A Very Exclusive Engagement(58)

By: Andrea Laurence

Francesca wrinkled her nose and put her palm gently against the stubble of his jaw. “Mio caro, we’re already married.”

“I know,” he said with a devious smile. “But I want a do-over. With a tropical honeymoon. And this time, it will just be the two of us. No family, no pressure and especially no cake throwing.”


Antigua, One Week Later

Francesca had no idea a vacation could be so perfect. With Ariella’s televised reunion       show coming up, they didn’t have the luxury of taking a long honeymoon, but they did manage to sneak away for a long weekend in the Caribbean.

So far, they had sunbathed, swum in the ocean, dined on the best seafood she’d ever tasted and renewed their vows in a private white gazebo hovering over the water.

Their previous ceremony had been legally binding but tainted by his aunt’s machinations and Angelica’s tantrum. Their vow renewal had been just for them. A chance to say the words again and wholeheartedly mean it. Afterward, they drank champagne in their private bungalow and shared a tiny cake for two that no one could ruin.

Today they had planned a snorkeling trip in the morning, followed by marathon lovemaking and lots of luxurious naps. The snorkeling trip had been excellent. The water was crystal clear and a rainbow of fish was in abundance. They were on their way back to the bungalow when Francesca stopped and tugged at Liam’s arm.

“Liam, stop. Look,” Francesca said, pointing out the television mounted above the cantina bar.

It was the live coverage of Madeline Burch’s arraignment. Before they left, the video of her confession had played repeatedly at every news outlet, with ANS breaking the story. The media had jumped on the tale about her involvement in the hacking scandal after both Brandon Ames and Troy Hall agreed to testify against her. The news of her double life was just the icing on the ratings cake.

For a moment, Francesca almost felt badly for Madeline. She looked awful. Orange was not her color. Going without her expensive hair coloring and extensions, she had mousy brown roots at the crown of her stringy, thin hair. Her last dose of Botox had faded away, as had her spray tan. Her colored contacts had been replaced with thick, prison-issued glasses. Several more pounds also had been added to her frame since their reception. There was no doubt that Angelica was Madeline Burch now.

“The news is out,” Liam said as the news banner at the bottom changed. They couldn’t hear what was being said on the television, but the words scrolling at the bottom announced the breaking news that investigator Hayden Black had testified that Madeline was Graham Boyle’s secret, illegitimate daughter. Liam had told Francesca what he’d overheard during the argument at the reception, but her motivation for taking down Graham had been withheld from the press so far.

“Wow,” Francesca said, shaking her head. “It’s just so sad. And senseless. How many lives were ruined just so she could get back at Graham for the way he treated her?”

When she turned, Liam was pulling his phone out of his pocket. He had done well to unplug from the news world while they were on their honeymoon, but now that the news was out, all his journalistic buttons were being pushed.

He unlocked his screen and started typing something, and then he stopped. He pressed the power button and slipped the phone back into his pocket.

Francesca arched an eyebrow at him in surprise. “Really?” she asked.

“I am sure the network and my employees have this story well in hand. And even if they didn’t, I am on my honeymoon. I couldn’t care less about Graham Boyle’s secret daughter.”

He turned to face Francesca, snaked his arms around her waist and pulled her tightly against him. She melted into him, surprised to feel the firm heat of his desire pressed into her belly.

“Right now,” he said with a wicked grin, “I’m more interested in making love to my wife.”