The Sicilian's Surprise Wife(4)

By: Tara Pammi

He clasped her arm. “You didn’t answer my question. Why didn’t you come to Rocco’s wedding?”

Distress marred her gaze, before she composed herself enough to hide it. Her green eyes were huge in her oval face, the pallor of her skin parchment white. “I’ve been busy with work. Not all of us have turned our dreams into such an amazing reality as you have done with your global real estate company.”

“I started with nothing more than you did, Clio. I never took a penny from my parents after they disowned me.”

“Christian told me. After Serena, you—” She must have caught the blaze of anger in his gaze because she grimaced and continued, “After everything that happened in the last semester, you never looked back once.

“So stop blaming me alone for a friendship that didn’t last. In the first couple of years, Christian kept me abreast of what was happening with you guys. After that, it was hard to miss your success with all four of you hitting young millionaires’ lists left and right. But I’m not bitter enough to bemoan your success, Stefan.”

“I’m asking now, bella. What happened to your dreams, Clio?”

“Reality happened, okay? I discovered how hard it is to actually make it in this world. So kudos to you for doing it.” She took another calming breath. “Tell me about Rocco’s wedding.” It was obvious that she wanted to turn the conversation away from her life, but still, warmth spilled into her green eyes as she said Rocco’s name. “It would have been something to see Rocco dance to the tunes of the woman he fell so hard for. Olivia Fitzgerald must be really special.”

The wistfulness in her gaze before she looked around herself and covered it up tugged at his curiosity. “Olivia is definitely something, and Rocco is well and truly caught.”

He noted the way her gaze kept going to the entrance to the terrace, the same revolving door that Jackson and the blonde had walked through. “It was only a plane ride away, Clio. If it’s money for the plane ticket, you could have just asked one of us.”

“I’m not destitute, Stefan,” she said tiredly, as if she would do anything if he just left her alone. “After Christian paid my rent for a few months that one time, I managed fine.”

Shock reverberated through Stefan.

Christian had helped Clio once with the rent? Had it been that bad for her?

But he had no doubt as to why Christian wouldn’t have breathed a word. His friend had grown up in poverty on the streets of Athens, was the one who really understood what it meant to make ends meet when you started with nothing.

He understood why it would have been Christian that Clio had gone to. But still, he didn’t like that things had been so bad for her and he hadn’t even had an inkling of it.

He stared at her anew.

There was no emotion, not even bitterness, in her tone. Only an underlying urgency and fear prompted by what, he had no idea.

It had to be something related to Jackson.

A renewed purpose filled him. He had to help her get out of whatever it was.

“If you ever needed something, you only had to ask.”

“I don’t want charity. Yours or anyone else’s. I paid Christian back when I was able to. I’m fine now.”

“Then why did you not come to the wedding? Why did you blanch when you saw me?”

“I told you. I’ve had too many things going on and—”

“Is it that or is the fact that your new associations and your new way of life don’t let you see your old friends anymore?”

She paled. “Whatever it is that you’re implying, say it straight to my face, Stefan. It’s not like you to worry about someone else’s feelings, is it?”

“Jackson Smith.”

A stillness came over her and Stefan knew. Whatever it was that robbed all color from her skin, that made a shadow of Clio, it was Jackson. “What...what do you mean?” He saw her throat swallow forcibly.

“Are you not well, bella?”

She jerked away from him, her breath coming in sharp bursts. “What. About. Jackson, Stefan?”

“Jackson is a crook. A polished, smooth-talking, self-centered crook. The best thing I can say about him is that he doesn’t lack for female company wherever he goes.”

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