The Italian's Bride

The Italian's Bride

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by Diana Hamilton

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Knowing that the powerful Verdi family can easily take her baby son away if they wish, Portia Makepeace has no choice but to go with Lucenzo Verdi to his home in Italy. He obviously thinks she is a gold digger, but to her horror Portia finds herself falling in love with him! So when he offers to make her his bride does he believe in Portia's innocence, or are there

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Knowing that the powerful Verdi family can easily take her baby son away if they wish, Portia Makepeace has no choice but to go with Lucenzo Verdi to his home in Italy. He obviously thinks she is a gold digger, but to her horror Portia finds herself falling in love with him! So when he offers to make her his bride does he believe in Portia's innocence, or are there other motives behind his hot-blooded embrace?

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Publication date:
A Mediterranean Marriage , #2262
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Meet the Author

Diana Hamilton’s first stories were written for the amusement of her children. They were never publihed, but the writing bug had bitten. Over the next ten years she combined writing novels with bringing up her children, gardening and cooking for the restaurant of a local inn – a wonderful excuse to avoid housework! In 1987 Diana realized her dearest ambition – the publication of her first Mills & Boon romance. Diana lives in Shropshire, England, with her husband.

Read an Excerpt

The Italian's Bride

By Diana Hamilton

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

ISBN: 0373122624

Chapter One

`I'll get it,' Portia offered much too brightly as the strident ring of the doorbell broke the tense silence.

Visitors to the small semi on the outskirts of the industrial Midlands town of Chevington, where she had lived with her parents for the whole of her twenty-one years, were rare - and certainly not expected at nine o'clock on a damp April evening.

She was out of the neatly furnished sitting room before her father could get to his feet and tell her to stay where she was. The idea of leaving baby Sam with her mother did not even enter her head. Dealing with the caller, even if it turned out to be just someone asking for directions, would be a welcome distraction from her parents' tight-lipped unspoken disapproval.

Enfolding her tiny baby more securely in his shawl, Portia tucked a wandering strand of pale blonde hair behind her ear and opened the front door just as an impatient finger jabbed again at the bell-push. Her always-ready smile was wiped away when she saw who it was.

One of the frighteningly powerful, disgustingly wealthy Verdi clan. It just had to be!

How many times had she told herself that they would never know what had happened, and that even if they did - through some cruel quirk of fate - not a single one of them would be interested in either her or her illegitimate child.

It looked as if she couldn't have been more wrong, she thought sickly as her stomach nose-diveddown to the soles of her feet and shot right back again.

Everything about this stranger betrayed his Italian heritage, from the proud tilt of that arrogantly held dark head, the black eyes that regarded her so narrowly from beneath slashing brows, the high-bridged aquiline nose, to the shockingly sensual mouth. The family connection was painfully obvious, she conceded as her stomach tied itself in knots again.

He wasn't as playboy-pretty as Vito had been; the cynical lines that bracketed his mouth, the harsher cast of his features saw to that. And he was a good head taller and at least half a dozen years older than Vito had been.

Vito, the father of her baby, had been twenty-six years old when he'd died, six weeks and four days ago ...

Vito had deceived both her and his wife, and probably dozens of other gullible females as well ...

Jumbled thoughts raced around inside her head - the head that her parents had always disappointedly maintained to be empty of anything more solid than fluff - and the stranger intoned, `Portia Makepeace?'

She couldn't speak. Her vocal cords, usually so active, had gone into shock. She'd been found and she hadn't wanted to be. Who knew what the powerfully influential Verdi clan would do? Try to take Vito's son from her because he was one of their own? It didn't bear thinking about!

Too late she attempted what she should have done earlier - to shut the door in his face - but he shouldered his way into the cramped hall. His narrowed eyes tracked a disparaging path over her tumbled shoulder-length hair, the old blue dressing gown belted tightly around her far too generous curves, the ridiculous slippers that looked like frogs - a going-to-maternity-hospital gift from her friend Betty - and back up to lock with huge grey eyes that were annoyingly swimming with tears, before sliding down to stare intently at two-week-old Sam, held protectively in her arms.

`Too ashamed to speak? That I can understand, although I admit it's unexpected,' he said grimly, his voice deep, only slightly accented. `But I don't suppose you're going to try to pretend you are not what you are - a husband-stealer - or that I am not uncle to your child. That wouldn't suit your purposes, would it? You'll be happy to know that I recognise you from the day of Vittorio's funeral.'

Her head spinning giddily, Portia gulped. Happy? Of course she wasn't! Having one of them track her down was the last thing she'd wanted.

But she might have known. Hadn't her parents warned her that attending her dead lover's funeral, running the gauntlet of his prestigious family, not to mention his grieving widow, would be a mistake of the most tasteless kind?

But she'd gone anyway; she'd felt as if she simply had to - intending only to slip in quietly, hide at the back of the congregation where she would be unnoticed. The softness of her heart had overridden the shock of her recent discovery: the knowledge that Vito had never loved her and had run the proverbial mile when she'd told him she was expecting their child. She'd needed to pay her last respects to the father of her unborn baby, to say one last goodbye, to pray for him.

Eight months pregnant, and huge with it, hiding hadn't been easy, and remaining unnoticed had become out of the question when, overcome with mixed but strong emotions, she had fainted.

She had only vague memories of being helped outside. Someone had fetched a glass of water. A female and two males, talking in rapid Italian above her spinning head, dark suspicious eyes inspecting her closely, had made her want to sink right back into oblivion. But when she'd recovered enough to reluctantly mumble her home address, when pressed, one of the men had used his mobile to summon a taxi. Into which she'd been thankfully and discreetly bundled - something rather suspect to be removed from the scene as quickly as possible.

She had thought - devoutly hoped - that that was the end of it. But plainly it hadn't been. Unconsciously running a feather-light finger over her sleeping baby's velvet-soft cheek, she at last found her tongue and uttered staunchly, `I've nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing!'

She'd loved Vito, admired him when he'd told her he was working hard, saving to open his own restaurant, had believed him when he'd told her he loved her, too, and that they'd marry as soon as it was financially possible.

She hadn't known he was already married, that everything he'd said to her was untrue. He had promised marriage and happy-ever-after because he must have thought it was the only way to get her to agree to spending that weekend with him.

So what right had this hard-faced man to look at her as if she were something utterly despicable? Her voice thickening, she demanded, `Why are you here?'

`Good question,' he responded drily, noting the way she deliberately drew attention to the newest member of the Verdi family. He pushed his fists into the pockets of the exquisitely tailored mohair coat he was wearing, his impressive shoulders stiffening. `Not by my own wish, you understand. To set the record straight, I was dead against the family having any contact whatsoever with you.'

Excerpted from The Italian's Bride by Diana Hamilton
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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