A Deal with Di Capua(2)

By: Cathy Williams

“How did she die?” She interrupted Lizzy abruptly. “You just mentioned an accident—was anyone else involved?” Whatever conversation Angelo had been having with the vicar was at an end and he was turning around towards her. Rosie focused on the small, curvy brunette with the massive bosoms and willed herself into a state of composure but she had to clasp her hands tightly together in front of her to stop them from shaking.

“Thankfully, no. But she had been drinking. It’s awful. I told her over and over again that she should get some help, but she never wanted to admit that she had a problem, and she was such fun when...you know...”

“Excuse me. I really have to go.”

“But we’re all going back to the little pub by her house.”

“I’m sorry.” Rosie could sense Angelo walking towards her, breaking free of the twenty or so people around him. The urge to run away as fast as her feet could take her was so overpowering that she thought she might faint.

She shouldn’t have come. Life was a tough business and there was no room for nostalgia. She, Jack and Amanda might have started their story together, but it certainly hadn’t ended up that way, and she just should have let sleeping dogs lie.

She had known that she would see Angelo here. How could she have kidded herself that she wouldn’t have been affected? She had given her heart to him, lock, stock and barrel, and he had taken it, broken it and walked off into the sunset with her best friend. Had she really imagined that she had managed to put all that behind her sufficiently to face him once again?

Lizzy had drifted away, leaving her standing on her own, a prime target for the man bearing down on her.

“Rosie Tom. Well, well, well, you’re the last person I expected to see here. No, maybe I should rephrase that—you’re the last person welcome here.”

Of course he had seen her. The second the brief service had concluded and he had half-turned, he had spotted Rosie and instantly he’d felt every muscle in his body, every pore and nerve-ending, spasm painfully with the combined weight of loathing and a certain heightened awareness that angered him almost as much as the sight of her did.

In the winter-infused chapel, she was radiantly striking. Tall and slender as a reed, with that peculiar shade of vibrant auburn hair that never failed to draw attention. She was pale and looked as though, with that hair colouring, she should have had freckles, but her skin was satin-smooth, creamy and unblemished and her eyes were the colour of sherry.

She had the glorious, other-worldly beauty of a woman designed to make men lose their minds. Angelo’s mouth thinned with displeasure as he fought to stop the floodgates to the past that were opening up.

“This is a public place,” Rosie said coolly. “You might not welcome me here, but I have every right to pay my respects.”

“Don’t make me laugh. You and Amanda parted as sworn enemies. How did you hear about her death anyway?”

She had had her hair cut. The last time he had seen her, it had been long, tumbling over her shoulders and down her back. Now it was still wavy, but cut in a graduating bob that fell to her shoulders. She looked as chic and eye-catching as she always had.

“I had a call from Lizzy, her friend.”

“And you immediately thought that you would bury the hatchet and rush here to shed big crocodile tears. Do me a favour.”

Rosie took a deep breath. She found that she couldn’t quite look at him. Too many memories. Not that it mattered whether she actually looked at him or not. In her mind, his image was stamped with ruthless efficiency. The raven-black hair close-cropped; those fabulous eyes that were a peculiar shade of opaque green; the harsh, unforgiving angles of his face that heightened his sexual appeal rather than diminished it; a body that was lean and muscular and lightly bronzed.

“I wasn’t going to shed any tears,” she said quietly. “But we grew up together. And, now that I’ve come, I think it’s time for me to leave. I just... Whatever’s happened, Angelo, I’m sorry for your loss.”

Angelo threw back his head and laughed. “You’re sorry for my loss? We’d better step outside, Rosie, because if we don’t I might just burst out laughing again, and somehow that doesn’t seem appropriate for the inside of a chapel.”

Before she could protest, her arm was in a vice-like grip and she was being frog-marched out, her breath coming and going in staccato bursts, her brain in complete shutdown mode.

“You’re hurting me!”

“Really? Surprisingly, I don’t honestly care.” They were outside, standing to one side in the bitterly cold, gathering gloom. “Now, why the hell have you shown up here?”