Her Wedding Night Surrender(5)

By: Clare Connelly

‘Why not? It seems only fair.’

He prowled towards her. Yes, prowled. She felt like a bird pinned under a rock, with an enormous growling lion circling her, waiting for his moment of attack.

‘Because I like sex,’ he said, when he was only a step away from her. ‘I am a red-blooded male and it’s a part of my life. So if you force me to give up sex with other women that leaves only you...’

He left the rest of the sentence unfinished, hanging in the air between them like a plank she would definitely never walk.

‘Okay...okay.’ She lifted her hands in surrender, but it was too late to stem the wave of sensations that were besieging her body. ‘No sex.’ Her voice was thready. ‘I mean, sex is fine for you.’ She closed her eyes softly. ‘And I’ll talk to you if I meet someone I like...deal?’

He compressed his lips, his eyes studying her face. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes wide, her lips slightly tremulous. Fascinating. Was that because she was annoyed? Or were more pleasurable emotions fuelling her physical response?


She expelled a shaking breath, nodding slowly. ‘So we’ll get married?’

‘There are a few other matters to consider,’ he said quietly, the words thickened by emotion.

‘Such as?’

‘Your appearance.’

She froze, her eyes shocked into clashing with his. Arcs of electricity shimmied and sparked between them. ‘You mean how I look?’

His lips twisted into a tight, displeased smile. ‘That is generally what a person’s appearance means, is it not?’

She nodded, moving further away from him. She needed breathing room if she was going to keep a level head about her—particularly given this subject matter.

‘What about it?’

‘No one is going to believe I chose to marry you.’

He said it simply. So simply that she believed he hadn’t meant to wound her.

‘Why not?’ She narrowed her eyes, hoping her face wasn’t showing the effects of the cruelty his words were lashing her with.

‘Because you’re nothing like the kind of women I date. And, as you so rightly pointed out, there’s more than enough images of me with that kind of woman available to anyone who cares to search for my name on the internet.’

As Emmeline had. And she’d seen glamazon after glamazon in those online images: tall, thin, voluptuous, and all stunning. Pietro Morelli had a ‘type’, all right.

‘I like how I look,’ she said, but her mind cursed her for the lie it was. Concealing her body and playing down her looks was a habit that had formed many years earlier, and she wasn’t sure she had any desire to revise it.

‘It would not take much effort,’ he said quietly, his eyes moving over her dispassionately, assessingly.

A distant memory flashed before him of the first time he’d seen her, and the quick, instinctive desire that had warmed his blood before he’d remembered how young she was. She was naturally beautiful; why did she hide her looks?

Fire and outrage burned in her blood. ‘No.’

He compressed his lips, hiding the amusement that shifted through him at her determined recalcitrance. ‘If I’m going to go through with this I expect you to start dressing as if you actually have a figure and some kind of budget for clothing. It is what people will expect of my wife.’

She stared at him, agog. ‘You’re joking?’

‘No, carissima. It’s no joke.’ His eyes roamed her face analytically. ‘This is Roma. Find a boutique and worship your body, then I’ll consider it.’

His arrogance and his grim, scathing indictment infuriated her, but the realisation of her dream, the closeness of her escape were things so close she could smell freedom and liberation and she wasn’t going to let her appearance stop her.

Not for the first time, though, she felt the sharp needling of injustice at the lengths she had to go to in order to earn what most people perceived as a God-given right. What if she refused? Refused not just his request that she start to pay attention to her looks but also her father’s suggestion that they marry? What if she took a credit card and just ran away?

It wasn’t as if she hadn’t thought about it. But the thought of what it would do to her father had always brought her swiftly back into line. She couldn’t hurt him. But here she had a way to be independent and make her father happy. She just had to tick a few boxes along the way.

‘Fine.’ Determination and resilience still glinted in her eyes.

‘Good.’ He nodded crisply.

He reached into his pocket and pulled something out. Something small and white. When he handed it to her she saw it was a business card with a woman’s name on it: Elizabetta Ronimi.