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He Took her Virginity...She'll Take Her Revenge! As she stands outside Luka Cavaliere's gleaming office Sophie Durante's heart is pounding. Eight years ago being caught in the Sicilian tycoon's bed destroyed her pride and her reputation. He owes her - and now she's come to collect. To placate her ailing father, Luka must become her fake fiance! Intrigued, Luka agrees to Sophie's outrageous proposal - one glimpse of the feisty spirit simmering behind her cool exterior and he believes this engagement charade might be pleasurable. But a wedding night is out of the question...until he can entice Sophie to admit just how much she wants one! Discover More At www.millsandboon.co.uk/carolmarinelli
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Carol Marinelli recently filled in a form asking for her job title. Thrilled to be able to put down her answer, she put writer. Then it asked what Carol did for relaxation and she put down the truth - writing. The third question asked for her hobbies. Well, not wanting to look obsessed she crossed the fingers on her hand and answered swimming but, given that the chlorine in the pool does terrible things to her highlights - I'm sure you can guess the real answer.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
'Happy birthday for tomorrow!'
Sophie smiled as Bella went into her bag and bought out a neatly wrapped package.
'Can I open it now?' Sophie asked. She already knew what it was—a dress for her engagement party next week. Even though they worked as chambermaids, Bella was a talented dressmaker and Sophie had spent the last few weeks having sheets of paper pinned to her. She couldn't wait to see the real thing. Bella had kept it a complete surprise and Sophie didn't even know what colour the dress was.
'Don't open it here.' Bella shook her head. 'Wait till you get home. You don't want to get sand on it.'
Though tired from the shifts as chambermaids at the Brezza Oceana hotel, just as they always did they had come to their secret cove. It wasn't really a secret cove but it was tucked behind jagged cliffs and could not be seen from the hotel. The tourists didn't really know about it as the small beach was accessible by a path that the locals of Bordo Del Cielo kept to themselves. When the hotel had first been built, much to the locals' disgust, it was here that Sophie and Bella would come after school. Now, even though they worked together most days, still the tradition remained.
Here, where no one might overhear them, they came and sat, their legs dangling in the azure water, chatting about their hopes and dreams and voicing some of their fears...
Not all of their fears, though.
Bordo Del Cielo was a town of secrets and some things were too dangerous for even the closest of friends to discuss.
'Now I can get on with making my own dress,' Bella said.
'What is yours like?'
'Grey,' Bella replied. 'Very simple, very sophisticated. Maybe then Matteo might notice me...'
Sophie laughed. Matteo was Luka's best friend and had been Bella's crush for years, but he had never given her so much as a glance.
'You must be getting excited,' Bella said, and Sophie was about to smile and nod.
In fact, she did so.
'Of course I am,' she said, but her smile, the one she had worn so determinedly whenever her upcoming engagement was discussed, suddenly wavered and rare tears started to fill her expressive brown eyes.
'Sophie?' Bella checked when she saw that her friend was struggling. 'Tell me.'
'Are you worried about...?' Bella hesitated. 'Sleeping with him? I know he might expect you to once you are engaged but you could tell Luka that you are a good girl and want to wait for your wedding night.'
Sophie actually managed a small laugh. 'That's the only part I'm not worried about.'
It was the truth.
Oh, she hadn't seen Luka in years but she had grown up nursing a crush on him. Luka's widowed father was rich; Malvolio owned the hotel and most of the businesses and homes in town. Those Malvolio didn't own he took payments from for their protection. When Luka's mother had died, instead of struggling to raise his child, in the way Sophie's father had, Malvolio had sent Luka away. He had attended boarding school on the mainland but, every summer when he'd returned, to Sophie he'd looked more beautiful. She had no doubt that the years he had spent in London wouldn't have dimmed that.
'I'm actually looking forward to seeing Luka again.'
'Remember how you cried when he left?'
'I was fourteen then,' Sophie said. 'Tomorrow I'll be nineteen.'
'Do you remember when you tried to kiss him?' Bella laughed and Sophie cringed in recall.
'He told me I was too young. I guess he would have been twenty then.' She smiled at the embarrassing memory of Luka dropping her from his lap. 'He told me to wait.'
'And you have.'
'He hasn't, though,' Sophie said, her voice bitter. Luka's reputation was as undeniable as the waves that pulled at their calves. 'He didn't back then, he was already screwing around.'
'Does it make you angry?'
'Yes, but more...' She felt a familiar burn rise in her chest—little bubbles ofjealousy at the thought of Luka with other women that did not ease when they popped, for it felt like shards of glass were being released in her throat. 'I want what he has had.'
'You want to date other men?'
'No, I want my freedom,' Sophie said. 'I want to have experiences and chase my own dreams. I've spent my life taking care of my father's home, cooking his meals, doing his washing. I don't know if I want to be someone's wife yet. I want to work on the cruise liners...' She looked out to the sparkling ocean. Travelling, sailing on the seas had always been her dream. 'I wouldn't mind making beds for a living if I could do it on a ship. It's like you with your dressmaking.'
'That's just a dream, though,' Bella said.
'Perhaps not. Your application might be accepted. You might be off to Milan soon.'
'I got rejected,' Bella said. 'My drawings weren't enough for them and I'll never be able to afford models and photographers for a decent portfolio.' Bella shrugged her shoulders as she both tried and failed to convince Sophie that not getting in to study fashion design in Milan didn't hurt like hell. 'I could never have gone anyway. I need my wage to pay the rent. Malvolio would give my mother hell if...' Bella's voice trailed off and she shook her head.
Yes, there were things that should never be discussed, but with her engagement now less than a week away Sophie could no longer keep her fears in. 'I don't want to be pulled even closer into Malvolio's life. I don't think Luka is anything like his father but—'
'Shh,' Bella said, and even though they had the cove to themselves she looked over both shoulders just to make sure. 'Don't speak like that.'
'Why not?' Sophie pushed. 'We're just friends talking.'
Bella said nothing.
'I don't want to get married.'
There—Sophie had said it.
'I'll be barely nineteen. There are so many things I want to do before I settle down. I don't know if I want to.'
'You don't know if you want to live with Luka in a beautiful home and be taken care of?' Bella's response was one of anger. 'You don't know if you want to be rich and pampered?' Bella was starting to shout. 'Well, I'd take it if I were you and count yourself lucky—after your engagement party Malvolio has told me to stay back. I'll be working the bar. This time next week I won't be making beds at the hotel, I'll be...' Bella broke down then and Sophie held her own tears in check. 'Like mother, like daughter,' Bella sobbed. 'I am not ashamed of my mother, she did what she had to to survive, but I don't want that for me.'
'Then don't do it!' Sophie shook her head furiously. 'You are to tell him no!'
'Do you think for a moment that he'd listen?'
'You don't have to jump to his rules. He can't make you do anything that you don't want to.' Sophie was insistent. She loathed the way everyone jumped at Malvolio's command, her own father included. 'If you can't say no to Malvolio then I shall for you.'
'Just leave it,' Bella pleaded.
'No, I will not leave it. When Luka gets here on Wednesday I'll try speaking with him...'
'It won't do anything.' Bella shook her head and stood. 'I need to get back...'
They walked down the little pathway together and Bella apologised for her outburst. 'I didn't mean to be cross with you. I understand that it should be your choice if you marry.'
'We should both have choices,' Sophie said.
They didn't, though.
Everyone considered Sophie lucky—that, because of her father's connections to Malvolio, she would marry Luka.
There had been no discussion with the future bride.
They came out of the trees and onto the hilly street and walked past the hotel Brezza Oceana, where Sophie and Luka's engagement party would be held.
'Are you taking your Pill?' Bella asked, because they had taken the bus two weeks ago to a neighboring town so that Sophie could get contraception without the local doctor knowing.
' Every day.'
'I'd better get some,' Bella said, and Sophie's heart twisted at the resignation in her friend's voice.
'I have to go.'
'Will I see you tonight at church?'
'Of course.' Bella attempted a smile. 'I want to know if you like your dress.'
They parted ways and Sophie was almost home when she remembered she was supposed to have stopped for bread, so she turned and raced back to the deli.
As she walked in, the conversation stopped abruptly, just as it often did these days.
Sophie did her best to ignore the strange tension and when it was her turn she smiled at Teresa, the owner, and ordered the olives and cheese she had chosen, as well as a large pane Siciliano, which was surely the nicest bread in the world, and then took out her purse to pay.
'Gratuitamente.' Teresa told Sophie there would be no charge.
'Scusi?' Sophie frowned and then blushed. She was being let off paying because she was marrying Mal-voio's son, Sophie decided. Well, she wanted no part in that sort of thing and angrily she took out some money, placed it on the counter and then walked out.
'You're late,' Paulo said, when Sophie let herself into their home and walked through to the kitchen, where her father was sitting reading his paper at the table. 'You would be late for your own funeral.'
'Bella and I got talking,' Sophie said.
'What do you have there?'
'Just some bread and olives...' Sophie answered, and then realised that he was referring to the parcel she was carrying, but before she explained what it was she asked her father a question. 'Father, when I went to pay, Teresa said there was no charge. Why would she say that?'
'I don't know.' Paulo shrugged. 'Perhaps she was being nice. After all, you are there every day.'
'No.' Sophie refused to be fobbed off. 'It was uncomfortable when I walked in—everyone stopped talking. I think it might have something to do with my getting engaged to Luka.'
'What is in the parcel?' Her father changed the subject and Sophie let out a tense breath as she set down the food and pulled out some plates.
'Bella gave me my birthday present a day early. It's my dress for my engagement. I'm going to try it on when I have had my shower. Father...' As she cut up the loaf Sophie did her best to sound casual. 'You remember you said I could have my mother's jewellery when I got engaged?'
'I said that you could have it when you got married.'
'No!' Sophie corrected. 'You told me years ago that I could have it when Luka and I got engaged. Can I have them now, please? I want to see how my dress looks with everything.'
'Sophie I've just sat down.'
'Then I will fetch them if you tell me where they are.'
Her father let out a sigh of relief as the phone rang and, though not prepared to get her mother's jewellery, he happily headed out to answer the phone.
He was always making excuses. For years Sophie had been asking for her mother's necklace and earrings and always he came up with different reason why she couldn't have them yet.
'Father...' she started as he came back into the kitchen.
'Not now, Sophie. Malvolio has called a meeting.'
'But it's Sunday,' Sophie said.
'He said that there is something important that needs to be discussed.'
'Well, surely it can wait till Monday?'
'Enough, Sophie,' her father snapped. 'It is not for me to question him.'
'Why not?' Sophie challenged. She was sick and tired of her father being Malvolio's puppet. 'What is this meeting about? Or is it just an excuse to sit in the bar for the evening?'
Surprisingly, her father laughed. 'You sound just like your mother.'
Everyone said the same. Rosa had had fire apparently, not that Sophie could remember her as she had died when Sophie was two.
'Here,' Paulo said, and handed her a small pouch. 'These are her jewels.'
Sophie let out a small gasp and then looked at her father and saw that he was sweating and a little grey.
'This means so much.'
'I know,' Paulo said, his voice shaken. 'There are only her earrings.'
'I thought there was a necklace.' In all the photos Rosa wore a simple gold cross but she could hear the emotion in her father's voice when he told her that he didn't have it.
'It was a very fine chain. I believe that it came off in the accident. Even after all these years I still look for it in the bushes when I take my walk in the morning. I wanted you to have it. I'm so sorry that I cannot give that to you.'
'Is that why you haven't let me have them?' Sophie asked. 'Father, I just wanted something...anything of hers...' She looked at the fine gold hoops, that had a small diamond in each, with tears in her eyes. 'And now I have her earrings. Thank you so much.'
'I have to go to my meeting,' Paulo said, and Sophie pressed her lips together. She didn't want to fight, especially not when he had just given her something so precious, but her father looked terrible and she really did want him to rest. 'I'll try and get back for dinner.'
Sophie simply could not hold her tongue. 'If Mal-volio lets you.'
She saw her father's eyes shut for a brief moment before he turned and headed for the door.
Sophie knew it might be kinder to apologise and that she was maybe making things harder for her father by admitting her truth but she didn't like his involvement with Malvolio.
'Father, I don't know if I am ready to get engaged...' She held her breath as her father's shoulders stiffened.
'It is normal to be nervous,' her father said, but did not turn around. 'Sophie, I have to go.'
'Father, please, can we talk.?'
But the door had already closed.
Sophie walked around the small home and picked up a picture of her mother. She could see the similarities there—they had the same long black hair, the same dark brown eyes and full lips. Oh, Sophie wished she was here, just for a moment. She missed having a mother to give her advice so badly.
'I am so confused,' Sophie admitted to the photo of Rosa. A part of her dreaded being married, yet there was another part of her that longed to see Luka again, the man who had always filled her dreams. She had always looked up to him, had always nursed a crush on him, and she wanted her first kiss to belong to them and to be made love to by Luka.
What would Luka want, though?
She blushed in embarrassment at the thought of him returning and being forced to marry her.
No doubt he was dreading next weekend and returning to uphold his father's commitment for him to marry poor little Sophie Durante.
Was that the hold Malvolio had over her father? Sophie wondered.
Well, she didn't need charity and she would tell her father that.
She put down the photo, took her parcel upstairs and finally opened it.
The dress was exquisite. It was in the softest chiffon and the colour was a very pale coral. Sophie badly wanted to try it on but she had a very quick shower and washed her hair and then combed it before picking up the dress.
She slipped it over her head and looked in the mirror.
Sophie found she was holding her breath. All those hours standing as Bella had pinned sheets...
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