The Sicilian's Surprise Wife(8)

By: Tara Pammi

Turning around, she swept her gaze over the quiet and ultraluxurious lounge at the Chatsfield New York. A bank of glass-walled elevators stood to the side.

Utter silence reigned over the marble-floored lounge, the humdrum of quiet efficiency amidst the flowing humanity of Manhattan outside creating a sharp contrast.

The lavish interior of the famous hotel filtered in through her slowly.

“Do you want me to let him know of your arrival, Ms....?”

Blinking, Clio pulled her attention back to the young man. “Clio. Just Clio,” she said, working her mouth to make the sound. Just the thought of saying Norwood sent a chill through her. Her entire body felt as if it was operating on some kind of auto mechanism she hadn’t known she possessed.

Why else would she come to a man whose power and ambition were ten times those of Jackson? A man who had looked at her as if she had somehow tainted herself just by her association with Jackson?

“Wait, Miss...Ms....Clio, hold on.”

Coloring at the curious perusal of the receptionist, Clio wrapped her arms around herself. “I’m sorry for troubling you. I have to leave.”

She hadn’t even realized how or when she had decided to walk to the Chatsfield, to see Stefan. The enigmatic green gaze and scornful mouth rose in front of her and she shook herself. No, she had no strength to expose herself to his brand of truth and evaluation, didn’t have the strength to fare against the memory of a woman she didn’t even remember being once.

His disappointment earlier still stung like a slap.

If she went to him the way she was feeling right now, he would lacerate her with his ruthless words, would peel away any remnants of self-respect she still had left.

The thought of telling him what she had heard, the thought of his reaction got her to move as nothing else could.

She took a few steps toward the revolving glass doors when she heard her name called again.

“Ms. Clio, Mr. Bianco authorized a permanent key card for you with us. At all our international branches. He left very specific instructions that we were to provide anything you asked for, anything you needed, should you come.”

The receptionist placed the key card on the gleaming counter and pulled his hand back.

As if he knew how close to breaking point she was. As if she were a wild animal he needed to treat with the utmost care. Something in his kind gaze, something in the cajoling tone of his voice shook Clio out of the fog she was functioning in.

Was this what she had become? A woman so lost in life that she had reduced a perfect stranger to pitying her?

She didn’t know what she wanted to do, she didn’t know how to take the next step in her life. She felt utterly lost, alone.

The fact that all she wanted to do was crawl into the nearest hole and never emerge scraped her raw. And yet, something in her, some small part of her that refused to whimper like a victim, had brought her here.

Her career, her life, her self-respect and her heart— everything lay in ragged tatters around her feet.

She knew that she needed help. To figure out how to do the one thing that burned inside her while everything else lay in ashes.

She grabbed the key card and palmed the smooth surface. Forced herself to put one foot in front of the other, to take a deep, purging breath. The quiet swish of the lift as it bore her to the fifty-second floor pinged against her tautly stretched nerves.

When the doors finally opened, she stepped out onto an enormous foyer boasting four balconies with glass railings that provided breathtaking views of the one of the world’s finest cities.

It was like a castle built amidst the clouds.

Walking past a gold-embossed statue in the middle of the foyer, she reached the lounge. A champagne-and-brown color scheme reigned, with glittering burnished-gold and deep red accessories here and there that matched the white-hot temperament of the man she had once known.

Although the Stefan she had met this evening had been coldly ruthless.

What the hell was she even doing here?

Just as she turned in the direction of the elevator, his silky smooth question rang out.

“You’re leaving already?”

Clutching her eyes closed, Clio willed herself to calm down. In a helpless way that made her totally nauseous, she was glad that he had spotted her before she had made a hasty exit.

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