The Sicilian's Surprise Wife(3)

By: Tara Pammi

His mind cast back to over a decade ago, to his university days with Rocco, Christian and Zayed—who’d become more brothers than friends—to the unparalleled enthusiasm of learning the world and knowing that it could be at their feet, to the glory of discovering women and the pull they held for them, and to Clio Norwood—the woman who had known the Columbia Four as well as they had known each other.

Every inch an aristocrat she no longer wanted to be and used to privileged playboys just like them, she had often laughed at their exploits, seeing their escapades with other women with a decidedly amused resignation and distance. She’d rejected his come-ons that first year, as easily as she had shrugged away the elaborate wealth and standing she had been born into.

Of all the men on the planet, the last man he would have envisioned Clio to be with was Jackson Smith.

In no mood to get into a sparring match with Jackson again, especially when his patience was already dangerously low, Stefan waited. Minutes piled on top of each other. With a graceful tilt of her head, Clio excused herself from the group.

Ignoring the uncharacteristically frantic thrumming of his heart, Stefan cornered her in the next moment. “Ciao, Clio.”

He wrapped his fingers over her arm to turn her and felt the shiver that went through her. Saw the bracing breath she took before she turned around. A flash of fear, feral and bright, danced in her green eyes.

Until she blinked, those long lashes hiding her expression.

When she looked up again, a flicker of warmth dawned in those green depths. “Stefan...what a surprise...I had no idea you were in New York.”

That accent of hers—it had always done strange things to his insides, swept over him with a mix of warmth and heated awareness. But her tone was reserved and artificial; it rattled him.

Granted, they hadn’t seen each other in a while, but for four years, Clio had been a part of his life—an integral one and one he remembered without bitterness.

Placing his arm around her toward the railing, he trapped her, shielding her from the rest of the crowd.

“You would have known if you’d kept in touch, wouldn’t you, bella?”

Tension thrummed in the tight set of her shoulders. “You barely ever set foot in New York whereas this is my home.”

“True. But you didn’t think it important to even attend Rocco’s wedding. Does your not allow room for old friends, Clio?”

She didn’t flinch as she had done with Jackson, but there was an infinitesimal withdrawal. That shadow of fear again.

Dio, what was her association with Jackson?

“I’ve always been here, Stefan.” A remnant of the old Clio—full of adventure and plans for a new kind of life—flashed in her gaze. “I’m not the one determined to wipe anything related to our life in New York from memory.”

“Maybe I realized there wasn’t anything of value left for me here in New York. It’s not like Rocco, Christian or Zayed live here.”

She didn’t strike him down with words as she used to, only stared at him with those wide eyes and her mouth pinched. Why didn’t she just put him in his place with a cutting remark as she had always done?

Where was this need to land a shot at her coming from? And why? Just because she had some kind of association with Jackson Smith while she had rejected his cocky advances a lifetime ago?

He didn’t need his male ego to be validated by her interest in him.

Women flocked to him with one interested glance from him and he took advantage of it. He liked sex, had a healthy libido and when he was done, he walked away from the woman whether she liked it or not.

He had no place or use for a woman in his life, except in his bed.

Yet he had barely spent two minutes with Clio and suddenly, he was more interested in her thoughts and her actions.

Her chest rose and fell with the calming breath she took, coating his skin with warmth. He saw the mask that fell into place covering up her obvious distress, saw years of breeding and good manners slide into place.

The very thing she had been determined to overcome about herself...

“It was good to see you, Stefan,” she said evenly, with a perfectly bland smile. “But you’ll have to excuse me. I have things to do.”

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