He's fallen 12,000 feet from the sky... Now he knows exactly what he wants!
Daredevil Rafael Revaldi has always lived for the moment. But having cheated death, the Conte di Monterrato is focused on the future. He needs an heir, but to get one he'll face his toughest challenge yet—winning back his estranged wife!
Lottie returns to the castle she once called home with a newfound strength. The intense sensual connection between Lottie and Rafe remains, but so do the emotional scars of their marriage. Can Lottie risk her heart again to give them the child they both so desperately want?
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Andie Brock started inventing imaginary friends around the age of four and is still doing that today; only now the sparkly fairies have made way for spirited heroines and sexy heroes. Thankfully she now has some real friends, as well as a husband and three children, plus a grumpy but lovable cat. Andie lives in Bristol and when not actually writing, could well be plotting her next passionate romance story.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
It was the scar that halted Lottie in the doorway. A thin, livid wound, it sliced down from his brow, skipping over the eye socket before continuing an inch along his cheekbone. The sight of it clutched at her stomach, weighted her feet to the floor. 'Rafael?'
Silence stretched tightly between them as they stared at each other across the dark panelled office. 'Charlotte.' 'How...how are you?'
'Still alive.' As he eased himself to stand against the edge of the desk his voice was cold, flat. 'As you can see.'
'Yes. Indeed.' Lottie swallowed. Upright now, he stood with his hands splayed on either side of him, fingertips anchoring him to the desk. 'I was very sorry—to hear about the accident, I mean.'
'Thank you.' His clipped reply snipped at her words, clearly designed to stop any outpourings of sentiment.
Not that she intended to show him any, of course. She knew she wasn't here to display any sort of concern, express any sympathy. Rafael wasn't the kind of man to tolerate such emotions. Especially from her.
She watched as he moved out from behind the desk and walked stiffly towards her, tall and rigid in a sober grey suit, his height towering over her as they came together. For a second they stood there, like repelling magnets, until Rafael bent forward to brush her cheek once, twice, three times. Lottie closed her eyes as she felt the whisper of his breath, the touch of his skin; him.
He pulled away immediately, leaving her staring up at his injuries.
Scratches of various lengths and depths crisscrossed his face and a purple bruise spread colourfully down one side. The scar, Lottie now realised, resembled the lash of a whip. That didn't help at all.
'So...um...your face...?' She knew she shouldn't go on about it, that he would hate her even mentioning it, but she needed reassurance, needed to stop looking at him as if she was witnessing a pig having its throat cut. 'I assume the injuries are quite superficial?'
'You assume correctly.'
'And the rest of your body?' His unnerving stare stupidly made her blush. So much for trying to appear detached. She gave a small cough. 'I mean, what other injuries do you have?'
'All fairly consistent with someone who has plummeted twelve thousand feet from the sky.'
'I'm sure.' Lottie pulled a face at the idiocy of her question. How many people had fallen twelve thousand feet and lived to tell the tale? Anyway, she already knew the extent of his injuries; it had all been there in the newspaper article: punctured lung, dislocated shoulder, three cracked ribs. 'Did you ever find out...what went wrong? Why your parachute didn't open?'
'Misfortune, fate—call it what you like.' Rafael shrugged his shoulders as if already bored with the subject. 'It's of no consequence now.'
'No, I suppose not.' But despite his casual dismissal Lottie didn't doubt that the accident had been thoroughly investigated. And if someone had been found responsible it would be their own life they should be worrying about now. 'But you were very lucky, as it turned out.'
'Lucky?' His tone suggested otherwise.
'I mean lucky that a tree broke your fall. It could have been so much worse.'
'True.' His reply was deadpan. 'I could have been dead.'
'Ha!' Why was she laughing? Nothing about this was the least bit funny.
It was pure, unmitigated torture.
She had prepared herself, of course, endlessly rehearsed how she would behave, what she would say when faced with Rafael again. She'd still been running through her calm and measured responses on the aeroplane over here, her twitching lips attracting the attention of her nosy nine-year-old neighbour. She had bullied herself into believing that she was ready. That she could cope—survive this one last meeting.
But as she looked at him now, past the recently inflicted injuries to the man beneath, the man she had fallen so madly in love with, all her confident convictions seemed to slide away. She remembered every tiny detail of his face. The thick, untidy brows that arrowed above almond-shaped deep brown eyes. The harsh sweep of his jaw-line, the square chin where a small cleft nestled, dark with stubble.
Yep, she remembered everything. She wished she didn't.
'Well, thank goodness for that tree, eh?' Shifting her position, she crossed one leg in front of the other, the balletic pose spoiled by the hand that was shoved deep into the pocket of her jeans. Her voice sounded hideously chirpy but it did at least mask her desire to ask where this tree was, so she could throw herself on its dirty roots and thank it for saving Rafael's life. 'I'm so glad it was in the right place.'
A curl of disdain twitched Rafael's perfectly formed lip. 'How nice that you should care.'
It didn't sound nice—not at all. Everything about his cold, sarcastic manner, the harsh light in his eyes, the formal, brittle posture, was telling her one thing. He hated her.
If Lottie had hoped that time had washed over their past, smoothed the jagged edges of her actions, time had seriously let her down. It had been two years since she had left, wrenched herself away from the wreckage of their marriage and fled back to England. But being back at Palazzo Monterrato, staring at Rafael now, she knew that those two years were as nothing. The atmosphere between them was almost as horrendous, as harrowingly painful, as the day she had left.
'Of course I care.' Something about the absurdity of his comment made her want at least to attempt to put the record straight. Make him see that, despite her all too convincing performance, she wasn't all bad. 'That will never change.'
'Very touching, I'm sure.' Rafael's words sliced through her tentative confession. 'But your misplaced sympathy is of no interest to me.' He moved back to his side of the desk. 'You are here because there is an important matter I need to discuss with you. Please, sit down.'
Lottie took a seat opposite him, her rapped knuckles clasped in her lap, her back very straight. She knew what was coming; she had been waiting for this ever since she had received his email.
It had been just another afternoon at work when she had opened her inbox and there it had been: a message from Rafael Revaldi. To see his name like that, out of the blue, had sent a hot flush of panic through her body. She had had to count to three before she'd even dared open it, darting a look at the only other people in the exclusive London art gallery—a whispering gay couple, admiring a vast canvas they were never going to buy—in case they had noticed her alarm.
The curt, dictatorial message had stated that it was necessary for them to meet; two different dates for the following week had been marked for her consideration and flight tickets would be emailed on receipt of her confirmation. As her mind had whizzed with the flurry of possibilities it had quickly settled on the cold blanket of truth behind the message. He wanted a divorce.
Tipping her chin, Lottie forced herself to meet his gaze, affecting as much detachment as she could muster, determined to be strong now. 'I know why I'm here. Let me assure you that I am as keen to get this over and done with as you are. I have no intention of being difficult, of trying to prolong the situation.'
There was a dangerous flash in Rafael's eyes before they narrowed to conceal anything further. He said nothing.
'If you have already had the papers drawn up...' she was babbling now, in her hurry to get this over with '...and it's just a matter of signature I can sign straight away and—'
'Let me stop you there, Charlotte.' Raising a hand, he silenced her, a gold cufflink glinting in the low afternoon light. 'I have no idea what you are talking about.'
'The divorce, of course.' Lottie felt heat rising to her cheeks at the very use of the dreaded d word. 'I know I am here because you want a divorce.'
Rafael leant forward, the fine fabric of his jacket pulling taut against his broad shoulders as his elbows rested on the desk in front of him, his hands linked.
'And what makes you think I want a divorce?'
Lottie looked down, picking at the skin around her fingernails. 'Because it's been two years.' She could feel his eyes boring into the crown of her bent head and forced herself to look up and confront him. 'And two years is the legal time necessary to apply for a consensual divorce.'
'And you think that is why I have brought you here?' His words were mocking, biting.
'Well, isn't it?'
'Believe me, Charlotte, if and when I want a divorce it will happen. The vagaries of English law are of no interest to me.'
Of course, Lottie corrected herself, how foolish of her. She should have known that as far as Rafael was concerned laws were something other people abided by. He had the power and the cunning to circumnavigate them, adapt them to his own needs.
Quickly she scanned the face of the man opposite her, afraid to let her eyes linger in any one spot for fear of being unable to drag them away again. He presented a cold, harsh picture, with the damaged skin pulled tight across the sculpted planes of his cheeks and jawline.
Why was he denying it? Did he get some perverse pleasure from watching her squirm? If so, that pleasure had to be locked deep inside him, for she had never seen him look more severe, more forbidding. She knew he wanted to divorce her; receiving that email had only confirmed the bleak realisation that had been silently gnawing away at her for nearly three weeks now. Ever since she had innocently stumbled across that online newspaper article.
Rafael Revaldi, Conte di Monterrato, cheats death in terrifying skydiving accident.
The words of the headline had made the cappuccino shake in her hand, the bite of sandwich turn into a ball of concrete in her mouth. Gripping the computer mouse, she had frantically read on, desperate to find as much information as she could, as fast as she could, her hitherto steadfast vow not to type Rafael's name anywhere near the search engine box vanishing like vapour in the air.
But there had been way too much information. The Italian celebrity magazines were positively bursting with sensational details about the daredevil Conte who had plunged twelve thousand feet to earth and miraculously lived to tell the tale. Any legitimate concern had soon morphed into a gluttonous feeding frenzy to find out every little bit of gossip about him that she could. And what she'd discovered—apart from the predictable images of him scaling mountains or kayaking over waterfalls—were women. Beautiful, eligible women. Glued to his side as they smiled at charity galas, shook hands with dignitaries, walked beside him on the red carpet. And all of them had one thing in common: a vice-tight grip on his arm and a look in their eye that said, Tonight he's mine and I intend to keep it that way.
Any fanciful ideas Lottie might have had about jumping on a plane to be with him, to make sure for herself that he was really okay, had been wrenched away from her there and then as she'd stared at the frozen smiles of those women. They were all the proof she needed that Rafael had moved on. That she had no place in his life any more.
Which was fine. Even if being here with him now, talking about severing all ties with him, sliced through her like a cold blade. She just needed to remind herself how far she had come. Yes, her life was finally back on track, and that realisation stiffened her resolve.
Pushing back her shoulders, she attempted a haughty glare to match his sullen one. She needed an explanation.
'So if, as you seem to be implying, I'm not here because you want a divorce, perhaps you would do me the courtesy of telling me exactly why I am here?'
A heavy silence hung between them, marked out by the weary ticking of a long-case clock somewhere in the shadows.
'You are here because I have something to ask of you.' He paused, a muscle twitching beneath the hard, tight mask of authority.
Lottie watched as he uncharacteristically twiddled a gold pen between strong, tapered fingers so that it tapped—first one end, then the other—lightly on the desk before him. She found she was holding her breath at the absurd realisation that Rafael was nervous.
'I think we should try again.'
Shock ricocheted through Lottie's body. And despite herself—despite everything—the see-saw carrying her heart flew into the air.
'Try again?' Her mouth was so dry the words sounded shrivelled.
'Yes. I think we should try again. For a baby.'
The see-saw crashed down to the ground with a shuddering thump.
'A baby?' She hadn't meant it to sound so sneery, so nasty, but incredulity had taken her words and twisted them with bitterness.
'Yes, a baby, Charlotte. I see no reason why we shouldn't at least consider the idea.'
No reason at all, Lottie reasoned numbly, other than the fact that their marriage had been a disaster, he hadn't spoken to her for two years and he obviously still hated her guts. 'Why would you even think...?'
'I have found a new IVF specialist—someone in Iran,' Rafael continued with baffling logic. 'He knows the situation—that we still have one frozen embryo. He is very confident that this time it will work, that this time we will succeed.'
An Iranian IVF specialist? What on earth was going on here? Despite the controlled voice, the even tone, the powerful sense of conviction running through him was clearly, disturbingly unmistakable.
She had seen it before, of course. Rafael's determination to get her pregnant. But that had been in a previous life, before they had split up. After Seraphina had died.
Born at just twenty-five weeks, their daughter had only lived for a few precious hours. The trauma of the accident, followed by premature labour and a complicated birth was now little more than a foggy blur—almost as if it had happened to somebody else. But the pain of watching their tiny daughter's vain struggle for life would stay with Lottie for ever.
When Seraphina had finally died, and the clips and wires had been removed from her perfect, breathless body, Lottie had gazed at the still warm bundle in her arms, brushed an oversized finger against the soft down of her cheeks, convinced that nothing could be worse than this, that this was the bottom of the blackest pit. But fate had had one more arrow in its quiver. It seemed that the accident meant she would never be able to conceive naturally again—that IVF was their only hope of ever having another child.
Rafael had set about making it happen with a tenacious stubbornness that had bordered on obsession. They had embarked upon a series of IVF treatments, none of which had worked, and after each crushing disappointment it had seemed he was more obstinate, more insistent that they would not fail, that nothing was going to prevent him from achieving his goal. It had taken over their lives and eventually destroyed their marriage.
Lottie pushed the blonde hair away from her face with a hand that shook slightly in the way that the memory of Seraphina always weakened her limb...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Harlequin (Uk), 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. 192 pages. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # zk0263248305
Book Description 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. He's fallen twelve thousand feet from the sky. Now he knows exactly what he wants! Daredevil Rafael Revaldi has always lived for the moment. But, having cheate.Shipping may be from our Sydney, NSW warehouse or from our UK or US warehouse, depending on stock availability. 192 pages. 0.100. Bookseller Inventory # 9780263248302