Read an Excerpt
YOU didn't have to be drowning for your life to flash before you. Nor to be sleeping to feel you had stumbled into a nightmare.
And this was her worst.
Alexa blinked her eyes rapidly, like someone emerging from the watertheir vision blurred so that they couldn't see clearly and found herself thinking that maybe it wasn't him. For a split second a fragment of optimism floated before her as she narrowed her eyes to watch the man who sauntered with such careless grace down the cobblestoned street. But hope died as he grew closer and she saw a group of women stop talking mid-sentence and turn their heads to follow his path.
He walked like the leader he undoubtedly wasa man born to money, as well as having made more than enough of his own. Tall and striking, he had crisp dark curls, hard black eyes and a proud and haughty look on a face which in repose looked faintly cruel.
His olive skin was darkeven for a Southern italianand a shamelessly exotic air had only added to his mystique in his native city of Naples. Glamorous mother; father unknown.
He was wearing a perfectly cut pale grey suit over a lean, hard body, and as he walked the women watching him almost melted on the spot. it would almost have been comic if it hadn't made Alexa's heart ache with a pain which should have disappeared a long time ago and yet deep, deep down was a feeling far more acute than pain.
She licked her lips. Giovanni. Giovanniher husband.
Jealous, possessive, unrealistic, idealistic. GiovannI
Silently she said the name she had tried to forget but never wouldfor how could she, when she was still tied to him by law, unresolvedfeelings and by something deeper still? Something so precious that ifif."
Alexa swallowed. Had he seen her? Her heart skipped a beat as that stupid hope flared into life once more. Did he know she was here?
But even before she met the ebony glitter of his eyes, training themselves on the shop window like a hunter's gun, or watched him beginning to cross the road towards the building, she knew that it was a dumb question to ask.
Of course he knew she was here. Why else would the black-hearted millionaire be wandering down a quiet English road instead of swanning around his hot and noisy Naples in that sleek little sports car he used to drive, with all the men shouting Gio! and the girls smiling and swaying their hips as he passed?
What else did he know? Had hefound out? Oh, please. the world began to blur again, and she clutched the flimsy piece of silk she was holding. Please don't let him know.
Skin icing and heart beginning to pound, Alexa could feel the palms of her hands growing damp, and she put down the silk T-shirt she had been folding with shaking fingers. No wealthy customer would part with cash for an over-priced item if it was covered in splodges of her sweat. She licked her dry lips, telling herself it was insanity to try to second-guess the situation. Just see what he has to say and play it coolsurely you can do that, considering what's at stake?
The shop door pinged, and she looked straight at him as he walked in, fixing a smile to her lips which she hoped was just the right mixture of formal politeness and mild curiosity. the kind of smile that any estranged wife would give to a husband who had given the dictionary a new definition for "unreasonable behaviour".
"H-hello, Giovanni," she said, but she heard her voice tremble, and he heard it too, for she saw the black eyes briefly narrow as he tried to interpret its origin. "This is a"
"What?" he questioned, deadly as a snake. "Surprise." She swallowed, feeling her throat constrict on the word.
"Ah! Such understatement, cara mia!" he murmured "Did you really expect to go through the rest of your life without ever seeing me again?"
"I hadn't really given it much thought." "I don't believe you," he said softly, and his eyes flicked her a mocking look. Not think about him? the moon would fail to rise in the heavens before that should happen! "All women who have known me are obsessed with meand in many ways you have known me better than most, for you are the only woman I ever married."
But Giovanni knew that it had been more than just the legal tie of their marriage which made her knowledge of so uniquea marriage which had been far stronger and less easy to shrug off than he had anticipated. it was because Alexa had seen him with his guard downshe had witnessed Giovanni veering towards the vulnerableand she had taught him a lesson that he should have known all along: women were never to be trusted.
Alexa's fixed smile became a grotesque kind of grimace. "Did youdid you want to speak to me?"
Jet-black brows were raised in arrogant query. "the alternative being that I want you to sell me some women's clothesperhaps shopping here for one of my mistresses? What do you think?"
If only he knew! If only he had an inkling about the crazed thoughts which were swirling around in her mind like an out-of-control whirlwind. Because you know that what you have done to this man is wrong?
She willed the voice of her conscience to ceasedampening down its clamour with a reminder of the harsh and bitter words he had spoken to her. Everything she had done, she had done for a reason. "I can't talk now. I'm working."
"So I see." He glanced around the shop's interior, affecting interestbut in reality it was to allow the beating of his heart to steady. He was taken aback by its thunderous poundingfor he had underestimated her impact on his senses. Or maybe he had simply forgotten.
Hungrily, he let his eyes feast on her. Her bright hair was caught back in one of those severe French plaits you rarely saw these days, and she was wearing a black pencil skirt and white blousepresumably some kind of uniform for working. Yet it didn't look anything like a uniform when she was wearing it. With the slim skirt skimming the gentle curve of her hips and the silky shirt caressing the swell of her breasts, she looked like a favourite male fantasybuttoned-up, yet red-hot and hungry underneath. Giovanni swallowed. Later.
"Still a shop assistant?" he questioned sardonically. "isn't this where you came in unless you own the place, of course?"
"No, I don't own it."
So there had been no sudden change in her fortunes. No lover to lavish his wealth on her, having been reeled in with that unique blend of supposedly innocent sensuality. Those pale green eyes which could range from serene to feisty and a hundred expressions in between. She had the kind of body you wanted to cover in diamondsand then slowly remove them, one by one.
Had it surprised him that she had not approached him for a hefty divorce settlement? He supposed it hadbut maybe her lawyers had advised her that a mere three-month marriage would not yield much in the way of alimony.
"Hardly what you'd call rapid promotion, is it?" he mused. "Shop assistant in some small backwater of a place you grew up in."
How effortlessly fluent was his English and how brutally accurate was his contempt for her situation! Alexa gave him a non-committal smile. "Well, we can't all be captains of industry,'she said quietly. "Listen, Giovanni no one was ever going to be in any doubt that you were the achiever in our relationship, but I really don't have time to stand around and chat." Especially about something as painful and as potentially explosive as their past.