The Temporary Mrs. Marchetti

By: Melanie Milburne

The rules of engagement...

When Cristiano Marchetti proposes to former mistress Alice Piper, the deal has an expiry date. He has six months to fulfil the conditions of his grandmother’s will. But the hotelier has another agenda—exacting revenge on Alice for daring to walk away seven years before!

Alice needs the financial security her enemy is providing, but soon their every clash is a shockingly tempting encounter. Yet as she uncovers the man beneath the hard-hearted exterior, the future Mrs. Marchetti wonders if she could break the rules of their engagement...and walk down the aisle as more than Cristiano’s temporary bride!

Alice brought her gaze back up to Cristiano’s glittering one. “You’re surely not going to go through with this...are you?”

A smile that wasn’t quite a smile courted with the edges of his mouth. “But of course. It is what Nonna wanted. Who am I to disregard her last wishes?”

Alice frowned so hard she could have frightened off twenty ampoules of Botox. “What happens if I don’t agree?”

“To me?” He gave a careless shrug. “Nothing other than a few shares in the company that will pass to a relative if I don’t comply with the terms of the will.”

Alice wondered how important those shares were to him. Was his easy-come-easy-go shrug disguising deeper, far more urgent motivations? Enough to marry someone he now hated? She sent her tongue out over lips so dry it felt like she was licking talcum powder. “So...why would you want to marry someone who clearly doesn’t want to marry you?”

His dark-as-night gaze gleamed, making Alice’s belly shudder. “You know why.”

Alice arched one of her brows, trying to ignore the pulsing heat his words evoked deep in her feminine core. “Revenge, Cristiano? I thought you were a civilized man.”

To Sarah Lewer.

Thanks for the inspiration for this novel and thanks also for being such a wonderful beauty therapist and gorgeous person.


THE FIRST THING Alice noticed when she came to work that morning was the letter on her desk. Something about the officious-looking envelope with its gold embossed insignia made her skin shrink against her skeleton. Letters from lawyers always made her feel a little uneasy. But then she looked closer at the name of the firm. Why would a firm of Italian lawyers be contacting her?

She picked the letter up and her breath came to a juddering halt when she saw it was postmarked Milan.

Cristiano Marchetti lived in Milan.

Alice’s fingers shook as if she had some sort of movement disorder. Surely he hadn’t...died? A sharp pain sliced through her, her breath coming in short, erratic bursts, making not just her fingers tremble but her whole body.

Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no.

How had she missed that in the press? Surely there would have been an announcement for someone with Cristiano’s public profile? They reported every other thing he did. The glamorous women he dated. The fading hotels he bought and rebuilt into stunning boutique accommodation all over the Mediterranean. The charity events he attended. The parties. The nightclubs. Cristiano couldn’t change his shirt or shoes or socks without someone reporting it in the press.

Alice peeled open the envelope, her eyes scanning the brief cover letter, but she couldn’t make any sense of it...or maybe that was because her brain was scrambled with a host of unbidden memories. Memories she had locked away for the last seven years. Memories she refused to acknowledge—even in a weak moment—because that was the pathway to regret and that was one journey she was determined never to travel. Her legs were so unsteady she reached blindly for her chair and sat down, holding the document in front of her blurry gaze.

But wait...

It wasn’t Cristiano who had died. It was his grandmother, Volante Marchetti, the woman who, along with his late grandfather Enzo, had raised him since he was orphaned at the age of eleven when his parents and older brother had been killed in an accident.

Alice frowned and cast her gaze over the thick document that had come with the cover letter that named her as a beneficiary of the old woman’s will. But why had his grandmother mentioned her in her will? Why on earth would the old lady do that? Alice had only met Cristiano’s grandmother a handful of times. Volante Marchetti had been a feisty old bird with black raisins for eyes and a sharp intellect and an even sharper sense of humour. She had instantly warmed to the old lady, thinking at the time of how lucky Cristiano was to have a grandmother so spritely and fun, and had often thought of her since.

Maybe his grandmother had left her a trinket or two—a keepsake to mark their brief friendship. A piece of jewellery or one of the small watercolour paintings Alice remembered admiring at the old lady’s villa in Stresa. She began to read through the legalese with her heart doing funny little skips. So many words... Why did lawyers have to sound as if they’d swallowed a dictionary?