His Sicilian Cinderella(10)

By: Carol Marinelli

He pulled at the hair to halt, aware that something was wrong, but as he did so a slew of something wet and cold doused the heat between his legs and there was a shout of shock and horror from Shandy as she knelt up and shook off the sheet. Her blonde hair was drenched and suddenly Matteo was wide awake and sitting bolt upright.

‘Mi scusi...’ A maid was sobbing for forgiveness, explaining that she had tripped over the ice bucket stand beside the bed, as Matteo flicked on the side light.

‘Imbeccile,’ Shandy shouted, as the maid picked up the now empty ice bucket that she had knocked over the copulating pair.

‘Go easy, Shandy,’ Matteo said, but there was no chance of that. Shandy would cry over spilt water.

‘Jobless imbecile.’ Shandy continued her rant in furious Italian and she also upgraded Matteo’s relationship with her. ‘Because I’m getting you fired. How dare you come in without knocking, how dare you interrupt my fiancé and I—?’

‘It was an accident,’ the maid was pleading as she tried to rectify the chaos—the tray she had brought in and its contents lay strewn not just over the floor but on a wall. Thick black coffee was seeping into the carpet, pastries and ham were sliding down the bedside table but the main chaos came from Shandy. She had jumped out of bed, was pulling on a robe and heading through to the lounge, screaming at the maid to have it cleaned up by the time she was back and warning her over and over that she was about to be fired.

Matteo stood, wrapped in a sheet, as Shandy picked up the phone in the lounge and demanded that the maid’s head be served on a silver platter, then she flounced off to the shower, leaving Matteo to deal with the rest.

‘Mi scusi,’ the maid said again. She was kneeling on the floor, trying to sort out the things, but Matteo was far from impressed with her attempts to apologise. He didn’t believe she was sorry for a moment, though his words were not sharp when he addressed her, more wearied.

‘Get up, Bella.’


HER LONG BLACK hair was falling out of her ponytail and covering her face, but nothing could have stopped him from recognising her, and Matteo watched her hands still as he said her name.

She bit her nails, Matteo noticed.

He remembered that she hadn’t.

That night, with him, her nails had been short but neat.

Every inch of her body held the potential for such vivid recall yet he fought it even now.

‘I said, get up.’ This time his voice was harsh but better that than dropping down to his knees and taking her back in his arms.

He waited for her to apologise again, to plead for forgiveness, but instead she looked up and beneath the sheet Matteo grew to her gaze as for the first time in many years their eyes met again—how he wished that the rare mossy green of her eyes that had enthralled him might leave him cold now.

Not a chance.

‘Mi scusi...’

‘Stop apologising, Bella. We both know that that was no accident...’

‘But of course it was,’ Bella insisted, still on her knees and looking up. ‘I did knock. I thought I heard someone call out for me to enter. I got a fright when I saw the sheets move and I tripped...’ She looked at the empty bottle of champagne that had fallen to the floor. ‘I am so sorry to have upset your fiancée. Was the water very cold?’

‘It did its trick,’ Matteo said. He was starting to lose his patience and taking her forearm he hauled her up to stand. ‘Get up, Bella.’

The dousing of water certainly wasn’t doing its trick now, for her skin was warm beneath his fingers and the scent of her, even after all these years, was familiar. Only how could that be, for that night she had been doused in cheap perfume?

He had bathed that scent away, Matteo recalled, even as he fought not to remember.

Instead, he inhaled the starch from her maid’s uniform.

It did not help.

Possibly, Matteo decided, Bella was the only woman who could wear pale green with a cream apron and still make it look sexy. Her legs were bare but even the flat lace-up shoes failed to detract from the beauty of her long limbs. Her body was just as slender as yesteryear, her eyes were still so big in her face and those lips that should not be smiling, given the chaos she had just created, still melted him.

There was, even with Shandy in the bathroom, a want and a need to kiss the smile from Bella’s face...

‘Are you surprised to see me, Matteo?’

‘Not really.’ He shrugged as if facing her again was the easiest thing in the world, as if he hadn’t spent the best part of the night locked in sensual dreams with her. ‘I heard at dinner last night from Sophie that you worked here...’ That would account for dreaming of her, Matteo decided, and then he remembered why they could never be.