The Sicilian's Surprise Wife(7)

By: Tara Pammi

Ashley is pregnant... It seemed there was no end to the knocks coming her way...

Jackson spoke amidst rattling breaths. “I have no desire to touch her. And you very well know that I have no strength left after one of our afternoon appointments to do so even if I were inclined.”

Clio slapped her hands over her ears as she heard Ashley’s satisfied laugh.

“Just give me a couple more months.” Saccharine warmth dripped from Jackson’s voice. “She’s still very useful to us. Once I have used up all the connections Clio can provide for us, I’ll get rid of her. Until then, appearances are crucial.”

“If she backs out before then?”

“Backs out of what? For all her claims of walking away from her family and the man they wanted her to marry, Clio’s desperate to be loved, desperate to feel that she’s succeeded at something even if it’s just scoring a man.” There was no hesitation in Jackson’s voice. Only the absolute truth as he believed it to be. “The woman she is now, there’s no other man who would touch Clio Norwood with a pole, much less want her.”

Bile crawled up Clio’s throat and she turned away from the door. Pushing the heavy door to the staircase, she only got up one group of stairs before her legs gave out and she collapsed onto the grimy floor.

Desperate to be loved, desperate to feel that she’s succeeded at something...

Beating back her head against the wall, Clio closed her eyes, shutting off the tears that threatened to deluge her. Still, a few drops leaked through her tightly shut lids.

How could she have misjudged Jackson so badly? How could she have not seen this coming? How many times did she need to learn this lesson? She had never been valued for anything more than her father’s name, had never been valued for herself.

However far she ran, her name and everything it entailed caught up with her. Fury and self-disgust unlike she had ever known slammed into her gut.

For months, she had let Jackson walk over her, she had let Ashley make a mockery of her in front of friends.

There had been too many business dinners to attend, too many charity galas they needed to be seen at—dressed in designer clothes and sipping champagne, instead of where she preferred to be—behind the scenes getting her hands dirty.

There had been too much of displaying themselves rather than doing anything of substance. Too much of putting herself on parade on Jackson’s arm, too much of talking about her parents and her family’s aristocratic background and connections.

Too much of being stifled by rules, weighed down by expectations. Too much of being a Norwood, daughter of one of the most powerful aristocratic families in Britain, too much of being the Manhattan elite, power-hungry financier Jackson Smith’s fiancée.

Too little of being herself, of just being Clio.

All her life, she had craved her father’s approval, even when she hadn’t fit right with her family’s aristocratic connections. She’d stupidly hoped he would be proud of her if she did as he asked of her.

Had tried to make herself the perfect daughter. Until she found out he had arranged her marriage and choked at the very ropes she had bound around herself.

And she had fallen into the same trap with Jackson.

All the signs had been there and she had been too blind to see them, too desperate to need something in her life to be a success.

She had led herself to the very same place she had left in her home country over a decade ago, into the same life where she couldn’t breathe.

Every uncomfortable feeling she had repressed, every doubt she had swallowed so that she didn’t mess up another one of his meetings and parties, suddenly balled up in her throat, choking her breath.

Her identity had somehow fractured and attached itself in pieces to Jackson’s.

And all for what?

So that he could cheat on her, so that he could impregnate his assistant.

Her love, her fears, hadn’t mattered to Jackson at all. And not seeing that truth had all been her fault.


“I’M SORRY, MA’AM. I can’t allow you to go up to Mr. Bianco’s suite.”

Clio heard the receptionist behind the huge swathe of pristine black marble and looked around herself in confusion. Had she inquired about Stefan? Where had she walked to?

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