The Divorce Party(4)

By: Jennifer Hayward

As if their marriage was to be divided from the beginning.

Maybe that should have been her first clue.

She held her head high and kept walking. A tingle went down her spine. Her skin went cold. Riccardo was in the room. Watching her. She could feel it.

Turning her head, she found him—like a homing pigeon seeking its target. He looked furious. Seething. She swallowed hard, a flock of butterflies racing through her stomach. Riccardo spoke four languages—English, Spanish, German and his native Italian. But he did not have to utter a single word from those sensuous, dangerous lips for her to understand the emotion radiating from his eyes.

Hell. She touched her face in a nervous gesture that drew his gaze. Only Riccardo had ever been able to pull off that passionate intensity while still calling himself a twentieth-century man.

“Don’t let him intimidate you,” Alex murmured. “This is your divorce party, remember? Own it.”

Easier in theory than in practice. Particularly so when Riccardo relieved a waiter of two glasses of champagne and strode toward them, with a look of intent on his face that shook her to her core. She absorbed this new Riccardo. He looked as indecently gorgeous as ever in a black tux that set off his dark good looks. But it was the hard edge to him that was different. The strongly carved lines of his face seemed to have deepened, harshened. He’d shaved off the thick, dark waves that had used to fall over his forehead in favor of a short buzz cut that made him look tougher, even more dangerously attractive if that was possible. And the ruthless expession on his face, the glitter in those dark eyes, had never been used on her quite like that before.

Her tongue cleaved to the roof of her mouth, her pulse picking up into a rapid, insistent rhythm that had her nails digging into her palms. Why, after everything they’d gone through, was he still the only man who could simply look at her and make her shake in her shoes?

Alex nudged her. “Dangerous controlled substance, remember?”

Lilly squared her shoulders and pulled in a deep breath as Riccardo stopped in front of them. He leaned down and brushed a kiss against her cheek. “Late and wearing pink. One would think you’re deliberately trying to antagonize me, Lilly.”

Her pulse sped into overdrive. “Maybe I’m celebrating my new-found freedom.”

“Ah, but you don’t have it yet,” he countered, moving his lips to the other cheek. “And you aren’t putting me in the kind of mood to grant it to you.”

Lilly was aware of all the eyes on them as he pulled back and stung her face with a reprimanding look that made her feel like a fifth-grader. “Don’t play games with me, Riccardo,” she said quietly. “I will turn around and walk out of here so fast you won’t know what hit you.”

His dark eyes glinted. His mouth tipped up at the corners. “You’ve already done that, tesoro, and now you’re back.”

Something exploded in her head. She was about to tell him exactly what she thought of his ultimatum, but he was bending down and kissing Alex.

“Buonasera. I trust you’re well?”

“Never better,” Alex muttered.

“Do you think I might have a word with my wife alone?”

Wife. He’d said the word with such supreme confidence—a statement of fact that hung on the air between them like a challenge. A tremor went down Lilly’s spine.

“Whatever you have to say you can say it in front of my sister.”

“Not this.” His gaze bored into hers. “Unless you want every gossip columnist in New York reporting on our conversation, I suggest we do it in private.”

Considering it was only in the last few months Lilly’s name had finally disappeared from those columns, she conceded that might be a good idea. “Fine.”

Riccardo turned to Alex. “Gabe is getting you a drink at the bar.”

Alex rolled her eyes. “Determined to force a confrontation between all the members of the De Campo and Anderson families tonight?”

“You’re only antagonistic toward the people who evoke strong emotions in you,” Riccardo taunted. “Try not to rip him in two, will you?”

“You think that’s a good idea?” Lilly murmured, more to distract herself from the warm pressure of Riccardo’s big hand splayed against her back as he directed her from the room than out of concern for her sister, who could hold her own.