating too fast. Her precious baby, her Cristobel.

She’d never wanted anything as much as she’d wanted this beautiful child conceived in love. A gift from God, Miguel had said, and she’d agreed.

Her trembling finger traced the plump cheek of the life she and Miguel created when their love was new and unencumbered. How could she have been so careless with this child?

She gathered the picture to her heart and squeezed her eyes shut, but her daughter’s smile filled her mind’s eye and her gurgling laugh replaced the quiet that crashed in the room like an angry sea. One racking sob escaped her, then another.

Her fault, her conscience needled her as she crossed to the sofa with the photo digging into her flesh and tears blinding her to cruel reality. Her fault.

Miguel took less than two steps into the beach house before the provocative scent that was uniquely Allegra’s teased his senses. His angry gaze scanned the sala and found her sitting on the sofa, head bowed.

This time seeing her wasn’t a trick of his imagination. This time the fragrance and the woman were real.

This time retribution was in his grasp.

Though he’d known she was finally coming back, his heart gave a sharp, painful kick that was at odds with his fury. It had been that way from the moment he’d first met her, standing like an ethereal angel at the edge of the sea, her skin white as cream and just as soft.

She’d broken through his defenses and took command of his waking and sleeping thoughts. For the first time in his life he’d nearly lost control of his emotions but that was never to be. Instead he had shown his feelings by keeping her safe—hiring a personal guard to protect her from danger when he wasn’t there to protect her himself.

He stepped back from the sensual vortex that sucked him closer and closer to her. And just when he’d feared he’d judged her wrong, she’d proved she was a scheming vixen.

His fingers dug into the thirsty towel he’d draped around his neck as he crossed the cool tile floor to her. The sand he tracked in crunched underfoot, but she didn’t seem to notice.

She slept soundly, as if she didn’t have a care or was exhausted. He suspected the latter when he drew near.

The fading light played over her porcelain features and frail form. His brows slammed together and unease bubbled in his gut, for she was far too pale and far too thin—her simple blouse and slacks hung on her.

The worry she spurred in him infuriated him, for she deserved his fiery wrath, not his concern. He had every reason to hate her. He did hate her!

He despised that she could slumber when sleep had been a stranger to him for six long months.

Yet looking at her roused those tender emotions as well as the memories that never died. He’d seen her a thousand times in his dreams: laughing, flirtatious, sensuous. He’d seen her happy, angry and sad.

But he’d never seen her like this.

She embodied the image of a fragile waif who had washed up on the shore. Far too delicate to wage a battle with him.

And this reunion   would be a battle, for he’d not capitulate to her desires. No. He’d vowed to make her regret her callous disregard of their daughter, and her marriage vows.

He leaned close to shake her awake then froze when he saw the picture frame clutched to her chest. ¡Dios mio! She dared to cradle Cristobel’s picture to her heart?

He lurched back and scrubbed a shaky hand over his face, torn between ripping the framed picture from her or taking her in his arms. Did the memories that tormented him do so to her as well? Was she needled with regret?

The streaks of mascara on her pale cheeks confirmed she’d shed recent tears. He had that satisfaction of knowing she’d been touched with grief.

But her remorse came far too late.

She’d brought about the destruction of their marriage and their family the day she cast her vows aside. She’d proved to him that he’d been right to hold a part of himself from her.

For instead of remaining in Cancún to share their grief and see to their daughter’s burial, she’d flitted off to England with her lover. She’d forgotten her husband and the baby lying cold in her grave.

But he hadn’t forgotten her perfidy.

He jerked the towel from around his neck with a snap and flung it on a nearby chair. Bits of sand peppered the room in a glittering shower of white.

The woman before him stirred, a jerky movement of one coming awake with the knowledge something wasn’t quite right. Every nerve in his body snapped and sizzled the second she clearly realized he was standing over her.