The Sicilian's Surprise Wife(6)

By: Tara Pammi

“Don’t tell me everything is okay in your life, bella. Because I can see it’s not.” He placed his hand on one bony shoulder and squeezed. Felt the tremble that racked her.

She looked up at him, shock and disbelief written all over her face.

“I’ll be at the Chatsfield for a couple of days. If you need something, anything, come see me.

“We can have a drink and I’ll tell you about this girl I met on the first day of university, looking for art class. Her hair the color of molten fire, her smile as big as the ocean...the very joy in every step she took that she was finally free...

“She was a sight to behold.

“Two years later, she bet the champion rowing team of four—” he was smiling now, thinking of himself, Zayed, Rocco and Christian brimming with cocky confidence, amazed at the redhead who dared challenge them while every other woman worshipped the ground they walked on “—that she would walk naked across the university lawn rather than cheer them in the final tournament. Told them their arrogant heads were already full of themselves.

“And the night they did win that match, she ran through the lawn, fully dressed and completely sloshed, like a streak of lightning. Because she thought they would demand that she pay.

“I don’t think I remember ever laughing so much as I did that night.”

With a hand that was not quite steady, he wiped the one tear that rolled down her cheek. Whispered the motto by which he and the rest of the Columbia Four lived by. Words that had served Rocco, Christian, Zayed and him well, more than once.

“Memento vivere, bella.”



Clio leaned against the balcony, her legs trembling beneath her, her heart thumping wildly against her rib cage.

A motto that Rocco, Christian, Zayed and Stefan lived by... She had always laughed at the way they quoted it, at how they used it to conquer the world that had been their playground...

Laughed it away so easily because, of course, she had been a shining example of it...

Had she been that girl once?

Stefan’s words swept through her with the force of a tsunami, holding up a picture of the woman she had been so long ago that it was almost like a figment of her imagination.

That Clio had been full of fire and dreams for the future, determined to take on life on her terms.

And yet, here she was today, waiting for the man who had professed to love her. Letting him rule her choice of clothing, her time and even what she did with her life. Waiting for him to look at her again as he had done three years ago. Wishing desperately that he still loved her.

Letting her life pass by with a sigh, her opinions and her words swallowed and locked in her throat.

How had she become this person? Where the hell was Jackson?

Sick of waiting another moment longer, she made her way into the corridor. The empty space sent her heart thudding in her chest as she took the staircase to the lower floor.

And stilled as a smoky, drawling laugh and the accompanying husky female whisper reached her.

A dreadful suspicion gathered momentum and rushed toward her like a freight train. Every step felt like one toward her own doom. Her skin crawled as a sensual gasp filled the air, and the whispers of clothes and limbs punctured the silence.

“Jackson...oh, baby...I can’t do this anymore, Jackson. I love you and I... Tell her it’s over, Jackson.”

Tears filled Clio’s eyes as she stood there, her breath suspended in her throat, her world falling apart around her. Her hands turned into fists by her side, and she shoved one in her mouth to stop the shocked gasp from making itself heard.

She heard more grunts and a soft curse fall from Jackson and instantly, her mind supplied the image required. “Just a few more months, baby. You know how much we need her connections.

“Clio is blue-blooded aristocracy, the likes of whom I won’t meet again. Did you see the sheer size and scope of Jane Alcott’s estates? A few more clients like that, and we will be set.”

“But, Jackson...” Clio could just imagine the pout of Ashley’s voluptuous mouth, “I’ll be showing by then. Is this how you want our new life to begin? Me hiding in case Ms. Stiff and Proper sees me while you pretend to be her loving fiancé? The thought of you touching her makes me so...”

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