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By Jane Porter
Thorndike PressCopyright © 2003 Jane Porter
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Chapter One"I won't let her ruin the wedding." Marco d'Angelo's deep voice rang out in the high ceiling Milan salon. He rarely raised his voice and the seamstress and models at the far end of the elegant salon briefly glanced his way before resuming the fitting.
Princess Marilena placed a light hand on Marco's arm. "She won't ruin the wedding, darling. The ceremony isn't for months."
"Two and a half months." They were getting married less than a week after the Spring show previewing the new collection, and the new collection so far hadn't come together.
They were running out of time.
"I don't think you should worry yourself yet. Things always have a way of working out," the princess added evenly.
Marco wasn't so sure. His angular jaw tightened, and his thick eyebrows lowered, becoming heavy black slashes above brooding eyes. His gaze narrowed, focused on Marilena's pale hand where it rested on his coat sleeve, studying the opulent engagement ring he'd given her less than a month ago.
He'd hunted the ring down, a three carat emerald cut diamond surrounded by sapphires in an eighteenth century gold setting. The ring had belonged to the royal Borgiano family for three centuries until Marilena's father, Prince Stefano Borgiano, had been forced to sell it twenty-five years ago.
Thearistocratic Borgiano fortunes had fallen even as the d'Angelo's had risen. But right now Marco didn't feel very blessed. He was troubled, deeply troubled, aware that the new collection lacked imagination. Inspiration.
It was, he thought irritably, boring. And that, in the fashion world, was a fate worse than death.
Like his father before him, Marco had never needed an outsider to tell him when something worked or didn't. He knew. He felt it in his gut. And his gut was telling him now that the Spring collection would be a disappointment if he didn't find the spark soon. If he couldn't make magic.
But what was the special something?
He didn't know yet, and he certainly wouldn't find the answers with his ex-wife here. "I don't trust her," he said after a moment, his voice low and rough. "Payton's only ever been interested in herself."
"She said her visit was just for holiday, didn't she?"
Marco glanced up to meet Marilena's steady gaze. She had remarkable eyes, the irises the color of caramels, the rich tawny color contrasting perfectly with her glossy black hair and lush black lashes.
As the head of d'Angelo, Milan's top fashion design house, Marco worked with stunning models every day, and had dressed many of the world's most beautiful women for nearly two decades, but Princess Marilena Borgiano was a class apart.
The hard press of his lips eased. "How can you be so understanding?" he asked, reaching into his coat pocket for a cigarette before remembering he'd promised her he'd quit smoking.
Her slim shoulders shrugged in an ultrafeminine, ultra-Italian gesture. "Because Payton's not a threat."
Marilena must have caught the arch of his eyebrows as she smiled, her full dark red mouth curving. "We've known each other a long time, Marco, you and me. We've been through a great deal together. We understand each other and we know what we want. It's different from your first marriage, yes?"
Completely different, he thought, biting down on his back teeth, his temper nearly flaring again. If pressed, he wouldn't even call the brief twenty-one month arrangement a marriage. It was more like a disaster.
No, a nightmare.
Marilena stood on tiptoe and pressed a quick kiss to his mouth. "Don't look so angry, darling. She won't be here long, and she'll have the girls with her. I know you've wanted a relationship with them -"
"That was a long time ago, before she held them hostage, before she used them against me. Maybe once they were my daughters, but they're not mine anymore. Payton made sure of that."
Marilena clucked softly. "That's not true. They're still your children. You adore the girls. I know you've missed them terribly."
Marco swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat. He had missed them. He'd missed them so much he almost felt sick inside. "Payton knows I'll sue for custody," he said after a long moment. "She knows if she comes back, she'll find it next to impossible to take them out of the country again."
Marilena cocked her head. "So, why is she bringing them here now?"
Good question, Marco thought. A very good question indeed.
Excerpted from Marco's Pride by Jane Porter Copyright © 2003 by Jane Porter. Excerpted by permission.
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