- NA September 2006 -
MILLS AND BOON ROMANCE
- UK September 2006 -
- AUS/NZ October 2006 -
Romantic Times says:
For the sake of her
beloved grandfather Angela had married a rich man, and let him turn her
into 'Angel', a mini celebrity, famous for being famous. When he dumped
her for a younger
Angel had no thoughts
of love. After years of living for appearances she wanted to find her
true self again, and concentrate on making her grandfather's final years
happy. But Vittorio seemed to destroy her peace just by existing.
He watched as she glanced over the story, and saw a bleak weariness settle over her face. It made her look older, almost haggard. At this moment, he thought, nobody would have recognized her as Angel. He found himself moved by a strange instinct to console her.
"You shouldn't let that thing upset you," he said. "They probably sought him out and offered him a good price to say whatever they wanted. It's not important."
"You mean that's the dirty world I live in, so I shouldn't be surprised," she said, challenging him directly.
At any other time this was exactly what he would have meant, but not now. While he struggled for a tactful answer she added,
"You're quite right. They probably paid him several thousand for that piece of spite. Good luck to him."
She gave a hard, mirthless little laugh, that hurt him to listen to. Suddenly he wanted to think well of her, more than anything on earth.
"But he's made it up, hasn't he?" he asked, almost pleading.
"Some of it. I didn't ditch him for Joe. We'd already broken up by then."
"But when he says you married your husband for his money - "
"Oh yes," she said lightly, challenging him with a look. "That's perfectly true."
He paled. "You don't mean that."
"Why shouldn't I mean it?" she flung at him defiantly. "You've met my ex-husband. Did you think I married him for love?"
"I guess not," he said heavily.
"Don't look like that," she cried, seized by irrational anger. "It's what you thought of me anyway, isn't it?"
"Well - yes, maybe."
"Oh, you coward," she said softly. "You've despised me from the first day. Admit it!"
He stood silent. After a while she gave a contemptuous laugh.
"It was fine as long as you could sneer at me from a distance, wasn't it? But you can't say it to my face."
"Maybe because I know how much I got wrong. I blamed you because of the way he bought this house, but you told me yourself it wasn't for you."
"Maybe you shouldn't. You have only my word for it."
"I take your word," he said through gritted teeth.
"And if I tell you that I was a poor innocent who went blindly into marriage without knowing what I was doing, would you believe me?"
"Is that what you're saying?"
"I could if I wanted to. I could say anything if I wanted to. How would you know the difference? For the last eight years I've been living in a world where lies and truth don't exist. There's only 'what will work for the moment'. If it'll do you some good, you say it. If it doesn't work, you change it.
"The only reality is money. Joe Clannan had millions and he wanted to spend them on me. So I let him. Why not? He bought me, I sold me, and I made sure I got a high price. Is that plain enough for you?"
"Stop it," he said fiercely. "Why are you doing this?"
"Just trying to restore your sense of reality. You knew all the worst of me by instinct, the first day. You should have stuck with it. It's all true."
"All of it?"
She drew a sharp breath. "Most of it. Enough to put any decent man off me, if he had any sense."
"Then why are you here?" he demanded harshly. "Why didn't you sell this place and use the money to go on living the high life? The money would have run out in the end but by that time you could have snared another rich husband easily. It's only a question of the right technique and, according to you, you've got that. Or did I misunderstand you."
"No, you didn't misunderstand me," she raged. "Got the right technique? I've got a dozen of them. There's a way to make a fool of almost any man. You just have to find what it is. Some are more of a challenge than others but in the end, most of them sit up and beg."
She could see that he hated this. His eyes darkened and his breathing became fast and shallow. He turned away, but she darted in front of him.
"It's not just a question of fluttering your eyelids. That's a corny old trick, although it still works on the dumber ones - and there are plenty of those. It's knowing when to lick your lips, and a particular note you can put in your laughter because that sends shivers up their spines - "
"Shut up!" he raged. "Don't dare say another word."
She looked up into his face, giving her head a little shake so that her hair fell back in ripples.
"Giving me orders, Vittorio?" she asked softly. "Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?"
A new darkness came over his face. It would have been frightening if she'd been in the mood to be scared. As it was, a thrill went through her, making her whole body tremble with pleasure.
"I could kill you just for saying that," he said slowly.
She laughed then, recklessly, knowing what she was doing to push him to the edge, knowing also that she wanted to do exactly that.
"And with some men you have to make them angry first," she said, leaning forward to that her warm breath fanned his face. "The result is always the same."
"Are you mad to speak to me like that?" he demanded, giving her a
"What point?" he asked in a dazed voice.
"I said some men are more of a challenge than others. Actually, you were one of the easier ones."
"If you think you've brought me under your cheap spell, think again," he grated. "Do you think I haven't met women like you before. Do you think I don't know what to do with them?"
"No, you've never met one like me before," she told him, eyes fixed on his face. "And you're right - you have no idea what to do with me."
That was true, she thought with bitter triumph. For one defenceless
moment in was there in his face - everything he wanted, everything he'd
told himself was not for him.
"Stop that!" he said fiercely. "Stop it or I'll make you."
"You couldn't make me," she challenged.
His face tightened and he jerked her so close that their lips almost touched. A thrill of triumph went through her. This man who defended himself against her with such iron control was melting in her hands.
But in the same moment she felt the change inside herself. The brilliant exhilaration faded, died, leaving bleakness behind. She wanted to cry out, grasp it while there was still time, but the time was already over, and there was nothing there.
He saw it all happen, saw the exact instant when her eyes emptied. One minute he was grasping her in anger, the next he was almost holding her up.
"Angel," he whispered, "Angel what are you trying to do?"
She shook her head. She didn't know. The mood that had swept over her might have happened a thousand years ago.
He released her carefully, half expecting her to fall, but she stepped back and looked at him with the bleakest expression he had ever seen. He couldn't bear to look at her. It was like watching somebody dying, crumbling inside until only the empty shell was left.
"Why do you want me to think badly of you?" he asked.
"You will anyway, whatever I do," she said sadly. "It's safer this way. Go on thinking the worst of me, Vittorio. It's probably true."
She walked out of the room, leaving him stunned.
He tried to tell himself that everything was very simple. She'd just
confirmed his worst suspicions. But he couldn't make himself believe
it. She'd spoken cruel, bitter words, all aimed at herself. And every
one of them had struck him like a cry for help.
the book MARRIED
UNDER THE ITALIAN SUN
by Lucy Gordon.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
~ a taste of italy at home ~