The Secret to Marrying Marchesi

By: Amanda Cinelli

‘We couldn’t risk the press getting wind of her location yet,’ Alberto said hurriedly.

‘Forget about it. I will just have to fix this myself,’ Rigo growled, grabbing his suit jacket.

It was time for him to reinforce what he apparently hadn’t made clear enough to her the last time.

He would not be made to look a fool.

* * *

Ignoring the uncomfortable burn in her stomach, Nicole scraped the rest of her half-eaten meal into the bin and poured a small glass of white wine. She needed to unwind and get rid of this nervous energy so that she could formulate a plan. A plan that did not involve being holed up at the top of a fancy apartment tower like a scared defenceless princess.

She walked over to the windows, looking at the lights of Paris twinkling in the dusk.

Her old life had been filled with nights like this, drinking wine and gazing out at the lights of countless beautiful cities. But no city had ever felt like home—not even London. ‘Home’ was what she had been trying to create in L’Annique. A stable, solid place where Anna could grow up, go to school, have her first kiss. All of those normal things that young girls were meant to go through. And instead they’d been forced to flee, to accept help from the one man she had promised herself she would never turn to, no matter how hard things got.

She sank down onto the suede sofa and closed her eyes. It had taken over an hour to get Anna to sleep in the absence of her usual routine. She needed to pull herself together. After all, children felt their mother’s anxiety, didn’t they? Their entire life had fallen to pieces and she only had herself to blame.

She took a long sip from her wine and gazed anxiously out the window at the dark street below. Alberto had assured her that they were guaranteed privacy here, that they would be safe from the press until they came to an agreement. And that was all that Nicole needed right now—until she figured out what the hell her options were.

The luxury apartment was on the third floor of an exclusive building not far from the Champs-Elysées. It was all high-gloss modern minimalist furniture and white walls—not very child friendly or lived-in.

Honestly, what on earth had she been thinking to come here? Of course they wanted to pay her off, she cursed silently, kicking off her shoes and tucking them underneath herself. She had expected to be met with a gag order of some form, but not an outright pay-off in return for her lies. She needed help, but the deal she had been offered came at a price much too high for her to pay.

She had barely thought about Rigo in the weeks before all of this. That had been no mean feat, considering she looked into her daughter’s cobalt-blue eyes every single day. It had been more than a year since she had looked into the identical blue eyes of her one-night lover.

Maybe on some level she had half hoped he would be there today. She wasn’t sure she would have been able to be quite so calm if he had been.

A knock sounded on the door to the apartment. Nicole stood slowly. Alberto had said no one would know her location here except for him...and his boss.

‘Who is it?’ She stood in front of the closed door, feeling her heartbeat pound against her ribcage.

‘You know who it is, Nicole.’

She felt the deep baritone of his voice vibrate right down to the soles of her feet. She fought the sudden need to turn tail and run. She stood frozen, amazed at her own ridiculous nerves. Her stomach seemed to be flipping over in circles as she reached out and laid her hand on the doorknob.

She swung the door open and there he was. Six foot two of pure Italian male, his short dark hair perfectly coiffed to match his immaculately tailored suit.

‘May I come in?’ he said, the subtle hardness of his tone belying the seemingly polite request.

Nicole stepped back, opening the door wide and gesturing for him to enter.

She was aware of his cobalt-blue gaze sweeping over her as he moved into the apartment. His eyes still had the ability to make her breath catch. No doubt he was taking note of how much she had changed since they’d last met. She became acutely aware of the fact that she was about ten pounds heavier, her plain brown hair hadn’t seen a stylist in over a year and she had stains from Anna’s supper all over her jeans.

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