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Damianos Return

By Lynne Graham
EDEN was in the changing cubicle pinning up the hem on a customer's skirt when she
heard the shop door open
'!ou're alwa"s #er" bus"$' the older woman com%mented '& suppose people 'ust don't ha#e
the time to do their own alterations these da"s'
'&'m not complaining' (ith a rue)ul smile$ Eden eased the last pin into place and rose
upright *i#e )eet )our inches tall and slightl" built$ she wore her thick golden hair twisted
up into a clip Her heart+shaped )ace was dominated b" her clear green e"es
Emerging )rom the cubicle$ she looked in some sur%prise at the two men in business suits$
who in compan" with a "oung woman were talking to her middle+aged assistant$ Pam
,These people are looking )or "ou$ Eden' Pam could not hide her curiosit"
'How can & help "ou-' Eden asked
'Eden .ames-' The older o) the two men double+checked
Conscious o) the keen appraisal she was recei#ing )rom the trio and also o) the inde)inable
tension the" e/uded$ Eden nodded slowl"
'&s there somewhere we could talk in pri#ate$ 0iss .ames-'
Eden's e"es widened
'Perhaps upstairs in "our apartment$' the "oung woman suggested briskl"

1he both looked and sounded like a police o))icer$ Eden re)lected$ her an/iet" increasing
2ut usuall" the police identi)ied themsel#es )irst Aware that her two emplo"ees and single
customer were a capti#e audience$ she )lushed and hurriedl" opened the door that led into
the short passage which ga#e entrance back out onto the street
'Could "ou tell me what this is about-' Eden prompted tautl" then
'(e were tr"ing to be discreet' The older man now e/tended an o))icial identit" card )or
her inspection '&'m 1uperintendent 0arshall and this "oung woman is Constable 3eslie
This gentleman with me is 0r Rodne" Russell$ a special ad#isor )rom the *oreign O))ice
0a" we go upstairs to talk-'
1omehow$ Eden )ound hersel) responding automati%call" to that calm note o) command
(hat did the" want- The police- A senior policeman too The *oreign O))ice- The *oreign
O))ice- Her mind blanked out with sudden horror and her hand started to shake as she
stuck the ke" into the lock on her )ront door Damiano4 *or so long$ she had waited )or
such a #isit but here it was catching her totall" unprepared (hen had she stopped )earing
e#er" phone call$ e#er" ring o) the doorbell- (hen- 5uilt+stricken disma" at that disco#er"
about hersel) )ro6e her to the spot
'&t's all right$' the )emale police o))icer asserted$ con%tri#ing to gentl" urge Eden out o) her
paral"sis and o#er the threshold '(e ha#en't come here to break bad news$ 0rs 2ragan6i'
0rs 2ragan6i- The name she had le)t behind when the cruel spotlight o) press intrusion
had become more than she'd been able to handle 1o man" reporters had wanted to ask her
what it was like to be the wi)e o) an

important man who had simpl" disappeared into thin air Re)used those inter#iews$ tabloid
interest in Eden 2ragan6i had taken a nastier turn
Not bad news- Eden blinked$ mind brie)l" )ocusing again How could it not be bad news
a)ter )i#e "ears- There was no good news possible4 And then natural common sense
e/ercised its swa" and steadied Eden a little (as this "et another o))icial courtes" call7
was that it- .ust letting her know that the case was still open but unsol#ed- &t had been
some time since an"one o)%)icial had re8uested actual )ace+to+)ace contact with her 1he
hersel) had gone long past the stage where she con%tinuall" phoned them$ pushing$
pressuring$ )inall" h"s%tericall" begging )or some action that she had onl" grad%uall"
come to appreciate the" could not o))er her And onl" at that point had she begun )inall" to
gi#e up hope
A)ter all$ Damiano's brother$ Nuncio$ and his sister$ Cosetta$ had gi#en up hope o) his
sur#i#al within a month o) his disappearance Damiano had been in the 1outh American
republic o) 0onta#ia when a militar" coup had taken place &n the street #iolence which
had )ollowed in the capital cit" that da"$ Damiano had sim%pl" disappeared He had
checked out o) his hotel and climbed into a limousine which should ha#e taken him to the
airport and his )light home 2ut that had been the last reliable sighting o) him ali#e The
bod"guards in the car behind had been blown o)) the road b" an e/%plosion 9nhurt but
with their #ehicle wrecked$ the" had lost the limousine Damiano and the limo and the
dri#er had all #anished without trace
During the subse8uent en8uiries$ the new dictatorship had not been particularl" help)ul$ but
then b" that time opposition to the coup had been spreading and a )ull+

scale ci#il war had been threatening 0onta#ia The o#erstretched authorities had had little
interest in the disappearance o) a single )oreign national and had pointed out that$ during
the )ighting which had raged a )ull week in the cit"$ man" people had died or disap%peared
There had been no trail to )ollow and no wit%nesses had come )orward 2ut neither had
there been an" e#idence )ound to actuall" pro#e that Damiano had been killed &t had been
that appalling lack o) proo) o) an" kind which had tormented Eden )or more "ears than she
could bear
'Please sit down$ 0rs 2ragan6i$' some one o) the three prompted her
Didn't the police alwa"s ask a person to sit down when there was a nast" shock coming- Or
was that onl" how actors portra"ed the police in tele#ision produc%tions- 1till )inding it
impossible to concentrate$ but slightl" irritated at being ordered around in her own home$
Eden sat down in an armchair and watched the two men settle themsel#es on the small
couch opposite The )rown+line on her brow deepened Their )aces were taut$ )lushed$
almost eager
'Constable 3eslie was telling "ou the truth$ 0rs 2ragan6i (e're not here to break bad news
but to gi#e "ou e/tremel" good news !our husband is ali#e$' the police superintendent
in)ormed her with )irm emphasis
*ro6en within the armchair$ Eden stared at him in shaken disbelie) 1he parted dr" lips
'That's not pos%sible'
The other man$ Russell$ )rom the *oreign O))ice started to speak He reminded her that at
the outset o) Damiano's disappearance a kidnapping had been sus%pected 2ut onl" along
with e#er" other possible crime

or reason under the sun$ Eden recalled$ her da6ed mind momentaril" stra"ing back )i#e
agonising "ears
'A)ter all$ "our husband wasis$' Russell corrected himsel) at speed and continued$ 'a #er"
wealth"$ in)lu%ential man in the international banking )raternit":'
'!ou said ali#e' Eden broke in shakil"$ her )ace stricken as she sur#e"ed the men in
instincti#e condem%nation that the" should dare to tr" to raise hopes she did not belie#e
she could stand to ha#e resurrected 'How could Damiano still be ali#e a)ter so man" "ears-
&) he's ali#e$ where has he been all this time- !ou'#e made a mistakea dread)ul$ dread)ul
'!our husband is ali#e$ 0rs 2ragan6i$' the superin%tendent spelt out with measured care
and con)idence 'Naturall" coming out o) the blue as it has this is a considerable shock )or
"ou 2ut please belie#e what we are telling "ou !our husband$ Damiano 2ragan6i$ is ali#e
and well'
Eden trembled$ searching their )aces and then sud%denl" shutting her e"es tight 1he was
struggling to o#ercome disbelie) and simultaneousl" o))ering up a pra"er o) desperate hope
to 5od 3et it be true$ let it be real$ please don't let me wake up i) it's a dream:)or o#er the
"ears there had been man" such dreams to torment her
'!our husband sur)aced in 2ra6il almost two da"s go$' the *oreign O))ice ad#isor di#ulged
'2ra6il' Eden echoed shakil"
'He has spent o#er )our "ears in prison in 0onta#ia and on his release he had the good
sense simpl" to slip 8uietl" out o) the countr" again'
'P+prison-' E"es shattered$ Eden stared at the "ounger man with e#er+mounting incredulit"
'Damiano's been in prison- Howwh"T

On the da" on which Damiano had disappeared$ he had been kidnapped and taken to a
militar" camp in the countr"side A militar" camp- 1he )rowned at that un%e/pected
in)ormation A )ew da"s later$ with ci#il war raging through the tin" republic$ rebel )orces
had at%tacked the camp and in the ensuing battle Damiano had recei#ed serious head
in'uries *inding a wounded pris%oner in the a)termath$ the rebels had 8uite naturall"
as%sumed that he was one o) their own
'!our husband is a )luent 1panish speaker That and his 8uick thinking sa#ed his li)e He
recei#ed treatment at a )ield hospital in the 'ungle He was onl" 'ust be%ginning to reco#er
when he was picked up b" the go#%ernment soldiers$ cleaning up the last pockets o)
resis%tance He was imprisoned )or being a member o) the guerrilla )orces'
Damiano was ali#eDamiano was ali#el Eden was beginning to put )aith in what she was
being told al%though still e#er" sense screamed at her to be cautious 1he was )ighting so
hard to concentrate but she )ound that she 'ust couldn't 1he )elt stupid$ numb$
'Naturall" "ou are wondering wh" "our husband didn't immediatel" identi)" himsel) when
he was cap%tured$' the bland+)aced Russell continued 'He belie#ed that admitting his true
identit" would be signing his own death warrant He was aware that he had originall" been
kidnapped b" soldiers lo"al to the current dictatorship in 0onta#ia He knew that the
kidnapping had been bungled and that$ )rom that point$ there had ne#er been an" intention
o) letting him go ali#e'
Eden blinked$ struggling to )ocus on the *oreign O))ice ad#isor and absorb what she was
being told Her blood was chilling in her #eins$ her tumm" turning

8ueas" Damiano had been kidnapped$ hurt Her own worst imaginings had come true
'Appreciating that his sur#i#al would be a se#ere em%barrassment to the 0onta#ian
go#ernment$ "our hus%band decided that he would be sa)er retaining his as%sumed identit"
and accepting the prison term On his release$ he headed )or the border with 2ra6il and
)rom there to the home o) a businessman called Ramon Alco#erro:'
'Ramon' Eden whispered$ slowl" shaking her pounding head$ li)ting her hand to press her
)ingers against her damp$ taut brow as i) to aid her thinking powers 'Damiano went to
college with someone called Ramon'
'About an hour )rom now$ "our husband will be land%ing on English soil again and he is
keen that his home%coming should be kept )rom the media )or as long as possible *or that
reason$ we ha#e been discreet in our approach to "ou'
Damiano ali#e$ Damiano coming home Home- To his )amil"$ o) course$ but not to her4 &n
sudden$ raw$ shaken turmoil$ Eden sat there$ e/periencing simulta%neous 'o" and agon"
These people had come here to make their announcement because she was still legall"
Damiano's wi)e and ne/t o) kin 2ut Eden was pain)ull" aware that her marriage had
#irtuall" been o#er b" the time o) her husband's disappearance Damiano had ne#er lo#ed
her He had married her on the rebound and li#ed to regret the impulse
(hen had she )orgotten that realit"- (hen had she begun li#ing in her own imagination-
*or Damiano would ne#er return home to her Had circumstances not cruell" inter#ened$
he might well ha#e come home to ask her )or a di#orce )i#e "ears ago Hadn't his own

brother suggested that- And now$ a)ter the ordeal he had su))ered$ he would be an/ious to
get on with his li)e again &ndeed$ in all likelihood$ a)ter hearing what had happened during
his absence$ Damiano would make no attempt to see her and an" contact made would be
through a di#orce law"er
'0rs 2ragan6iEden$ ma" & call "ou Eden-' the su%perintendent en8uired
'His )amil"the 2ragan6i$ his brother and his wi)e$ his sister' Eden )ramed dull" ,The"
must be o#er%'o"ed'
The senior policeman's )ace sti))ened 'As )ar as & understand the somewhat limited
in)ormation that & ha#e recei#ed$ "our husband's )amil" recei#ed a call )rom Ramon
Alco#erro and immediatel" )lew out to 2ra6il on their pri#ate 'et'
Eden )ro6e at that disconcerting news$ what colour remaining in her cheeks draining awa"
to lea#e her deathl" pale Damiano's )amil" had alread" )lown out without e#en bothering
to contact her and gi#e her the news o) his sur#i#al- 1he dropped her head$ sick to the
stomach at such cruelt"
'At times such as these$ particularl" where )amilies ha#e become estranged$ people can act
#er" much with%out thought$' the older man commented in the taut si%lence '(e onl"
became aware o) the situation when the embass" in 2ra6il contacted the *oreign O))ice
The" re8uired certain in)ormation be)ore the" could issue a replacement passport to "our
husband so that he could tra#el home'
Eden still said nothing 1he was stud"ing the carpet with e"es that ached Nuncio had
probabl" alread" told Damiano wh" he had not brought Eden out to 2ra6il with him Those
dread)ul lies that had been printed

about her in that newspaper onl" three months a)ter Damiano had gone missing4 The
scurrilous gossip and opprobrium that had )inall" broken her spirit and )orced her to lea#e
the 2ragan6i home )or the sake o) her own sanit"
Rodne" Russell took up the e/planation in a brisk tone '2" that stage$ "our husband was
demanding to know wh" "ou had not been in)ormed$ unaware that his own )amil" had
)ailed to keep us up to date on de#el%opments'
Eden blinked and looked up #er" slowl" 'Reall"-' The superintendent ga#e her a soothing
smile '& gather Damiano made it #er" clear that he can't wait to be reunited with his wi)e:'
Eden studied him with strained e"es o) disconcertion 'Damiano can't wait to seeme-' she
whispered in )al%tering interruption$ certain she must ha#e misheard him 'He's )l"ing into
Heathrow at noon and then he's tak%ing a helicopter trip to an air)ield 'ust outside town
(e'll con#e" "ou there Ob#iousl" the hope is that it will be possible to e#ade an" media
'He wishes to see me; An almost h"sterical little laugh escaped Eden's con#ulsed throat
1he twisted her head awa" and lowered it$ )eeling the hot$ stinging rush o) tears hitting her
1he wanted pri#ac" but instead she had strangers watching her e#er" reaction 1trangers
who had to be well aware 'ust what a charade her marriage had be%come b" the time
Damiano had gone missing 1he ought to be used to that realit" now$ the knowledge that
noth%ing had been too sacred to commit to an in)ormation )ile somewhere 2ut then the
beha#iour o) Damiano's )amil" in recent da"s spoke louder than an" #olume o) words

Nonetheless$ a)ter Damiano had #anished$ there had been a )ull+scale in#estigation b" both
the 2ritish and the &talian authorities *inancial e/perts had gone in to check that the
2ragan6i 2ank was still sound The" had looked )or )raud or e#idence o) blackmail or
secret ac%counts The" had e#en looked )or links between Damiano and organised crime
s"ndicates Then the" had turned their attention to his own )amil" circle to see i) an"bod"
there might ha#e emplo"ed a hitman to get rid o) him while he was abroad
No stone had been le)t unturned No opinion had gone unsought No 8uestion had been too
personal or too wounding to ask Damiano had been too rich and wa" too important to 'ust
disappear without causing mudd" ripples o) suspicion to wash o#er e#er"bod" connected
with him And nobod" had su))ered more than Eden$ the wi)e his snobbish siblings had
secretl" despised$ the wi)e who had swi)tl" become the target o) their collecti#e grie) and
turmoil Nuncio and his sis%ter$ Cosetta$ had turned on Eden like star#ing rats on pre" 1he
had e#en been blamed )or the )act that Damiano had gone to 0onta#ia in the )irst place
'&n situations such as this$ we normall" arrange spe%cialist counselling and a period o)
protecti#e isolation )or the #ictim$' Rodne" Russell remarked$ 'but "our husband has
categoricall" re)used that support'
'& belie#e Damiano said he would pre)er prison to counselling$' the superintendent said with
wr" amuse%ment
A cup o) tea was settled on the low co))ee+table in )ront o) Eden '!ou'#e had a ma'or
shock$' the )emale constable said kindl" '2ut "ou're going to be reunited with "our husband
this a)ternoon'
At that staggering reminder$ Eden rose in one 'erk"

motion and walked into her bedroom se#eral )eet awa" 1he closed her e"es again$ )ighting
)or some semblance o) composure Damiano was ali#e7 Damiano was on his wa" home To
her- 1he scolded hersel) )or letting her thoughts slide once again in the wrong direction A
sel)%ish direction &) Damiano wanted her now$ she would be there )or him Naturall"$
ob#iousl" &n )act$ i) Damiano had asked )or her$ nothing would keep her )rom his side4
Had Nuncio kept 8uiet about her supposed a))air$ a)%ter all- !et i) he had$ what e/cuse had
he gi#en Damiano )or his )ailure to bring Eden out to 2ra6il with him- And what was
Damiano likel" to sa" when he came back- How was she to e/plain wh" she had le)t the
2ragan6i )amil" home- 1hed his name to hide be%hind another name- 2uilt a new li)e )ar
)rom what had so brie)l" been hers-
1truggling to suppress her mounting )ears$ Eden )o%cused on the )ramed photo b" her bed
Damiano smil%ing All sleek$ dark good looks and cool &talian cha%risma &t had been
taken on their hone"moon in 1icil" 2ut the" had onl" been together se#en months in total
3ong enough though )or her to see him withdraw )rom her$ )or her to stop e/pecting the
connecting door be%tween their bedrooms to open again$ )or him to start spending more
and more time abroad on endless bank%ing business 3ong enough to break her heart 3o#e
like that didn't go awa" 3o#e like that 'ust hurt
A light knock sounded on the a'ar bedroom door 'Are "ou all right-'
0astering concerns which were pushing her close to panic at what should ha#e been a most
ecstaticall" happ" moment$ Eden turned a pale$ tear+wet )ace to the "oung )emale o))icer
'(hat now-'

'(e'll lea#e )or the air)ield in hal) an hour &) & were "ou &'d shut up shop )or the da" and
'ust think about what & wanted to wear'
(ear- Eden swallowed a shaken laugh Damiano Damiano (hat had he su))ered-
<idnapped$ his li)e threatened$ seriousl" in'ured$ locked up in some primi%ti#e )oreign
prison Damiano$ whose li)e had not pre%pared him in an" wa" )or such an ordeal
Damiano$ born to wealth$ command and supreme pri#ilege Once he had liked to see her in
green That thought 'ust popped up out o) nowhere and spawned a second$ no less tri#ial
recollection 5reen had been his )a#ourite colour
1he ransacked her wardrobe with suddenl" )rantic hands 0a"be he onl" wanted to see her
to sa"$ 'Hi$ &'m back but' without his precious )amil" hanging around in the background
And Annabel$ his )irst lo#e$ his true lo#e How could she ha#e )orgotten Annabel- Annabel
1ta#el"$ Damiano's e/+)iancee$ who in the "ears since had had a child b" a )ather she had
re)used to name but who remained single Eden raised her hands to her )ace Her hands
were shaking$ her palms cold and damp 1he was a basket case with an out+o)+control mind
and the most desperate cra6" desire to shout and scream with e/citement and )ear at one
and the same time
The phone rang barel" a minute be)ore Eden and her escort le)t the apartment
'Eden-' &t was Damiano's "ounger brother$ Nuncio
1haken that her brother+in+law should )inall" call her a)ter so man" "ears o) silence$ Eden
literall" stopped breathing 1he was instantl" a)raid that he was ringing as his brother's
messenger to sa" that Damiano would

not$ a)ter all$ be )l"ing on to see her and she whispered
strickenl"$ '!es-'
'& ha#e told Damiano nothing How do & welcome him home with such news-' Nuncio
demanded in a tone o) bitter condemnation '& was )orced to lie and sa" that we had lost
contact with "ou a)ter "ou mo#ed out 2ut "ou had better tell him the truth )or & will not
stand b" and see m" brother made to look a )ool b" m" silence4'
The truth- As Eden replaced the phone again with a trembling hand her own bitterness
almost prompted her to pick it up again and call Nuncio back 2ut it was the temptation o)
a moment and swi)tl" set aside &n an" case$ he would ne#er belie#e her$ would he- Neither
he nor an"bod" else would belie#e or indeed e#en want to belie#e the real truth$ which was
that her two best )riends had betra"ed her and ultimatel" le)t her to carr" the can
'!ou must understand that the man "ou remember won't be the man who will be coming
home to "ou$' Rodne" Russell in)ormed her with daunting con#iction as the" sat in the back
o) the unmarked police car on the wa" to the air)ield '&t will be a great strain )or both o)
"ou to rebuild "our relationship:'
'!eso) course' (ishing he would stop winding her up with such warnings$ Eden listened
with #eiled and e#er more an/ious e"es The lecture about post+traumatic stress s"ndrome
had been scar" enough
'Damiano is returning to a world he lost )i#e "ears ago &t will be a challenge )or him to
ad'ust He will su))er )rom mood swings$ )rustration and a sense o) bit%ter in'ustice at the
"ears that ha#e been stolen )rom him At times$ he will cra#e solitude$ but at other times he
ma" relentlessl" seek out compan" He ma" be with+

drawn$ mood"$ silent or he ma" put on the macho+man act o) the centur" but it won't last
'No-' she 8ueried tautl"
'Tr" to appreciate that howe#er "our husband reacts now will not be a )air indication o)
how he'll be when he has come to terms with what has happened to him This will be a
transition period )or Damiano'
'!es' That last assurance had sent her heart sinking like a stone 1he wasn't stupid (as he
warning her that Damiano might be seeking her right now but that in a )ew weeks he might
walk awa" again- Did he think she )ondl" imagined that paradise might now be
miracu%lousl" reclaimed )rom the debris o) a marriage )oun%dering )i#e "ears ago- 1he
was not so simple$ nor so )oolishl" optimistic 1he e/pected nothing$ would ask )or nothing
)rom Damiano 1he 'ust wanted and des%peratel" needed to be there )or him 2ut she was
chal%lenged to belie#e that Damiano might need her Damiano 2ragan6i had ne#er been
known to admit a need )or an"bod" or an"thing
&t had been she who'd said$ '& lo#e "ou$' but he had ne#er said those words !et once he had
said them to Annabel$ hadn't he- Or at least he had had them etched on a beauti)ul gold
necklace= 'All m" lo#e$ Damiano'
'& think some )resh air would do "ou good$ Eden$' the superintendent cut into her
increasingl" )rantic thoughts and she reali6ed onl" then that the car had arri#ed at the
'!es"es$ it would' 1he slid out o) the car and breathed in deep in an e))ort to stead"
hersel) 'How much longer-'
'0a"be ten minutes' The older man had no need to ask what she meant
Ten minutes to wait a)ter )i#e "ears- 1he was such a

bag o) ner#es 1he paced the Tarmac$ ignoring the door open in welcome at the small
passenger terminal 1he smoothed trembling hands down o#er the )ine green wool dress
which was absurdl" warm )or a summer da" but all that she still possessed in that colour
'Russell is onl" doing his 'ob as he sees it$' the senior policeman remarked 8uietl"$ 'but$
accordingl" to m" sources$ "our husband is in remarkabl" good condition both ph"sicall"
and mentall"'
Eden nodded$ a little o) her tension ebbing$ and then she heard a distant whirr 1he 'erked$
throwing her head back to search the sk" with )raught e"es 1he saw a dark speck$
watching it growing larger$ her whole being centering on the helicopter as it came in to
land 1he still could not 8uite credit that Damiano was on that cra)t$ that Damiano was
about to emerge and walk across the Tarmac towards her
&n spite o) e#er"thing she had been told$ she was still terri)ied that somehow all these
people and e#en his )amil" had got it wrong and that the man who had turned up in 2ra6il
wasn't reall" who the" thought he was An impostor:well$ wh" not- (asn't that at least
possible- 0ightn't somebod" ha#e boned up on Damiano's li)e and e#en had plastic
surger"- (ouldn't it be worth a tr" to step into the shoes o) so #er" rich a man- And
wouldn't Nuncio$ who had worshipped the ground his elder brother had walked on and who
had been inconsolable when he'd gone missing$ ha#e been an eas" and credulous target-
Rigid$ she watched the helicopter settle down about a hundred )eet awa" A door thrust
open 1he trembled$ cold and clamm" with )ear And then she saw a #er" tall$ #er" well+
built male springing out$ with long$ pow%er)ul black+'ean+clad legs$ and also wearing a

T+shirt and leather )l"ing 'acket 2lack hair$ )ar longe= than she would ha#e e/pected$ blew
back )rom his lean$ hard+boned )eatures His skin was deepl" bron6ed Her breath caught in
her throat 1he couldn't breathe Then was 'ust this massi#e e/plosion o) cra6" 'o" inside
her and she didn't notice hersel) mo#ing )orward at )irst hesitantl" and then breaking into a
Damiano let her run to him He 'ust came to a halt about thirt" )eet )rom the helicopter
3ater she would remember that$ wonder about it 2ut at that instant she was all reaction and
no thought E#er" pra"er answered$ e#er" )ear )or that moment )orgotten$ Eden 'ust hurled
hersel) at his big power)ul )rame$ heart racing so )ast she reeled di66il" against him as he
closed his arms around her
'!ou missed me$ cara-' His rich$ dark drawl wrapped round her$ shutting out e#er"thing
else as he bent his head down to her le#el
Her )ace was s8uashed into his chest He smelt so good$ he smelt so )amiliar and she drank
him in as i) he were li)e+gi#ing o/"gen 'Don't 'okeplease don't 'oke4' Eden sobbed into
his shirt$ clinging to him with both hands to sta" upright
*OR a couple o) minutes$ Damiano simpl" stood there holding Eden and she got the
chance to get a partial grip on hersel) again and recall that the" were in a pub%lic place
'O<-' Damiano checked so)tl"
Eden breathed in shakil" and li)ted her head '& lo#e "ou so much'
1he hadn't planned to sa" it$ had not e#en thought o) sa"ing such a thing but the words
came out in what )elt like the most natural declaration in the world 1he en%countered e"es
so dark and intent the" were black 9n)athomable A tin" spasm o) )ear tensed her muscles
1uddenl" she became conscious o) how rigid he was$ how tight was the control he had o#er
'And e#en a)ter all this time$ not a single doubt & ha#e to be the luckiest gu" in the
uni#erse$ cara$' Damiano responded with a roughened edge to his dark deep drawl$ black
e"es )lashing gold as he scanned her an/ious )ace$ and then bent to sweep back up the
tra#el bag he had set down 'Come on$ let's get rid o) the welcome committee'
He kept his arm round her narrow shoulders and walked her o#er to where the others
ho#ered Eden was still trembling$ her mind in a tail+spin 1he couldn't )o%cus on what she
had 'ust said or his reaction &t was an e))ort to think )ar enough ahead to put one )oot in
)ront o) the other and mo#e !et on some subconscious le#el she sensed the di))erence in
him but could not put a

label on what it was Damiano had alwa"s been #er" controlled and #er" hard to read He
kept the #olatile and e/pressi#e &talian side o) his power)ul personalit" under wraps
E/cept in bed
That recollection made her cheeks burn and then slowl" pale again The luckiest gu" in the
uni#erse- No$ not in the bedroom with a wi)e he had once called the biggest prude in the
western world4 No$ she had been a reall" dismal )ailure in that department$ hampered b"
both her upbringing and her inhibitions$ but most o) all in the end b" his dissatis)action *or
the more e/asper%ated Damiano had become$ the worse the problem had got 2" then
aware that e#er"thing she did and didn't do behind the bedroom door was under censorious
ap%praisal$ Eden had )elt a shrinking reluctance she hadn't been able to hide )rom him The
pleasure he had gi#en her had had a price tag attached and the cost had been too high )or
her pride to bear
2ut when Damiano had gone missing$ when she had had to )ace up to the appalung realit"
that he might be dead and might ne#er come home to her again:oh$ how she had beaten
hersel) up )or her )ailings then4 &n retrospect$ her own hang+ups had begun to seem
pa%thetic and sel)ish Chewing at her lower lip$ utterl" dis%located )rom the dialogue
which Damiano was cooll" maintaining with what he had called the welcome com%mittee$
she )ocused on the long sil#er limousine pulling up with a surprised )rown
'The car's here & don't want to hang around$' Damiano stated with a blunt lack o) social
pretence she had ne#er heard him use be)ore
'Am & allowed to ask where "ou're heading$ 0r 2ragan6i-' Rodne" Russell en8uired with
the edged de%li#er" o) a male who$ with the arri#al o) that chau))eur+

dri#en car$ had 'ust been made to )eel e#en more su%per)luous to re8uirements
'Homewhere else-' Damiano responded
Home- Dear hea#en$ was he planning on ha#ing them # dri#en straight back to 3ondon and
"et another )amil" welcome- A 'o"ous celebration at which she would simpl" be the
spectre at the )east-
'(here is home-' Damiano prompted with a rue)ul laugh as he strode towards the
limousine '!ou had bet%ter gi#e the dri#er directions'
Her le#el o) panic momentaril" subsided at that clar%i)ication and she scolded hersel) )or
)orgetting that$ o) course$ he was alread" aware that she was no longer li#ing in the #ast
2ragan6i town house in 3ondon Howe#er$ he seemed to ha#e taken that de#elopment in
his stride Ha#ing done as he re8uested$ she climbed into the lu/urious rear passenger seat
2ut the sense o) panic swi)tl" returned to reclaim her 1he had not thought be"ond the
moment o) seeing Damiano again$ indeed had barel" attempted to e#en #isualise what she
could not imagine a)ter so long 2ut now she )elt like someone in a canoe without a paddle
heading )or the rapids
'This )eels weird to me too Don't worr" about it$ cara$' Damiano breathed$ reaching out
without warning and closing his big hand o#er her tautl" clenched )in%gers 'No long+
winded e/planations o) an"thing toda" &'m back !ou're here That's all that matters at this
moment in time'
Eden stared at him &t seemed to be entirel" the wrong time to be registering 'ust how
gorgeous he still was The classic )eatures$ the superb bone+structure$ the sen%sual cur#e to
his per)ectl" modelled mouth Damiano was stunningl" good+looking but$ unlike man"

men$ intensel" masculine 1enses star#ed o) him were alread" reacting to that un)ortunate
realit" The old )a%miliar shame )looded her as she recognised the coil o) heat in her bell"$
the swelling hea#iness o) her breasts beneath her clothing &nwardl" she cringed at how
in%appropriate and humiliating those responses were in the presence o) a male who had
re'ected her outright on the one occasion she had plucked up the courage to in#ite him back
to the marital bed No$ he de)initel" wasn't going to need her that wa"$ she reminded
hersel)$ mor%ti)ied b" her own )oolish susceptibilit"
Once she'd got a hold on her embarrassing thoughts and tamped them )irml" down again$
her an/ious e"es ro#ed o#er his strong dark )eatures and now marked the changes His hard
cheekbones might ha#e been chis%elled out o) bron6e and carried not an ounce o)
super%)luous )lesh He was pale beneath that bron6ed tan$ his brilliant deep+set dark e"es
shadowed with e/haustion He would ha#e had so much news to catch up on with his
)amil" that he probabl" hadn't slept on the )light back to England &n )act$ he looked as i) he
hadn't slept in a week
2ut there was an edge there now in that lean strong )ace that hadn't been there be)ore A
tough$ hard edge stamped like an o#erla" o) steel on him The smooth$ sophisticated
coolness she recalled had been replaced b" a colder$ deadlier 8ualit" 1he had seen it in
action with the welcome committee There had been no apol%ogetic pretence about his
impatience to be gone His accent had altered too *i#e "ears o) speaking 1panish and
nothing else$ no doubt care)ull" modelling his speech pattern on those around him He was
a #er" cle#er gu" He had not become the chairman o) the 2ragan6i 2ank b" birth and
precedent as his late )ather

had He had been #oted in at the age o) twent"+eight because he was 8uite simpl" brilliant
at what he did
The silence had become charged with an intensit" she didn't understand A slight )rown+
line indented her brow as she connected with his e"es E"es that now burned like golden
)lames &n a sudden mo#ement$ he meshed his other hand into her hair and brought her
startled mouth up under his
&t was a shockingl" intimate and shockingl" une/%pected sensual assault &ndeed$ Eden$
accustomed to the belie) that her husband )ound her about as ph"sicall" appealing as an ice
bath$ could not ha#e been more stunned The plunging eroticism o) his tongue searching
out the tender interior o) her mouth shook her to her #er" depths and then sent such a
current o) scorching e/citement through her that a strangled gasp was wrenched )rom her
&nstantl"$ Damiano released her$ )e#erish colour scor%ing his cheekbones as he took a swi)t
look at her shaken )ace$ lowered his thick black lashes and breathed in a hoarse undertone$
'0i dispiace&'m sorr"$ & can't think what came o#er me'
Neither could Eden but most ironicall" she hadn't been about to complain Her heart was
banging as i) she had run a three+minute mile Her wretched bod" was tense and e/pectant7
it had been so long since she had been touched in an intimate wa" And she was hugel"
embarrassed because it was so ob#ious that Damiano regretted ha#ing kissed her 3owering
her head in sel)+protection$ she chose to stud" their still+linked hands instead .ust grabbing
was a sort o) gu" thing$ she de%cided$ tr"ing to work out what had moti#ated Damiano$
which was a challenge A)ter all$ he had alwa"s con%)ounded her understanding

His hand tightened its grip on hers 'Did & hurt "ou-'
'No' 1o great was her sel)+consciousness$ her re%sponse was a mere thread .ust grab me
an" time "ou like$ she would ha#e said to him had she had the ner#e to credit that such an
in#itation would be welcome 2ut she didn't ha#e the ner#e and laboured under no such
con)idence+boosting belie) in her own powers o) attrac%tion *i#e "ears earlier$ in a
desperate attempt to sa#e their marriage$ she had tried to bridge the estrangement between
them and )ailed miserabl" 1hortl" be)ore that disastrous trip to 0onta#ia$ Damiano had
re'ected her He had said no to the o))er o) her bod" (hat was more$ he had said no with
the kind o) sarcasm which had cut her to the bone
&n the taut silence she brought her other hand round his and then$ )inall" noticing the
un)amiliar roughness there$ turned his hand o#er and looked at it$ )or want o) an"thing
better to do &n complete bewilderment$ she ran a )ingertip o#er his scarred knuckles$ his
broken nails$ and checked his palms &t was the hand o) a man accustomed to hard and
unrelenting manual labour
'Challenge )or the manicurist$' Damiano commented la6il"
'2utbut how:-'
'& spent o#er three "ears working in a 8uarr" si/ da"s a week There wasn't much in the wa"
o) machiner":'
'A 8+8uarr"-' Eden stammered$ cradling his hand be%tween both o) hers with the most giant
surge o) shocked protecti#eness surging up through her A 8uarr"- Damiano labouring in a
'A)ter the )irst "ear$ the militar" go#ernment awarded political status to all rebel prisoners
5ood mo#e &) "ou'#e banged up about a 8uarter o) the entire male population and the
countr" is so poor "ou can't a))ord

to )eed them$ "ou ha#e to prepare the )ootwork )or an amnest" to let them out again$'
Damiano e/plained le#+ell" 'And put them to work in the short+term so that the" can
produce enough not to be a burden on the econom"'
'A 8uarr"' Eden )ramed in shaken disbelie)$ emo%tion o#erpowering her e#en in the )ace
o) that deadpan recitation '!our poor hands"ou had s+such beauti)ul hands:'
'Dio miol was glad to work4 2eauti)ul hands-' Damiano countered with #er" masculine
mocker" '(hat am &- A male model or something-'
18uee6ing her e"es tightl" shut against the stinging tears alread" blinding her$ Eden li)ted
his hand to her )ace and kissed his )ingers 1he couldn't ha#e spoken or e/plained wh" to
sa#e her li)e$ but she could no more ha#e pre#ented hersel) )rom doing it than she could
ha#e stopped breathing
&n the a)termath o) that gesture$ the silence was so charged it 'ust about screamed out loud
Damiano withdrew his hand Eden raised her )ace and clashed with stunned dark e"es and
her )ace began to burn up like a bon)ire
'(hat's got into "ou-' Damiano demanded raggedl"$ his disconcertion o#er her emotional
beha#iour uncon%cealed
'&'m&'m sorr"' she mumbled$ wishing a big hole would open up and swallow her$
suddenl" )eeling so absolutel" )oolish
'Nodon't apologise )or possibl" the onl" sponta%neous a))ection "ou ha#e e#er shown
me4' Damiano urged$ stud"ing her with bemused intensit" 'That's not true$' she whispered
in disma" at that

charge$ uttered with such assurance as i) it were a )act too well+known to be 8uestioned
2ut Damiano )orestalled an" )urther protest on her part b" suddenl" leaning )orward to
)rown out at the suburban street the limo was now tra#ersing to ask in honest
bewilderment$ '(here on earth are we going-'
Eden tensed$ '0" )lat &t's on the outskirts o) town:'
'!ou le)t our home to mo#e into a town )lat-' Damiano demanded in astonishment '&
assumed that "ou had mo#ed to Nor)olk so that "ou could li#e in a countr" house4'
'&t wasn't as simple as that$ Damiano *or a start wouldn't ha#e had the mone" to bu"
m"sel) a housi and what would & ha#e li#ed on- Air-' Eden heard her%sel) respond with
helpless de)ensi#eness 'The bank ma" ha#e continued trading a)ter "our disappearance but
all "our personal assets were )ro6en which meant that & couldn't touch an" o) "our mone"
'Naturall" & am aware o) that )act$' Damiano cut in dril" '2ut are "ou seriousl" tr"ing to tell
me that m" brother was not prepared to support "ou-'
&t was ama6ing 'ust how swi)tl" the" had contri#ed to arri#e at the #er" nub o) the problem
The hard realit" that Eden had become estranged )rom his )amil" during his absence$ news
that would ne#er$ e#er ha#e gone down well with a male as )amil" orientated as Damiano
And news which would go down e#en less well should he be told the truth o) wh" the bad
)eeling had reached such a clima/ that she had no longer )elt able to remain under the same
'No$ &'m not tr"ing to tell "ou that$' Eden countered tightl"$ unable to bring her e"es to meet
his in an" direct wa"$ pla"ing )or time while she attempted to come up

with a credible e/planation '& 'ust )elt that it was time & mo#ed out and stood on m" own
'A)ter onl" )our months- &t did not take "ou long to gi#e up all hope o) m" return4'
Damiano condemned grittil"
The sudden silence re#erberated
And then Damiano made an e8uall" abrupt and dis%missi#e mo#ement with one lean
brown hand 'No$ )or%get that & said that4 &t was cruell" un)air Nuncio himsel) admitted
that he had belie#ed me to be dead the )irst month and "ou ne#er grew as close to m"
)amil" as & had once hoped The crisis o) m" disappearance di#ided "ou all rather than
bringing "ou closer together:'
'Damiano$' Eden interceded tautl" on the de)ensi#e
'No$ sa" no more & would accept no e/cuses )rom Nuncio and & will accept none )rom "ou
That m" brother should ha#e )lown out to 2ra6il without bringing m" wi)e with him struck
me as be"ond the bounds o) belie)4' Damiano admitted griml"$ his )irm mouth hard%ening
'Onl" nothing could ha#e more clearl" illustrated how deep the di#isions between "ou had
' !es but:'
'0" disappointment at that realit" was considerable but it is not something which & wish to
discuss right now$' Damiano interrupted with all the crushing dis%missal he could bring to
an" sub'ect which anno"ed him and which she well recalled )rom the distant past
Eden had gone )rom shrinking terror at what might be re#ealed i) she dared to protest her
own innocence to instincti#e resentment o) that innatel" superior as%surance Dear hea#en$
did he think the" were all )oolish children to be scolded and set to rights on how the" ought
to be beha#ing- And then 'ust when she was on the #er" brink o) parting her lips and
disabusing him o)

that illusion$ it occurred to her that it would be wiser to let him think as he did )or the
present 3et sleeping dogs lieonl" )or how long would the" lie 8uiet- 1ti)ling that
enner#ating thought$ Eden swallowed hard
Howe#er$ she need not ha#e worried about where the con#ersation was going )or at that
point the limo drew up outside the narrow building where she both li#ed and worked
Damiano ga6ed out at the #er" ordinar" street o) mi/ed housing and shops with raised
ebon" brows
'&t ma" not be what "ou're used to but it's not as bad as it looks' Eden took ad#antage o) his
silence to hur%riedl" climb out and lead the wa"$ onl" to )ind hersel) ho#ering when
Damiano paused to instruct the chau)%)eur in &talian The limo pulled awa" )rom the kerb
again and dro#e o))
(ell aware that Damiano would not associate her with the name .ames etched in small
print below the sign$ '5arment Alterations$' on the barred door$ Eden hastened on past and
mounted the steep stairs The shop was shut On (ednesda"$ most o) the local shops took a
(ith a taut hand$ she unlocked the door o) her )lat Damiano strode in &n one all+
encompassing and aston%ished glance he took in the compact li#ing area and the three
doors leading o)) to bathroom$ bedroom and kitchen '& can't belie#e "ou le)t our home to
li#e like this4'
'& wish "ou'd stop re)erring to the town house as our home &t ma" ha#e been "ours but it
ne#er )elt like mine$' Eden heard hersel) respond$ surprising hersel) with her own
#ehemence as much as she could see she had surprised him$ )or he had come to an arrested
Damiano )rowned '(hat are "ou talking about-'

'3i#ing in the town house was like li#ing in a com%mune:'
'A commune-
'The communal &talian wa" o) li#ing7 no matter how big the house is$ there is ne#er one
corner "ou can call "our own$' Eden e/tended 'erkil"
'& was not aware that "ou )elt like that about li#ing with m" )amil"' Damiano's outrage
purred along e#er" s"llable o) his response
Eden knotted her trembling hands together 1he was shaken b" the strength o) her desire to
shout back at him )or his re)usal to accept the ob#ious and under%stand That lack o)
pri#ac" had contributed to their problems
'Although & consider it beneath me to make the re%minder$ "ou came )rom a home no
bigger than a rabbit hutch where & am 8uite sure it was an e#en bigger chal%lenge to )ind a
corner "ou could call "our own$' Damiano )ramed with sardonic bite
&t was so cra6" to be arguing about such a thing now Her brain acknowledged that realit"
but$ hurt that he should re)er to the #ast di))erence between their back%grounds$ she could
not keep her tongue still '1o be%cause "ou #iewed our marriage as being along the lines o)
<ing Cophetua and the beggar maid:'
'<ing who-'
'& was supposed to be grate)ul to )ind m"sel) in a house that belonged to not 'ust one but
two other women4'
'(hat other women-' Ha#ing gi#en up on establish%ing who the )abled <ing was$ Damiano
was stud"ing her now as i) she were slow+witted
Eden's hands parted and then knotted into )ists

'Nuncio's wi)e$ ;alentina$ and "our sister$ Cosetta &t was their home long be)ore & came
'& cannot belie#e we are ha#ing this absurd argu%ment'
'& couldn't e#en redecorate m" own bedroom without o))ending someoneand "ou think &
should ha#e liked li#ing like that- Alwa"s guests with us at meal times$ alwa"s ha#ing to
be polite and on m" best beha#ior$ ne#er being able to rela/$ ne#er being alone an"where
with "ou but in a bedroom:'
'And there least o) all i) "ou could help it$' Damiano >
slotted in re)lecti#el" '!ou would )all asleep in com+7
pan" be)ore "ou would go upstairs at night & did get
the message' i
At that unanswerable reminder and assurance$ Eden turned pale The pained resentment
went out o) her then as i) he had punched a button 1he was both taken aback and
embarrassed that she should ha#e dragged up some%thing which was so outstandingl"
tri#ial and inappro%priate in the light o) what he had endured since And so great was that
sense o) shamed sel)+e/posure$ she 'ust turned round 'erkil" and hurried o)) into the
kitchen$ muttering )e#erishl"$ '!ou must want a co))ee'
1he le)t behind her a silence$ a huge silence
(ith a trembling hand$ she put on die kettle 'Do "ou want an"thing to eat-'
'No$ thanks$' Damiano countered '(ith Nuncio )uss%ing round me like a mother hen$ & was
practicall" )orce+)ed all the wa" )rom 2ra6il4'
He had )ollowed her as )ar as the doorwa" Out o) the corner o) her e"e$ she snaked a
ner#ous glance at his ener#ating stillness 1o tall$ so dark$ so heartbreak+ingl" handsome
He was here$ he was home:well$ in her home temporaril" 1he lo#ed this gu"$ she reall"$

reall" lo#ed this gu" And here she was ra#ing at him about stu)) that was )i#e "ears out o)
date and o) about as much rele#ance to him now as an old weather report4 (as she out o)
her mind- &t wasn't )air to hold his shock at the wa" she was li#ing against him He had le)t
her behind in a mansion with twent"+)i#e bedrooms and a )ull 8uota o) domestic sta))
E#identl"$ he had assumed that she would be protected b" his brother's wealth )rom the
usual )inancial problems o) a wi)e with a husband who had #anished 1o it was
understandable that he should be astonished$ e#en anno"ed to )ind her ensconced in a tin"
)lat$ e/isting on a budget that wouldn't ha#e co#ered what his sister spent on shoes in a
'& didn't reali6e that "ou disliked li#ing with m" )am%il"& ne#er thought about that
possibilit"$' Damiano admitted )latl"
'&t's all right& don't know wh" & mentioned it$' Eden gabbled in an apologetic surge$
desperate to pla%cate '&t's so unimportant now:'
'No$ it's not &'ll sta" here until this e#ening but' Oh$ dear hea#en$ he was going to lea#e
her again4 &n a short space o) time$ it seemed she had alienated him$ dri#en him o)) A chill
so deep it pierced her like a kni)e spread through Eden
'& 'ust need more space around me right nowO<-' 'O<' Eden whispered so low she was
almost drowned out b" the boiling kettle 1pace- Personal space and )reedom$ the sort o)
ps"chological stu)) the *oreign O))ice ad#isor had tried to gi#e her a crash course in
understanding$ she presumed$ )eeling sick He wanted space awa" )rom her$ he wanted to
escape )rom her a)ter less than a hour 1he )elt as i) the roo) were coming down on her$
crushing the breath )rom her bod"

'&'#e got twent"+)our hours o) meetings mapped out ahead o) me alread"$' Damiano said
le#ell" 'There are legal niceties to be dealt with$ press announcements to be made$ new
arrangements to be set in motion at the bank & can't sta" here & ha#e to be in 3ondon'
He had ne#er intended to sta" This had 'ust been a )l"ing #isit 3iterall"4 (hile he'd
spoken$ she had started to make the co))ee on automatic pilot but as he continued to speak$
and her heart sank$ automatic pilot )ailed her 1he didn't e#en notice that the cup she was
)illing was o#er)lowing
'Porca miseria4' 1uddenl" Damiano was right there behind her$ his hands closing urgentl"
o#er her taut shoulders as he "anked her back out o) reach o) the pool o) boiling water
about to cascade o)) the edge o) the worktop '!ou almost scalded "oursel)4'
Pale and trembling$ Eden )ocused on the hot water pouring down on to the )loor with
disma"ed e"es
'.ust go and sit down&'?? deal with the )lood$' Damiano asserted$ thrusting her towards the
door with determination '& think "ou're still in shock'
*rom the sitting room Eden paused to look back and watch Damiano mopping up '&t 'ust
doesn't seem real"ou doing something domesticated like that$ "ou being here$' she
mumbled une#enl"
1he encountered brilliant dark e"es as intent on her as she was on him '!ou're as white as a
sheet$ cara 1it down'
1he sat because she was honestl" a)raid that$ i) she didn't$ she might )all down &t seemed
'ust a minute later but o) course it must ha#e been longer than that b" the time Damiano
reappeared and placed a cup o) co))ee in )ront o) her Damiano$ who had once pressed a
bell to get a cup o) co))ee or an"thing else he )ancied !es$

she thought in the disorientated manner o) someone too strung up to reason rationall"=
Annabel would ha#e come running back had Damiano so much as snapped his )ingers
E#en a)ter he'd married4 1truggling to get her wandering mind back under control$ Eden
)ought )or some semblance o) composure
'!ou're 'ust coming apart at the seams' Damiano groaned$ bending o#er her without
warning and li)ting her up$ onl" to la" her down again )ull length on the so)a He snatched
up the throw )rom the arm o) one o) the chairs and care)ull" arranged it o#er her He
hun%kered down on a le#el with her$ smoothed her hair back )rom her drawn )ace and
breathed in a ragged undertone o) regret '&'#e alwa"s been such a sel)ish bastard'
The rawness o) his emotions was etched in e#er" line o) his lean strong )ace &n the whole
o) their marriage$ Damiano had ne#er beha#ed as he 'ust had or indeed looked or spoken as
he did then Eden was trans)i/ed 5uiltwas this guilt she was hearing$ guilt that he had
hurt her- *or she had made a hash o) things within the )irst minute o) seeing him again
Telling him she lo#ed him4 Dear hea#en$ where had her wits and her pride been- *i#e
"ears on )rom a marriage he had long known to be a mistake4 &t was a wonder that he had
e#en been prepared to gi#e her these )ew hours He was tr"ing to let her down gentl" but
e8uall" impatient to get back to his own li)e 2ack to the bank$ back to the )amil" )rom
'& ha#e had a long time to think about our marriage$' Damiano stated almost harshl"
'& know' 1he shut her e"es because she 'ust wanted to shut him up be)ore he said more
than she could stand to hear 1he did not want the )ull spotlight o) his atten+

tion on her 1he 'ust might break down and start sobbing and pleading
'& was cruel'
1he 'erked her chin in dumb acknowledgement and then whipped o#er on to her side$
turning her narrow back to him$ so much tormented emotion swilling about inside her$ she
was a)raid she would break apart under the pressure 1he crammed a )ist against her
wobbling mouth$ willing hersel) into silence
'& tried to make "ou into something "ou couldn't be'
1e/"$ ad#enturous$ wanton$ seducti#e That was what he had wanted That was what he
hadn't got The sort o) )emale who pranced about in )ront o) him in silk underwear and was
willing to ha#e se/ somewhere other than in a bed with all the lights switched o)) The sort
o) )emale who pla"ed a more acti#e part$ who did something more than simpl" lie there
The sort o) )e%male who was able to show him that she wanted him
'& had unrealistic e/pectations$' Damiano breathed in a dri#en admission
*ormed b" a #ast e/perience o) other women to who such outdated inhibitions had
e#identl" been unknown$ she re)lected with a bitter sense o) s8uirming )ailure
'& wasn't used to hearing that word$ ,no,'
(ell$ he had certainl" heard it a lot both be)ore and a)ter he'd married (ould it reall" ha#e
killed her to take her clothes o)) in )ront o) him or let him undress her 'ust once- Couldn't
she ha#e said$ '"es' that time he had started kissing her in the car when he had come back
)rom a long business trip-
'(hat &'m tr"ing to sa" is that & was wrong to make the bedroom such an issuedo "ou
think "ou could sa" something-' Damiano murmured tautl"

'Nothing to sa"$' Eden whispered$ keeping her back turned to him$ tears running down her
The silence )i66ed like the shaken bottle o) a so)t drink$ threatening e/plosion )rom pent+up
pressure 1he had done the wrong thing again He wanted her to talk but what on earth did
he e/pect her to sa"- E#er"thing he had said meant 'ust one thing to Eden= he wanted a
di#orce$ a ci#ilised one where blame was shared and platitudes were mouthed and nobod"
held spite 1o he was smoothing o#er the past$ tr"ing to change it (hat else could he be
doing when he said he should not ha#e made the bedroom such an issue-
*or wasn't se/ual satis)action o) ma'or importance to most men- And$ to a male o)
Damiano's ilk$ a taken+)or+granted e/pectation A)ter "ears o) being pursued$ )lattered and
treated to e#er" )eminine wile a#ailable$ a rich and power)ul man took it as his due that he
would marr" a sensual woman 2ut then she knew wh" Damiano had ended up asking
someone as unsuitable as she had been to marr" him$ didn't she- Her tumm" turned o#er
On the rebound )rom Annabel$ he had been a male used to winning e#er" time$ and had
been chal%lenged b" Eden's re)usal to sleep with him '&'#e got some calls to make$'
Damiano said )latl" '&'m sorr"$ &:-'
'No4' Damiano countered with grim disappro#al '& do not want to hear "ou alwa"s
apologising !ou weren't like that when & married "ou& made "ou that wa" b" acting like
a bull"4'
1o taken aback was Eden b" that declaration that she opened her e"es and li)ted her head
with a 'erk$ but the onl" reward she recei#ed was the decisi#e snap o) the bedroom door
closing A bull"- (as that how she had made him )eel with her inabilit" to talk or respond

the le#el he re8uired- That idea pained her e#en more and sent her thoughts winging back
into the distant past
Her parents had married late in li)e and she had been an onl" child$ her )ather the
gamekeeper on a remote 1cottish estate One o) her earliest memories was the hum o) the
sewing machine )or her mother had been a gi)ted seamstress whose talents had brought in
much needed e/tra income Hard work had been respected and idle chatter discouraged in a
household in which emo%tions had been kept pri#ate and demonstrati#e a))ection had been
2" the time that Eden had gained her teaching 8ual%i)ication at college$ her mother had
died and her )ather had asked her to return home to li#e (hen the sole teacher in the tin"
local school had taken maternit" lea#e$ Eden had been engaged to )ill the temporar"
#a%canc" O#er the "ears$ the *alcarragh estate on which she had been born had changed
hands man" times Ha#ing gone out o) pri#ate ownership$ it had been traded 'ust like a
business in#estment and had long been run b" a 3ondon+based management team o)
e/ecuti#es$ who had rarel" #isited but who had e/celled at cutting costs
E#en though she had b" then been twent"+one$ lo#e and its attendant e/citements had
pla"ed little part in Eden's li)e The estate manager's son$ 0ark Anste"$ her childhood
pla"mate$ had remained her closest )riend As a teenager$ howe#er$ she had had a ma'or
crush on 0ark 1he had onl" outgrown it when she'd realised that although she'd been #er"
)ond o) him$ she 'ust hadn't been able to imagine kissing him 0ark had )elt more like the
brother she had ne#er had
Damiano had stridden into Eden's li)e that same win+

ter when his car had gone o)) the road in the snow Her )ather had been awa" )rom home$
sta"ing with his brother who had been ill The ad#erse weather had closed the school earl"
the da" be)ore The )ollowing e#ening$ Eden had been astonished when the dogs had
started barking to warn her o) a #isitor )or$ with bli66ard conditions$ threatening outside$ all
sensible people had been sa)e indoors
Answering the door$ she'd stared in initial disma" at the #er" tall and power)ull"
intimidating )igure which Damiano had cut in a snow+encrusted black coat
'0i dispiace$' he stated hoarsel"$ )rowning with the e))ort concentration took '2ut & need&
need the phone'
Registering onl" that he was )e#erishl" )lushed$ swa"ing on his )eet and showing the
con)usion brought on b" being )ro6en$ Eden stopped being intimidated at speed &) he
collapsed$ she knew she wouldn't be ca%pable o) li)ting so big a man (ith innate
practicalit"$ she closed her hand o#er his slee#e and urged him o#er the threshold 'Come in
at once'
1he guided him towards the warmth o) the hearth but not too close to the heat
'Phoneper)a#ore$' he said again$ his dark+timbred drawl accented$ the words slightl"
slurred$ but it was still a remarkabl" attracti#e #oice
1tretching up on tiptoe$ Eden instead began to re%mo#e the #er" hea#" and sodden coat he
wore$ )orcing him to release the tra#el bag he still clutched as i) his li)e depended on it
*inding the 'acket o) the business suit he wore beneath damp$ she scurried round him to
unbutton it and ease him out o) that as well Damiano$ silent )or possibl" the onl" time in
their entire ac8uain%tance$ stood there registering complete bewilderment at

what she was doing and blinking lashes long as black silk )ans '1ignora-'
'!ou must ha#e a death wish$' she groaned out loud '1uch unsuitable clothing )or this
1he hauled a blanket out o) the chest b" the wall and tried to reach up high enough to drape
it round his shoulders$ )inall" surrendering and planting a hand to his broad chest in an
e))ort to persuade him down into the armchair behind him
'1mallangel-' he 8ueried$ ga6ing down at her with bemused )ascination$ dark as midnight
e"es lingering on her delicate )eatures as he clumsil" pinned her hand in place with ice+
cold )ingers 'No ringssingle-'
'1it down$' Eden told him$ hurriedl" pulling her hand )ree
He sank down hea#il" into the chair but continued to stare at her
Eden arranged the blanket round him and then crouched down at his )eet to remo#e his wet
shoes and socks as 8uickl" as she could$ continuing to talk )or )ear that he might still lapse
into unconsciousness '(hat's "our name-'
1he looked up and )ocused properl" on his )eatures )or the )irst time since his arri#al 1he
stilled$ her ab%sorbed ga6e ro#ing slowl" o#er that startlingl" hand%some lean$ dark )ace$
her breath tripping in her throat E#en wet$ he was 'ust so incredibl" good+looking
5orgeous bone+structure$ incredible e"es 7
'Damiano$' she repeated shakil"
He ga#e her a sleep" but charismatic smile that rocked her heart on its a/is and said
something else in his own language
(ith e/treme e))ort she dragged her attention )rom

him and un6ipped his tra#el bag in search o) warm dr" clothing 1he e/tracted a pair o)
khaki 'eans and an oatmeal sweater$ the 8ualit" o) both attracting her notice but not to the
e/tent the" should ha#e done )or she had little knowledge o) designer labels (as he a
tourist- He was hardl" dressed )or the winter sports season The coat and the suit were o)
the t"pe a cit" businessman would wear to a )ormal meeting
'!ou get changed while &'m heating up some soup )or "ou$' she instructed him in an
authoritati#e #oice$ the one she used with the rebellious older bo"s in her classroom 'Don't
"ou dare go to sleep on me4'
2ut e#en as she walked into the small sculler" her heart was hammering so hard$ she had to
snatch in a sustaining breath and she could not resist the urge to glance back o#er her
shoulder at him and look again
1he collided with beauti)ul dark deep+set e"es that made her )eel di66" and brainless )or the
)irst time in her e/tremel" sensible li)e '!ou do look an angel' he told her stubbornl"
,That's enough$' she tried to sa" briskl" 'No$ it's onl" a beginning'
And so it was 2ut$ un)ortunatel"$ a beginning )or two people without the slightest thing in
common Damiano soon reco#ered )rom that rare #ulnerabilit" which she )ound so #er"
appealing Ha#ing alread" dis%co#ered to his cost at the roadside that the reception was too
poor in the area )or his mobile phone to work$ he was ama6ed when she let drop that her
)ather had onl" got the landline phone connected the pre#ious "ear and that the same
problem with bad reception had pre%#ented them )rom e#er owning a tele#ision
He was e#en more astonished that she didn't own a car !et he himsel) had climbed the
steep+rutted track

which ran o#er a mile down to the road and onl" a )our+wheel dri#e could tra#erse it in bad
weather (ith her )ather awa" and the estate #ehicle he utilised onl" in%sured )or his use$
Eden had been without transport To get to school that week$ she had been walking down to
the road and catching a li)t with one o) her pupil's par%ents
A)ter eating$ Damiano again re8uested the use o) the phone and$ since she naturall" ga#e
him pri#ac" to make that call$ she didn't pick up an" hint o) who he actuall" was 0ightn't
she ha#e drawn back and pro%tected hersel) that night had she known how wealth" and
power)ul a male she had brought in out o) the storm-
&ndeed$ although he later carelessl" dismissed her claim as utterl" ridiculous$ Eden
remained con#inced that Damiano had deliberatel" a#oided telling her that he owned the
*alcarragh estate &n addition$ he had not mentioned the 2ragan6i 2ank or$ )or that matter$
an" )acet o) his high+powered li)est"le which might ha#e alerted her to his true status He
had been content to allow her to belie#e that he was merel" one o) the sal%aried 3ondon
e/ecuti#es in#ol#ed in the running o) the estate (h"$ she had ne#er understood$ unless it
had simpl" amused him
2" the time she showed Damiano into her )ather's bedroom$ )or he had no option other than
to spend the night$ she had talked hersel) hoarse He had dragged the unremarkable stor" o)
her li)e out o) her with a deter%mination that onl" an ill+mannered response could ha#e
)orestalled And she had been )lattered and )ascinated b" the head" e))ect o) his power)ul
personalit"$ mega%watt charm and stunning good looks all )ocused e/clu%si#el" on her

The ne/t morning$ a)ter the snowplough had been through$ he insisted on making his own
wa" down to the road to be picked up$ but be)ore he departed he asked her to ha#e dinner
with him that night and she agreed7 o) course she did 1he suppressed the awareness that
her )ather would disappro#e o) her dating a male he would regard as one o) the 'bosses'
Rain came on that a)ternoon and Damiano arri#ed at the door in one o) the estate )our+
wheel dri#es
He had taken a room in the onl" local hotel and was critical o) the meal the" recei#ed in the
cos" bar Naturall" (hile she saw nothing wrong with an"thing the" were ser#ed$ the
meal could hardl" ha#e been o) the standard to which Damiano was accustomed &t was
like a dream date )or Eden to be seen out with a male whom other women couldn't take
their e"es o)) 1he adored his good manners$ hung on his e#er" witt" word o) con#ersation
and mar#elled at his abilit" to reach )or her hand and hold it as i) it was the most natural
thing in the world
And then$ on the dri#e home$ her dream bubble burst '& would ha#e asked "ou to sta" the
night with me at the hotel but & imagine that the local teacher has to be care)ul o) her
reputation in a rural area like this$' Damiano remarked with incredible cool '&t's )ortunate
that "ou don't ha#e neighbours'
He had known her )or precisel" twent"+nine hours and alread" he was e/pecting her to
sleep with him4 Eden was shocked out o) her enchanted cloud o) ro%mance$ embarrassed
and then angr" with him )or wreck%ing e#er"thing and angr" with hersel) )or ha#ing
)ool%ishl" e/pected more o) him (ith the e/ception o) his singularl" smooth and
sophisticated approach$ it seemed that$ a)ter all$ Damiano was little di))erent )rom the col+

lege students who had hassled her with crude pick+up lines and horribl" blunt se/ual
'& ha#e no intention o) letting "ou sta" the night$' Eden breathed curtl"
,That was a negati#e$' Damiano mused with indolent$ e#en amused unconcern '&'m gi)ted
at changing nega%ti#es into positi#es'
Tears burned the back o) her e"es but rage gathered inside her 'That kind o) beha#iour isn't
part o) m" li)e and it ne#er will be:'
'!ou're planning to become a nun-' Damiano incised with lashings o) mocker"$ 8uite
undaunted b" her atti%tude '3et me tell "ou something about &talian menwe're e/tremel"
persistent when we want some%thing:'
'& do not want to discuss this4' Eden interrupted in growing morti)ication '.ust drop the
'&'m an up)ront gu"$ cara And$ at m" age$ & cannot imagine ha#ing a relationship without
'(ell$ &'m not planning on ha#ing a ph"sical rela%tionship with an"bod" until & get
married4' Eden shot back at him between gritted teeth
Damiano was so shattered b" that accidental admis%sion which he had pro#oked her into
making that he shot the car to a mud+churning halt outside her home and turned to
scrutinise her with openl" incredulous e"es '!ou're kidding me-'
Releasing her seat belt$ as desperate now to escape him as she had been to be with him
earlier in the e#e%ning$ Eden scrambled out o) the car '5oodnight4'
Damiano sprang out o) the dri#er's seat and inter%cepted her be)ore she could reach the
door '!ou're still a #irgin-'
Nobod" had e#er spoken that word to Eden's hot )ace

be)ore and she could think o) nobod" she could ha#e wanted to hear it )rom less He said it
in the same tone o) disbelie) which some people reser#ed )or 9*Os
'9rgent re+thinkpossibl" the concept o) en'o"ing out mutual passion tonight was slightl"
premature$' Damiano groaned with unashamed regret
Eden was hauling her ke"s out o) her bag with a shaking and desperate hand &) she had had
wings$ she would ha#e spread them and )lown awa" 1e/ had ne#er been mentioned in her
home$ nothing so intimate e#er discussed Apart )rom )re8uent re)erences to the social and
moral conse8uences o) casual intimac"$ se/ had been no more pre#alent a sub'ect in the
cit" #icarage where she had boarded with her uncle's )amil" while at college 'Please shut
up$' she gasped
'&'m tr"ing to understand what's going on here:'
'& made it 8uite clear:'
'2ut "ou're surel" not e/pecting me to propose mar%riage to get "ou into bed-' Damiano
persisted with sar%donic cool
And reacting to that wounding sarcasm$ she slapped him (ithout thinking about it$
without meaning to do it$ she 'ust li)ted her hand and slapped him across one high$ hard
'&'m sorr" but:'
Damiano sur#e"ed her with outraged e"es that turned gold in anger and pulled her to him
with power)ul hands to crush her startled mouth under his with an e/plosi#e passion that
'ust blew her awa"
Releasing her again$ Damiano studied her shocked )ace and the hectic )lush he had )ired in
her cheeks and

suddenl"$ without the slightest warning$ he laughed with genuine amusement '1ome da"
soon$ & swear "ou're going to be begging me )or that$ cara mia & can wait )or the da"'
E0ER5&N5 )rom that emoti#e trip back more than )i#e "ears into the past$ Eden listened
to the distinct tones o) Damiano's cultured drawl as he talked on the phone in her bedroom
and slowl" breathed in deepl"
Hadn't his own sardonic 8uestion come true in the end- He had married her to get her into
his bed and$ understandabl"$ ha#ing gone to such lengths and prac%tised such patience$
Damiano had e/pected a wildl" sen%sual wedding night and an org" o) a hone"moon Onl"
that hadn't come o)) either$ Eden recalled$ wretched tears gathering again as she stuck her
)ace in a cushion
'&'m going to tr" and catch a couple o) hours o) sleep be)ore & )old &'m so tired$ & )eel like
&'m onl" hal) conscious$' Damiano admitted hea#il" )rom the bed%room doorwa" 'Do "ou
want me to use the so)a-'
&t was the last straw He'd come back a)ter )i#e "ears and was o))ering to sleep on a so)a
that was onl" )our+)oot long$ e#en though there was a double bed in her bedroom and he
had to ha#e noticed it4
'Please use the bed$' Eden s8uee6ed out$ will+power keeping a tremulous wail o) sel)+pit"
)rom escaping
'The limo will be here at se#en to )err" me back out to the air)ield (ake me up in time$' he
&t's o#er$ she tried to tell hersel) with accepting )a%talism &t ne#er worked .ust be grate)ul
he's ali#e 2ut it wasn't enough:b" no stretch o) the imagination was it enough to
compensate her )or the de#astating e))ect o) Damiano walking back into her li)e like the

)antas" and then walking back out again Here she was curled up like a hedgehog hiding
)rom him 0ore or less business as usual$ then- Here she was demonstrat%ing all o#er
again the kind o) lie+down+and+die passi#it" that dro#e Damiano clean up the walls4
(as this all she was capable o) doing- Acting like a helpless #ictim who had no in)luence
o#er her own mis%)ortunes- How come she had 'ust )allen straight back into that old bad
pattern o) beha#iour when she had changed so much during his absence-
*or she had changed$ had had no choice but to be%come stronger and bra#er a)ter what she
had e/peri%enced (hen Damiano had mentioned lea#ing again$ shock had settled o#er her
like a blinding$ su))ocating blanket 1he had 'ust shrunk in stature down to the le#el o) a
carpet )ibre$ all )ight$ all con)idence$ all strength leeched back out o) her again as her worst
)ears came true
1o are "ou 'ust planning to let go without an argu%ment-
Eden un)urled hersel) and stood up The bedroom door was slightl" a'ar *or how long had
she been lost in her own thoughts- 1he pushed open the door an inch at a time$ her heart
thundering at the base o) her dr" throat Damiano was )ast asleep in her bed$ his gloss"
black hair and his bron6ed skin in stark contrast to the pale bed linen He was l"ing on his
stomach$ the du#et tangled round his narrow hips$ his power)ul shoulders$ muscular arms
and the long$ spectacular golden sweep o) his back e/posed He was a ri#eting sight
Totall" male$ totall" breathtaking
How o)ten had she sneaked a look at Damiano hal) naked- Her cheeks burned 1trange$
wasn't it$ that she should ha#e personall" taken ad#antage o) what she had

consistentl" denied him- 2ut hadn't she alwa"s secretl" en'o"ed looking at him- Hadn't a
single glimpse o) Damiano 'ust with his shirt o)) thrilled her to death- 2ut she hadn't e#er
admitted that e#en to hersel) until now The wa" she had been brought up such a se/ual
thought would ha#e been considered shameless and not how a good and decent woman
would think
1o she had been raised in a repressed and puritanical home with parents who had been
heading )or their si/%ties b" the time she'd entered her teens (h" had she taken all that
baggage with her into her marriage- (h" hadn't she tried to shake )ree o) her inhibitions
'ust a little- (ell$ the truth was$ she was #er" stubborn and #er" proud And so was
Damiano Neither one o) them had been prepared to compromise
That time she had o))ered hersel) and he had re'ected her$ what had she said- '& want a
Damiano had studied her with chilling dark e"es '!ou 'ust put a double lock on "our own
chastit" belt That has to be the least tempting proposition an" woman e#er o))ered me
(hen "ou want me and when "ou can pro#e that on m" terms$ & might consider com%ing
back to "our bed'
(as it too late now- *or Damiano had had to go missing be)ore she'd been able to
understand wh" he had been so angr" with her that da" Eden's hands curled into )ists o#er
her own past stupidit" The )ace+sa#ing e/cuse o) wanting a bab" had been a huge
mis%take Then he hadn't appreciated 'ust how desperate she had been or how she had
nai#el" belie#ed that getting pregnant might ha#e kept him with her
1he walked back out o) the bedroom and into the kitchen There was a bottle o) #odka in
the cupboard

Pam had gi#en it to her )or Christmas )our "ears back not then aware that Eden ne#er
touched alcohol !et another thing that had irritated Damiano= a bride who wouldn't e#en
touch champagne at her own wedding4 2ut she needed Dutch courage be)ore she could do
what she had to do$ didn't she-
1he poured hersel) a glass o) #odka liberall" com%bined with orange 'uice 1uppose he said
no and )ought her o))- 1he would ha#e to sort o) creep up on him while he slept$ not gi#e
him the chance to ob'ect He had grabbed her and kissed her in the limo$ hadn't he- *or a
split second$ it had been as i) he'd been unable to keep his hands o) her4 There surel" hadn't
been an" women in that 1outh American 8uarr" and she had mar%ried a #er" highl" se/ed
male Turned him o)) it to the e/tent that she had actuall" started )earing that he might be
obtaining what he no longer appeared to want at home elsewhere
2ut$ prior to his disappearance$ Damiano had gi#en her no cause to belie#e that he was
being un)aith)ul$ she reminded hersel) urgentl" Now she had this one last chance 0a"be
she had run out o) chances 2ut he was worth the e))ort 1he tiptoed back to the bedroom
door%wa" and )easted her )raught e"es upon him Oh$ "es$ he was still worth a ma'or e))ort
and in 'ust a )ew hours he would be gone )or e#er4
(rinkling her nose$ she up+ended the glass and drank deep Then she stripped o)) her
clothes 1he put on per%)ume$ made care)ul use o) her small stock o) cosmetics and )ussed
endlessl" with the blonde hair that tumbled round her shoulders in no particular st"le As
she usu%all" wore her hair up$ she had got la6" about getting it cut 1he wondered i) old
#odka went o)) in strength and decided she had better drink some more 1he was going

to be e#er"thing Damiano had e#er wanted 'ust once Not that prude he had le)t on the so)a
To pro#e that to hersel)$ she walked naked out to the hall storage cup%board to dig out a
bo/ o) keepsakes she had chosen not to lea#e behind in the town house
Damiano had sent her a bo/ o) gorgeous silk lingerie the da" be)ore their wedding The
up)ront gu" spelling out his e/pectations$ )antasies$ hopes No doubt$ he had not
appreciated 'ust how outright intimidated she had been b" that gesture or how deepl"
shocked her late )ather had been b" the sight o) such an intimate gi)t$ )or naturall" the older
man had demanded to know what had been in that wretched bo/ and she had 'ust cringed
Eden slid into whisper+thin lilac panties and a match%ing low+cut bra 2etter than being
naked$ she decided$ bracing hersel) 1he was beginning to )eel a little strangekind o)
skittish$ ener#ated$ gripped b" the most ridiculous desire to dance Damiano wasn't going to
know what had hit him$ she told hersel)$ ps"ching hersel) up into her new and more
ad#enturous persona Damiano was now l"ing on his back in a diagonal sprawl across the
di#an 3ate a)ternoon sunshine was )iltering through the thin cotton curtains at the window
*rom the )oot o) the bed$ she eased up into the space le)t b" the wall 1he studied Damiano
The piratical dark stubble accentuating his strong 'awline and beau%ti)ull" moulded mouth$
the riot o) dark$ curling hair ha6%ing his power)ul pectorals$ the smooth golden skin
wrapped round his sleek$ strong muscles
.ust the thought o) touching him made her tingle Awkwardl"$ she edged )urther up the
bed$ ludicrousl" )ear)ul o) awakening him 1he bent o#er him$ mesmer%ised b" the slow
rise and )all o) his chest$ the so)t rash o) his breathing and )inall" b" the #ibrance o) him

asleep 1he li)ted her hand and rested her )ingers #er" lightl" on his arm He shi)ted$
muscles )le/ing beneath her hand 1he tensed but the need to e/press how much she lo#ed
him in the onl" wa" that seemed le)t was more power)ul
3owering her head$ Eden pressed her lips to his taut )lat stomach and ran the tip o) her
tongue o#er his skin The taste o) him made her shi#er Heat )looded her own trembling
bod"$ stirring her breasts$ pinching her nip+pies into straining buds The scent o) him was
an un+belie#able aphrodisiac to senses star#ed )or so long Her hand settled to a power)ul
male thigh to balance hersel) and$ breathing in deep$ she began to ease back the sheet
2ut with a slumbrous growl$ Damiano shi)ted$ star%tling her He laced his )ingers into her
hair to draw her up to him Eden had barel" grasped that he was wak%ening and that
control was no longer hers be)ore he had claimed her mouth in a de#ouring and hungr"
kiss Raw need raced through e#er" )ibre o) her shaken bod" in response 1ettling strong
hands to her waist$ he li)ted her o#er him$ long )ingers spla"ing to her slender hips to urge
her into potent contact with the #irile )orce o) his arousal
The heat he ignited )ired an almost pain)ul ache deep in her pel#is Eden 8ui#ered$ a
helpless moan o) reac tion escaping her Almost instantaneousl"$ Damiano stilled His
hands whipping up to her )orearms$ he held her back )rom him
1tunned dark as night e"es clashed with hers 'Eden-' he )altered in apparent disbelie) 'Che
cos' hai-'
&t was one o) those ghastl" moments when time hung still and she would ha#e done
an"thing to mo#e it on As she registered that Damiano had automaticall" re%sponded to
her caresses be)ore he was e#en properl"

awake$ a burning tide o) red skimmed up her throat to scorch her discom)ited )ace 1he
watched in a state o) stricken paral"sis as his attention 6eroed in on the scant" bra and brie)
set she wore He blinked Then he looked again with the kind o) )i/ed attention which onl"
accentuated his shock
'Per amor di Dio what on earth are "ou pla"ing at-'
Prior to getting into the bed$ Eden had nourished a com)orting #ision o) Damiano waking
up to snatch her to him with keen hands and merci)ull" silent enthusi%asm &nstead$
Damiano had pulled back )rom her to reassert control and was now asking what had to be
the cra6iest 8uestion he had e#er asked her
'And wh" are "ou dressed like that-' Damiano enun%ciated with a le#el o) incredulit"
which onl" seemed to be increasing with e#er" second that passed He now )ocused on the
high+heeled shoes which she had put on and kept on
'&& don't know what "ou e/pect me to sa"' Her admission emerged hopelessl" slurred$
the words tum%bling together$ pro#oking an e#en deeper )rown be%tween Damiano's
winged ebon" brows
'Ha#e "ou been drinking-' Damiano 8uestioned rawl"
'(ell$ era bit:'
'1o' Damiano )ramed in a wrath)ul$ low+pitched growl$ black e"es bla6ing to gold as he
scanned her guilt+stricken )ace '!ou had to hit the bottle to get back into bed with me-'
'!es & mean no4' she gasped$ )loundering in dis%ma" and con)usion at the anger he was
'1o drunk "ou get into bed with "our shoes on$' Damiano said thickl"$ )abulous bone+
structure rigid as

he swept her )rom him and dumped her back down on the mattress '& le)t behind a sh"$
uptight wi)e and now "ou're coming on to me tarted up like some high+class hooker4'
Aghast at that condemnation and utterl" at a loss in the situation de#eloping$ Eden began to
crawl back%wards o)) the bed 'Nono$ it's not like that:'
'1o who was it-' Damiano shot at her$ his lean$ dark )eatures )lushed with black )ur"$ his
dark drawl )ractur%ing$ long )ingers snapping like handcu))s round her wrist be)ore she
could get out o) reach '(ho was it who worked this miraculous trans)ormation while & was
awa"- Don't "ou think & ha#e the right to know who's been sleeping with m" wi)e when &
couldn't do an"thing about it-'
Her )e#erish colour had now ebbed to lea#e her pale 1he stared back at him with shocked
e"es The sa#age tension churning up the atmosphere tore cruell" at her alread" )ra"ed
ner#es Damiano snatched in a starkl" audible breath$ lashes lowering on his smouldering
ga6e as he abruptl" released her )rom his hold
Eden scrambled o)) the bed and snatched up the dressing gown l"ing on the chair$ pulling it
on with shaking hands '3ike some high+class hooker-' (as that how she had seemed to
him- 0orti)ication and shame churned up her stomach He didn't want herwh" had she
imagined he would- (h" had she got the cra6" idea that )i#e "ears on she might make
good where she had )ailed be)ore- Too little$ too late And now$ thanks to her own
)oolishness$ a nightmare seemed to be erupting around her= Damiano was alread" accusing
her o) ha#%ing slept with some other man
'0ark$ & suppose' Damiano gritted une#enl"$ his

hands curling into )ierce )ists '1neaking$ smooth little 'erk 'ust waiting his chance4'
*or a split second Eden )ro6e and then she backed out the door and )led into the bathroom
1he thrust home the bolt on the door 1o panicked b" that )inal comment she could barel"
get air back into her lungs$ she )ought to get a hold o) hersel) again Did Damiano know$
a)ter all- (h" else would he ha#e mentioned 0ark- Had someone alread" told him about
those )ilth" lies printed about her b" the tabloid press within months o) his dis%appearance-
(hat else was she supposed to think- (h" else would he be thinking such a thing o) her-
Damiano tried the handle He rapped on the door 'Open up$ Eden &'#e calmed down and
we ha#e to talk' 2ut Eden retreated )rom the door and stared at the barrier$ imagining
hersel) growing old and gre" behind it Her brain )elt like mush 1he couldn't cope with this
right now$ couldn't cope with Damiano 1hedding the dressing gown$ she tore o)) the
scant" bra and brie)s and thrust them into the waste bin with a shudder o) chagrin 1he
kicked o)) the shoes and hauled on the dressing gown again$ her )ace sti)) with distress
E#er"thing had gone horribl" wrong7 e#er"thing alwa"s seemed to go horribl" wrong )or
her with Damiano
'Eden&'m going to break down this door i) "ou don't come out'
2ut she knew he wouldn't do an"thing like that &t wouldn't be cool 2ut then there had
been nothing cool about the manner in which those accusations had come )l"ing out o)
nowhere at her '!ou're lea#ing me an"%wa" (h" am & letting "ou upset me- &'m not
coming out4' she sobbed with sudden )erocious bitterness
(ith a thunderous crash the door smashed open and banged o)) the wall behind it Her
compressed lips )ell

open in shock Pale as parchment$ she sur#e"ed Damiano He had pulled on his 'eans but$
bare+chested and in need o) a sha#e$ his black hair tousled and his brilliant e"es
shimmering like starlight$ he was an intim%idating sight
'Rela/' he urged in an e#ident attempt to soothe her
Eden was closer to collapse than rela/ation 1he stared back at him with huge$ shaken e"es
He had lost his temper with her He had smashed open the door without hesitation *or that
split second in her bewil%derment at such un)amiliar beha#iour$ she was incapa%ble o)
Damiano strode )orward and 'ust reached )or her He pulled her unresisting bod" close His
own heart was hammering as )ast as her own He urged her back into the sitting room Her
legs )elt as weak as cotton wool beneath her 1he was shaking like a lea)
'(h" are "ou accusing me o) lea#ing "ou-' Damiano chided$ e#identl" not ha#ing taken
that accusation se%riousl" '(h" can't "ou 'ust )l" back to 3ondon with me- &t will onl" be
)or a couple o) da"s As soon as & get these meetings o#er with$ we're )l"ing out to &tal"'
'&tal"-' *inall"$ it dawned on Eden that she had mis%understood his intentions earlier He
might be lea#ing her apartment but he was not planning to lea#e her be%hind as well 1heer
relie) washed o#er her in such a gigantic wa#e that she )elt di66"
'One o) the )irst things m" brother told me was that Nonna died o#er )our "ears ago'
Eden was appalled to appreciate that she had )orgot%ten that that news would greet
Damiano on his return Old news to e#er"bod" else but not to him (hen Damiano had
gone missing$ his grandmother had been

de#astated 1tress had undoubtedl" contributed to the heart attack which had killed her and
Damiano had to know that$ Eden conceded pain)ull"$ )or Damiano was no )ool
'& gather Nonna was in the midst o) "et another grand restoration pro'ect at the time'
Repressed emotion roughened Damiano's #owel sounds and she swallowed hard on the
thickness in her own throat '&n her will$ she speci)ied that the ;illa Pa#one should be
completed and maintained until & had been legall" presumed dead 1ince that )act is not
generall" known$ & hope this Tuscan pala66o will suppl" us with a peace)ul bolt+hole )ree
)rom the attentions o) the papara66i'
*inall" daring to accept that Damiano intended them to sta" together in the immediate
)uture at least$ Eden slowl" released her pent+up breath$ her worst )ear now banished
Damiano cur#ed long$ sure )ingers below her chin and turned up her )ace$ dark$ deep+set
e"es demanding that she stop e#ading his ga6e '& shouldn't ha#e pitched that stu)) at "ou in
the bedroom$' he asserted with cool clarit" '!ou belie#ed & was ne#er coming back !ou
thought & was dead & ha#en't got the right to interrogate "ou about the past )i#e "ears
Rationall"$ & know that 2ut )or a )ew minutes$ waking up as & did$ & o#er%reacted:'
'2ut & went on )eeling married & went on thinking about "ou e#en though "ou weren't
there$' Eden pro%tested with urgent tautness
l1i ? checked the dust pattern below the photograph o) me b" the bed$' Damiano said with
a wr" sel)+mocker" that 'ust tore at her heart '& know "ou didn't 'ust drag it out o) the closet
)or show toda"'
Tears lashed the back o) her e"es as she thought o)

him checking in such a wa" '!ou mentioned 0ark$' she reminded him tremulousl"$
dropping her head again$ still metaphoricall" waiting )or the a/e to )all
'&'m a)raid & ne#er did warm to "our childhood pla"%mate' Damiano shrugged as i) to stress
how tri#ial he considered that )ormer response on his own part !et Eden was surprised )or
she had ne#er realised that he disliked the "ounger man &ndeed$ at her re8uest$ more than
)i#e "ears earlier$ Damiano had hired the "ounger man to help manage the 2ragan6i
countr" estate outside O/)ord Howe#er$ b" the time a tabloid photographer had taken a
co#ert picture o) 0ark passionatel" em%bracing a small slim blonde woman$ 0ark had
actuall" been working out his notice )or the 2ragan6i )amil" The estate had been 'oint+
owned b" the brothers Nuncio$ challenged b" the prospect o) maintaining the same high+
rolling li)est"le without Damiano's assis%tance$ had sold it
2ut Damiano de)initel" didn't know about her sup%posed a))air with 0ark$ Eden registered
with head" re%lie) He couldn't know and still re)er to 0ark in that dismissi#e tone o)
disinterest *urthermore$ Damiano was taking her to &tal" with him This was not the time
to start making awkward con)essions and e/planations$ was it- 0ost particularl" when she
hersel) was innocent o) an" wrongdoing (h" dredge up all that nonsense now- O) course$
she would raise the thorn" sub'ect some time with him$ but at that moment all Eden wanted
to concentrate on was holding onto her long+lost husband b" an" means within her power
'Damianothere hasn't been an"bod" else:'
'& don't need "ou to sa" that 'ust )or the sake o) it &'m not asking' His sculpted cheekbones
might ha#e been car#ed )rom bron6e as he made that assurance

'2ut &'m telling "ou all the same' Eden ga6ed up at him with clear e"es '.ust )or the record$
there hasn't been'
Damiano studied her with glittering intensit" '&) that's true$ what was that astonishing
seduction scene all about-'
*inall" Eden grasped wh" he doubted her plea o) innocence Hot pink )looded her
comple/ion Her own unusuall" bold beha#iour in the bedroom had roused his suspicions
and brought on the #er" accusations which she had most )eared4
'& know & made a mess o) it$' she muttered in mor%ti)ied discom)iture$ stud"ing the carpet$
'but & 'ust wanted to& 'ust wanted to do something "ou would like )or a change:'
'1omething & would like$' Damiano repeated in a roughened undertone that sent a current o)
alarm down her spine '3ike a sort o) big reward )or me coining home ali#e:'
Eden paled '&t wasn't like that:'
'!ou had to 'ump o)) the teetotal wagon to do it too$' Damiano continued grittil" as i) she
hadn't spoken 'A se/ual in#itation in broad da"light$ no less:'
The tension in the atmosphere ga#e her a panick" sensation in her tumm" and once again
she tried to in%tercede 'Damiano:'
'& think & need to make one thing clear be)ore we go to &tal"$' Damiano murmured with a
chilling bite that took her back )i#e long "ears '& don't want "ou doing an"thing solel" to
please me'
Damiano studied her bewildered )ace with grim in%tensit" 'Do "ou think & want "ou
pandering to me like some harem sla#e tr"ing to grati)" her owner-' he de+

manded with ic" distaste 'Do "ou reall" think &'m that desperate-'
'& was 'ust tr"ing to show "ou how much "ou meant to me$' Eden )ramed with desperate
dignit"$ hurriedl" turning awa" )rom him be)ore she broke down 3ike some harem sla#e-
1he cringed at that label
His long$ lean$ power)ul bod" tensing in receipt ot that patentl" sincere response$ Damiano
e/pelled his breath in an abrupt hiss '&'m sorr":'
'No$ &'m sorr" that &'m still such a big let+down:'
*rom behind her$ Damiano closed his arms around her but Eden was rigid with the pain she
was holding in 'That's not true$ cara:'
'!es$ it is"ou didn't want me$' she pointed out chokil"
'Per amor di Dio4 &s that what "ou think-' Damiano groaned abo#e her head$ his strong
arms wound rounc her tightl" '(hat do "ou think kept me going in thai blood" hell+hole o)
a prison- &nspiring recollections oi making deals at the bank-' His dark$ deep drawl
dis%missed that idea with incredulous scorn '&t was the thought o) "ouand the pra"er that
"ou would still be waiting )or me when & got out o) there4'
&n astonishment$ Eden sti))ened$ a)raid to belie#e and then desperatel" wanting to belie#e
what he was telling her Tears o) 'o" and relie) shone in her e"es ,Then wh+wh":-'
'Am & ranting and ra#ing at "ou-' Damiano )illed in 'aggedl" and$ unusuall"$ he hesitated
be)ore continuing '& think possibl" lack o) sleep and )eeling #er" claus trophobic in these
Claustrophobic- Eden was suddenl" aghast at her own stupidit" (hen he had mentioned
needing space around him$ she had totall" misunderstood &t was in+

deed a #er" small )lat$ the sitting room the onl" area where two people could mo#e without
one continuall" standing back to let the other pass And wh" on earth had she woken
Damiano up when he was so e/hausted- (hat strange madness had possessed her-
'!ou go back to bed$' she urged protecti#el" and she tugged )ree o) his arms with regret)ul
determination '&) we're being picked up at se#en$ & ha#e a lot o) things to take care o):'
'1i' Damiano sank down on the bed with lithe grace '& suppose "ou'll need to in)orm the
school that "ou're resigning:' 'The school-'
'(here#er "ou're teaching now' 3ong lashes low%ered o#er his e"es as he settled back
against the pillows and slowl" stretched 1till clad in his 'eans$ he was a de#astatingl"
attracti#e #ision o) rela/ed masculinit" 1o power)ul was her own response to that
awareness that she looked awa" )rom him in embarrassment '&'m sure "ou don't like
lea#ing "our pupils in the lurch but m" need )or "ou is greater$ cam'
1he supposed it was natural that he should ha#e as%sumed that she was teaching
somewhere 2ut e/plaining that the shop below was in )act hers did not seem im%portant
'ust then when )urther dialogue would mean keeping him awake
2e)ore she had e#en )inished dressing$ Damiano was sound asleep again 1he didn't want to
lea#e him Her heart was beha#ing as i) it had wings attached 1he 'ust wanted to sit down
at the )oot o) the bed and re#el in the realit" that he was ph"sicall" there Damiano had said
he needed her Damiano had con)essed that it had been the memor" o) her and the thought
o) coming

home to her which had sustained him through his ordeal in 0onta#ia
Howe#er$ she had arrangements to make Re)using to dwell on the intimidating prospect o)
returning to the 2ragan6i town house e#en )or 'ust a couple o) nights$ she packed a case
*ortunatel" her assistant$ Pam .enkinson$ li#ed nearb" and Eden was grate)ul to )ind the
older woman at home when she called The "ear be)ore$ Pam had looked a)ter the shop )or
se#eral weeks when Eden's )ather had been d"ing A prosperous widow$ Pam had en'o"ed
being le)t in charge and in%deed had alread" stated her interest in taking o#er the business
should Eden e#er wish to sell up Howe#er$ now$ the older woman also wanted e#er" tin"
detail ironed out and it was some time be)ore Eden was able to lea#e her
As Eden hurried back to her )lat$ her resti#e mind began taking her back into the past again$
back to her earliest da"s with Damiano$ and she could not help thinking how ironic it was
that neither o) their )amilies had wanted them to be together
Damiano's )irst kiss had )rankl" )rightened the hell out o) Eden That sense o) being out o)
control had spooked her &t had been like sin coming knocking on her door with a
thunderous crash 1o she'd told hersel) she wouldn't see him again Then he'd turned up the
ne/t morning and her resistance had crumbled Right )rom the start$ no matter how hard
she'd tried$ she'd been unable to )ight that power)ul desperate need to be with him
That same weekend$ her )ather had met Damiano The name 2ragan6i had meant nothing to
the older man but Damiano hadn't been gone )i#e minutes be)ore her parent had #oiced his
dour disappro#al 'Not our sort$

is he- And "ou're not his He's one o) the bosses$ Eden:'
'& work )or the education authorit"$ not the *alcarragh estate:'
'*olk will talk i) "ou start running about with him and & don't want to hear loose talk about
m" daughter$' her )ather asserted griml"
Eden had to reach the age o) twent"+one be)ore she could rebel against a stern paternal
dictum O#er Damiano$ she rebelled but onl" within certain bounda%ries
'(hat do "ou mean "ou ha#e to be home b" mid%night-' Damiano en8uired with
considerable amusement at their ne/t meeting 'E#en Cinderella onl" lost a shoe Does "our
)ather think "ou're onl" at risk o) seduction a)ter midnight strikes-'
'Please don't make )un o) m" )ather:'
Damiano meshed long )ingers into her silk" hair to make her raise her head again$ a rue)ul
smile chasing the mocker" )rom his darkl" handsome )eatures '!ou're so ridiculousl" old+
'2" "our standards$ not m" own'
'Pious too$' he muttered$ caressing her lips with his own$ making her shi#er and then tense
'&'#e been pa%tient )or three da"s !ou want me'
!es and no$ she might ha#e told him had she had the courage The more she )elt that
o#erwhelming e/cite%ment threatening$ the harder she )ought it to sta" in control Alread"
she was beginning to instincti#el" pull back and )ree6e him out when he reached )or her
again 1omehow she set a pattern that she couldn't )ree hersel) )rom e#en a)ter the"
The ne/t time Damiano came up to 1cotland$ he rented a lu/ur" hunting lodge in the hills
behind the

estate and in#ited her there )or a dinner pro#ided b" a che) )rom a )anc" restaurant At the
end o) that won%der)ul meal$ Damiano murmured with slumbrous cool$ 'Are "ou sta"ing
the night-'
3ounging back in his car#ed dining chair$ Damiano )i/ed sardonic dark golden e"es on her
hot )ace '1o out o) academic interest and the realit" that & )ocus best on a time )ramehow
man" times do & ha#e to see "ou )or "ou to sta" the night-'
'*or goodness' sake$ there isn't some stupid time )rame4'
,Then it's the bridal band o) gold or nothing$' Damiano countered dril" 'Nothing #er"
spontaneous about that$ nothing generous either &n )act$ one cannot a#oid the ob#ious
conclusion that "ou're putting a price on "our bod" 'ust like a hooker'
Pale with rage$ Eden rose abruptl" )rom her seat ,That's itdon't "ou e#er dare come near
me again4'
'&'m not apologising & 'ust want a reason that & can understand and & want a warm$ gi#ing
adult woman:
'!es$ & imagine "ou'#e been with plent" o) that sort4' Eden declared in unhidden disgust
'And where are the" now- Do "ou e#en remember their names-'
'& can promise "ou that &'m going to remember "ou Damiano sighed
'Don't phone me again4' Eden snapped$ stalking to the door
'& wouldn't dream o) doing so$' Damiano purred like a 'ungle cat )le/ing his claws '2ut
"ou're going to miss me'
He dro#e her home without tr"ing to change her mind 1he walked in$ told her )ather$ '&t's
o#er' and went to bed That soon$ she missed him but she would

the )abulous wealth$ the top+drawer blue+blooded pedi%gree
'(h" didn't "our )ather sa" an"thing-' she mumbled in shock 'E#en to m" )ather-'
'2ragan6i e/pressed a desire )or what he termed ' 'pri%#ac", And as m" )ather said$ i) a
billionaire wants pri#ac" and "ou like "our 'ob$ "ou keep "our mouth shut'
'(h" didn't "ou tell me-' Eden asked Damiano in bewilderment that night on the phone
'& didn't not tell "ou an"thing !ou simpl" didn't ask the right 8uestions'
And he had told no lies either but she had de)initel" picked up the )eeling that Damiano
would ha#e pre%)erred her to remain in the dark until he himsel) chose to disclose his true
status in li)e
'(hat are "ou doing with someone like me-' she muttered$ although she tnet) narr) aoc to
ask dmt 8ues%tion
'The gu" who has e#er"thing needs a challenge- Do "ou think "our )ather might now do
something other than grunt antisociall" in m" direction-'
'No$ he's more likel" to lock the door and pretend we're out the ne/t time "ou come
calling4' Eden groaned
2ut onl" one short month later$ Damiano suggested that the" get married '& ha#en't got the
time to keep on )l"ing up here:'
'!ou hardl" know me:'
'!ou want me to do se#en "ears and then another se#en "ears like .acob in the bible-'
'0arriage is a big step:'
'1i$ tesoro mio but we get to share a bed$ don't we

the )abulous wealth$ the top+drawer blue+blooded pedi%gree
'(h" didn't "our )ather sa" an"thing-' she mumbled in shock 'E#en to m" )ather-'
'2ragan6i e/pressed a desire )or what he termed ' 'pri%#ac", And as m" )ather said$ i) a
billionaire wank pri#ac" and "ou like "our 'ob$ "ou keep "our mouth shut'
'(h" didn't "ou tell me-' Eden asked Damiano in bewilderment that night on the phone
'& didn't not tell "ou an"thing !ou simpl" didn't ask the right 8uestions'
And he had told no lies either but she had de)initel" picked up the )eeling that Damiano
would ha#e pre%)erred her to remain in the dark until he himsel) chose to disclose his true
status in li)e
'(hat are "ou doing with someone like me-' sht muttered$ although she tried hard not to
ask that 8ues%tion
'The gu" who has e#er"thing needs a challenge- DA "ou think "our )ather might now do
something othei than grunt antisociall" in m" direction-'
'No$ he's more likel" to lock the door and pretend we're out the ne/t time "ou come
calling4' Eden groaned
2ut onl" one short month later$ Damiano suggests that the" get married '& ha#en't got the
time to keep on )l"ing up here:'
'!ou hardl" know me:'
'!ou want me to do se#en "ears and then anothe7 se#en "ears like .acob in the bible-'
'0arriage is a big step:'
'1i$ tesoro miobut we get to share a bed$ don't we-

And she got nowhere when she tried to pin him down to sa"ing an"thing more serious
'&t'll not work$' her )ather )orecast dourl" to Damiano's )ace '!ou'll both be sorr" Eden's
got no more idea o) "our li)e than "ou ha#e o) ours 1he won't )it and she'll be miserable'
'Nothing like being greeted with open arms b" the in+law+to+be$' Damiano 8uipped out o)
her parent's hearing in the a)termath o) the longest$ bluntest speech Eden had e#er heard the
older man make
Damiano then applied )or a special licence and per%suaded her into agreeing to a 8uiet
ceremon" the #er" ne/t week &n her heart$ she had known it was all too 8uick and that he
was too casual altogether in his atti%tude He told her how much he wanted her but he
ne#er mentioned lo#e 2ut lo#ing him as she did$ she sup%pressed her e#er" misgi#ing He
was marr"ing her &t was her ultimate dream
1he did not meet Damiano's )amil" until the" came north )or the wedding
'!ou do realise that m" brother is still in lo#e with Annabel-' Cosetta remarked casuall" at
the small re%ception which )ollowed at the hunting lodge
'(ho's Annabel-' Eden whispered$ ne#er ha#ing heard that name be)ore
'A lad" who wouldn't be seen dead in that home%made wedding shroud "ou're wearing4
2ut then Annabel is one o) us$' Cosetta asserted cuttingl" 'Pri%#atel" educated and )rom a
decent social background Damiano hasn't e#en mentioned her$ has he- (hat does that tell
'That she wasn't as important to him as "ou seem to think$' Eden dared to suggest
,The woman he was engaged to )or two "ears- Think

again He's on the rebound The" onl" broke up three months ago He was cra6" about her
and then the" had some stupid argument Damiano's )ar too macho to ad%mit himsel) at
)ault He'll li#e to regret that when he starts comparing the two o) "ou'
The )light to their hone"moon in 1icil" started with an argument$ Eden making tear)ul
accusations on the score o) her not ha#ing been told about Annabel$ Damiano telling her
that getting married didn't mean she had the right to interrogate him about his past Then
she began )eeling unwell
'(edding+night ner#es add to the pressure$' Damiano in)ormed her '& did warn "ou that the
)air" tale might be hard to capture in realit"'
1he )ainted when the" landed in 1icil" A doctor came out to their )abulous #illa and
diagnosed the )lu
'&n sickness and in health"ou do lo#e to throw me in the deep end$ cara' Damiano teased$
tr"ing to calm her down and com)ort her while she sobbed out re%peated apologies and )elt
like a total bridal let+down
&t was well o#er a week be)ore the" )inall" shared the same bed and consummated their
marriage And that long+awaited e/perience wasdisastrous4 Damiano then rode
roughshod o#er her e#er" morti)ied$ indeed h"sterical protest and insisted on getting me
doctor out again to e/amine her to ensure that she was essentiall" undamaged b" his
'!ou'#e 'ust been one o) the unluck" ones$' the med%ical man said
The barrier o) her #irginit" had been more than usu+all" resistant 0aking lo#e )or the )irst
time had hurt much more than she had e/pected &n the circumstances that had been
una#oidable but Damiano had still shoul%dered guilt )or ha#ing caused her pain Eden had

utterl" wretched a)ter what she had considered absolute humiliation
'& suppose &'m reall"$ reall" luck" that & didn't make it into bed with "ou be)ore we got to
the altar$ cam$' Damiano commented on a re)lecti#e )ootnote '!ou would ne#er ha#e
agreed to see me again in this li)e%time'
And looking back )rom the #antage point o) )i#e "ears o) greater maturit"$ Eden returned to
the present with a sti)led groan o#er her own beha#iour 1he had come back )rom their
hone"moon )ull o) sel)+pit" and hurt pride 1he had leapt at the idea o) separate
Throwing o)) that memor"$ knowing that she was a lot wiser than she had once been$ Eden
hurried back upstairs to her )lat &n the hall$ she )ro6e at the sight o) the rumpled but empt"
bed she could see through the bedroom door Then she heard Damiano talking in husk"
&talian in the sitting room and she 'ust sagged$ skin turning clamm" with relie) The truth
was that$ right now$ she reall" could not bear Damiano out o) her sight 3ea#ing him e#en
brie)l" had entailed o#er%coming the ridiculousl" childish terror that i) she le)t him alone$
he might #anish again4
As she appeared in the doorwa" Damiano tossed aside his mobile phone His black hair
still damp )rom the shower$ he was )ull" dressed again but not in the casual 'eans he had
worn earlier A superb charcoal+gre" suit$ worn with a white shirt and silk tie$ now
sheathed his tall$ well+built )rame 1mooth e/pensi#e cloth outlined his wide shoulders and
long power)ul thighs with the e/8uisite per)ection o) )it onl" obtain%able )rom a master
*or a split second$ it was as i) time had swept her

back )i#e "ears He was the #er" image o) a rich and power)ul banker again He looked
)antastic but at the same time as he stirred her senses he also intimidated her '& thought "ou
would still be in bed$' she began uneasil" '(here did "ou get that suit-'
'&t was deli#ered to me at Heathrow Nuncio had m" measurements )a/ed to m" tailor
be)ore we e#en le)t 2ra6il$' Damiano drawled$ a wr" cur#e to his e/pressi#e mouth '& think
he thought shares might crash i) & made a public appearance in denim &'#e also mo#ed up
our departure )rom here b" hal) an hour (here ha#e "ou been-'
1he told him about her garment alterations business on the ground )loor Damiano listened
in silence$ stun%ning dark e"es )laring with sudden e/asperation '!ou'#e been sewing to
make a li#ing- (hat necessit" was there )or "ou to sink to that le#el-'
Colour )lew into Eden's cheeks '&:'
'& spoke to Nuncio while "ou were out$' Damiano in)ormed her dril" '& belie#e he
repeatedl" attempted to set up a )inancial support package )or "ou be)ore "ou le)t our home
but "ou re)used it'
&n the tense silence$ the phone began ringing
Eden ignored it$ disma"ed that Damiano was alread" making 'udgements about e#ents
which had taken place during his absence 'Damiano:'
'Answer the phone$' Damiano interrupted with stark impatience '&t's been ringing e#er" ten
minutes since "ou went out4'
No darned wonder he had got back out o) bed and gi#en up on getting an" )urther rest4
And$ o) course$ he would not ha#e answered her phone when he would not ha#e wished to
identi)" himsel) and risk ha#ing his whereabouts con)irmed$ thereb" in#iting the descent o)

the press on her doorstep Her conscience twanging as i) she had been that incessant caller$
she answered the phone 'Eden-'
&t was 0ark Anste"'s #oice As it had been a couple o) months since she had heard )rom
him$ she was a little surprised but she smiled '0ark-'
'5lad &'#e )inall" got hold o) "ou4' 0ark said ur%gentl" '& caught a news bulletin on the
radio at lunch+time Tell me$ is there an" truth in the wild rumour that "our long+lost
husband has turned up ali#e and kicking and is now back in England-'
Eden tensed at the apparent )act that word o) Damiano's return had alread" mo#ed into the
public domain '!es"es$ there is:'
'&ncredible4 &s Damiano there with "ou right now-' '!es:'
'Can he hear what "ou're sa"ing-' 0ark continued in a conspiratorial tone
Discom)ited b" that 8uestion$ Eden reddened '(ell$ "es but wh":-'
'Ha#e "ou got around "et to mentioning those dirt" weekends we're supposed to ha#e
en'o"ed together-'
Eden )ro6e in disma" at that brutall" blunt 8uestion and lost colour 'No'
'Don't mention that tabloid stor"4 Take m" ad#ice and keep it 8uiet )or now Tina will
ne#er tell the truth$' 0ark asserted with e#en stronger emphasis '&n )act$ & think we need to
meet up to discuss this situation )ace to )ace as soon as possible:'
At that moment the #er" last thing Eden wanted to think about was the unpleasant
conse8uences o) 0ark's a))air with Nuncio's wi)e$ Tina$ )our "ears earlier '&'m sorr" but &
reall" couldn't manage that right now:'

'Edenthis isn't something "ou can run awa" )rom' 1omething in 0ark's #oice roused the
oddest sense o) )oreboding inside Eden
'3ook$ &'ll be in touch with "ou #er" soon4' Eden swore in a rush and she replaced the
recei#er in e8ual haste be)ore 0ark could sa" an"thing else to upset her
1he turned back to Damiano$ rigid with discom)iture 0ark had 'ust urged her to keep a
secret )rom her hus%band Her conscience could ha#e done without that re%minder o) what
she was alread" doing4 2ut being so short with 0ark also le)t her )eeling dislo"al and
un%grate)ul )or$ in the a)termath o) his disastrous a))air with Tina$ 0ark had promised that
should the occasion e#er arise he would tell Damiano the truth and clear Eden's name
Damiano was #er" still$ his strong bone+structure )iercel" taut 1corching golden e"es
connected with her e#asi#e ga6e and held her )ast be)ore she could look awa" again
'1o 0ark$ the lo#e o) "our li)e$ is still hanging around )i#e "ears on$' Damiano breathed
chillingl" '(hat are "ou tr"ing to hide )rom me-'
&n the electric silence o) her appalled paral"sis$ the doorbell bu66ed
THE chau))eur carted Eden's case down the steep stairs and out to the limousine
(hat are "ou tr"ing to hide )rom me- Deepl" unset%tled b" Damiano's shrewd recognition
o) her unease during that phone call )rom 0ark$ Eden slid into the limousine Howe#er$
'ust as 8uickl"$ she reminded her%sel) that she was innocent o) being an"thing other than
her sister+in+law Tina's dupe and she li)ted her head high again
Chagrined colour warmed her comple/ion )or she was a))ronted b" Damiano's derisi#e
re)erence to 0ark as 'the lo#e o) "our li)e' &ronicall"$ Damiano had merel" emplo"ed the
same phrase she had once used in rue)ul sel)+mocker" be)ore the"'d married4 1ince then$
she had read maga6ine articles which urged women to keep a still tongue when men asked
nos" 8uestions about pre#ious attachments How right those articles were4
Damiano did not like 0ark That was still )resh news to Eden and she mar#elled that she
had not pre#iousl" managed to work that out )or hersel) 2ut then Damiano might well
ha#e liked 0ark better had she not con)ided that$ as a teenager$ she had been in)atuated
with the "ounger man Recalling that trusting con)ession o) her own "outh)ul immaturit"
now made her cringe A)ter all$ more than )i#e "ears earlier$ Damiano had been an"%thing
but con)iding on the in)initel" more important sub+

'ect o) wh" he had broken o)) his engagement to Annabel 1ta#el"4
'& asked "ou a 8uestion$' Damiano reminded her with ic" cool '(h" did "ou look as guilt"
as hell while "ou were speaking to 0ark-'
'Probabl" embarrassment4' Eden threw her head back$ golden hair rippling back o#er her
shoulders$ green e"es sparkling with sudden anno"ance '1o "ou can stop acting like some
;ictorian domestic t"rant 8uestioning his )light" child+wi)e4'
Taken aback b" that angr" assurance$ Damiano's lean dark )eatures )ro6e '& beg "our
'0ark is m" )riend and & don't )eel that & should ha#e to 'usti)" that' Eden tilted her chin in
de)iance 'A)ter all$ he was ne#er an intimate )riendnot like "ou and Annabel$ who as an
e/+)iancee was put under m" nose practicall" e#er" da" o) our marriage4'
'(hat an e/aggeration4' Damiano's wide sensual mouth twisted 'Annabel was m" sister's
closest )riend Did "ou e/pect me to tell Cosetta that Annabel was no longer welcome in
our home-'
'No$ indeed 1uch a sensiti#e re8uest would ne#er ha#e occurred to "ou on m" account4'
Eden slammed back at him helplessl" as the humiliation o) a hundred whispered giggling
con#ersations and scorn)ul glances sur)aced in her memor" like rocks on which she might
still run aground Annabel and Cosetta had worked to%gether to undermine Eden's e#er"
attempt to )eel secure in her position as Damiano's wi)e
'!ou made me put up with Annabel$' Eden recalled bitterl" '& wasn't allowed to be
possessi#ein )act$ "ou called me sill" and pett" and spite)ul when & suggested that "our
sister could socialise with Annabel some place

other than our home$ so "ou can 'ust put up with m" )ondness )or 0ark's compan"4' '&s that
a )act-' Damiano drawled smoothl" '!es$ that is a )act' Clashing unwaril" with e"es as
broodingl" dark as a storm" night$ Eden then )ound hersel) subsiding like a pricked
balloon &ndeed$ a sense o) panic once again gripped her )or she was )rightened b" the
undeniable urge she seemed to ha#e to hurl re%criminations about the past Right now their
relationship was too )ragile to bear the strain
'& knew "ou )elt threatened b" Annabel back then$' Damiano asserted$ taking her #er" much
aback with that admission '& liked the idea that "ou were 'ealous &n those da"s$ & liked
punishments o) that #ariet" &t was m" #ersion o) the whip and the chair'
*ocusing on him with trul" shocked intensit"$ Eden parted her lips and then slowl" closed
them again
'0anipulati#e wheels within wheels$ a war o) attri%tion which "ou were in no wa"
e8uipped to )ight$ cam$' Damiano conceded with wr" regret$ reaching out to close his hand
o#er her tensel" curled )ingers where the" rested on the seat '!ou reall" didn't ha#e a clue
what was going on beneath the sur)ace o) our marriage$ did "ou-'
'No$' she conceded une#enl"$ colliding with his stun%ning dark e"es$ rational thought
suspended$ )or in the back o) her mind she knew that i) she actuall" thought through what
he had 'ust smoothl" admitted$ it would scare the li)e out o) her to accept that he had once
pla"ed such dangerous and hurt)ul games with her
'Ne#er again$' Damiano swore so)tl"$ un)urling her taut )ingers within his and drawing her
Her heartbeat speeded up 1uddenl" she was #er" short o) breath 5a6ing into those
spectacular e"es

smouldering with golden highlights$ she )elt a little burst o) heat ignite deep within her and
her colour heightened He was taking his time but she was 'ust desperate )or him to touch
her$ so desperate that she trembled with anticipation
'Nothing has to be rushed$' Damiano murmured with slumbrous cool
Her )ree hand clenched into his shoulder to stead" hersel) 1he could not ha#e agreed with
him E#en that dark$ deep$ se/" drawl o) his did something e/traordi%nar" to her senses
and$ brought that close to his lithe$ power)ul )rame$ it was as i) her bod" were being
whirled into the e"e o) the storm and out o) her control The straining peaks o) her breasts
tingled and tightened within her clothing 3acing his )ingers into her silk" hair$ Damiano
let the tip o) his tongue del#e in a pro%#ocati#e )licker between her so)t lips 1he 'erked as
i) he had burnt her$ a )lood o) such hunger released$ she closed her e"es in 8ui#ering
'&'m not about to )all on "ou like a se/+star#ed ani%mal$' Damiano asserted a shade
raggedl"$ his husk" se/" #owel sounds running together 'Tr" to rela/'
Not while she was the #ictim o) her own most secret memories Her mind )illed with erotic
recollections o) Damiano pinning her to the bed with dominant male se/ual power and
dri#ing her out o) her mind with plea%sure$ she )elt utterl" wanton
'Tr" to stop shaking$' Damiano urged$ sounding more than a little pained '& promise not to
do an"thing "ou don't want to do:'
Eden tore her other hand )ree o) his hold and cur#ed it to the back o) his well+shaped head
in near despera%tion '<iss meplease'
3ong )ingers cupped her cheekbone 'Eden:-'

'1hut up4' she gasped and pushed her mouth in a blind seeking gesture against his
*or a split second$ Damiano was absolutel" motion%less Then he tugged her head back to
make access eas%ier and crushed her eager mouth to his with a raw$ deep urgenc" that her
bod" recognised with surging 'o"ous response (hite+hot e/citement engul)ed her in a
scorching wa#e A )ormless little sound broke low in her throat as sensual reaction sli#ered
through her e#er" skin cell$ lea#ing her weak as water but as attached to Damiano's hard$
muscular ph"si8ue as a #ine
Howe#er$ he set her back )rom him Eden opened passion+gla6ed e"es and attempted to
breathe again 1he was maddeningl" conscious o) the dampness between her thighs and o)
the e/traordinar" ache o) cra#ing he could awake in her so easil"$ but she was tr"ing not to
be ashamed o) that realit" in the wa" she had once been
Damiano sur#e"ed her )rom beneath semi+lowered long ebon" lashes$ )e#erish colour l"ing
along his taut cheekbones in a scoring line The thick silence smoul%dered '(e're at the
air)ield$' he stated not 8uite e#enl"$ scanning her hot )ace and the sudden downward dip o)
her e"es
(asn't a little enthusiasm what he had alwa"s wanted )rom her- Did he )ind it un)eminine-
Or was he pleased- 9nable to bring hersel) to look at him in case she disco#ered that once
again she had done the wrong thing$ Eden said nothing 1till all o) a 8ui#er$ she climbed
out o) the limo on wobbl" legs (hat sort o) a welcome would she recei#e )rom the rest o)
the 2ragan6i )amil"- Her tumm" lurched at the prospect *or Eden$ it would be a #er"
distaste)ul meeting
(hen the" landed at Heathrow$ bod"guards met Eden and Damiano$ read" to protect them
)rom harass+

ment should the papara66i appear Eden was relie#ed when the" were able to lea#e the
airport without inci%dent 2ut tomorrow a press announcement would be made Damiano's
return )rom the dead was a ma'or news scoop The papara66i would be desperate to track
Damiano down to gain that all+important )irst picture o) him
&nside the unremarkable saloon car$ chosen in place o) a more noticeable limousine$ Eden's
hands trembled as she ner#ousl" smoothed down her dress As the press turned the media
spotlights back on to Damiano$ would one o) the newspapers choose to resurrect the
allega%tions made against her three months a)ter her husband had gone missing- Her blood
ran cold inside her #eins That photograph which had been printed had looked so utterl"
damning (hile the )ace o) the woman in 0ark's arms had been concealed$ the registration
o) the car be%side which the" had stood had been distinct and that car had$ at that time$
been Eden's
The sheer emotional surge o) a most e/traordinar" da" was now catching up on Eden )ast
and she )elt incredibl" tired The" entered the town house )rom the mews garages at the
rear 1truggling 'ust to keep her e"es open$ Eden was past caring about the reception she
was likel" to recei#e
&n the grand hall$ Damiano paused to rest dark$ deep+set e"es le#ell" on her '&'m not
e/pecting "ou to mend )ences with m" )amil" tonight E#er"bod" is under too much strain
at present'
2ut e#en that concessionar" assurance )illed Eden with disma" )or$ without realising that
he was asking )or a #irtual miracle$ Damiano was warning her that he did e/pect her to heal
those di#isions some time soon 2e)ore she could comment$ howe#er$ her attention was

distracted b" the sight o) a large photograph o) Annabel 1ta#el" prominentl" displa"ed on
a side table The un%deniabl" gorgeous redhead$ who had once had the power to dri#e
Eden mad with 'ealous"$ had one arm cur#ed round a cute little bo" with dark hair$
presum%abl" her son
As Damiano thrust open the drawing+room door and stood back )or Eden to precede him$
Eden was assuring hersel) that she couldn't care less about the 2ragan6i clan's partialit" )or
an e/+)iancee who should ha#e been ancient histor" Her e"es cloaked$ Eden then scanned
the three occupants o) the elegant room with its coldl" impressi#e blue decor Nuncio was
alread" mo#ing to%wards them Although he was )our "ears "ounger than Damiano$ he
actuall" looked older 1tock" and portl"$ he had a weak 'awline and brown spaniel e"es
'2ack home where "ou belong$ Damiano4' Nuncio e/claimed in an emotional burst$ coming
between them to grasp Damiano b" the arms and hug him again
Damiano had probabl" been hugged all the wa" back )rom 2ra6il Eden reckoned that
Nuncio's sla#ish at%tachment to his elder brother was probabl" the onl" thing that she
could now like about him Cosetta$ Damiano's sister$ eight "ears his 'unior$ remained b" the
)ireplace$ her dark e"es challenging Eden with de%risi#e distaste
Tina$ Nuncio's wi)e$ approached with an uncertain smile$ like someone sh"l" testing the
water but eager to please 2ut then Tina had alwa"s kept well in with Damiano$ Eden
recalled pain)ull"$ and$ o#er )i#e "ears back$ getting )riendl" with Damiano's nai#e wi)e
had 'ust been part o) that same sel)+ser#ing strateg"
The &talian woman was small and blonde 'ust like Eden but there the resemblance ended
Tina had had an

o#al )ace with del)t+blue e"es and a Cupid's bow mouth 'How are "ou$ Eden-'
'Eden's e/hausted b" all the e/citement and &'m sure "ou'll e/cuse her$' Damiano inter#ened
to answer )or his wi)e '(h" don't "ou take her upstairs$ Tina-'
Eden le)t the room in Tina's compan"$ grudgingl" amused b" what Damiano no doubt saw
as a smooth mo#e <nowing that she had once been close to Tina$ he probabl" thought he
was doing her a )a#our in gi#ing them the pri#ac" to talk
'(ell"ou being here with Damiano is 8uite a sur%prise$ isn't it-' Tina remarked
That almost childlike little #oice sent an absolute shi#er down Eden's spine 2ut then
Nuncio's wi)e had per)ected her non+threatening camou)lage long be)ore Eden had entered
the )amil" Nuncio had been a student when he'd met Tina$ who was se#en "ears older
Tina had )allen pregnant at supersonic speed and had per%suaded Nuncio into a 8uick
marriage behind his big brother's back
&gnoring the other woman's leading comment$ Eden said proposall"$ 'How is m" niece$
Allegra$ doing-'
Tina )rowned at that re)erence to her si/+"ear+old daughter and could not hide her irritation
'*ine 1he's in a boarding+school now'
&t was little com)ort that she could now see so clearl" through the other woman$ Eden
conceded O#er )i#e "ears back$ as an insecure new bride$ Eden had been eager to belie#e
that she had )ound a close )riend in Tina and shocked to realise too late that she had )allen
)or the act o) a woman who would do whate#er it took to protect hersel)$ regardless o) how
low she had to sink
Reaching the imposing landing$ Eden turned towards the bedroom that had alwa"s been

'&'m sorr" but Annabel and little Peter use those rooms when the"'re sta"ing now' Tina's
apologetic in%ter#ention was saccharine+sweet '&'m a)raid & 'ust ha#en't had time to
rearrange things "et'
1taggered b" that e/planation$ Eden suppressed a surge o) pure raging disbelie) Annabel
1ta#el" and her son had been allowed to take o#er the principal bed%rooms in the house
when the" came #isiting- (hat kind o) a nonsensical arrangement was that-
Tina showed Eden into a guest room some distance down a corridor
'!ou ha#en't )orgi#en me "et$ ha#e "ou-' Tina sighed
Eden tensed '& don't think we should talk about the past:'
'2ut "ou can't ignore what's going on right now Nuncio is 'ust d"ing to tell Damiano about
0ark and he won't keep 8uiet on "our behal) )or e#er4'
'On m" behal)-' Eden 8ueried gentl" '!ou're the one who had the a))air$ Tina'
'No comment' Open ridicule gleamed in Tina's bright blue e"es
'*i#e "ears ago$ the tabloid press assumed that the woman in that photograph with 0ark
was me & co#ered )or "ou$' Eden reminded the other woman$ pro#oked b" her mocker" '&
didn't want to do it4 2ut "ou persuaded me that it would be horribl" sel)ish to tell the truth
and cause trouble between "ou and Nuncio:'
'(ell$ so it would ha#e been4 A)ter all$ & was a mother as well as a wi)e & had Allegra to
consider and & didn't think that Damiano would e#er be coming back4' Tina cut in
de)ensi#el" 'Naturall" & was grate)ul )or what "ou did )or me:'
'1o grate)ul that as soon as "ou )elt sa)e )rom e/+

posure "ou 'oined Nuncio and Cosetta in calling me a slut and attacking me at e#er" turn4'
Eden interrupted with pained recollection o) what she had had to endure '& was )orced out
o) this house and "ou were 'ust as keen as the others to see me gone4'
'Can't "ou understand that & was a)raid that Nuncio might start suspecting me i) & didn't pla"
'All & understand is that while & was grie#ing )or m" husband$ & took a hea#" punishment
)or something ? didn't do$' Eden )ramed rue)ull" 'And "ou ha#e to ac%cept that i) talk o)
that a))air should sur)ace again$ &'ll be telling Damiano the truth:'
'And &'ll sa" "ou're l"ing4 (ho's going to belie#e "our #ersion this long a)ter the e#ent-
Don't )orget how much "ou were seen to lean on 0ark a)ter Damiano went missing' Tina
stressed with scorn 'That's all an"%bod" will remember'
Eden paled 1he saw what a )ool she had been to allow hersel) to be bullied into protecting
the other woman almost )i#e "ears earlier Tina had talked o) her shame$ her regret and o)
how much she had still lo#ed Nuncio Eden had been made to )eel so guilt" about her
desire to de)end her own reputation Tina had been her )riend And all Eden had had to do
was allow the as%sumption that she was the woman in that photograph to stand
unchallenged 9n)ortunatel" the conse8uences o) shielding Tina had been )ar greater than
Eden had )ool ishl" )oreseen
'& honestl" don't belie#e that Damiano would go tat+)ling to Nunciooh$ )or goodness' sake$
Tina$' Eden muttered in wear" and distressed appeal '& told "ou that i) Damiano e#er came
home to me$ he would ha#e to be told the real stor" and "ou agreed:'
'O) course & did' Tina ga#e her a catlike smile o)

acknowledgement on that point '& married a useless lump o) lard but he's a #er" rich lump
and there is
nothing that & wouldn't do to )ight m" own corner4'
Eden studied the older woman with shaken recoil
)rom that description o) Nuncio
Tina dealt her an e#en more disconcerting look o) malicious amusement 'Nobod" will e#er
belie#e that & was the un)aith)ul wi)e$ so "ou're in no position to threaten me:'
'&'m not threatening "ou:'
'!ou'#e got one huge shock coming "our wa" in an" case$' Tina murmured with #enomous
so)tness '2ut be%ing sworn to secrec" b" all parties concerned$ & dare not let that particular
cat out o) the bag (ait and see whether or not "our marriage has a )uture be)ore "ou waste
"our time tr"ing to wreck mine4'
As the door closed on the blonde's triumphant e/it$ Eden was genuinel" bewildered 'One
huge shock'- (hat on earth was Tina tr"ing to suggest- Tired as she was$ Eden took a
8uick shower in the en suite to )reshen up 1he onl" wished she could as easil" wash awa"
the memor" o) Tina's spite Pure and pointless$ spite$ that's all it was$ she told hersel) At
least 0ark had no per%sonal a/e to grind o#er his a))air with Tina$ she re)lected with relie)
Damiano might not particularl" like 0ark but$ i) she needed 0ark to clear her own name$
he would surel" accept the "ounger man's word
Her suitcase still sat 'ust inside the bedroom door &n spite o) the )act that no 2ragan6i
e/pected or indeed usuall" recei#ed an"thing less than twent"+)our+hour domestic ser#ice$
nobod" had come to unpack )or her Eden smiled at the )act that she was )eeling slighted
and tugged out a nightdress Clambering into the big com+

)ortable bed$ she wondered how long it would take Damiano to come upstairs and 'oin her
Eden had actuall" dri)ted o)) to sleep when a loud noise interspersed with raw male
in#ecti#e woke her up with a start 1he sat up and switched on the light Damiano$ lean
strong )ace grim with anger$ had e#i%dentl" tripped o#er her case in the dark
'Are there no maids in this house- And wh" ha#e "ou chosen to sleep so )ar awa" )rom me
that & ha#e to go on a ma'or search to )ind "ou in m" own home-' Damiano demanded with
elo8uent outrage$ striding o#er to the bed$ trailing back the du#et and scooping her o)) the
di#an without a second o) hesitation
'(hat on:-' she gasped
Heading out into the corridor again with her still gripped in his power)ul arms$ Damiano
breathed )latl"$ '(e share the same room$ the same bed'
1ettled down on to a bed in a much more impressi#e room situated o)) the main landing$
Eden )lushed '1leeping elsewhere wasn't m" idea:'
'Per mera#iglia4 Do & look dumb enough to belie#e that-' Damiano was crushingl"
unimpressed b" her plea o) innocence
1linging his 'acket on a chair$ he swept up the inter%nal phone to communicate terse
instructions to some member o) sta)) As he spoke$ he unknotted his tie and tossed it aside
and began unbuttoning his shirt Dr"+mouthed$ heartbeat accelerating$ aware o) the
thunder%ous tension he was now e/uding in primal wa#es but unable to concentrate on it$
Eden watched him as he completed the call
3anguor was spreading through her bod" like a )lood o) warm hone" E#en )urious$ he was
breathtakingl" beauti)ul to her mesmerised e"es Her breathing )rac+

tured as he let the shirt drop where he stood 1i/ )eet
)our inches o) #ibrant bron6ed masculinit"$ wide$
smooth shoulders$ broad chest$ taut$ )lat stomach$ all
rippling whipcord muscles
(ithout warning$ Damiano )lashed a glance at her and stilled$ aggressi#e 'awline s8uaring
Eden 'erked '1orr"-'
Damiano spread two not 8uite stead" hands wide$ dark e"es bla6ing gold '&'m damned i)
&'m going into the bathroom to undress .ust close "our e"es4'
'2ut$ Damiano$ & wasn't'
'&'#e gone nearl" )ort"+eight hours without sleep$' Damiano grated in a sa#age undertone
'.ust get under the sheet$ turn "our back and pretend "ou're on "our own4'
Her teeth clenched 1he hauled up the sheet and )lipped o#er on to her side (h" was he so
set on mis%understanding her- 1he tautened He was interpreting her beha#iour against a
)i#e+"ear+old "ardstick and what else could he do-
'&'m not as prudish as & used to be4, Eden whispered in a de)ensi#e hiss '&'#e grown up a
The mattress ga#e$ the lights snapped o)) and Damiano reached )or her with both hands$
hauling her up against him and shocking her into silence '5rown women don't need to )ill
up on #odka )irst$ cara$' he muttered thickl" into her hair$ dark$ deep drawl steadil"
lowering in pitch and clarit" as his big power)ul )rame rela/ed '&) & had an ego problem$
"ou'd ha#e made me impotent & spent se#en months o) marriage listening to e#er" e/cuse
not to ha#e se/ that has e#er been in%#ented & spent most o) the ne/t )i#e "ears between a
prison cell and a 8uarr" &'m sure & was the onl" gu"

there who )antasised about a wi)e in a nightdress be%cause he had ne#er e#er seen her
Trembling with morti)ication$ tears stinging her e"es$ Eden gulped and swallowed hard
Damiano released a sleep" sigh '2ut "ou lo#e me On "our terms$ the shoes "ou wore to
bed this a)ternoon were a massi#e statement o) de#otion Right now$ &'ll settle )or that'
Right now- 1he opened her e"es$ wildl" conscious o) his pro/imit"$ the se/" masculine
scent o) him$ the heat he emanated 2ut he was now holding her at a slight distance )rom
him 1he swallowed again$ wanting him so much she was burning all o#er *inall"$ she
moist%ened her lips and parted them '& don't need the #odka'
Onl" silence greeted that announcement 1he listened to the deep$ e#en tenor o) his
breathing and rubbed her cheek helplessl" against his hand where it rested loosel" on the
pillow 1he had him back &t was enough (hate#er he wanted$ he could ha#eshe 'ust
wouldn't make her e))orts to please so ob#ious the ne/t time 1he lo#ed him so much E#en
the )amil" )rom hell wasn't going to part them4
At what )elt like the crack o) dawn the ne/t morning$ Damiano woke her up E/uding cool
sel)+command$ Damiano was alread" )ull" dressed in a dark business suit$ burgund" silk tie
and a pearl+gre" silk shirt His stunning dark e"es rested on her with a slumbrous 8ual%it"
that dro#e her mind blank and sent her heartbeat racing
'& ha#e a press con)erence set up )or ten$' Damiano drawled
'Oh' Her tumm" )lipping at the mere thought o) attending a press con)erence$ Eden paled

'&t'll be a circus and not "our st"le There's no need
)or "ou to come$ cara' Damiano sank )luidl" down on
the edge o) the bed$ brilliant e"es shimmering o#er her
&'m spending the a)ternoon with a whole collection o)
bankers and law"ers & think it would be wisest i) we
)l" out to &tal" separatel":'
'&'m determined to keep our destination a secret )rom the papara66i One o) m" bod"guards
will accompan" "ou on a pri#ate )light this a)ternoon &'ll meet "ou at the #illait could
well be tomorrow be)ore & make it'
A sharp rap sounded on the door
E/asperation )lashing across his darkl" handsome )eatures$ Damiano #aulted upright and
strode o#er to answer it Eden recognised Nuncio's an/ious #oice
2e)ore he departed$ Damiano glanced back at her with a wr" smile 'The #illa is$ & belie#e$
larger than a rabbit hutch and it is not communal$' he assured her with admirable cool
.ust a )ew more hours and she would be on her wa" to &tal" A sunn" smile cur#ed Eden's
lips A maid ar%ri#ed with a break)ast tra" laden with all Eden's )a%#ourite dishes 1he had
'ust )inished eating when the phone b" the bed bu66ed
The caller was 0ark
'How on earth did "ou work out where & was-' Eden asked in con)usion
'&t hardl" took genius & was once a regular #isitor to the town house$' 0ark reminded her
impatientl" '3ook$ &'#e come up to 3ondon speciall" and &'d like to see "ou as soon as
And wh" shouldn't she see 0ark be)ore she le)t )or &tal"- Eden suddenl" asked hersel) He
was a good )riend and$ although he had his )laws$ she had ne#er

)orgotten his s"mpathetic support in the a)termath o) Damiano's disappearance No doubt$
0ark would also en'o" hearing the inside stor" on Damiano's return home And shouldn't
she tell 0ark that$ e/actl" as he had )orecast$ Tina was determined to lie about their
0ark suggested that she meet him at his hotel Eden called a cab to pick her up and she
slipped out o) the house b" the rear entrance A sliml" built "oung man with dark blond
hair and pale blue e"es$ 0ark$ as ele%gantl" dressed as alwa"s$ was waiting )or her in the
Eden accompanied him into the almost empt" resi%dents' lounge '&t's so good to see "ou
again$' she said warml"
'Tell me what's been happening on the home )ront$, 0ark in#ited$ ha#ing ordered tea )or
Eden and a drink )or himsel)
'& was going to ask "ou how "ou'#e been doing )irst$' Eden told him rue)ull" '& ha#en't
heard much )rom "ou latel"'
'& think "our situation is rather more important right now'
Eden grimaced '(ell$ what "ou said o#er )our "ears ago has been borne out !ou said &
was a real )ool to take the heat )or Tina and "ou were right &t has come$ back to haunt me
Tina is still treating me like her worst enem" and Nuncio is eagerl" waiting )or me to make
a )ull con)ession to Damiano The sooner the whole wretched business is cleared up$ the
'1o "ou will be wanting me to support "our stor"-'
Eden )lushed '& hope it won't come to that$ That would be embarrassing )or "ou:'

Til tell Damiano an"thing "ou like' 0ark shrugged '2ut&'m a)raid there'll be a price'
Her brow )urrowed 'A price-'
'3et me tell "ou a stor"' 0ark's mouth took on a sullen twist as he studied her '0" longest+
standing )riend marries a )abulousl" wealth" bloke and what does she do to help me-'
Eden went rigid '(hat are "ou getting at-'
'!ou got me a lous" )irst 'ob working )or peanuts on the 2ragan6i countr" estate4' 0ark
derided 'And when & asked )or the cash to set up m" own business$ "ou said "ou were sorr"
but Damiano thought & was too "oung to be trusted with that si6e o) an in#estment'
0ark was del#ing wa" back to e#ents which had oc%curred in the )irst months o) Eden's
marriage At the time$ those e#ents had made Eden )eel #er" uncom%)ortable with both her
husband and 0ark '& didn't re%ali6e "ou still )elt like that about:'
'No$ o) course "ou didn't Damiano went missing soon a)terwards and & decided the rich
0rs 2ragan6i was a long+term in#estment to be nursed along' 2eneath her stricken ga6e$
0ark #ented a sour laugh '.ust two more "ears and Damiano would ha#e been legall"
presumed dead No matter how hard his relati#es )ought$ "ou would still ha#e copped most
o) the loot as Damiano's wi)e4 (ould "ou ha#e been generous then$ Eden- That was what &
was waiting )or:'
'& can't belie#e "ou reall" mean what "ou're sa"%ing' A 8ueas" sensation o) mounting )ear
was en%gul)ing Eden '!ou were so kind to me a)ter Damiano disappeared'
'2ut "ou'll ha#e to pa" me to get ser#ice like that again & won't admit that & had that a))air
with Tina

unless "ou make it well worth m" whilei) "ou don't$
&'ll take Tina's side and drop "ou in it with Damiano:'
'That's sick4' Eden gasped and then$ realising that
she had attracted the attention o) the elderl" woman
seated at the )ar end o) the room$ she reddened )iercel"
'Think #er" hard be)ore "ou tell me to go ahead and
do m" worst$' 0ark ad#ised thinl"
'2ut to tr" to blackmail me' Eden condemned shakil"
Onl" now was she recalling 0ark's bitter resentment when Damiano had re)used to in#est
in him until he had more business e/perience 1he had chosen to )orget that unpleasant
episode but 0ark had 'ust made it brutall" clear that he had onl" continued their )riendship
be"ond that point because he had e/pected to pro)it )rom it Damiano's sur#i#al must ha#e
come as a #er" unwel%come surprise to 0ark$ she conceded pain)ull"
'1o now &'ll tell "ou what & want' (ith complete calm$ 0ark went on to mention a sum o)
mone" that made Eden pale
'Not all up )ront at once o) course7 he conceded grudgingl" '2ut & e/pect a down pa"ment
as a guar%antee o) "our good )aith 1ince "ou'#e alwa"s been so )rank with me$ & know
e/actl" what "ou'#e got in "our bank account !ou won't be needing that mone" )or "our
own use an" more so &'ll take a che8ue now:' '0ark$ please:'
'0ake "our choice Tina will not hesitate )or a sec%ond i) & approach her with a similar
o))er$' 0ark warned her smugl" ,Then it'll be goodb"e to Damiano$ Eden' Picturing both
Tina and 0ark conspiring together to destro" her marriage made Eden )eel trapped and
ph"s%icall" ill (hat would her word be worth to Damiano i) e#er"bod" else swore that
she was guilt" as hell-

(ith a trembling hand that seemed to ha#e de#eloped a will o) its own$ Eden dug into her
handbag )or her che8ue+book (ithout looking back at 0ark again$ she scrawled out the
che8ue and le)t it sitting on the table Then she stood up and walked out o) the hotel
Chapter *i#e
&N THE shattered emotional state she was in$ Eden wan%dered round the shops )or a while
until she got a grip on hersel) again 1he asked hersel) what sort o) a )ool she was that she
had not seen through 0ark to the greed and resentment beneath the sur)ace 1he had trusted
him absolutel" and now he was blackmailing her4
How on earth was she to get out o) the dread)ul night%mare she had brought down on
hersel)- 1he was bitterl" ashamed o) ha#ing simpl" surrendered to 0ark's threats 2ut most
o) all she now loathed her own bund$ trusting stupidit" (hen the press had e/posed that
a)%)air and wrongl" identi)ied the woman in#ol#ed$ she should not ha#e kept silent to
protect Tina How could she ha#e been that )oolish- 2ut she knew how and wh"
Distraught o#er losing Damiano$ she had been an eas" mark )or Tina's guile
As she walked b" the electrical section o) a big store$ Eden's attention was caught b" the
shock #alue o) see%ing Damiano on se#eral tele#ision screens at once The press
con)erence was being tele#ised and a bunch o) shoppers was glued to the screens Ha#ing
come to a dead halt$ Eden mo#ed slowl" closer to watch
The cameras lo#ed Damiano As he )ielded 8uestions with assurance and humour$ his
natural charisma made him a class act E#er" so o)ten a di))erent camera angle would take
in the people standing near him Nuncio$ proudl" intent on his big brother A couple o)
directors o) the 2ragan6i 2ank$ glowing at Damiano's e#er"

witt" response$ no doubt highl" relie#ed that the male once dubbed a genius in the mone"
markets should ha#e returned with all his )aculties intact
A power)ul surge o) guilt engul)ed Eden then and she turned awa" &n retrospect$ she was
ashamed that she had snatched at the e/cuse Damiano had gi#en her and a#oided the press
con)erence *rom the moment that tabloid stor" had been printed nearl" )i#e "ears earlier$
she had been terri)ied o) the media &nstead o) gi#ing wa" to that cowardice$ she should
ha#e )ought it and$ e#en though Damiano had not appeared to be in much need o) wi)el"
support$ she would ha#e been prouder o) hersel) had she at least o))ered it
Eden was reall" running 8uite late b" the time she got back to the town house As she
crossed the hall$ Tina emerged )rom the drawing room$ looking e/%tremel" smug '!ou
ha#e about ten minutes to )reshen up be)ore "ou lea#e )or "our second hone"moon in &tal"'
&gnoring the blond's hone"ed scorn$ Eden asked$ '&s Damiano back "et-'
'No$ but he did tr" to call "ou He wasn't #er" pleased when & told him that & hadn't a clue
where "ou were' A malicious smile cur#ed the older woman's #o%luptuous mouth 'Then &
took the trouble to call him back and mention that 'ust be)ore "ou went out$ dear old 0ark
had phoned$ gi#en his name and asked to speak to "ou 0ark was ne#er discreet$ was he-'
Paling at Tina's #enom but determined not to respond in kind$ Eden raced upstairs to
change O#er an hour later$ she entered the airport$ accompanied b" a single bod"guard
1he was totall" unprepared )or what hap%pened ne/t A man with a camera appeared about
ten )eet awa" and blinded her b" taking a )lash photo

(ithin the space o) si/t" seconds$ she was the centre o) a hea#ing crowd o) reporters
shouting 8uestions
'(h" weren't "ou with "our husband at the press con)erence-'
'&s "our marriage in trouble$ 0rs 2ragan6i-' '(h" did the 2ragan6i )amil" )l" out to 2ra6il
with%out "ou-'
'(h" ha#e "ou been in hiding all these "ears-' &) the airport securit" men hadn't come to
their res%cue$ the" would ne#er ha#e managed to escape (hite and trembling$ Eden onl"
began breathing e#enl" again when the small pri#ate plane took o)) )or &tal" 1omebod"
must ha#e tipped the press o)) that she would be arri#ing at the airport (ho- Tina- Or was
she so strung up now that she was imagining things-
(hate#er$ her e#er" worst )ear seemed to be coming true Damiano was big news and$ b"
the same de)ini%tion$ so was the state o) his marriage Her absence )rom the press
con)erence had e#identl" created comment How long did she ha#e be)ore that old scandal
about her was dug up again-
3ate that a)ternoon$ the car which had whisked Eden out o) Pisa turned o)) a twisting
mountain road into an a#enue hedged and shadowed b" tall c"presses Through a break in
the trees$ Eden saw a lake with a sur)ace like a sil#er mirror and then she caught her )irst
glimpse o) the ;illa Pa#one
The magni)icent building was sited on the hilltop Ornate stucco decorations and a grand
run o) &onic col%umns embellished the #illa's impressi#e )rontage As she got out o) the
car$ the glorious warmth o) earl" summer en)olded her Citrus trees in giant metal urns
dispelled an aromatic scent which hung hea#" in the

ill air As she mo#ed towards the entrance$ an eerie plainti#e shriek made her glance
ner#ousl" o#er her shoulder 1he was 'ust in time to see a glimmer o) ghostl" white
disappear behind a topiar" tree An instant later$ a glorious white peacock strutted into
#iew$ his )antastic plumage spread like )iligree lace The bird re%garded her with e/pectant
bead" e"es$ seemingl" await%ing a burst o) appreciati#e applause
Eden grinned$ the last o) her an/iet" )alling awa" 1he strolled towards the huge )ront
doors which stood wide The papara66i were behind her in 3ondon along with Damiano's
dread)ul relati#es and 0ark$ she re%minded hersel) cheer)ull" &n a )ew hours surel" at
most$ Damiano would be with her again
1he walked into a breathtaking )o"er$ so big it echoed loudl" with her )ootsteps The walls
were adorned with )abulous classical )rescos *ar abo#e her hung a superb gilded and
painted ceiling '(here the hell were "ou this morning-' Eden almost 'umped right out o)
her skin 1he spun round$ green e"es #er" wide and startled Damiano had magicall"
appeared in a doorwa" which she had not pre#iousl" noted in her awed scrutin" o) her
surround%ings '!ou're here alread"-' she gasped in delighted surprise
He looked incredibl" attracti#e in well+cut beige chi%nos and a short+slee#ed cream cotton
shirt that accen%tuated his bron6ed skin and black hair 2ut Damiano was sur#e"ing her
with glittering dark e"es$ his lean$ strong )ace hard as granite$ megawatt tension emanating
)rom the stillness o) his long$ lithe$ power)ul )rame '!ou were with 0ark:'
Eden blinked$ tautening '!es$' she conceded 'erkil"$ determined to stick as close to the
truth as was possible

'*or hours-' Damiano derided harshl" '!ou almost missed "our )light4'
'No$ & didn't cut it that )ine$' she countered tightl" and curled her tense )ingers into her damp
palms$ the happ" sensation draining awa"$ lea#ing onl" stress in its wake 'And & wasn't
with him all that time & walked round the shops )or a while:'
'!ou're not telling me the truth'
The silence started )eeling like a giant black hole spreading to within inches o) her )eet$
read" to suck her in at an" moment The con)idence with which Damiano made that charge
was pure intimidation &t wasn't a 8uestion &t wasn't a sneak" carrot designed to draw her
into speech and trip her up No$ what she was hearing was the challenge o) a #er" shrewd
male$ who had not the slightest shred o) doubt that she was concealing something )rom
'(h"wh" do "ou think that-' Eden prompted dr"+mouthed
His spectacular golden e"es struck sparks o)) hers 'Tell me the truth$' he demanded with
ice+cool clarit" '!ou're s8uirming like a )ish on a hook' Eden worried at her lower lip
with her teeth and stared back at him$ horribl" impressed b" his power o) perception '&'
'!es-' Damiano grated in the e/plosi#e silence
'& onl" trailed round the shops because & was upset and that's wh" & was so late getting back
to the house$' Eden #olunteered in a dri#en rush 'No big m"ster"' 1he shrugged
awkwardl" '& 'ust saw 0ark as & hadn't managed to see him be)oreand & didn't like what &
saw 1o )or that reason$ & won't be seeing him again'4
A )aint )rown+line had appeared between Damiano's winged ebon" brows 1he registered
that she had dis+

ncerted him$ had ro#ed wildl" o)) whate#er script he
had e/pected her to pursue '(hat:-'
Eden )olded her arms in a de)ensi#e mo#ement and
straightened her slim shoulders '3ook$ it was unpleas+
ant enough )inding out that 0ark wasn't the wonder)ul
)riend & thought he was & don't need "ou demanding to
hear it all$ so that & can )eel a right idiot all o#er again4'
'!ou'#e decided to end the )riendship-' Damiano
seemed to be ha#ing a problem grasping that realit"
(hen did "ou decide that- Right there this minute
when it dawned on "ou that &'m angr"-'
Her shoulders sagged 'Oh$ bo"$ are "ou paranoid'
Damiano went rigid$ )aint colour arching across the
hard slant o) his high cheekbones '& merel" re8uested
at "ou e/plain "oursel):'
'And & politel" re)used to go into an" greater detail 0ark's 'ust not important enough )or us
to be arguing #er him' Eden meant that assurance with e#er" proud )ibre o) her being
'1anta cielol am not arguingwhere the bla6es are "ou going-' Damiano raked at her in a
lion's roar as she began walking back in the direction o) the )ront doors
'& thought ma"be i) & went out and then came back again$ "ou might gi#e me a nicer
welcome' A dropped )eather could ha#e sounded like a thun%dering a#alanche in the
rushing silence which )ollowed Eden heard Damiano mo#e behind her but she was still
8uite unprepared to )ind hersel) being suddenl" snatched right o)) her )eet and up into his
power)ul arms *or a moment$ the world tilted cra6il" Then she met the mesmeric lure o)
his burnished golden e"es 1imultaneousl" she ran out o) breath and rational thought An
instant burst o) wanton heat ignited inside

her$ sending her heartbeat crashing$ her pulses pound%ing
A scorching smile slashed Damiano's lean$ power)ul )ace 'This is the kind o) welcome &
should ? ha#e gi#en "ou$ tesoro mio'
He pressed his mouth to the tin" pulse )lickering like cra6" below her delicate collar+bone
Her throat e/%tended$ her entire bod" 'erked 1he li)ted a shaking hand to cur#e it to his
dark head and then his mouth )ound hers A huge brilliant )ireworks displa" bla6ed up in
the darkness behind her lowered e"elids 1he was so hot$ so e/cited$ she clutched wildl" at
him He lowered her down onto a hard$ cold sur)ace$ closed his hands o#er her knees and
parted them so that he could haul her back into e#en closer contact
A hoarse little cr" o) response was wrenched )rom her as he let his long )ingers glide up her
slender thighs beneath her dress 1he was shi#ering$ shaking$ alight with a hunger that
burned Damiano rested his hands on her slim hips and li)ted his head to ga6e down at her$
dark$ deep+set e"es shimmering gold$ strong )ace hard with raw male need$ beauti)ul mouth
almost ruthless in its line
'1o now "ou show me that "ou don't need the #odka$' Damiano murmured in thickened
*or a split second$ her #eil o) desire was pierced b" an inner screech o) shock (hat-
Here- Now- On a marble table- And then Eden collided with those dark golden e"es that
had haunted her dreams )rom the #er" hour o) their )irst meeting 1he literall" )elt her bod"
melt Awareness slid awa" again The world could ha#e ended right there and then and she
wouldn't ha#e cared
'& don't mean here$' Damiano husked$ laughter roughening his rich$ deep$ se/" drawl

He tugged her o)) the table and wound her )ingers calml" into his to urge her through the
doorwa" which he had appeared in earlier Her legs )elt weak and wob%bl" supports !et
her e#er" skin cell )elt almost pain%)ull" ali#e 1e/ual tension was twisting her into a de+
liciousl" tight knot Their )ootsteps echoed as the" passed through "et another #ast room$
)ull o) marble columns$ glittering cr"stal chandeliers and huge oil paintings As Damiano
led her beneath an ornate portal which opened onto the )antastic double )light o) stairs
which wound grace)ull" up to the )irst )loor$ she was ga6ing in astonishment at their
palatial surroundings
9pstairs$ Damiano walked her into a room that at )irst glance struck her as the si6e o) an
aircra)t hangar A hangar with a bed$ that was And what a bed$ o#erhung b" a giant gold
coronet )rom which glorious brocade hangings descended into e/tra#agant )olds down onto
an e/8uisite rug '!ou can li#e the )air" tale like the little princess'
'!ou being here with me' Eden muttered une#enl" 'That's enough o) a )air" tale'
Damiano dealt her a slumbrous se/" look )rom be%neath black spik" lashes He settled his
hands to her slim shoulders and turned her slowl" and care)ull" round As he ran the 6ip
down on her dress$ her breath )eathered in her throat 3ight was )looding through the tall
windows$ light so bright she could see dust motes dancing in the air And she )elt terribl"
sh" and sel)+conscious but she didn't )eel like rushing across the room to close the shutters
and plunge them into dark%ness
Once she had tormented hersel) with secret humili%ating comparisons between Annabel's
long+legged #o%luptuous shape and her own in)initel" slighter and B

smaller attractions The urge to keep her seeming de)i%ciencies co#ered )rom #iew had
risen to obsessi#e pro%portions 2ut in allowing hersel) to think in that wa"$ she had
)orgotten the onl" thing that reall" mattered Damiano had married her$ Damiano had
chosen her$ not Annabel 1ta#el"
He eased her dress )rom one slight$ taut shoulder$ making a production out o) the process
1he shut her e"es tight '1anto Cielo' Damiano swore huskil" abo#e her head '&'m
burning )or "ou$ caret'
tie li)ted her hair and bent her head )orward and let his e/pert mouth trail across the
e/posed nape o) her neck 1he 8ui#ered$ e#er" sense leaping 'Oh'
'This will be so good$' Damiano promised with husk" sensualit"
The #er" sound o) his #oice could turn her boneless A muted little gasp escaped her as her
dress dri)ted down to her ankles 1he )ought the instinct to cross shielding arms o#er
hersel) 1he could )eel the tips o) her breasts hardening into straining little points within her
bra 1he could )eel the wa#e o) heat tra#elling o#er her and her knees started to wobble
'!ou are doing so well$' Damiano purred apprecia+ti#el" '!ou're 8ui#ering like a racehorse
read" to bolt but "ou're still in the same room'
'No #odka$' she mumbled$ tr"ing to match him in humour but her #oice came out all shak"
'Open "our e"es$ cara$' Damiano urged as he li)ted her clear o) the tangle o) cloth round her
)eet and spun her back to him 'En'o" me admiring "ou'
He was pushing too )ar too )ast 1he knew she had small breasts and hips that were 'ust a
little too )ull )or the rest o) her and legs that were 'ust legs$ not especiall"

ng or especiall" an"thing$ sturd" enough to be use)ul$ not )lash" enough to attract attention
'& can't'4
'(ould "ou pre)er to sleep alone in that bed tonight-'
Her lashes li)ted high on stricken green e"es 'No4' she gasped with e#en greater )orce
'5otcha' Damiano drawled with smouldering sat%is)action$ brilliant dark golden e"es
scanning her blush%ing )ace '& cheated !ou ha#e no chance o) sleeping alone'
Her brow indented 'No-'
2ending down$ he swept her up again into his arms and strode o#er to the bed to settle her
there 1he kicked o)) her shoes and began scrabbling at the bed linen to get under it
'Ahah' Damiano allowed her to get under co#er and then$ hooking long brown )ingers
round the )ine linen sheet$ he )lipped the bedding de)tl" back into a )old at the )ootboard
'&t's a sort o) knee+'erk reaction$ isn't it- 2ut a little modest" goes a long wa" with me$ cara'
Rather than remain spla"ed out in onl" her bra and pants$ she sat up again and hugged her
knees$ hands tightl" clasped 1he was stri#ing desperatel" to think o) something witt" or
cool to sa" '&&$ well:'
'1hut up$' Damiano broke in with tender amusement '!ou ma" not like "our bod" but &
lo#e it4'
1he studied his stunningl" attracti#e )eatures and )elt that melting sensation down deep
inside that 'ust o#er%whelmed her 1he didn't place much credence in what he said but she
knew he wanted her 1he had )elt the hard urgenc" o) him against her$ could not doubt the
ph"sical realit" o) his desire 1he watched him peel o)) his shirt Her lashes lowered$
care)ull" screening the directness o) her ga6e$ but she was as hopelessl" mes+

merised b" his potent male beaut" as she had alwa"s been He had no inhibitions and she
adored that blatant$ bla6ing sel)+assurance he emanated$ so #er" di))erent )rom her own
As he un6ipped his chinos$ e/posing the taut$ hard )latness o) his stomach bisected b" a
silk" dark )urrow o) hair$ a tight little stab o) se/ual awareness twisted low in her tumm"
He was all male$ )ull o) d"namic energ" and hot+blooded intensit" 1himm"ing her hips
back deeper into the shadows cast b" the drapes )es%tooning the bed$ Eden watched the
chinos being cast aside with keen interest 1he studied the long )low o) his smooth brown
back$ the lean masculine hips in pale bo/er shorts$ the long hair+roughened thighs 1he did
not look awa" as she had once done &ndeed she was hot with curiosit" to see him totall"
stripped but terri)ied that he might notice
Damiano disposed o) the bo/er shorts Her )ace )lamed Aroused he was distinctl"
intimidating but it was o) the #ariet" o) intimidation that )illed her with hot$ 8ui#er"
sensations 1uddenl" ashamed o) what she recognised as pure lust within hersel)$ she
dropped her head$ no longer able to see an"thing but Damiano's beauti)ull" shaped brown
)eet approaching the bed
The mattress ga#e slightl" under his weight The si%lence hummed 1he sat there$ head
lowered o#er knees
'!ou're such a little cheat$' Damiano condemned with a throat" chuckle as he reached )or
her and tum%bled her down against the com)ortable pillows
'1orr"-' Eden spluttered$ disconcerted b" the swi)t%
ness o) that mo#e
Rolling o#er$ Damiano slid a long hard masculine thigh between hers and held her capti#e
beneath his superior weight He trailed a mocking )ore)inger along

the cur#e o) her so)t lower lip and made it impossible )or her to a#oid his intent scrutin" '&
saw "ou watching me'
He was 'ust inches awa" 1he reddened )iercel" Her mouth ran dr"
'And' Damiano dragged out the word '& also think "ou like what "ou saw:'
'No-' Damiano 8uestioned$ raising a sardonic dark brow
'& m+mean "es$ but:'
'Don't want to hear the ,but,' (ith a husk" growl o) #er" male grati)ication$ Damiano
teased at her mouth with his own$ lighting a trail o) )ire to run through her shi#ering bod"
Those light$ )rustrating kisses merel" stoked her growing tension 1he s8uirmed under him
seeking greater )orce$ her own hunger demanding more
'1o tell me "ou want me$' Damiano in#ited thickl"
'(hat-' she )ramed blankl"$ )ingers curling into bis broad shoulders with a )rustration she
could not sup%press
'& want to hear the words' Damiano con)ided$ slid%ing down the bed and$ b" so doing$
re#ealing to her )or the )irst time that he had alread" somehow contri#ed to remo#e her bra
without her noticing Disma" )lashed through her 'Damiano4'
'No$ cara' His hands clamped down o#er her wrists be)ore she could attempt to co#er her
bare breasts '!ou're beauti)ul"ou are reall" beauti)ul and & need to look at "ou 'ust as
much as "ou like to look at me$' he spelt out in a de#astatingl" e))ecti#e demand )or e8ual
1he trembled$ )eeling so horrendousl" #ulnerable$ staring down at her pale breasts with
their shamelessl"

swollen pink nipples And then she saw Damiano sur%#e"ing the same #iew like a hungr"
tiger$ hot golden e"es pinned to her with a #isual intensit" that shook her He had alread"
released her wrists but she had little di))icult" in resisting her once compulsi#e need to
con%ceal hersel) )rom him 1he was now watching him in total )ascination 1he arched her
back slightl"$ shi)ted her hips$ )eeling like a madl" seducti#e stranger beneath such erotic
male appreciation
He was 'ust looking and she was alread" starting to burn again He li)ted a hand that was
noticeabl" un%stead" and cur#ed it to her super+sensiti#e )lesh He lowered his proud dark
head and let the tip o) his tongue )lick a pouting peak and her whole bod" 'ust surged up in
response '& want "ou4' she moaned$ helpless in the grip o) that de#astating wa#e o) se/ual
Damiano rewarded her with a wol)ish smile that made her heart )lip o#er and )illed her
with such a )lood o) lo#e that she )elt as )luid as water '!ou're all mine$' he breathed
raggedl" '!ou're the onl" woman & ha#e e#er been with who has onl" e#er been mine &
reall" get a high out o) that'
He brought his mouth down on hers with an e/plo+si#e passion that she needed as much as
he did Heart+beat thundering in her eardrums$ she gasped as he stroked her breasts and she
dug her )ingers into the dark silk lu/uriance o) his hair 1he couldn't get enough o) that
hard$ demanding mouth 1he strained against him controlled b" the heat and the strength o)
her own cra#+ing$ e#er" de)ence )inall" abandoned
'Please' 1he gasped$ struggling to get breath back into her lungs but desperate to get his
hot urgent mouth back on hers again
'!ou'#e changed so much$' Damiano ground out$ his

breathing e#en more )ractured than her own as he skimmed an impatient hand down o#er
her 8ui#ering length and de)tl" rearranged her so that he could remo#e her brie)s
1he had ne#er been so conscious o) being naked but the da"light had nothing to do with it
Erotic anticipa%tion now )ired her 1he was reaching )or him e#en be%)ore he was reaching
)or her again Tin" broken sounds were wrenched )rom her as he pushed her back against
the pillows and emplo"ed his lips and his tongue on her tingling breasts with a hard$
sensual e/pertise that was entirel" new to her And$ new as that more )orce)ul approach
was$ it dro#e her cra6" with e/citement
'& ne#er thought & would see "ou like thisout o) "our mind with desire )or me4' Damiano
e/tended with raw appreciation$ black hair tousled$ tough cheekbones scored with )e#erish
colour 'EdenEden'
And e#en the wa" he raggedl" groaned her name made her react 1he was all heat and
constant mo#e%ment The burning )e#er that had taken control o) her was wa" be"ond
an"thing she had e#er e/perienced (ith a sure hand$ he )ound the damp$ pulsing heart o)
her and she cried out loud on the incredible surge o) e/citement he unleashed
5littering golden e"es in#aded hers He was watching her e#er" reaction Disconcertion
tried to penetrate the blinding$ all+per#asi#e swa" o) passion and )or a split second she
attempted to regain some measure o) con%trol 2ut she was wa" be"ond that abilit" and
diml" registering that shocked her too$ onl" his dominant con%trol o#er her was too great
b" then
'&& can't help it' 1he tried to sa"$ not reall" knowing whether she was tr"ing to apologise
or not

and$ i) she was$ what she might be attempting to sa"
sorr" )or7
'& know'
1he was ensla#ed$ enthralled b" the passion$ her writhing bod" entirel" ruled b" his
knowing touch And in no time at all that oh$ so skilled touch became near agonising
torment )or she wantedshe wanted so much And the hunger was so power)ul it was
eating her ali#e and her hands were clinging to him$ her hips rising$ the ache o) emptiness a
'Please' she begged
&n one lithe mo#ement$ Damiano came o#er her$ tipped her back$ a de#ouring need more
than e8ual to her own bla6ing in his smouldering golden ga6e As he entered her "ielding
)lesh$ she uttered a high+pitched moan and 'erked in sensual shock )rom that in#asion Her
e/citement was at such a pitch b" then that she thought she might pass out )rom the sheer
o#erload o) pleasure The power)ul response o) her own bod" gripped her now Heart
crashing$ he dro#e her to the heights she had ne#er known e/isted 1tunned b" the wild
ecstatic intensit" that shattered her into a million pieces$ she sobbed with 'o")ul release and
slowl" went back into )ree )all
Eden's e"es were awash with tears but wide with shock at the same time Ne#er e#er had
she imagined she might e/perience such glorious pleasure
Damiano released her )rom his weight and hauled her back into intimate connection with
his damp$ hot )rame He kissed her breathless and held her back )rom him$ scanning her still
shaken )ace with 8uestioning inten%sit" '!ou trul" didn't realise that "ou were missing

an"thing )i#e "ears ago$' he breathed on the back o) a
rue)ul laugh '!ou meanit's alwa"s supposed to be like that-'
she gasped$ too taken aback b" the idea to be sel)+
'& used to think o) spiking "our pure orange to make "ou let go in bed but & knew "ou would
ne#er )orgi#e me' Damiano spla"ed long brown )ingers round her cheekbones$ ga6ing deep
into her incredulous green e"es '!ou 'ust would not rela/ !ou had so man" hang%ups
!ou hit m" male ego right where it hurts The onl" woman & couldn't satis)" was m"
'& was 8uite happ" with whatwell"ou know$' she mumbled$ thinking in a positi#e da6e
at what she had 'ust learned How could she ha#e known there was more when she had
ne#er e/perienced an"thing more until now- 1he remembered pleasure but a pleasure that
was )rankl" mild in comparison with what she had 'ust en%'o"ed 1he remembered liking
the start better than the )inish and #ague )eelings o) dissatis)action but nothing she hadn't
accepted as normal and natural *rom that )irst pain)ul initiation$ she had stubbornl"
decided that making lo#e would alwa"s be something he recei#ed more pleasure )rom than
she did
2ut there was more to it than that$ Eden recognised in sudden shame 1he had had
resentments o) her own )rom #er" earl" in their marriage The marital home in which she
)elt like an intruder$ the )amil" who had re%garded her as a social in)erior$ Annabel$ the e/+
)iancee$ who wouldn't 8uit )launting her own pre)erential status 1he had blamed Damiano
)or her unhappiness and had made no attempt to o#ercome her inhibitions Damiano$ she
registered with shaken new sel)+awareness$ had not been the onl" one set on a war o)

Damiano cur#ed her to him so that she was plastered to e#er" power)ul angle o) his
indolent length '1e/ was a taboo sub'ect !ou once said that it was bad enough ha#ing to
do that sort o) thing without being e/pected to talk about it as well$' he groaned
Eden sti)led a groan o) her own 'The onl" woman & couldn't satis)" was m" wi)e' One #er"
re#ealing state%ment )rom a male o) Damiano's sophistication and e/%perience$ she
re)lected in strong disma"
'&t didn't matter to me enough& didn't understand$' she muttered in a tone o) )e#erish
regret$ kissing a damp brown muscular shoulder in belated apolog" 1he lo#ed him so
much 1he had almost lost him 1he was so hugel" grate)ul that he had chosen to come
back to her and gi#e their marriage another chance
'Past and )orgotten$' Damiano assured her
1uddenl" she had a dri#ing need to ask him i)$ as his )amil" had insisted$ he had considered
di#orcing her be)ore he'd gone missing 2ut she hesitated and 8ues+tioned whether she
could handle a con)irmation that would de#astate her and add to her an/ieties in the pre+
ent *or i) Damiano admitted that he had been on the brink o) ditching her$ wouldn't she
now )eel as though she was still on probation- No$ some 8uestions were better le)t
Damiano snatched her )rom such thoughts b" tugging her up out o) concealment 3ustrous
e"es smouldering like topa6 in sunlight$ he shi)ted )luidl" beneath her$ urging her into
stirring contact with his renewed arousal '!ou know when & said that & wasn't going to )all
on "ou like a se/+star#ed animal$ & was being a wol) in sheep's clothing& was l"ing m"
head o))$ tesoro mio$' Damiano con)ided thickl" '& had been depri#ed

)or so long that not ripping o)) "our clothes in the limo the )irst da" was an act o)
remarkable restraint4'
'R+reall"-' Eden stammered hot+cheeked$ helpless e/citement gripping her as he crushed
her parted lips hungril" under his$ sending her senses reeling again with almost terri)"ing
'& didn't want to risk scaring "ou into a )it & in%tended to pla" a waiting game:'
'No more waiting$' she broke in urgentl" 'No need )or an" games'
All hot+blooded &talian male at that moment$ Damiano sur#e"ed her$ patentl" re#elling in
the re%sponse she could neither conceal nor control and the dark )lood o) sensual pleasure
alread" taking hold o) her as he touched her
About an hour later$ ha#ing satiated them both on high+#oltage se/$ Damiano announced
with admirable energ" that he was hungr" and rang )or some )ood to be brought up
'1er#ice 'ust like home& take it$' Eden teased$ catching the o#ersi6ed towelling robe he
tossed onto the bed )or her use
Damiano )rowned 'Ob#iousl" "ou didn't appreciate that kind o) ser#ice'
1he sti))ened at that note o) censure '(hat do "ou mean-'
'Oh$ come on' Damiano said dril" '!ou dump m" name$ walk out on m" )amil" and keep
"oursel) b" blood" sewing4 !ou're a 8uali)ied teacher &) "ou had to work$ wh" didn't "ou
look )or a teaching 'ob more appropriate to "our status-'
Eden had gone rigid Tightening the robe into a waist+strangling knot$ she scrambled o))
the bed$ an an%gr" )lush mantling her )ace '!ou are such a snob4'

'3ike hell & am4' Damiano launched at her '(hen "ou re)used Nuncio's support$ "ou were
also re'ecting e#er"thing that C e#er ga#e "ou:'
'!our snobb" name-' Rage had come out o) nowhere to engul) Eden 1he was so )urious$
she was shaking '!our ghastl" )amil"- (hat did "ou gi#e me- A lot o) 'eweller" and a
)lash" car and loads o) credit cards and & was miserable4'
'(ere "ou reall"-' Damiano purred between gritted white teeth
'!es$ & was & onl" stuck it out because & lo#ed "ou4' Eden raged with clenched )ists 'Once
"ou were gone$ & could happil" ha#e li#ed in a hedge and worked as a tramp:'
'Tramps don't work$' Damiano inserted with cool$ cutting logic
'&) & had gone )or a teaching 'ob$ & would ha#e had to e/plain who & was and there's
something "ou don't understand & doubt i) & would ha#e got the 'ob People treat "ou like a
leper when "our husband has gone miss%ing:'
'Cut the melodrama$' Damiano ad#ised witheringl"
'No$ because "ou don't know what it was like )or me People ha#en't a clue what to sa" to a
woman who was in m" situation The"'re also terri)ied that "ou're going to break down and
embarrass themalthough that t"pe are pre)erable to the other sort who re#el in e#er"
gruesome detail o) "our miser"4' she )lung at him '& wanted pri#ac" and the onl" wa" &
could ha#e it was to set up a small business guaranteed not to attract at+tention'
'1o that "ou could star as the all+singing$ all+dancing sewing #ersion o) the 3ittle 0atch
5irl-' Damiano drawled with silken scorn

'&'ll ha#e "ou know that &'m making a darned good li#ing4' Eden countered )uriousl" 'And
&'ll happil" go back to it an" time .ust "ou sa" the word4'
&n the e/plosi#e silence that )ollowed that threat a so)t knock sounded on the door Eden
whipped round and stalked out through the *rench windows spread wide on the balcon"
outside (ith trembling hands$ she gripped the worn stone balustrade and stared out into
the starr" night The lake )ar below re)lected the pale crescent moon 1he breathed in and
shi#ered at the tem%per which had ripped up through her without warning &t was stress$
she )inall" acknowledged How could an" woman be bliss)ull" happ" when she was being
black%mailed and li#ing in mortal terror o) an e/posure that might cost her the man she
lo#ed- 1he had to tell Damiano about 0ark and Tina's a))air within the ne/t )ew da"s
'At the press con)erence$ there were a lot o) cracks about how "ou chose to support "oursel)
in m" ab%sence$' Damiano admitted )rom behind her
Recalled )rom her )rantic and )ear)ul thoughts$ Eden paled in disma" 'The press alread"
know where & was li#ingabout the shop-'
'E#identl" come and get something to eat' Damiano detached her death grip on the
balustrade and stepped back again '3isten to me 1nobber" has noth%ing to do with this
'No (hat disturbs me is the )act that "ou so 8uickl" re'ected our whole li)e and e#er"bod"
and e#er"thing connected with me &n m" mind those are e/actl" the things to which &
should ha#e held )ast in the same position'
As he made that honest admission$ tears o) shame at

the truth she was re)using to tell him swam in her e"es Had her position not become
untenable with his hostile )amil"$ she would ha#e chosen to sta" in the town house 1he
whirled round into his strong arms like a homing pigeon 1he drank in the warm$
wonder)ull" )amiliar scent o) him like an addict without hope o) reclaim and muttered
hoarsel"$ '&'m sorr" that "ou got embarrassed like that at the press con)erence:'
'Dio mio$ cara &'m not so sensiti#e & ha#e skin like a rhino a)ter 0onta#ia' Damiano
ga6ed down at her with sardonic amusement 'Nothing short o) the news that "ou had been
working the streets to sur#i#e would ha#e )a6ed me4'
Or that she had been blamed )or ha#ing a torrid a))air mere months a)ter he had
disappeared- 1ti)ling that en%er#ating thought$ Eden let him usher her back indoors
'& REA33! do want to know e#er"thing that happened to "ou in 0onta#ia$' Eden
murmured seriousl"
His lean$ strong )ace taut$ Damiano studied her where she sat on the edge o) a padded
lounger b" the side o) the superb swimming pool He hauled himsel) up out o) the water
with eas" strength$ wet and bron6ed and stark naked 1he blushed )uriousl"$ struggled to
rescue her concentration$ but his sheer magni)icence chal%lenged her hard
&t was mid+a)ternoon the ne/t da" and a)ter a late and leisurel" lunch the" had )inall"
dragged themsel#es out o) the bedroom 1he ached all o#er )rom the wildness o) their
lo#emaking but there had been something e#en more precious about 'ust being together
e#en though the" hadn't talked about an"thing in particular And she knew that Damiano
had )elt that too )or neither one o) them had made the slightest e))ort to go to sleep in spite
o) their e/haustion
1natching up a )leec" towel$ Damiano ga#e her a wr" look o) comprehension 'The
kidnapping is a long wa" back in the past )or me$ caret'
'&'d still like to know& need to know$' Eden per%sisted
The 8uiet broken onl" b" the background bu66 o) the crickets lingered
'O< &n the )irst minute$ m" dri#er was killed in )ront o) me$' Damiano deli#ered with grim
abruptness$ his hard bone+structure clenching$ his e"es shadowing '&

was bundled into the back o) a co#ered truck and beaten up 1tandard stu))'
Her tumm" lurched with nausea and she lost colour '2ut wh" did these soldiers go a)ter
"ou in the )irst place- (hat did the" hope to achie#e-'
'1ome total idiot decided that b" holding me hostage the" might magicall" get the pre#ious
go#ernment's loans written o))' Damiano's hard mouth twisted with derision at that )anci)ul
belie) 'Then once & was taken$ someone rather brighter realised that kidnapping an
in%ternational banker would hardl" impress the world with the new regime's
credentialsor attract an" )urther in%#estment'
1he nodded 'erkil"$ )ighting not to think o) him being beaten up but tears were burning the
back o) her e"es
'1uddenl" & was a liabilit"$ surplus to re8uirements The onl" wa" & managed to sta" ali#e
until the camp was attacked was b" persuading the commanding o))icer that & was so )ilth"
rich$ he could ransom me back to m" )amil" )or his own personal pro)it$' Damiano
re%#ealed )latl"
1he shuddered 'And then "ou were hurt again:
'(hen the rebel )orces attacked$ a grenade was thrown into the hut where & was being held
(hen & came round$ & was being carted through the 'ungle on a pallet 2oth m" legs were
broken& was totall" help+less and temporaril" blinded b" the e/plosion' Damiano
recalled with a grimace '& also had a )ractured skull 2ut & acted a lot more con)used than &
was until & had come up with a credible identit" with which to satis)" m" rescuers that &
was on their side Then 'ust when & had got mobile enough to make a co#ert break )or the
nearest border$ the )ield hospital was o#errun b" go#ernment troops'

'And then "ou dared not admit who "ou reall" were$' he completed hea#il" )or him$
recognising what a bitter ource o) )rustration that must ha#e been a)ter he had one through
so much
'The months a)ter that were the toughest$' Damiano con)ided griml" '& spent a lot o) time
isolated in a pun+ishment cell because & was alwa"s getting into )ights' Eden gaped at him
'Alwa"s getting into )ights- !ou-'
Damiano dealt her an impatient look 'Two o) the gu"s & went in with were murdered b"
other inmates$' he told her )latl" '&'d be dead i) & hadn't learned to de)end m"sel) 2" that
stage$ & was con#inced & was going to spend the rest o) m" natural li)e locked up *or a
while$ & didn't much care what happened to me4 &t was months be)ore we were sentenced
)or our sup%posed crimes against the state Onl" then did & realise that &'d be released in a
couple o) "ears'
Eden coiled her hands tightl" together$ )eeling the )ull guilt" weight o) her own nai#et"
about what it was like to li#e in such tough conditions '&t must ha#e been hell )or "ou$' she
mumbled$ and the minute she'd said that she wished that she could ha#e come up with
something less inane
2ut a long dark shadow )ell o#er her Damiano reached down and separated her trembling
hands to tug her upright His spectacular dark$ deep+set e"es glittered with hard sel)+
assurance '0onta#ia taught me to #alue what & ha#e Not to li#e in the past when & was
damned luck" 'ust to sur#i#e4 & lost m" )reedom but & didn't lose an"thing that reall"
mattered And now that & am home$ & will be ruthless in discarding an"thing & don't want
)rom m" li)e4' Her e"es slid )ear)ull" )rom his$ tumm" somersault+

ing at that blunt declaration o) intent (hat would he do when she told him about 0ark and
Tina- (hose stor" was Damiano most likel" to belie#e- Hadn't Damiano alwa"s shown
more )aith in his )amil" than he had shown in her- 1he had a horrendous #ision o) being
ruthlessl" discarded )rom Damiano's li)e in the wa" he had 'ust mentioned Damiano might
not waste much time agonising o#er whether or not she might be guilt"
Nor could she easil" )orget all that the man )rom the *oreign O))ice had warned her about
(hat i) Damiano's present desire )or her was 'ust a temporar" thing- A transitional phase-
He had ne#er said that he lo#ed her !et he cared about her and he still )ound her
ph"sicall" attracti#e That latter combination wasn't a lot though$ was it- How would she
bear it i) Damiano chose to walk awa" )rom her in a )ew weeks' time- And how much more
likel" was that de#elopment when he learnt about that wretched a))air and his )aith in her
was tested-
'(hat's wrong-' Damiano asked$ terri)"ingl" attuned it now seemed to her e#er" change o)
'Nothing4' Thinking at )rantic speed$ she tilted her
head to one side '& was actuall" wondering how "ou
contri#ed to arri#e here ahead o) me last night !ou
ne#er did e/plain that'
'& walked out earl" on the board meeting at the bank' &n considerable disconcertion$ Eden
stared at him '&n )i#e "ears the bank has had three di))erent acting chairmen (ith that
man" changes o) polic"$ not to mention la/ management$ pro)its ha#e dropped The" want
me back in spite o) the )act that &'m out o) touch' Damiano's e/pressi#e mouth curled '&n
)act the" want me back like "esterda"'

'1oer$ wh" did "ou lea#e the meeting earl"-'
His strong 'awline s8uared '& saw no reason wh" & should allow m"sel) to be put under
pressure the instant & arri#e home The 2ragan6i 2ank must wait'
Eden swallowed hard on a statement which he would ha#e once considered heres" Once
Damiano had li#ed )or the 2ragan6i 2ank$ the cut and thrust o) the mone" markets$ the
latest e/citing and all+important deal He had been a thri#ing workaholic who had taken
twel#e+to eighteen+hour working da"s in his stride Damiano had sandwiched their
marriage into the tin" spaces le)t o#er between appointments$ trips abroad$ late+night
business powwows and a social li)e that had occupied se#eral e#enings a week
'&n about three weeks' time$ &'ll be attending another meeting in Rome 0" &talian
colleagues are possibl" 'ust a )raction more aware o) what a man wants and needs a)ter a
long time awa" )rom his woman' Damiano ga6ed down at her with a sudden outrageousl"
wol)ish grin$ white teeth )lashing$ brilliant e"es )ull o) sel)+mocker"
'Are the"-' Her mouth ran dr" and her heartbeat 8uickened 2eneath the onslaught o) that
teasing ap%praisal$ that se/" assessing look he ne#er made the slightest attempt to
downpla"$ she )elt as di66" as a teenager Damiano could shamelessl" telegraph hot de%sire
across a crowded room with a single lingering glance
'Especiall" when the gu" concerned is aware that his wi)e was once one o) the most
neglected wi#es in 3ondon:'
'2ut "ou used to notice me around bedtime:' That charismatic grin merel" slanted in eas"

knowledgement o) that direct hit '&t didn't get me )ar$ did it- !ou had me climbing walls in
'2ut not an" more$' she inserted in haste$ struck a)resh b" the dangerous mistakes she had
made during those earl" months o) marriage 1uch a gorgeous gu" denied se/$ made to )eel
unwelcome the one place he had had a right to )eel welcome 1ome men would ha#e gi#en
up on her and stra"ed
'!ou 'ust made me want "ou more and more' Damiano laughed throatil" and grabbed her
up into his arms$ smouldering e"es raking o#er her heart+shaped )ace '&n )act & don't mind
admitting that$ in the dark$ "ou and "our inseparable nightie ga#e me some incred%ibl"
e/citing clima/es There was alwa"s that aura o) the )orbidden to re#el in Not to mention
the wonder)ul night & disco#ered that "ou were biting the pillow be%cause "ou were so
scared o) making a noise & suppose "ou didn't want to encourage me with the idea that "ou
could be en'o"ing "oursel) that much:'
Cheeks a)lame$ she e/claimed$ 'Noit was the knowledge that "our sister$ Cosetta$ was in
the room ne/t door4'
&n the #er" act o) stepping down into the pool and lowering her into the shimmering
tur8uoise water$ Damiano stilled$ sudden comprehension )laring in his spectacular dark
golden e"es 'Per amor di Dio"ou were that sel)+conscious-' he groaned$ all amusement
#an8uished as he caught her close to him 'That ne#er occurred to me (hat a bab" "ou still
wereand "ou ' do choose "our moments$ don't "ou- .ust when & was ' about persuade "ou
out o) "our bikini and into rampant se/ outdoors'
Damiano's pro#ocati#e drawl broke o)) at that precise moment$ brows pleating at the
clacket"+clack noise o)

an approaching helicopter in the skies abo#e '(hat the hell-' he began indignantl" as i) he
owned the airspace as well as most o) the land in sight
A huge grin crept up to cur#e Eden's trembling mouth 'And here "ou are stuck in the water
naked as a 'a"bird 1uppose it's the papara66i-' she whispered wickedl" '& know "ou lo#e
risk$ Damianobut i) Nuncio thought the shares might crash i) "ou appeared in denim$
what will happen i) "ou appear in nothing but "our skin-'
E#en so$ it was a shock to them both when the hel%icopter )lew directl" o#erhead and then
began a descent on the )ar side o) the #illa ';isitors-' Eden "elped aghast
0eshing one lean power)ul hand into her hair$ Damiano tipped her )ace up '!ou little
witch$' he husked in a se/" growl$ scanning her with hot$ dark appreciati#e e"es and
claiming her startled mouth in a de#astatingl" hungr" kiss that wiped helicopters$ #isi%tors
and e#en the )act she was standing in water right out o) her mind
Damiano li)ted his head again$ spla"ing his hands possessi#el" o#er her bottom to urge her
against his hotl" aroused length Then with an impatient curse in &talian$ he set her back
)rom him with pronounced re%luctance '(ho outside the )amil" knows that we are here-'
&t was some time be)ore Eden disco#ered the answer to that salient 8uestion (hile
Damiano was able to dress at speed in the changing area b" the pool and head straight o))
to greet their #isitors$ she had onl" a wrap to pull on o#er her wet bikini and had to rush
upstairs to )ind clothes (hen she came down again$ she walked straight into

the main salon$ a grandiose state room )urnished on a princel" scale with 2russels
tapestries and magni)icent gilded )urniture E#en Damiano had been thrown b" the sheer
si6e o) it when the" had done a casual mini+tour o) the principal rooms on the ground )loor
the night be)ore &mmediatel" recognising the slim redhead seated all b" hersel) on a so)a$
Eden hurried to greet the other woman
'Darc"- (h" on earth are "ou sitting here on "our own-'
Rising to her )eet$ cooll" elegant in a )lowing tur%8uoise dress$ Darc" looked amused
'(ell$ in the )irst )ine )lush o) male bonding$ "our husband and m" hus%band 'ust totall"
)orgot about me &'#e 'ust seen them walking along the terrace out there with drinks in their
'Oh$ dear' Eden glanced in the direction o) the windows but the two men were no longer
within #iew
Darc" reached )or Eden's hands with 8uiet but sin%cere warmth '&'m so happ" )or "ou and
Damiano$ Eden & cried m" e"es out when & heard the news' Her e"es took on an apologetic
light 'And &'m a)raid that 3uca 'ust couldn't wait to see Damiano again'
'& can understand that$' Eden said without hesitation )or the &talian banker$ 3uca Ra))acani$
was Damiano's oldest )riend 'Did "ou bring the children with "ou-'
'5ood hea#ens$ no4 & thought the two o) us was 8uite
su))icient$' Darc" said rue)ull" '*i#e would ha#e been
an in#asion )orce4'
'*i#e)i#e- Eden was doing basic sums and )inall" appreciating 'ust how long it had been
since she had seen the other couple '!ou'#e had another child- *or goodness' sake$ o)
course$ &'m reall" out o) touch$ Eia must be eight now and we were at Pietro's christening

shortl" be)ore Damiano disappeared$' she recalled slowl"
'& had another little girl two "ears agolook$ Eden$ that's not important$' Darc" countered$
her delicate but #i#id )ace looking troubled and serious 'Do "ou re%member the last time
3uca called with "ou in 3ondon-'
'!es$ o) course & do' A)ter Damiano had gone miss%ing$ 3uca had #isited her regularl"
when he'd been in 3ondon on business Howe#er$ Nuncio and Cosetta had alwa"s insisted
on being present when an"one o) 3uca's importance had called and Eden had ne#er got the
chance to talk to 3uca alone
'(ell$ 3uca was #er" disturbed b" the wa" Damiano's brother and sister were treating "ou
He de%scribed the atmosphere as ,poisonous,$' Darc" con%)ided with characteristic
bluntness '(e were going to ask "ou to come and sta" with us but be)ore we were able to
do an"thing:'
'&'d le)t 3ondon and #anished without e#en mention%ing what & was planning to do' Eden's
smile was strained as she attempted both to conceal her discom%)iture at the direction in
which the con#ersation was heading and stall it .ust how much had the )ormidabl" shrewd
3uca Ra))acani understood about what had been happening in the 2ragan6i )amil" during
that period- And was Darc" hinting that 3uca might well bring Damiano up to speed on the
same e#ents-
'3uca made strenuous e))orts to trace "ou'
,That was #er" kind o) him but & honestl" managed )ine$ Darc" &'m a)raid & needed to
come to terms with Damiano's disappearance on m" own and & reall" wouldn't ha#e wanted
to in)lict m" miser" on other peo%ple' Eden used the distraction o) li)ting the phone to

order re)reshments Her hand was trembling as she re%placed the recei#er
'&'#e got this aw)ul )eeling that &'#e gi#en "ou the wrong impression$' Darc" admitted
an/iousl" '3uca and & 'ust wish we had made a mo#e sooner and done more to help be)ore
the situation got out o) hand'
'!ou did e#er"thing "ou possibl" could and it was #er" much appreciated$ belie#e me'
(hat situation- (hat was Darc" re)erring to- 2ut$ ironicall"$ Eden was much too scared to
ask 1he suppressed her )ears b" telling hersel) that 3uca Ra))acani was )ar too cle#er and
worldl" wise to e#en consider making re#elations which would cause trouble in a )riend's
marriage '2ut let's not look back Right now$ & can't help 'ust wanting to re#el in the )act
that Damiano has come home to me'
'(hich is e/actl" as it should be$' Darc" agreed im%mediatel"$ but her )ine skin was
)lushed$ her e"es now #eiled 'And in the normal wa"$ & reall" would agree that )amil"
matters should sta" strictl" pri#ate but Oh$ dear$ there & go again and 3uca did warn me
not to mention it4'
Eden took strength )rom mat rue)ul admission and decided that it was highl" unlikel" that
news o) her supposed torrid a))air nearl" )i#e "ears earlier had tra#%elled as )ar a)ield as
&tal" 1he reall" was getting para%noid4 A single stor" b" one 2ritish tabloid newspaper
would scarcel" ha#e made news round the world$ she scolded hersel) 1he ga#e her
outspoken companion a s"mpathetic smile 'Ha#e "ou e#er noticed that the min%ute "ou're
warned not to sa" something$ it's the one thing that "ou can't get out o) "our mind-'
'&sn't it 'ust-' Pushing back her spring" auburn curls )rom her brow$ Darc" rela/ed at that
re'oinder and

laughed '&'m no good at keeping things in but 3uca is wonder)ull" discreet4'
Recei#ing that as a reassuring declaration$ Eden re%called how en#ious she had once been
o) the strength o) 3uca and Darc"'s happ" marriage 1uch di))erent personalities "et the"
complemented each other= Darc" so guileless and down+to+earth$ 3uca$ in)initel" more
comple/ and reser#ed The two women walked along the terrace$ taking in the wonder)ul
#iews o) the Tuscan countr"side drowsing in the a)ternoon heat and e#en%tuall" )ound
3uca and Damiano
2oth men interrupted their keen con#ersation to glance at their wi#es with the slightl" war"
e/pressions o) males belatedl" recalling their e/istence Eden was tense until 3uca
Ra))acani greeted her with a la6" smile$ his legendar" reser#e nowhere in e#idence with
)riends Damiano dropped his arm round Eden and drew her possessi#el" close$ the heat
and pro/imit" o) his sun+warmed bod" soothing the last o) her concerns and )ir%ing a glow
o) happiness in her e"es &n times gone b"$ Damiano would not ha#e been so demonstrati#e
in )ront o) other people
Eden watched 3uca tug at a strand o) Darc"'s tum%bling pre+Raphaelite curls$ his wi)e's
answering smile up into her husband's e"es And then she )ound Damiano looking down at
her$ his burnished golden ga6e pinned to her tense )ace$ a slight )rown+line draw%ing his
e/pressi#e dark brows together The memor" o) that rather 8uestioning look sta"ed with
The con#ersation ro#ed on to the theatrical grandeur o) the ;illa Pa#one which had been
restored right down to the smallest detail Damiano e/plained that his late grandmother$
3i#ia 2ragan6i$ had le)t architectural his+

torians in charge o) the pro'ect 'The" had )our "ears in which to complete their work:'
'And the onl" power showers are in the pool com%ple/$' Eden chipped in with amusement$
recalling Damiano's comical horror in the earl" hours when he had gone into the massi#e
en suite bathroom to take a shower and )ound onl" a giant bath in the shape o) a clam shell
'1o there's still a )ew impro#ements to be made be%cause & ha#e no intention o) li#ing in
the eighteenth centur"$' Damiano commented )eelingl" '(e ha#e a pool onl" because
Nonna was a keen swimmer'
'!our grandmother brought "ou and "our siblings up a)ter "our parents died$ didn't she-'
Darc" prompted Damiano with interest 'To manage that and de#ote her li)e to restoring
historic buildings$ she must ha#e been a #er" acti#e woman'
Onl" a great deal less acti#e in the parenting stakes$ Eden re)lected inwardl" 3i#ia
2ragan6i had been an e/tremel" rich intellectual (idowed with onl" one child while she
was still a "oung woman$ she had been obsessed b" her restoration pro'ects and not
remotel" maternal Damiano's parents had died in a car crash when he was thirteen His
grandmother had idolised him$ he had once admitted to Eden$ purel" because he was so
cle#er His brother and sister had )ared less well against that demanding "ardstick o)
appro#al Damiano's protecti#e attitude towards his siblings had been )ostered )rom an
earl" age
Pressed to do so$ Darc" and 3uca sta"ed to dinner be)ore taking their lea#e
'(h" were "ou uncom)ortable with 3uca-' Damiano en8uired within minutes o) the
departure o) their guests
The" were sitting o#er )resh co))ee in the pictures8ue

#ine+co#ered loggia watching the sun sink down behind the hills Eden )lushed and tried
not to sti))en '(as &-'
'&nitiall" noticeabl" ill at ease$ then "ou seemed to rela/' His lean$ strong )ace taut$
Damiano studied her with cool condemnation '&t bothers me that & should ha#e to hear
)rom someone else what & should ha#e been told b" "ou'
To mask her growing ner#ous tension$ Eden had be%gun stirring her co))ee$ and$ so
stricken was she b" what Damiano was sa"ing$ she kept on stirring as though her li)e
depended on it The a))air it had to be that he was talking about4 1he could )eel the blood
draining )rom her )eatures$ the sudden clamminess o) her skin$ the sick sensation o)
)oreboding turning her tumm" 8ueas"
lDio miol am genuinel" grate)ul that 3uca chose to be so )rank with me$' Damiano
continued$ his hard mouth ruthlessl" cast '(h" couldn't "ou tell me that$ #irtuall" )rom the
moment o) m" disappearance$ m" )amil" began treating "ou like dirt-'
At that re#ealing 8uestion which told her that her guilt" conscience had pro#oked near
panic )ar in ad%#ance o) an" true threat$ Eden's head 'erked up '(eller$ &:'
Anger now clearl" e#ident in his splintering dark ga6e$ Damiano rammed back his chair
and rose to his )ull commanding height '3uca said he noticed their hostilit" towards "ou
the #er" )irst time he #isited He said m" sister embarrassed "ou in )ront o) the sta)) b"
countermanding "our instructions and indeed went out o) her wa" to stress that she was the
hostess in what was "our home4'
'&t was alwa"s like that when "ou weren't around$' Eden admitted grudgingl"
Damiano stared at her in complete shock 1he saw

that he had listened to what 3uca had said but had un%doubtedl" hoped that 3uca had
somehow misinterpreted what he had seen during his #isits to the town house 'E#en be)ore
& went missing-' he emphasised rawl"
Eden sighed and then nodded
'!et "ou ne#er uttered a single word o) complaint4' Damiano sur#e"ed her with thunderous
'!ou told me that "our )amil" was the most important thing in "our li)e *urthermore$ the
last thing a new wi)e wants to do is to start criticising her husband's relati#es when she has
to li#e with them$' Eden responded )latl" '&'m a)raid the" had got used to the idea o) "ou
mar%r"ing Annabel and & was a #er" unwelcome surprise'
'2ut Tina$ at least$ was "our )riend'
'Not i) it was likel" to bring her into con)lict with Nuncio or Cosetta Tina would ne#er
cross Cosetta That's how she keeps the peace'
Depri#ed o) e#en the com)ort o) belie#ing that his sister+in+law had been supporti#e$
Damiano e/pelled his breath in a stark kiss '& understand that Nuncio implied within 3uca's
hearing that it was somehow "our )ault that & had gone to 0onta#ia'
Eden ga#e a second reluctant nod o) a))irmation
'Porca miseria4' Damiano e/claimed in outrage 'How the hell could m" own brother make
such a ri%diculous charge against "ou-'
Eden paled '!our brother and "our sister were aware that our marriage was under strain
be)ore "ou le)t The" belie#ed that i) "ou had been more happil" married "ou would ha#e
let one o) the bank e/ecuti#es make that trip'
Damiano was now white with rage below his bron6ed comple/ion 'Accidenti4 To sa"
such a thing to m" wi)e when she was grie#ing )or me was un)orgi#able4'

'Damianowhen "ou went missing$ e#er"bod" went ha"wire$' Eden tried to e/plain gentl"
'2ut$ let's )ace it$ & should ha#e stood up )or m"sel) long be)ore that happened &nstead & let
"our )amil" walk all o#er me and sat )eeling sorr" )or m"sel)$ rather than doing some%thing
about the situation'
'Do not attempt to e/cuse them )or their appalling beha#iour4' Damiano grated '!ou were
m" wi)e:'
'!es$ but:'
'0" wi)e$ who stood to inherit e#er"thing & possessed once & was o))iciall" declared dead
No doubt that in itsel) made "ou a target )or their resentment$' Damiano interposed$ settling
on mercenar" moti#es )or his )am%il"'s attitude with a c"nical speed that shook Eden
'*orgi#e me )or e#er 8uestioning "our re)usal to accept m" brother's )inancial support4'
'Don't go o#er the top about this' Disma"ed b" his attitude$ Eden got up )rom her chair
'!our brother and sister were de#astated b" "our disappearance and their distress was
'1anto Cielohow could & ha#e been so blind-' Damiano demanded abruptl"$ his brilliant
dark e"es bleak 'How much did m" own thoughtless beha#iour contribute to what "ou
su))ered at their hands-'
'Don't make such a big deal o) it now$' Eden urged$ seeing no bene)it to an"one in his )ur"
so long a)ter the e#ent 'As long as "ou ne#er ask me to li#e with them again$ & can let
b"gones be b"gones'
'!ou are much too )orgi#ing and generous$ tersoro mio There will$ ne#ertheless$ be a
calling to account$' Damiano deli#ered with grim assurance '& will not let this matter die
&ndeed$ & cannot & trusted m" )amil" to look a)ter "ou when & could not be there )or "ou'
'2ut & didn't need looking a)ter$' Eden protested

Damiano pulled her into his arms$ crushing her into the heat and solidit" o) his big
power)ul )rame with strong hands '&'d ha#e gone mad in 0onta#ia i) & had known that "ou
were being #ictimised and hurt b" those closest to me4' he bit out in a still wrath)ul
undertone abo#e her head
'& still would pre)er "ou to let all this sta" buried E#er"bod"'s been upset enough and & do
wish 3uca Ra))acani had minded his own business4'
'1ince it's ob#ious "ou weren't going to tell me$ &'m glad he had the sense to do so$'
Damiano countered without hesitation 'Dio mioone needs to know who one can trust'
That phrase sent a stabbing little chill down Eden's spine (ould Damiano still trust her i)
he knew what she was keeping to hersel)- And then her e"es )lashed angril" as she
registered the astonishing le#el o) her own guilt (hat had she done- Nothing4 &t was time
she reminded hersel) o) that )act (h" shouldn't she protect their wonder)ul togetherness
)rom all malign in%)luences- (h" should she ha#e to make an awkward e/planation about
the sordid scandal which Tina and 0ark had sel)ishl" created- (ell$ she would tell
Damiano when she was good and read" and in the meantime- &n the meantime$ she was
determined not to allow that business to hang o#er her like an e/ecu%tioner's a/e$ )illing
her with )ear and unease as it had this a)ternoon when Darc" had spoken rather too )rankl"
Damiano anchored his hands round her and li)ted her high A wr" smile chased the
remnants o) anger )rom his lean$ strong )ace '!ou look reall" cross with me:'
'Not with "ou' Her heart in her e"es$ Eden ga6ed

down at him with helpless tenderness '(ith 3uca )or la"ing all that on "ou now'
Damiano strode indoors with his arms still )irml" wrapped round her '& was surprised but
e#identl" what he witnessed le)t a deep impression on him & dare sa" he was shocked
Howe#er$ &'m tough$ cara mia (h" do we ha#e to trek a mile to get to our bedroom in this
house-' he lamented$ lowering her slowl" down the length o) his taut$ muscular ph"si8ue$
catching her up again hal)wa" through that manoeu#re to take her lips with passionate
1he clung to him with )e#erish )orce$ stretching up on tiptoe to let her )ingers plunge into
his spring" black hair and hold him close Her bod" was coming ali#e all on its own He
was kissing her with the same deep$ dri#ing sensualit" with which he made lo#e He )ired a
tide o) hot$ 8ui#ering longing that made her breasts ache and her thighs tremble He sank
down on a gilded chair that creaked in alarming complaint beneath their com%bined
Dragging his mouth )rom hers$ he got up again in haste and #ented a rue)ul laugh 'Right$
"ou can put the twee daint" chairs into storage )or starters &'ll choose com)ort o#er
authenticit" an" da"4'
'One$ power shower$' she whispered$ utterl" da66led b" his glorious smile$ heart racing to
such an e/tent she could hardl" catch her breath 'Two$ chairs to do more than sit in:'
'Did & sa" that-' Damiano asked mockingl" as he headed )or the stairs
'*or once$ &'m ahead o) "ou'
'And without the #odka too:'
Eden reddened and mock+punched a broad shoulder ,That was low:'

'No$ low would be discussing the episode in depth and telling "ou that & reall" do wish that
& had kept m" mouth shut )i#e minutes longer' Damiano regarded her with smouldering
e"es and a thoroughl" wicked grin ' 'ust to see what "ou had planned )or me:'
'&nstead o) which & blew a gasket but "ou can blame Ramon Alco#erro )or that
de#elopment$' Damiano in%)ormed her without warning 'Do "ou know what Ramon said
#er" 8uietl" to me one minute be)ore & le)t 2ra6il-'
Eden )rowned in bewilderment as Damiano lowered her down onto their bed 'Nowhat-'
',!our wi)e's been pla"ing awa"thought & should mention it since "our little brother didn't
ha#e the guts4, 2astard4' Damiano ground out )eelingl"$ adding something in &talian that
sounded e/tremel" derogator"$ merci)ull" not looking at her as he slipped o)) her shoes '1o
& had the entire )light back to 3ondon to wonder about what & was coming home to and
work out this trite little speech about how & understood i) there had been other gu"slike
hell would & ha#e understood4'
Eden closed her shattered e"es and now remembered how incredibl" tense Damiano had
been with her those )irst )ew minutes at the air)ield '&:'
'1i& agree That is a totall" unreasonable attitude considering that "ou spent a good )our
and a hal) "ears o) "our li)e thinking "ou were a widow$' Damiano con%ceded$ into )ull$
unstoppable )low now on a sub'ect which had patentl" disturbed him a great deal '2ut a
gu" who's been caged like an animal )or the same length o) time is not reasonable$ & assure
"ou & put "ou on a pedestal like a little saint & couldn't bear e#en to

consider the idea that "ou might ha#e slept with another man:'
Eden sidled back into the shadows cast b" the bed curtains 1he was pale as death
Damiano breathed in deep$ shimmering dark e"es )ull o) raw emotion as he came down on
the edge o) the bed '&) & had lost "ou$ & would ha#e )elt as i) & had lost e#er"thing$' he
con)essed with roughened urgenc" '& had so much )aith in "oubut & was #er" scared that
Ramon might be telling me the truth4'
&t was the moment when she should ha#e spoken up$ e/plained wh" Ramon had said such a
thing E#identl" that nast" little tabloid stor" had tra#elled as )ar as 2ra6il in terms o)
gossip at die least 2ut she la" there like a stone on a ri#erbed resisting the )orce o) the
cur%rent and said une#enl"$ '(ould "ou ha#e di#orced me-'
'1hush' Damiano scolded with a wince at the sound o) that word and he li)ted her hand$
spread her )ingers and pressed his lips almost re#erentl" to her palm Then he raised his
handsome dark head and sur%#e"ed her with immense appreciation '& ma" not ha#e
respected "our moral scruples be)ore we got married$ cara miabut & clung to m" memor"
o) them e#er" da" & was in prison'
'Hmm' Eden's #oice was so small it was practi%call" inaudible '(ould "ou ha#e di#orced
'(hat is this preoccupation with that sub'ect-'
'&'m&'m 'ust curious$' she mumbled hal) under her breath
1iprobabl"$' Damiano groaned in )rustration at her persistence 'Out o) pride and 'ealous"
and pain Now "ou're anno"ed with me$ aren't "ou-'
Eden had )lipped awa" )rom him onto her side 'No4'
(ith a throat" chuckle$ Damiano tugged her relent+

lessl" back into his arms 'Don't "ou know how much & need "ou-' he husked$ stringing out
a teasing line o) kisses across her sealed lips 'Now$ &'#e ne#er told an" woman that be)ore
&n#oluntaril"$ a smile crept up on her tense mouth '1o macho:'
&n the midst o) that sentence$ he brought his mouth down with se/" pro#ocati#e heat on
hers and she knew she hadn't spoken when she should ha#e spoken but$ once he had said
that about di#orce$ she knew she 'ust couldn't take that big a risk 1he would tell him be)ore
the" le)t &tal" and returned to 3ondon$ she promised hersel) Chain him to a wall )irst$ lock
e#er" e/it$ she told hersel) )anci)ull"
O#er three weeks later$ Eden strolled through the wild woodland at the lower end o) the
;illa Pa#one's ter%raced gardens Damiano had been awa" )or thirt"+si/ hours in Rome He
had asked her to accompan" him but she had said no 1a"ing no had cost her but the" had
spent endless da"s and nights solel" together and intelligence had warned her that it was
time to stand back and not cling like a neurotic
This time$ Damiano was going to come home &n her head she knew that but she hadn't
slept a wink the night be)ore because there was no common sense to be )ound in her heart
1he missed him so much$ she was counting the hours and minutes still to be got through
He was due home in the e#ening He had phoned her se#eral times Once in the middle o)
the night to complain that he kept on waking up because she wasn't there 1he had oo6ed
s"mpath" but she had liked that:oh$ "es$ she had bleed that$ wouldn't ha#e been at all
happ" i) he had slept like a log without her

Damiano was more hers than he had e#er been Damiano was treating her like the most
precious and wonder)ul woman in the world &t seemed that losing each other had taught
them to #alue each other more and #alue pride a great deal less And$ o) course$ lo#ing him
to bits helped Not to mention the mutuall" insa%tiable passion which she no longer )elt
threatened b" &ndeed$ she thought$ )eeling a slight )lush warm her )ace$ she was prett"
shameless in that department now (ell$ in her estimation$ she was Almost e#er" problem
resol#ed'ust the one le)t
Howe#er$ it did take courage to )ace up to the nast" necessit" o) )inall" telling Damiano
about 0ark and Tina's a))air and the conse8uences she had )oolishl" brought down on
hersel) 2ut$ Eden re)lected an/iousl"$ it had to be done Tiring o) the shaded walk$ she
wan%dered o)) it into the sunlit ma6e between towering dark hedges as impenetrable as
walls (ould she be able to )ind her wa" to the centre without Damiano's superior sense o)
direction as guidance- 'Ed+en4'
A huge smile o) surprise )lashed across her )ace as she recognised that distant call
E#identl"$ Damiano had returned )rom Rome sooner than he had e/pected 1he "elled back
and cursed the )act that she had gone into the ma6e E/citement had caused her to lose her
bear%ings and$ absurdl"$ she had to keep on shouting
&t was ironic that while she was attempting to )ind the )astest wa" out again$ she instead
)ound hersel) on a one+wa" path and ended up at the centre o) the ma6e instead The
)abulous )ountain there shot spra"s o) glit%tering water high into the hot still air '&'m at the
)oun%tain4' she called with a grin and the knowledge that she

would ne#er let on that she had arri#ed there acciden%tall"
'Per amor di Dio$? am not in the mood )or some stupid game4'
That comeback made Eden )lush in disconcertion 2ut then possibl" he was tired and had
been searching the e/tensi#e gardens )or longer than patience could bear About thirt"
seconds later$ she heard his )ootsteps crunch on the gra#el sur)ace within the ma6e '&'m not
pla"ing a gameit's 'ust & thought "ou could come in 8uicker than & would )ind m" wa"
out4' she announced on a note o) apolog"
.ust ten )eet awa" )rom her$ Damiano strode suddenl" into #iew He stopped dead then as
though a repelling )orce)ield surrounded her And he looked at her as he had ne#er in his
li)e looked at her (ith seething anger and derision and hatred And that 8uickl"$ Eden
knew$ long be)ore he spoke$ e#en be)ore he )lung the news%paper cutting in his hand$ that
she had waited )ar too long to tell him that stor"
THE newspaper cutting )luttered down onto the sunlit gra#el Eden ga#e the crumpled snap
o) Tina and 0ark's torrid embrace onl" a brie) and pained glance
'&t is "our deliberate deception that disgusts me most4' Damiano breathed in a stupendousl"
8uiet as%surance that nonetheless cut through the surging silence like a whiplash 'At e#er"
opportunit" when "ou might ha#e spoken up$ "ou chose to lie'
'No$ & ha#en't told "ou an" lies$' Eden murmured tautl"$ snatching in a breath o) the hot$
still air$ perspi%ration dampening her upper lip '&t was Tina who had the a))air with 0ark
That is Tina$ not me$ in that pho%tograph$ Damiano:'
'Accidenti4 &'m not listening to nonsense like that:'
Eden's pale )ace tightened '(ell$ while "ou're not listening$ would "ou please tell me
where "ou got that cutting )rom-'
His aggressi#e 'awline clenched '!et another one o) the well+wishers who appear to
surround me but$ on this occasion$ an anon"mous one That tabloid trash was de%li#ered to
me b" special courier this morning &t was sent )rom 3ondon'
Eden was )ighting to keep calm$ )ighting to sta" in control and not gi#e wa" to the realit"
that she was weak with shock 'Probabl" b" Tina Now that she #iews me as a threat$ she's
keen to see me drummed out o) the )amil" &) "ou think about this aw)ul business calml":'

'Calml"-' Damiano derided thickl" as i) he was ha#%ing di))icult" e#en getting that word
out$ but #olume+wise he was doing #er" well
'& swear that & ha#e ne#er been intimate with 0ark (e ha#en't e#er e#en kissed &t was
alwa"s a platonic )riendship'
Ashen below his bron6ed skin$ Damiano continued to stare at her with unreadable )i/it"$
e"es black as obsid%ian$ stunningl" handsome )eatures as in)le/ible as a stone car#ing
<nowing as surel" as i) he had told her that he was recalling that she had once admitted to
ha#ing had a teenage crush on 0ark$ Eden trembled and set o)) hur%riedl" on another
track &t was dread)ul that her mind should let her down in the midst o) such a
con)rontation 2ut panic had such a grip on her$ she couldn't get her teeming thoughts in
order or e#en work out 8uite where to begin to tell her side o) what had happened almost
)i#e "ears earlier
'& didn't know 0ark and Tina were ha#ing an a))air until the stor" broke in that newspaper$'
she told him tautl" '0ark #isited the town house a great deal those )irst weeks a)ter "ou
were missing He and Tina got on well but & ne#er thought an"thing o) that & mean$ wh"
would &- & was too wrapped up in m" own miser" to be that obser#ant Tina began to
suggest that we went down to the countr" house at O/)ord at weekends 0ark was still
working there then:'
'!ou're wasting "our time with this$' Damiano drawled lethall" '& lost m" )reedom$ not m"
brain$ in 1outh America'
Eden 'ust kept on talking )or$ now that she had begun$ she could not stop the words spilling
out '(e would dri#e down in m" car Tina said it was good )or me to

ha#e to do something that & had to think about and she was probabl" right& was like a
6ombie then 1he le)t me alone a lot those weekends but it ne#er occurred to me that she
was with 0ark & wasn't much compan"$ so & wasn't surprised when she would sa" she was
o)) to #isit )riends and she took m" carwhere are "ou going-' she gasped as Damiano
simpl" swung on his heel and started to walk back into the ma6e
'!ou're telling me lies a child could tear apart 0ark was "our )riend 0ark was "our
constant #isitor 0ark was li#ing down on our countr" estate purel" because "ou insisted
that & emplo" him 2ut then "ou alwa"s had to keep 0ark within reach (h" the hell did
"ou marr" me-'
Eden un)ro6e )rom her stupor and raced a)ter him 'How on earth can "ou ask me that-'
Damiano stilled without turning back to her$ broad shoulders taut with sa#age tension
beneath the )ine cloth o) his charcoal+gre" 'acket '& don't trust m" temper& don't want to
continue this pointless dialogue:'
'!ou owe it to me to hear me out4' Eden broke in incredulousl"
'& don't owe "ou an"thing now' Damiano #ented a sudden raw and bitter laugh that made
her shi#er '2ut thanks )or a )ew memorable la"s'
'.ust "ou turn round and sa" that to m" )ace4' Eden launched at him shakil"
9ne/pectedl"$ Damiano did swing back 'Do "ou know what & reall" thought was wrong
with our mar%riage be)ore & went to 0onta#ia-'
Eden )olded her arms 'erkil"$ her legs trembling be%neath her 'No'
'0arke#er" which wa" & turned$ & came on 0ark4 !ou seemed much closer to him that
"ou were to me$'

Damiano deli#ered grittil"$ black e"es beginning to take on a storm" glitter o) gold$ the
determinedl" le#el drawl now harshening 'Naturall" & resented him7 naturall" & was 'ealous
o) him:,
'.+'ealous-' Eden stammered with a sinking sensation in the pit o) her stomach )or that was
something$ and a #er" dangerous something$ which she had ne#er once suspected
'Remarkable that$ isn't it- That C should ha#e been 'ealous o) a weak$ unscrupulous little
'erk$ who was openl" out )or e#er"thing he could get- Do "ou think 0ark would ha#e been
such an attenti#e )riend i) "ou had married a poor man- He pla"ed "ou like a #iolin$ Eden &
had to stand back and watch it4'
E#er" s"llable o) that contemptuous and humiliat+ingl" accurate assessment o) 0ark's
character bit deep into Eden's shrinking )lesh Damiano had seen what she had not .ust a
)ew weeks ago$ she would ha#e lo"all" de)ended 0ark Now the knowledge that she had
al%lowed 0ark to blackmail her weighed her down with a numbing sense o) her own
Damiano studied her with hard$ biting derision$ dark$ deep+set e"es )righteningl" bleak
'(hen m" )amil" turned against "ou a)ter & went missing$ 0ark must ha#e seemed like
"our onl" re)uge Presumabl" that's how "ou ended up in bed with him$' he breathed in a
chilling assumption that shook her rigid 'Did "ou then tell "our%sel) that "ou were in lo#e
with him-'
Eden was aghast at that 8uestion and e#en more b" the reasoning he had emplo"ed$
e/plaining to his own apparent satis)action how she might ha#e succumbed to such an
a))air Registering that her e))orts to de)end hersel) had so )ar made no impression
whatsoe#er on

Damiano$ she e/claimed$ '& didn't end up in bed with 0ark4 & swear & didn't4'
His lean$ power)ul )ace grim$ Damiano appraised her with embittered contempt 1winging
on his heel$ he strode o))$ )eet crunching on the gra#el The sun beating down on her$ Eden
sta"ed where she was$ in so much shock she could not immediatel" react
Damiano had sent her reeling with re#elations o) his own 1he saw now that she was in
much deeper trouble than she could e#er ha#e imagined Damiano had al%wa"s been
'ealous o) her attachment to 0ark4 .ealous to the le#el o) ha#ing once belie#ed that her
)ondness )or the "ounger man was threatening their marriage *or a split second she could
ha#e screamed her )rustration to the skies )or Damiano had care)ull" concealed that
'ealous" )rom her And now circumstances had com%bined horribl" to construct a scenario
which Damiano appeared to )ind disturbingl" credible He was 8uite pre%pared to belie#e
that$ in the )raught a)termath o) his own disappearance$ she had turned to 0ark )or more
than the com)ort o) )riendship
1o hot that her dress was now sticking to her damp
kin$ Eden )ound her wa" out o) the ma6e Now she
couldn't belie#e she had been so stupid as to allow
Damiano to walk awa" )rom her &n panic she raced
through the beauti)ul gardens$ heart thumping like a
cra6ed drumbeat dri#ing her on 1he had to climb two
long )lights o) stone steps to reach the terrace at the rear
i) the #illa 1he sped indoors$ di66" )rom e/ertion and
rantic with )ear that Damiano might alread" ha#e
wung back into his limo and departed
(hen she )ound Damiano in the librar" which he had
begun using as an o))ice soon a)ter their arri#al$ she )ell
still in the doorwa"$ breasts rising and )alling as she

struggled 'ust to catch her breath again Relie) )illed her to o#er)lowing in those )irst taut
His lean$ strong+boned )eatures sa#agel" taut$ Damiano sent her a dark look o) scorching
aggression '5et out$' he said so)tl"$ a slight tremor marring his usual e#en diction
'Not until "ou gi#e me the chance to de)end m"sel)'
Damiano ga#e a great shout o) sardonic laughter 'De)end "oursel)- (ho are "ou tr"ing to
kid- Do "ou think & don't appreciate what's been going on around me since & came home-
E#er"bod" but me knew that "ou had had an a))air4'
'2ut & didn't ha#e an a))air4' Eden )lung back at him wildl"
'Now & understand wh" Nuncio did not bring "ou to 2ra6il Now & know wh" "ou ditched
m" name and went into hiding !ou were embarrassed and ashamed:'
'No$ & was 'ust )ed up with "our )amil" and the whole stupid mess &'d landed m"sel) in4 &
onl" made one mis%take$ Damiano (hen the press erroneousl" identi)ied the woman in
that photograph as me$ & was )aced with a #er" di))icult choice$' Eden insisted in growing
des%peration as she mo#ed deeper into the room$ her whole concentration bent on him '&) &
spoke up and pointed out that that woman was Tina$ & was going to wreck her marriage and
she begged me to keep 8uiet:'
'Tell me$ how long did it take "ou to come up with this melodramatic tale in which "ou
were the onl" #ic%tim and e#er" member o) m" )amil" was rotten to the core-' Damiano
slashed back at her in unconcealed dis%gust
'Tina said it was m" )ault that her a))air with 0ark

was e/posed and$ in a twisted wa"$ she was right$' Eden conceded shakil"
'(hat are "ou tr"ing to sa"-'
'That there wouldn't ha#e been a stor" i) that papa%ra66o photographer hadn't assumed that
that woman kissing 0ark was me4 And m" onl" claim to )ame was being the wi)e o) a
well+known banker who had gone missing in a huge shower o) publicit" That was what
made me a target and that was what made that stor" o) m" supposed in)idelit" worth
'& am ne#er going to belie#e that someone as prim and proper as "ou used to be agreed to
be labelled an adulteress )or Tina's bene)it4' (ith that seething proc%lamation o) disbelie)$
Damiano strode past her$ long$ power)ul strides carr"ing him towards the stairs at a )ar
)aster rate than she could emulate
'All right$ what & did was downright stupid but "ou should know me better4' Eden protested
as she hurried breathlessl" up the stairs in his storm" wake '& thought "ou were dead & was
tr"ing to cope with m" own grie) & reall" didn't want to )eel responsible )or Tina losing
Nuncio as well4'
(ith a ground+out e/clamation in &talian$ Damiano )ell still on the landing$ his lean hands
clenching into power)ul )ists '1top this now> (here is "our dignit"-'
'(hen ha#e & e#er lied to "ou-' Eden demanded rawl"
1he looked up at him He looked back down at her The atmosphere was thick with
si66ling undertones 1he collided with his stunning dark golden e"es and )inall" saw the
tremendous pain he was attempting to hide )rom her$ the sa#age restraint he was e/erting
o#er his emo%tions Eden trembled$ tumm" churning 1he sensed that she

had )inall" said something that penetrated$ something he was )inall" prepared to consider
The silence hung like a giant weight read" to )all
Damiano's black spik" lashes lowered$ e"es narrow%ing to glittering pinpoints o) )erocious
intensit" '!ou ha#e ne#er had cause to lie to me be)ore'
Eden )linched as i) he had struck her$ the )e#erish colour in her cheeks draining awa"$ 'And
"ou ha#e ne#er trusted me$' she muttered in a stricken tone o) disco#er" 'E#identl" "ou
didn't e#en trust me when we were )irst married (hat did & e#er do to deser#e that-'
Dark blood scored the high cheekbones which stood out with such chiselled prominence
below Damiano's bron6ed skin He said nothing
Eden mounted the remaining stairs until the" were le#el$ the shock and hurt in her e"es
unconcealed '!ou hid so much )rom me )i#e "ears ago? had no idea that "ou resented
0ark & reall" didn't understand what & was dealing with until now' Her throat aching with
unshed tears$ Eden turned awa" 'That's$ it$ then$ isn't it- 2ecause & don't ha#e an" proo) o)
m" innocence to o))er "ou4'
As she headed down the corridor to their bedroom$ a lean hand suddenl" snapped round her
wrist$ sta"ing her Damiano scanned her strained$ tear+wet )ace with sa#age dark golden
e"es '(hat do "ou mean$ ,That's it,-'
Eden pulled )ree o) him in an e8uall" abrupt mo#e%ment E#en though she was shaking
like a lea) and start%ing to )eel rather di66"$ she thrust up her chin in chal%lenge '(ell$
what do "ou think & mean-'
E"es a scorching$ aggressi#e gold$ Damiano growled$ 'No wa" are "ou lea#ing me4'
Thoroughl" con)used b" that assurance when she had

assumed he was set on walking out and lea#ing her$ Eden blinked '2+but:'
!ou tell me the truth and &'ll attempt to put this matter behind us' Damiano gritted out each
word o) that promise as i) it ph"sicall" hurt Eden was so taken aback she simpl" gaped at
him 'The truth$' Damiano emphasised '2ut "ou won't belie#e me' '0a"be "ou ne#er
actuall" went as )ar as sleep with himma"be & could belie#e that$' Damiano ground out
thinl" between clenched teeth$ misinterpreting what she had said
Eden tilted her pounding head to one side$ wishing
that anno"ing di66iness a))licting her would recede$ and
looked at him in increasing bewilderment '!ou reall"
don't know what to belie#e$ do "ou-' A great weariness
engul)ed her then 'And & can do nothing but tell "ou
the rest o) the stor" Tina and & discussed this in
3ondon 1he has alread" said that she will lie to protect
ersel)and 0ark is onl" willing to tell the truth )or a
Damiano )rowned down at her without comprehen+sion 'A price-'
'He said he'd throw his lot in with Tina and lie i) & didn't gi#e him mone"$' Eden mumbled
sickl" '0ark is blackmailing me$ Damiano'
(renching open the door$ Eden )led into the bed+torn One glimpse o) Damiano's
trans)i/ed e/pression was su))icient to make her slam the door (ith her emo+tional
turmoil at a le#el be"ond what she could handle$ making that )inal con)ession had made her
)eel margin+all" better 1he had )inall" told him the entire truth

Onl" a )ull two minutes a)ter making that admission did her intelligence kick back in and
shriek that she should ha#e kept 8uiet about the blackmail Now Damiano would be
absolutel" con#inced o) her guilt4

EDEN listened to the silence Damiano did not )ollow her into the bedroom
1till )eeling di66" and absentl" wondering whether stress could make one )eel that light+
headed$ she )lung hersel) on the bed and cried until there were no tears le)t 2" then her
e"es were sore and pu))" and she was hot and e/hausted Pulling o)) her crumpled clothing$
she crawled into the bed Then she la" there dull" won%dering what to do ne/t
(as she supposed to be pleased that Damiano e#i%dentl" cared enough about their
marriage to declare that he would tr" to put her apparent in)idelit" behind him- (hat she
did appreciate was how little she had once been able to read the #olatile male whom she
had mar%ried Damiano 'ealous o) 0ark- &t was as i) Damiano had ne#er e#er 8uite been
able to bring himsel) to be%lie#e that she lo#ed himwh"-
1omewhere in the midst o) tr"ing to work out that m"ster" while tr"ing not to succumb to
an urge to go and search the #illa to see i) Damiano was still in res%idence$ Eden )ell
asleep (hen she opened her e"es again$ the room was diml" lit 1he mo#ed her head
e/%perimentall" and was relie#ed that that strange di66iness had receded 1he turned o#er
then and got a shock
Damiano was sprawled in an armchair onl" about a )oot awa" .acket and tie discarded$
black hair tousled$ he had not )ollowed his usual habit o) sha#ing a second time in the
e#ening A de)inable blue+black shadow o)

stubble outlining his )ormidable 'awline$ he was nursing a brand" goblet between his lean
hands while he studied her )rom below lush ebon" lashes with keen intensit"
'(h+what-' she stammered unsteadil"$ unner#ed b" that scrutin"
Damiano loosed a hea#" sigh and stretched his big shoulders back '& want to hear about
0ark tr"ing to blackmail "ou$' he admitted
Tensing up e#en more$ Eden paled and stared at him in bewilderment '&& ga#e him the
All apparent rela/ation abandoned$ Damiano leapt up like a lion about to spring$ an
e/pression o) unhol" dis%belie) etched on his tough )eatures '!ou didwhat-'
Eden gulped and sat up$ clutching the sheet to her 8uaking )rame 'He threatened to support
Tina's stor" instead (hat was & supposed to do- How do "ou think "ou would ha#e
reacted to all this coming out within da"s o) "ou getting home- & wanted time with "ou&
didn't want e#er"thing ruined:'
'!ou do realise that "ou are damning "oursel) more with e#er" word "ou sa"-' Damiano cut
in )latl"
'2ut it is the truth &'m telling "ou$' Eden insisted '& was scared o) the damage 0ark might
do i) he got to%gether with Tina$ so & ga#e 0ark all the mone" & had in m" bank account
when he asked )or it:'
An e/pression o) shaken )ascination stamping his lean$ strong )ace$ Damiano sank down
hea#il" on the edge o) the bed '!ou 'ust ga#e him ithow much-' he practicall"
A)ter chewing at her lower lip )or a second or two$ she surrendered and told him '& thought
our marriage was worth it$' she muttered hea#il"
'That is a highl" original e/cuse )or pa"ing a black%mailer$' Damiano conceded grittil"$ his
broad chest

swelling as he breathed in #er" deep as i) he was ha#ing a hard time controlling his temper
'Anste" demanded the mone" the da" "ou )lew out here$ didn't he-'
1he ga#e a 'erk" nod and swallowed hard
'That creep" little bastard4' Damiano condemned with a sudden #icious )orce that made her
'&'m sorr"&'m so sorr" about all o) this4' Eden sobbed$ )lopping down to push her )ace
wretchedl" into the pillows
'Console "oursel) with the thought that b" the time &'m )inished some people are going to
be a great deal sorrier$' Damiano imparted darkl"$ and he went on to ask )urther detailed
8uestions concerning 0ark 2ut Eden had )ew concrete answers to o))er 1he knew 0ark's
mobile phone number but not his current ad%dress and was unsure o) the e/act location o)
the organic )arm compan" at which she understood he worked
1he heard Damiano stand up again and she li)ted her head '& ne#er would ha#e slept with
0ark$' she swore in a #ehement rush '& couldn't imagine doing that with an"bod" but "ou'
'That does ha#e a certain ring o) #eracit"$ cara mia 1adl"$ howe#er$ the #odka incident "ou
treated me to the )irst da" doesn't do much to support "our case$' Damiano admitted
bluntl" 'To me that now looks #er" much like "ou o#ercompensating out o) a massi#e guilt
Eden looked at him with reddened e"es now )inall" beginning to spark with angr"
resentment 'Right 'ust "ou go on thinking that .ust "ou go right on rational%ising "our
con#iction that &'m guilt" *rankl"$ & think &'#e had enough grie) o#er something & didn't
&n the rushing silence which )ollowed$ Damiano shed his shirt

Eden bounced up against the pillows$ no longer limp and weep" '(hat do "ou think "ou're
9n6ipping his tailored trousers$ Damiano ga#e her a le#el glance '&'m coming to bed:'
'!ou're not coming to bed with me4' Eden declared in angr" astonishment '!ou don't
belie#e me about 0ark 1o "ou can go and sleep somewhere else4'
At a leisurel" pace$ Damiano remo#ed the remainder o) his clothing Naked and
unconcerned$ he strolled back across the room
'O<"ou can sleep here i) "ou must' Eden with%drew her ob'ections 'ust as suddenl" as
she had made them )or she recalled with a shi#er o) )oreboding 'ust how much o) a distance
separate bedrooms had imposed between them in the distant past
'5ra6ie$' Damiano purred in li8uid &talian
'!ou're not thinking o) a di#orce$ then-' As the lights went out$ that demand 'ust erupted
)rom her and she cringed$ embarrassed b" her lack o) control o#er her own tongue
'Not 'ust at the moment$ no$' Damiano drawled )latl" '2ut &'m probabl" going to make "our
li)e hell while & tr" to come to terms with this'
'&s that a threat-'
'A warning'
&n the darkness tears welled up again and stung her e"es He didn't belie#e her7 he was
ne#er going to be%lie#e that she hadn't betra"ed him with 0ark
&n an abrupt mo#ement$ Damiano closed lean hands to her waist and tugged her across the
great di#ide be%tween them into his arms Ner#ous as a cat$ Eden #ented a startled gasp
'& still want "ou$ cara$' he breathed rawl"
Now in intimate contact with his lean$ muscular ph"+

si8ue$ Eden was in no doubt o) the truth o) that claim$ but she was taken aback '2ut "ou:'
'&'m not so sensiti#e$' Damiano growled 'And "ou can't a))ord to be'
*lung into disarra" b" that uncompromising ap%proach$ Eden 8ui#ered against him$ the
heat and hunger o) him striking her at e#er" treacherous pulse+point
'!ou want me too The lo#e might be )ake but the se/ is real$' Damiano spelt out raggedl"
'And &'m 8uite happ" to settle )or a great time in bed right now'
Those words hurt her so much but she was pain)ull" aware that he was hurting too and she
blamed hersel) entirel" )or that 2ut so strained and unhapp" did she )eel that she genuinel"
belie#ed she would not be able to respond And then Damiano crushed her mouth under his
with demanding hunger &t was a considerable shock )or Eden to )ind hersel) not onl"
responding but clinging with a kind o) desperate )er#our wa" be"ond an"thing she had
e/pected to )eel
'!ou're m" wi)e' Damiano spelt out$ releasing her swollen lips and then del#ing them
apart with the in%#asi#e eroticism o) his tongue be)ore she could repl"
He sent such a 'olt o) sensual e/citement leaping through her$ she gasped beneath that
onslaught And so it went on The stroke o) his hand across her breast )ollowed b" the
urgenc" o) his mouth on the aching peak$ arching her spine o)) the bed$ making her cr" out
2" the time he disco#ered the moist readiness at the heart o) her$ she was wa" be"ond
control$ possessed b" a )rantic intensit" o) need and e/citement combined
And then$ without an" warning at all$ Damiano was suddenl" thrusting her back )rom him$
gritting out something sa#age in &talian A split second later$ Eden

was sitting up in shock &n the shadow" path o) the moonlight )iltering into the room$ she
watched Damiano #ault o)) the bed and stride into the bathroom (ith an unstead" hand$
she switched on the lights 1he listened to the power shower he had had installed running at
)ull )orce
1hattered b" his last+minute re'ection o) her$ she got up$ pulled on a light robe and sank
down in the chair he had #acated earlier Her bod" ached and she hated it )or aching )or she
knew that what had 'ust transpired was in)initel" more important than an" transitor"
plea%sure He had intended to make lo#e to her His bod" had been as eager as her own
2ut at the #er" last min%ute some mental barrier had triumphed and he had drawn back
Damiano reappeared$ a towel knotted round lean hips '&'m sorr"$' he breathed starkl" '&
thought & could be cool about itbut & can't be & can't make lo#e to "ou with this much
anger in me & might ha#e hurt "ou'
He said all that without looking at her once as i) the #er" sight o) her was suddenl" an
o))ence to him His bron6ed pro)ile )iercel" taut$ he went through to the con%necting
dressing room where she heard him slamming through units and drawers and then talking
on the phone in &talian 1he 'ust sat there white+)aced and sick inside Damiano might as
well ha#e hung out a placard printed with the words 'The end' &t was ele#en at night He
had got out o) bed$ he was getting dressed
1he stood up$ walked o#er to the open door and ea#esdropped as he spoke tersel" on the
phone Then she went into retreat again because she knew she was out o) her depth and
currentl" at a stand 1he had told the truth and he could not accept it He had contri#ed$
howe#er$ to put on the act o) the centur" He had kept

his rage under wraps He was$ she registered on a )lood o) desperate lo#e$ in in)initel" more
turmoil than she was
He emerged )rom the dressing room$ sheathed in a )ormal dark suit$ hard$ dark )ace as
remote as the Andes '&'m going back to 3ondon:'
'3et me come with "ouplease'
'& need some time$' Damiano breathed harshl"$ li)ting a lean hand that wasn't 8uite stead" in
an e/pressi#e motion that he did not complete '!ou don't want to be around me right now
& need to be on m" own'
'3ike 5reta 5arbo' she muttered helplessl"
'Accidenti4 !ou think &'m running awa" )rom this-' Damiano roared at her$ his control
splintering into black )ur" right in )ront o) her 1he )ell back a step in sheer )right '&'m
lea#ing )or "our sake &) & sta"$ & will #er" probabl" destro" what we ha#e and & don't want
to do that$ so gi#e me some space'
Dull" she nodded and turned her pained e"es awa" '& lo#e "ou:'
'&t doesn't )eel like it$' Damiano ground out$ his ac%cent #er" thick
The most dread)ul silence set in
'&'#e bought another countr" house in Englandit was supposed to be a surprise$' Damiano
admitted bleakl" '!ou can go there as soon as "ou like &'ll make = the arrangements'
= '!ou're going back to the town house to li#e$' she assumed$ )eeling as i) she had been
kicked &t was a separation$ whate#er he chose to call it
'No The bank has an apartment & can use' 3ong a)ter Damiano had gone$ Eden sat on in
the empt" bedroom 1he )elt gutted (as this the end o) the transition period that she had
been warned about-

1top a#oiding the real issue here$ her conscience urged her Almost )i#e "ears ago$ she had
created the current situation b" being weak$ sentimental and )oolish Damiano had come
through hell to come home No mat%ter what the risk$ it would ha#e been wiser to tell him
the whole stor" immediatel" 1ecrec" and e#asion did not instil trust 1he$ who had once
prided hersel) on her honest" and her scruples$ was ashamed o) her own be%ha#iour in
retrospect &n his position$ she too would ha#e been angr"$ bitter and suspicious
*ort"+eight hours a)ter Damiano's departure$ Eden )lew back to 3ondon and was dri#en out
to 5re"scott Hall
&t was a charming Eli6abethan manor house set in wooded parkland Damiano had phoned
her twice since his return to 3ondon but the smooth impersonalit" o) those dialogues had
done little to raise her spirits &ndeed as she walked into the beauti)ul hall scented with the
sweet per)ume o) a gorgeous arrangement o) roses she was an/iousl" thinking that
Damiano had cunningl" contri#ed to rehouse her 1hould he decide not to return to their
marriage$ he would not ha#e the incon#enience o) either mo#ing himsel) or asking her to
'The instant & saw the #ideo tape the agent sent$ & knew "ou'd )all in lo#e with 5re"scott$'
Damiano had in)ormed her e/pressionlessl" on the phone '&t's )ull o) character &t's big but
it's not pretentious &t has a homel" aspect'
To Eden's knowledge$ no 2ragan6i$ raised )rom birth to consider magni)icence their natural
milieu$ had e#er aspired to li#e in an" building which might be described b" that word$
'homel"' (as it an" wonder that she should )eel ner#ous when Damiano had emphasised
that 5re"scott Hall was to be the home o) her dreams-

The housekeeper took Eden on a guided tour E#en in the troubled mood she was in$ Eden
was entranced b" her surroundings <nole so)as co#ered with tapestr" and a delight)ul
window+seat adorned the sunlit room which o#erlooked the rose garden Damiano had
bought some o) the contents o) the house He had also hired a design compan" to )urnish
the empt" spaces in the main reception rooms and the master bedroom$ so that the hall was
read" )or immediate occupation 1o )ar$ Eden had not been able to tell what was original
and what was not and she was impressed b" the care that had been taken That timeless air
o) welcoming warmth and e#er so slightl" )aded charm which was the hallmark o) an old
countr" house had been maintained
'& belie#e "ou're a keen needlewoman$' the house%keeper remarked with a warm smile$
spreading wide the door on a wonder)ul sewing room kitted out with e#er" possible aid )or
such a purpose
'!es$ & am' 2ut tears o) disconcertion pricked Eden's e"es as she studied the arra" o)
e8uipment which in%cluded an elegant anti8ue tapestr" )rame Ob#iousl" Damiano
remembered her stitching awa" all those "ears ago in the drawing room at the town house
&n those da"s$ she had used sewing as a distraction (ith her hands bus" and her head bent$
it had been easier to ignore the snide comments and scorn)ul looks which had come her
wa" when Damiano had not been present Eden walked o#er to the window and kept her
e"es #er" wide until she had hersel) under control again The male who had gone to so
much trouble on her behal) had reall" thought about what would make her happ" &t was
ironic that the e#idence o) Damiano's desire to surprise and please her should now inspire
onl" a dis%tressed awareness o) what she had so recentl" lost

E#er"thing at 5re"scott Hall had been planned and e/%ecuted be)ore Damiano had
recei#ed that newspaper cutting
(ould she e#er see Damiano again- 1he could not pro#e that she had remained )aith)ul to
their marriage Nor in the circumstances did she )eel that she could )ault his distrust As she
wandered round the upper )loor o) her new home$ it seemed per)ectl" credible to her that
Damiano might not ph"sicall" meet with her again &t would be so much easier )or him to
write their mar%riage o)) and call in the law"ers A)ter all$ he had man%aged to li#e without
her )or a #er" long time 1urel" he would remind himsel) o) that un)ortunate realit"-
How much had those ecstaticall" happ" weeks at the ;illa Pa#one actuall" meant to
Damiano- (asn't she inclined to place )ar too much importance on what the" had shared-
&n )act$ wasn't she guilt" o) being hope%lessl" nai#e- Damiano had spent )our and a hal)
"ears in prison Then he had )lown to &tal" to embark on sun+)illed weeks o) se/ual
intimac" with a #er" willing and a#ailable partner and all the )reedom$ rela/ation and
com)ort he could handle .ust about an" man$ )resh )rom a similar ordeal$ would ha#e
thoroughl" re#elled in all that was on o))er4
Hurriedl" suppressing thoughts which threatened to drag her down into despair$ Eden
stilled the doorwa" o) a room whose )ormer purpose was still e#ident in the built+in corner
cupboard The worn hand+painted panels depicted children's to"s The nurser"$ she
re)lected gloomil":the nurser" destined ne#er to be )illed
2ut mere seconds in the wake o) that thought$ an e/traordinar" realisation struck Eden
Naturall"$ she was no longer taking the contracepti#e pill which she has used when the"
had )irst been married (ell$

whoopee$ Eden$ wh" has it taken until now )or "ou to recall that )act- Dumbstruck b" the
belated awareness that she and Damiano had been making lo#e without the slightest
consideration o) conse8uences )or se#eral weeks$ Eden walked #er" slowl" downstairs to
be ser#ed with morning tea
Damiano's miraculous return )rom the dead had sim%pl" blasted all such practicalities )rom
her mind$ Eden acknowledged in a da6e &t had been almost )i#e "ears since either o) them
had been re8uired to consider pre%cautions against pregnanc" (ellDamiano had not
been an" 8uicker o)) the mark than she had been on that count &ndeed$ babies might well
ha#e come #ia the stork stor" the wa" the two o) them had been beha#ing4 Eden almost
knocked her cup and saucer o#er as she made a sudden lunge at her bag to dig out her
diar" Another wa#e o) that irritating di66iness washed o#er her$ )orcing her to li)t her head
again and breathe in deep be)ore she )elt able to check dates in her diar" 1he thought about
the light+headed sensations which had been anno"ing her )or almost a week and
disco#%ered that her period was a )ew da"s late Her c"cle was normall" regular
A beati)ic glow slowl" en#eloped Eden 1he might be pregnant right now$ she thought in
shock7 right this #er" minute$ she might be pregnant4 And how would Damiano )eel about
that- (ell$ the gu" who had said he was tough would 'ust ha#e to be tough (hat she
reall" needed was con)irmation one wa" or the other )rom a doctor and she wasted no time
in reaching )or the phone
A)ter Damiano had gone missing$ Eden had 'ust about broken her heart o#er that realit"
that there had not been the slightest chance o) her being pregnant

Although she had chosen to stop taking the contracep%ti#e pill$ Damiano had not shared
her bed again in those )inal weeks 1he had belie#ed then that in her situation a child would
ha#e been an enormous com)ort
As soon as she had had lunch$ Eden was dri#en back to 3ondon to keep an immediate
appointment with the Harle" 1treet medical practitioner whom the 2ragan6i )amil"
patronised 1he pra"ed while the pregnanc" test was being done Twent" minutes later$ she
settled back into the limo shaken$ smug and o#er the moon
&ndeed$ Eden did not begin descending to planet earth again until she went to bed that night
in solitar" state at 5re"scott Hall (ith increasing an/iet"$ she was b" then wondering how
Damiano would react to the news that she was carr"ing his child The insane desire to rush
straight to the phone and tell him in the hope o) bringing him home had receded )ast *i#e
"ears ago$ admitting to Damiano that she wanted a bab" had gone down like a lead balloon
And how could Damiano pos%sibl" want her to ha#e his bab" now when the" were
E#er"thing alwa"s seemed to condense down to one humiliating )act= Damiano did not
lo#e her &) he had e#er lo#ed her$ he would ha#e told her 1he had ne#er )orgotten Annabel
1ta#el"$ egged on b" Cosetta$ show%ing o)) her necklace etched with a lo#ing inscription
)rom Damiano E#en so$ back then$ she had o)ten won%dered what Damiano had )ound to
lo#e in Annabel The redhead's undeniable ph"sical per)ection- Her endless 'o" in
shopping- Her enthusiastic description o) each designer garment purchased- Her apparent
inabilit" to utter a single intelligent sentence- (hile prepared to admit that she had
scarcel" been an unpre'udiced 'udge$ Eden had been stumped

At noon the ne/t da"$ ha#ing entertained hersel) with a trip to the nearest design and
interiors shop and re%turned with a couple o) wallpaper books$ Eden was down on her
knees in the nurser" To cheer hersel) up$ she was comparing the merits o) )lu))" bunn"
rabbits on a border as opposed to dancing tedd" bears$ and when she heard )ootsteps behind
her she simpl" as%sumed it was the housekeeper
'(hat do "ou think-' she asked
'3o#e those drunk+looking tedd" bears' Damiano breathed without warning abo#e her
head '2ut wh" are the rabbits 'umping o#er gates like sheep-'
Eden )ro6e
'Artistic licence$ & e/pect$' Damiano answered )or himsel)$ his dark$ deep drawl so
constrained it screamed his tension louder than an" tanno" 'Not #er" sophisti%cated but
certainl" no#el'

&N D&1CO0*&TED haste$ Eden )lipped shut both the wall%paper books '& wasn't e/pecting
"ou$' she admitted be%)ore she could think better o) it
'Do & need to make an appointment now-' Damiano en8uired tautl"
'O) course not' Eden did not notice the hand he e/%tended to help her up o)) her knees 1he
was )lustered and waiting )or him to ask wh" she had been stud"ing nurser" wallpapers
1he smoothed down her )itted short+slee#ed apricot blouse and the toning cotton skirt she
wore with ner#ous hands '(hen did "ou arri#e-'
Damiano )lashed her a narrowed glance )rom spec%tacular dark$ deep+set e"es$ high
cheekbones taut 'Al%most an hour ago & e/pected to stumble upon "ou )as%ter'
He had been in no hurr" to )ind her$ Eden translated$ heart sinking at that amount o)
reluctance a)ter a sepa%ration which had lasted three da"s Not that three da"s was that
long a space o) time$ she tried to tell hersel) 1he )ocused on him with helpless intensit"$
greedil" absorbing e#er" detail o) his appearance The sophisti%cated pale gre" suit cut to
enhance e#er" hard line o) his wide shoulders$ narrow hips and long$ power)ul thighs The
black silk lu/uriance o) hair$ the strong mas%culine pro)ile$ the authorit" and intrinsic
sensualit" o) a breathtakingl" attracti#e and power)ul male
'To be )rank$ & was thinkingthinking in depth$' Damiano e/tended )latl"$ snapping her out
o) the ab+

stracted thoughts that were alread" beginning to make her )ace burn 'Tr"ing to work out
what to sa" to "ou and$ &'m a)raid$ not getting an"where )ast'
That honest admission struck Eden with )orce and )illed her with )ear Nobod" with an"
)iner )eeling )ound it eas" to )ind the right words with which to break news that would hurt
'3et's go downstairs$' she urged$ swi)tl" stepping past him
No$ he wasn't the t"pe to bring in the law"ers without telling her )irst )ace to )ace that he
wanted a di#orce There was nothing cowardl" about Damiano and noth+ing underhand
His cool reser#e might once ha#e de)ied her comprehension but he had returned to her$
consid%erabl" more willing to e/press what he )elt and what he bought Her )ingers
)luttered across her tumm" in a leering protecti#e gesture that she hurriedl" cut short
Telling Damiano that she was e/pecting their )irst child promised to be a most humiliating
challenge *rom his point o) #iew$ that could hardl" be good news$ but she had no doubt
that he would politel" stri#e to hide that realit" )or her sake Her throat thickened with
Damiano )ollowed Eden into the sitting room Eden
le)t him again to order co))ee but she was ashamed o)
that weak prompting to pla" )or time The arri#al o)
co))ee was hardl" likel" to de)lect Damiano )rom his
(hen she reappeared$ Damiano was lodged b" the stone )ireplace The angles o) his lean$
strong )ace were ense '&t's ironic to think that this is reall" our )irst home & don't think the
town house counts'
Eden was at the stage o) reading threatening #ibra%tions into e#er"thing that now passed
his lips 1he was con#inced that the iron" he saw in his purchase o) 5re"scott Hall as their
)irst supposed home was that he

now knew he would ne#er share it with her 'No$ & suppose it doesn't$' she agreed tightl"
'Are "ou plan%ning to sell the ;illa Pa#one-'
Dark golden e"es #eiled$ Damiano shot her a sudden )rowning glance 'That idea hadn't
occurred to me 2ut & belie#e that the #illa should be opened to the public )or some part o)
the "ear in honour o) m" grandmother's work'
A light knock on the door heralded the arri#al o) co))ee Eden busied hersel) o#er the cups
but her hands were all )ingers and thumbs and she had to do e#er"%thing #er" slowl" The
atmosphere was so )ull o) charged undertones that her tumm" was in knots and her palms
'5ra6ie' Damiano breathed )latl"$ retreating back to the )ireplace with his cup and saucer
as i) there were a di#iding line down the centre o) the room and he could onl" brie)l" #isit
the 6one designated as hers 'Do "ou like the house-'
'&t's reall" beauti)ul & was delighted with the sewing room too That was a lo#el" idea$'
Eden completed in a #oice that 'ust trailed awa" on the re)lection that that reminder o) his
warmer intentions towards her might now be unwelcome
Across the room$ a sha)t o) sunlight pla"ing o#er his dark$ well+shaped head$ Damiano
stared down )i/edl" into his black co))ee
Eden )easted her attention on him$ noting the taut line o) his beauti)ull" shaped mouth$ and
then watched his cup rattle on the saucer )or a split second be)ore she realised that he
couldn't hold his hand 8uite stead" Almost as 8uickl"$ Damiano set his co))ee down with a
low+pitched e/clamation in &talian 1trained dark e"es claimed hers be)ore she could

e#ade that contact '& #er" much regret what happened in &tal":'
Eden went rigid$ registering that the main issue could no longer be a#oided '*ine$
absolutel" )ine$' she slotted in with a mindless desire to stop him speaking be)ore he could
sa" an"thing that might hurt her
The silence smouldered
'No$ it wasn't )ine$' Damiano contradicted '& should ne#er ha#e reacted as & did & owe "ou
an e/planation'
Eden tore her pained ga6e )rom his 1he rose )rom her seat because sitting still had
suddenl" become im%possible )or her and she walked o#er to the windows 1he did not
want an" long+winded e/planations 1he knew how he )elt7 she wasn't stupid He had been
will%ing to gi#e their marriage another chance but the belie) that she had had an a))air had
blown that ambition out o) the water
'(hen & saw that newspaper cutting$ & was con)ronted b" m" biggest )ear$' Damiano
admitted in a dri#en un%dertone 'And & am #er" conscious that & did not shine like a star in
dealing with it'
'2ut & understood how "ou )elt$' Eden conceded hea#il"
That tabloid stor" )urnished with a con#incing pho%tograph and backed b" her own
suspicious silence on the sub'ect would not ha#e impressed an" man with a belie) in her
'& doubt it'
Eden looked up uncertainl"
Damiano studied her with bleak dark e"es '& thought the worst because & )elt that &
deser#ed the worst & was too upset to be rational$' he con)essed with a ragged edge to his
dark$ deep drawl '2ut e#en when & was being a lous" husband )i#e "ears ago$ e#en when &

being unreasonabl" 'ealous$ & alwa"s knew in m" heart that "ou were the most honest and
sincere woman & had e#er met'
'!ou"ou did-' Eden pressed in surprise
'O) course$ & did$' Damiano asserted )orce)ull" 'No matter how damning the e#idence
appeared$ & should ha#e accepted "our word that "ou had not had an a))air with 0ark
Eden continued to stare at him$ utterl" disconcerted b" that )inal statement 0eeting the
le#el look o) regret in his spectacular dark golden e"es$ she realised that he meant what he
was sa"ing No longer did he suspect that she had been un)aith)ul4 The most enormous tide
o) relie) rolled o#er Eden and le)t her )eeling weak 1he sank hea#il" down on the window+
seat and slowl" breathed in deep to stead" hersel)
'& wish & could tell "ou that & reached that conclusion without hesitation$' Damiano
continued with a pro%nounced air o) discom)iture '2ut &'m a)raid & can't:'
'!ou can't-' Eden cut in an/iousl"$ wondering i) she had misunderstood his declaration o)
)aith in her mere seconds earlier
'& was able to purchase the entire roll o) )ilm that was taken o) Anste" and his )emale
companion that da"' Damiano withdrew se#eral photographs )rom the inside pocket o) his
'acket Colour scored his hard cheekbones as Eden )rowned in bewilderment and then
stared )i/edl" down at the snaps he was la"ing out on the window+seat )or her inspection
'& didn't realise that there was more than that one photograph taken4' Eden snatched up the
)irst 1he was astonished to )ind hersel) stud"ing a photo o) Tina in the act o) climbing out
o) the car$ a photo which nobod"

who knew both women could possibl" ha#e mistaken as being o) Eden
'& had begun negotiations to bu" that )ilm be)ore & e#en landed back in 3ondon$' Damiano
in)ormed her wr"l" '& wanted to ensure that neither the original nor an" )urther photos that
might ha#e been taken that da" could appear in print again'
Eden slowl" shook her head o#er the spread Distaste )illed her as she thought o) the
hidden photographer out simpl" )or pro)it but ultimatel" responsible )or causing so much
heartache 3ea#ing the photos where the" la"$ she got up and walked awa" )rom them in
growing dis%gust and bitterness 'Naturall"$ the newspaper was onl" interested in printing
that one picture that showed the big kiss but not the woman's )ace4 1o it was 'ust a case o)
mistaken identit"$ was it- 1ome creep who didn't know either Tina or me well enough to
tell us apart-'
'& ha#e put the matter in the hands o) m" law"ers 0" opinion is that the mistake was
deliberate because it pro#ided a tack" little stor" but & ma" be pro#ed wrong Can "ou
)orgi#e me )or doubting "ou-' Damiano demanded tautl"
'Oh$ don't be stupid4' Eden e/claimed$ still outraged b" what she had learnt )rom seeing
those photographs '&'m 'ust so anno"ed that & didn't ha#e the wit to get in touch with the
)amil" legal )irm and order m" own in%#estigation "ears ago4'
Crossing the room$ Damiano reached )or her tightl" clenched hands He closed his )ingers
o#er hers 'Eden-' he prompted grittil" '&'ll beg i) "ou want me to'
Her hands rela/ed in the grip o) his 1he )orgot all about the photographs as )inall" she
allowed hersel) to )ull" appreciate that the nightmare was o#er Happiness

began to surge up where once there had onl" been )ear and an/iet" 1he looked up at him
and collided with shimmering e"es that made her heart sing '(ould "ou beg-' she could
not resist asking with considerable cu%riosit"
'Per amour di Dio' Damiano murmured with rag%ged stress$ almost crushing the li)e )rom
her smaller hands 'Could "ou doubt it a)ter what we were to each other in &tal"$ tesora rniol
Don't "ou know that e#en i) it had been "ou in that photo$ & would ha#e come back to "ou-'
'Reall"-' Eden ga6ed up at him with shaken e"es
'Now "ou're being stupid' Damiano muttered with roughened tenderness$ gathering her
into his arms and releasing his breath in a pent+up hiss '& onl" came back to 3ondon
because & was a)raid o) wrecking what we had )ound together'
'An e/cess o) tact doesn't become "ouor suit me & would ha#e pre)erred "ou to sta" and
talk$' Eden con%)ided$ her mouth running dr" and the breath shortening in her throat
2eing pressed into intimate connection with his lithe$ power)ul ph"si8ue awakened little
8ui#ers o) responsi#e heat in what )elt like e#er" inch o) her bod" A #er" )eminine smile
cur#ed her lips as he shi#ered against her$ his heated male arousal something he could not
conceal )rom her
'1i' Turning up her )ace$ Damiano appraised her with scorching golden e"es and then$
9nking his hands with hers again$ he groaned une#enl" '& ha#e missed being with "ou so
much Could we complete this con%#ersation upstairs$ cara mia-'
Eden pretended to consider his re8uest and tilted her head to one side Her e"es danced
with pro#ocation

(ith a censorious growl$ Damiano responded b" sealing his hot demanding mouth to hers
1oaring e/%citement laced her ha6e o) 'o"ous happiness He re%leased her long enough )or
them to reach the hall and start up the stairs$ but a couple o) minutes were lost on the
landing when the temptation to kiss again pro#ed too much )or both o) them
Damiano deposited her on the bed in the dark oak+panelled master bedroom Eden kicked
o)) her shoes 'Can't "ou 'ust imagine this room lit b" )ire+light in winter-' she whispered$
stud"ing him with dream" e"es$ clasping her hands o#er her still )lat tumm" and decid%ing
that she would tell him about the bab" a)ter the" had made lo#e
Damiano ga#e her a slanting grin '& like "ou in all kinds o) light &'m not at all particular in
that direction'
Her heart 'ust 'umped at the innate charm o) that smile
'Da"light$ moonlight$ lamplight$ total blackout' Damiano enumerated in mocking
addition$ tugging loose his silk tie and remo#ing his 'acket with a decided look o) intent
that made her tense with anticipation '& can't belie#e "ou're not throwing me out:'
Eden li)ted a slim shoulder in an attempt to emulate one o) his slight )luid shrugs '& could
still be consid%ering it:'
1till hal) dressed$ Damiano came down on the bed and cupped her cheekbones with his
spread )ingers 'Don't tease$' he urged )eelingl"$ lustrous dark e"es pinned to her tender
smile in raw approach '& ha#e no sense o) humour whatsoe#er when it comes to the idea o)
losing "ou'
1he turned her lips into his hand and kissed his palm 'That cuts both wa"s$' she said a little

Their e"es met$ hot gold into an/ious green$ and sud%denl" the" were kissing each other
breathless with the kind o) electri)"ing mutual hunger which brooked no denial Eden
wrenched at his shirt buttons at the same time as he attempted to depri#e her o) her blouse
(ith a groan o) )rustration at their colliding manoeu#res$ Damiano pulled back and ripped
o)) his shirt$ sending a couple o) buttons )l"ing in his eagerness to discard it
'Not #er" cool$ 0r 2ragan6i:'
'Not )eeling cool at all$' Damiano con)ided without hesitation$ e/tracting her )rom her
blouse and disposing o) her bra
He pressed his mouth hotl" to the e/posed slope o) one small breast$ succumbed to the lure
o) a pouting pink nipple and lingered there to tease her sensiti#e )lesh with erotic master"
1he writhed under his atten+tions$ possessed b" a )rantic cra#ing that dro#e her onF like a
)e#er He ran his hand up the e/tended length o) one slender thigh$ dri#ing her wild with
anticipation 1he closed her hand into his hair$ dragging his mouth back to hers again$
straining up to him as his tongue del#ed hungril" into the tender interior o) her mouth
lea#ing her 8ui#ering helplessl" in reaction
'& can't wait to be inside "ou$ cara$' Damiano swore raggedl" as he pushed up her skirt and
de)tl" remo#ed her panties
'Don't wait' Her e#er" ner#e+ending )elt tightl" stretched 1he was so hot$ so e/cited$ she
couldn't keep still Her own impatience was unbearable 1he wanted him7 she wanted him
Damiano studied her with smouldering e"es o) desire F 1he rocked up against him and his
brilliant e"es sud+F denl" )lared storm" gold He pulled her under him andF sank into her
with one bold$ hungr" thrust *or an in+

stant she was shocked b" the sheer surge o) wanton pleasure And then her hunger )or him
took her o#er again$ wild and uncontrollable and torturousl" sweet as the lithe male
dominance o) his bod" o#er$ and in$ hers Her heart was racing as he dro#e her higher and
higher$ her whole being centred on reaching that ultimate pla%teau The e/plosion o)
ecstatic pleasure splintered through her with un)orgettable strength and then dropped her
slowl" again back into the hold o) her bod"
&n the a)termath$ she held him close$ awash with won%der and a little shock and lo#ing
tenderness Damiano smoothed her hair$ dropped a kiss on her brow$ rolled back$ but he
kept her securel" pinned to him with a possessi#eness more than e8ual to her own
'&t's so special with "ou' Damiano murmured with slumbrous satis)action
Her lips cur#ed 'And "et "ou said that what hap%pened in the bedroom wasn't important
enough to make a ma'or issue$' she reminded him
Damiano li)ted her up to look at her His brilliant e"es were )ull o) de#ilment '1tep one in
m" seduction plan was to de)use the tension:'
'1eduction plan-'
'& thought it would take weeks and weeks )or us to make it this )ar$' Damiano con)ided with
rue)ul amuse%ment
The" la" in a rela/ed sprawl Damiano hugged her close and drawled '&'#e dealt with
Anste"$ b" the wa":'
Damiano smiled like a sleep" tiger$ e"es gleaming below dark lashes 'He won't be
bothering "ou again:'
'(hat happened-' she pressed an/iousl"

Damiano shi)ted a noncommittal shoulder 'He's re%paid the mone" and he'll think twice
be)ore he tries blackmail a second time'
Eden sat up 'Damiano'
'& hit him O<-' Damiano ga#e her a le#el look o) challenge 'He )rightened "ou He caused
"ou a lot o) distress He's luck" & didn't damage him permanentl"4'
Eden ne#er appro#ed o) #iolence Her principles )ought with her lack o) s"mpath" )or
0ark$ whose cal%lous beha#iour had hurt her a great deal (hile she was struggling with
those opposing )eelings$ the phone b" the bed rang
Damiano reached )or the recei#er His lean$ strong )ace tensed$ e/pressi#e mouth
tightening '(e'll be down in ten minutes'
'(ho is it-'
'Nuncio and Cosetta are here$' Damiano breathed$ springing o)) the bed and a grim look in
his e"es '& should ne#er ha#e gi#en Nuncio the name o) this place and & should ha#e made
time )or him this morning when he phoned asking to see me$ but &'m a)raid & wasn't in the
mood )or m" little brother'
'!ou can't tell Nuncio about Tina's a))air$' Eden warned him )latl"
'That's not "our decision to make$' Damiano retorted with crisp clarit" '!ou might ha#e
been prepared to let "oursel) be hung out to dr" on Tina's behal)$ but &'m not &n an" case$
m" )amil" was abusing "ou long be%)ore that tabloid stor" appeared4'
'2ut "ou don't repa" spite with spite:'
'No$ "ou repa" wrong with right$' Damiano coun%tered$ unmo#ed b" that line or argument
'& won't listen to a single word spoken against "ou$ so$ )or his own

sake$ & hope Nuncio has not come here with the intent o) causing trouble'
The" went downstairs together Eden was disma"ed when she walked into the sitting room
and registered that Damiano's entire )amil" had chosen to descend on them Nuncio$
Cosetta and Tina were seated round the )ireplace 2ut she almost laughed when she heard
Damiano sti)le a groan o) e/asperation at the same sight

N9NC&O looked deepl" uncom)ortable$ like a man who had been dragged somewhere he
didn't want to be b" the women in his li)e His sister$ Cosetta$ ga#e him a charged look o)
e/pectanc" and$ when he )ailed to react$ she rose to her )eet with a pronounced air o) sel)+
'(e need to talk to "ou in pri#ate$ Damiano'
Damiano dealt the sharp+)aced brunette a withering appraisal 'Eden's m" wi)e and she
sta"s$ Cosetta'
'& think Eden and & should go )or a walk' Tina stood up with one o) her little deprecating
smiles '(hat do "ou sa"$ Eden- 1hall we lea#e the 2ragan6is to it-'
'Not 'ust right now$ thanks$' Eden said 8uietl"
China+blue e"es hardening$ Tina sat down again
Nuncio began to sa" something in &talian to his brother
'3et's stick to English$' Damiano cut in
'&'ll )ind this matter #er" di))icult to broach with Eden present$' Nuncio protested
'Then "ou ha#e a problem because &'m not going an"where$' Eden ad#ised her brother+in+
law$ discon%certing him with a sharp retort such as he had ne#er recei#ed )rom her be)ore
2ut then Eden had alread" decided that the da"s when she had allowed Damiano's siblings
to snub and embarrass her were long behind her
'Oh$ )or goodness' sake$' Cosetta e/claimed$ throw%ing Nuncio a look o) stark impatience
'This secrec"

has gone on long enough Annabel's being #er" sill" keeping hersel) in the background but
we're supposed to be here to put things right )or her4'
Eden blinked in surprise at that re)erence to Damiano's )ormer )iancee (h" on earth was
Damiano's sister rabbiting on about Annabel 1ta#el"- '(hat are "ou tr"ing to put right )or
Annabel-' Eden en8uired but e#en Cosetta$ who was normall" a )ar )rom sensiti#e being$
coloured and looked awa" )rom her$ sooner than answer her directl"
'(e wanted Annabel to come out to 2ra6il with usAnnabel and her son$ Peter$' Nuncio
began sti))l"$ his hea#" )ace )lushed as he concentrated his attention on his elder brother
'2ut she became 8uite h"sterical when we suggested that:'
'O) course$ she did 1he has her pride Naturall" she didn't want to be the one to make the
)irst mo#e An" woman would )eel the same in her position4' Cosetta proclaimed in heated
de)ence o) her best )riend
Eden slowl" shook her head in silent wonderment Damiano's )amil" ne#er )ailed to
astonish her Not onl" had the" le)t her behind when the" had )lown out to greet their long+
lost brother in 2ra6il$ but the" had also e#identl" attempted to persuade Annabel to take
what should ha#e been Eden's place4 As )or Cosetta's )ond contention that Annabel was too
proud to make the )irst mo#e with Damianowell$ Eden almost laughed out loud at that
claim &n her e))orts to win Damiano back e#en a)ter his marriage$ Annabel had been
Admittedl"$ it had ne#er seemed to get the redhead an"where$ Eden conceded 1he might
ha#e en#ied Annabel because she belie#ed that Damiano had once sincerel" lo#ed the other
woman 2ut e#en thinking that Damiano might well ha#e married her on the rebound$

Eden had recognised that he'd no longer been in lo#e with his )ormer )iancee &ndeed$ had
she had a better i sense o) humour )i#e "ears earlier$ she might well ha#e reaped a lot o)
macabre en'o"ment )rom Annabel's at%tempts to attract Damiano when he'd been so
patentl" detached )rom her
'(hat is this )arrago o) nonsense-' Damiano en%8uired #er" dril" o) his brother and sister
'(h" would "ou ha#e in#ited Annabel to come out to 2ra6il with "ou- (h" the hell would
& ha#e wanted to see her-'
'1o that "ou could be tempted a)resh$' Eden could not resist pointing out to her husband$ a
slight wobble in her #oice '!our )amil" ob#iousl" thought it was too good an opportunit"
to miss A)ter all$ "ou had spent all those "ears locked up and were sure to be at a low ebb
o) restraint4'
An appreciati#e smile cur#ed Damiano's mouth and he closed his arm round Eden '(h" do
"ou think that &'m still complaining that "ou weren't on the )light-' he teased be)ore turning
his attention back to his brother 'Come on$ Nuncio Do tr" to come to the point'
Nuncio cleared his throat like a bull)rog and stood up 'Annabel has had a child$
Eden's spine tingled and sti))ened Onl" now did she recall Tina smugl" telling her that she
had a huge shock coming her wa" Common sense told her what had to be coming ne/t but
she 'ust couldn't credit the e/pla%nation that her mind was ser#ing up to her
'1o-' Damiano ele#ated a sardonic dark brow
'Annabel told us that "ou and she had got back to%gether again shortl" be)ore "ou went out
to 0onta#ia$' Cosetta deli#ered and the brunette slung a triumphant smile at Eden's
astonished )ace '(e weren't at all sur%prised but poor Annabel didn't )eel she could tell us

truth until "our wi)e had mo#ed out o) the town house 2" then Annabel was )i#e months
pregnant and$ with her )ather ha#ing been declared bankrupt$ she was #er" much in need o)
our support:'
'Annabel will be in e#en greater need o) "our support when she )inds hersel) hauled up in
court )or slander$' Damiano broke in with ic" disbelie)$ his outrage etched in e#er" angle o)
hard bone+structure 'How dare "ou bring this tissue o) lies into m" home- &) Annabel has
had a child$ it was not )athered b" me4'
Eden had gone wa" be"ond amusement now 1he )elt sick with shock And she thought
strickenl" )or an in%stant$ Could it be true- 0ight Damiano ha#e turned to Annabel again
be)ore he'd gone missing and when their marriage had been under strain- 1he looked up at
him and )ound him ga6ing down intentl" at her 1he met his e"es head on$ those stunning
clear dark golden e"es 1he recognised the honest anger there$ the pure e/as%peration with
which one met a )antastic stor"$ and not the smallest shade o) discom)iture Her momentar"
stab o) concern #anished to be replaced with outrage &t was his wretched )amil" again$ she
decided )uriousl"$ still set on ha#ing another go at di#iding them4
'That's 8uite some stor"$ Cosetta$' Eden commented tightl"$ her green e"es sparkling with
scorn ';er" o)%)ensi#e in its content but 'ust a little too like a soap opera to impress
an"one with an" wit4'
'Annabel said that Peter was Damiano's son4' Cosetta argued shrill"
&n the )ace o) his elder brother's outraged rebuttal$ Nuncio had turned a past" colour and
)allen silent Now he said uneasil"$ 'E#er since Damiano came home$ Annabel has done
nothing but beg us to mind our own business and keep 8uiet about this$ Cosetta & told "ou

& wasn't happ" with the odd wa" she's been beha#%ing:'
'That's onl" because Annabel wanted Damiano to make a )ree choice between her and
Eden$' Cosetta ar%gued e#en more )ranticall" 'Annabel wouldn't ha#e lied to me4'
'(hat "ou seem to )orget is that "our brother made that choice when he married me$' Eden
retorted with crisp dismissal '&t's long past time that his )amil" ac%cepted that and$ i) "ou
can't accept it$ then lea#e us alone'
'& couldn't ha#e put it better m"sel)$' Damiano stated )latl"$ cur#ing Eden e#en closer to his
big power)ul )rame as he sur#e"ed their three #isitors 'And$ sadl"$ "ou$ m" )amil"$ reall"
do deser#e Annabel &ndeed Annabel could not ha#e ripped o)) a nicer set o) people & can
barel" belie#e how stupid "ou'#e all been:'
'Ripped o))- 1tupid-' Cosetta repeated incredulousl" 'How can "ou sa" that-'
'Annabel waits until she thinks &'m dead and Eden has been dri#en )rom the )amil" be)ore
she comes )or%ward with her touching little con)essionam & right-' Damiano prompted$
sounding #er" bored
'(ell"es$' Nuncio con)irmed
'1he then told "ou she was e/pecting m" child Tell
me$ did an"bod" argue at that point- Did an"bod" seek
an" supporting e#idence o) her claim-' Damiano sur%
#e"ed his siblings with 8uestioning derision '1o "ou
'ust accepted that i) Annabel was pregnant$ the child
was mine because she said so E#en though & was mar%
'Annabel said "ou were planning on getting a di%#orce' Nuncio groaned 'Annabel said$'
Damiano stressed with angr" con+

tempt 'Her )ather going bankrupt must'#e been a reall" nast" shock because Annabel has
e/pensi#e tastes (eren't "ou capable o) adding two and two and making )our$ Nuncio-
Didn't "ou smell the pro#erbial rat- How much mone" ha#e "ou gi#en her o#er the "ears-'
'& can't belie#e that Annabel could ha#e made it all up 'ust to get mone" o)) us4 How could
she do that to me-' Cosetta sobbed and she stalked o#er to the win%dow and turned her
back on them all
'!ou used her to get at me$ Cosetta$' Eden reminded the brunette rue)ull" 'And she used
"ou to sta" in Damiano's radius'
'Ouch'Damiano groaned '
3ooking hangdog$ Nuncio muttered de)ensi#el"$ '& was onl" tr"ing to look out )or "our
interests when & helped Annabel out$ Damiano:'
'How- 2" hurting and humiliating m" wi)e when she was at her most #ulnerable- Tell me$
how was that looking out )or m" interests-' Damiano demanded with a hard condemnation
that made his "ounger brother )linch
China+blue e"es cold as charit"$ Tina now spoke up with her usual hesitanc" '&'m sorr" but
it's reall" not )air to blame Nuncio$' she said so)tl" 'None o) us ha#e wanted to mention it
but Eden did ha#e an a))air with another man and ob#iousl" that upset all o) us a great
2itter anger )lared in Eden at Tina's ner#e in making that crack 1he )elt electric aggression
power tension through e#er" muscle in Damiano's lean$ well+built length 'Tina' Damiano
began not 8uite e#enl"$ rage gritting )rom e#en those two single s"llables$ but he did not
get the chance to continue (ithout the smallest warning$ Cosetta erupted back

into the centre o) the room and pitched a set o) prints down onto Tina's lap '!ou l"ing$
cheating little snake4' she spat )uriousl" '&t was "ou who had the a))air with 0ark Anste"4
&t was "ou all along and "ou lied all the wa" down the line4'
As Eden )i/ed appalled e"es on the photos she now belatedl" recalled ha#ing le)t l"ing on
the window+seat$ close to where Cosetta had been standing$ all hell broke loose Nuncio
made a sudden grab at the photographs and broke into an aghast e/clamation while Cosetta
continued her ranting attack on her )ormer all"
'!ou can stage this con)rontation elsewhere$' Damiano drawled with chilling clarit"
1triding o#er to the door$ he )lung it wide 'All o) "ouout>'
1hattered silence )ell
'&'m prepared to get ph"sical$' Damiano warned
Their unwelcome #isitors departed but the" were all shouting at each other again be)ore the
)ront door e#en closed behind them Eden sagged with relie)
,The" will ne#er set )oot in an" residence o) ours again$' Damiano swore with #ehemence
'2ut when did m" kid sister turn into such a shrew-'
Eden sighed and$ turning round$ rested her brow against his broad chest$ )eeling his arms
close round her and re#elling in the warmth and solidit" o) him '& think her )riendship with
Annabel turned her in that direction Annabel is a lot older and she in)luenced her a good
deal Oh$ dear& )eel so aw)ul about lea#ing those dread)ul photos 'ust sitting there where
an"one could )ind them4'
'& noticed them long be)ore Cosetta did & was sub%consciousl" willing Nuncio to go o#er
there and see them$ cara mia$' Damiano con)ided griml"$ strongl"

disconcerting her 'Tina has not been good compan" )or Cosetta either:'
'2ut what about Nuncio- He looked so stricken$ Damiano:'
'He's miserable with her or hadn't "ou noticed that "et- 3et them work out their own
problems$' Damiano ad#ised '& don't ha#e an" s"mpath" to spare a)ter that outrageous spiel
about Annabel 3istening to them$ & honestl" wondered i) m" brother and sister had more
than one brain cell apiece:'
'2ut "ou'll note that & had total )aith in "ou$' Eden Gin)ormed him with the kind o) sweetness
that carried a light sting in its tail
Dark colour accentuated his blunt cheekbones 'ust as a knock sounded on the door and it
opened Their housekeeper began to speak but was silenced b" the woman pushing
impatientl" past her to gain entrance to the room
&t was Annabel 1ta#el" and Annabel as Eden had ne#er seen her be)ore The redhead had
no make+up on$ swollen e"es and a look o) desperation etched on her still beauti)ul )ace
'!ou'#e got to let me e/plain m"sel)4' Annabel e/%claimed pleadingl"
'Do "ou think "ou could make it brie)-' Damiano en8uired #er" dril"
'& passed the limo at the end o) the dri#ewa"$' Annabel con)ided in a rush and bit at her )ull
lower lip '& hoped &'d get here )irst so that & could e/plain but & know that Nuncio and
Cosetta must alread" ha#e told "ou about the stor" & made up:'
'Children make up stories Adults tell lies' Damiano shot Annabel a derisi#e appraisal
'And when an adult lies to commit a )raud$ it is rather more serious 1o let's

not pretend that "ou in#ol#ed "oursel) in some pla")ul little charade:'
Annabel was #er" pale '& didn't see that it was going to hurt an"bod":'
'!ou didn't care whether it did or not$' Eden cut in helplessl" '*or "ou to ha#e pretended
that "our child was m" husband's is about as low as an" woman could sink:'
'How man" other people are su))ering )rom the same delusion-' Damiano demanded with
sudden harshness$ that aspect clearl" not ha#ing occurred to him until Eden mentioned it
'Onl" "our )amil"$' Annabel hastened to assure him '&t reall" was a big secret:'
'&t had better ha#e been or "ou will )ind "oursel) in court$' Damiano spelt out in hard
warning '&) one ru%mour o) this appears in print$ call "our solicitor because "ou're going to
need him'
Annabel sur#e"ed him with appalled e"es and then dropped her head
'Does "our son belie#e that Damiano is his )ather-' Eden had to ask
'No4 Reall"$ "ou're making )ar too much o) this$' Annabel contended shakil" '&t was wrong
and it was stupid but & was so broke & couldn't e#en settle the rent on m" apartment4 Don't
"ou realise the hell &'#e gone through this last month since Damiano turned up ali#e-'
At that plea )or s"mpath" on such a count$ Eden's lips parted compan" and then sealed
together again )or she dared not ha#e spoken
'& mean & 'ust couldn't belie#e "ou coming back )rom the dead like that4' Annabel wailed
accusingl" at Damiano 'Do "ou think &'d ha#e lied i) &'d known there was an" chance o)
that$ happening- & had to take m"sel)

o)) to a )riend's #illa in Turke" to hide & didn't know what & was going to do to get m"sel)
out o) this mess And Cosetta kept on phoning and phoning and phoning me to demand that
& )l" out to &tal" to see "ou4 !ou were the #er" last person & wanted to see4'
'!ou'#e had a reall" dread)ul time$' Eden muttered soothingl" but she was challenged to
keep her )ace straight
Damiano murmured tautl"$ '& don't think we need to discuss this an" )urther$ Annabel:'
'!ou mean "ou )orgi#e me-' Damiano sighed 'Annabelunless &'#e #er" much mistaken
"ou ha#e managed to de)raud m" brother o) thousands o) pounds o#er the last )ew "ears
!ou ripped him o)) and what he chooses to do about that is nothing to do with me'
Apparentl" shaken b" the realisation$ that she could not magicall" sol#e her e#er" problem
b" begging Damiano to )orgi#e her$ Annabel departed with a lot less drama than she had
'(e're out$' Damiano then instructed their house%keeper '& don't care who comes to the
door (e're not here'
Eden was )eeling incredibl" sleep" Damiano took one look at her wan )ace and drooping
head and he scooped her o)) her seat and carried her back upstairs 'This has all been too
much )or "ou$ cara:'
'Actuall" &'m so grate)ul & didn't miss out on hearing what an unwelcome shock "ou ga#e
Annabel with "our return )rom the dead4' Eden laughed helplessl" at that recollection '&
didn't dare look at "ou in case & went o)) into whoops Are "ou )inall" going to tell me wh"
"ou broke o)) "our engagement to her-' Damiano winced 'Do & ha#e to-'

'!ou owe me$' Eden told him pla")ull"
'& o#erheard a con#ersation she had with her sister Her sister had 'ust got engaged and she
asked Annabel what she liked most about me$' Damiano related with a pained smile 'And
there was this huge silence and then Annabel )inall" said$ ,he's loaded and he's great in
bed, That is the moment when the rot )irst set in'
'1he was probabl" 'oking:'
'Ha#ing had the pleasure o) hearing that opinion$ & naturall" began pa"ing closer attention
to our relation%ship & then )ound out that she wasn't at all a#erse to slipping into other
men's beds when & was abroad$' Damiano shared wr"l" as he laid her down on the bed
'Oh' Eden rubbed her cheek against his shoulder$ understanding wh" he had had no desire
to tell her that particular tale be)ore
'& didn't tell m" )amil" wh" &'d ditched her That was a mistake$' Damiano acknowledged
'2ut &'d learned b" then that m" own )eelings )or Annabel were prett" shallow and & didn't
care enough to disabuse them o) their illusions'
,Then "ou met me' Eden was tiring o) the sub'ect o) Annabel which had now been )or
e#er shorn o) )ur%ther interest
,That was lo#e at )irst sight Absolutel" terri)"ing4' Damiano con)ided
'Eden sat up with a start '1a" that again:'
'Do & ha#e to-' A charismatic smile cur#ed Damiano's sensual mouth 'Post+Annabel & was
con%#inced that & was the coldest )ish ali#e as )ar as women were concerned & was #er"
c"nical and then & saw "ou and & swear that both m" brain and m" bod" went ha"%wire the
same second'

'& don't belie#e &'m hearing this$' Eden )ramed in a da6e
5littering dark e"es rested on her bemused )ace and he muttered rue)ull"$ '!ou're not going
to like hearing the rest o) it &n those da"s$ & hated )eeling like that and that added a certain
hostilit" to our e#er" encounter & wanted to be in control'
'And "ou thought "ou weren't in control because & wouldn't sleep with "ou$' Eden )illed in
)or him with a sigh
'No$ there "ou're wrong$ amore As )ar as & was con%cerned$ i) "ou didn't want to make
lo#e with me$ "ou couldn't possibl" care about me or want me an"thing like as much as &
cared about and wanted "ou'
E#en )i#e "ears on$ Eden was stricken b" that re%#ealing con)ession 1he looked at him
with reproach)ul e"es 'Oh$ no'
'Oh$ "es$' Damiano told her le#ell" '(hen & )ell )or "ou$ lo#e and se/ were 8uite indi#isible
in m" estima%tion &'d ne#er been in lo#e in m" li)e be)ore but & couldn't belie#e "ou could
lo#e me and keep on )ree6%ing me out:'
Eden traced a regret)ul )ingertip along his hard 'aw+line '& had no idea that & could make
"ou )eel insecure back then !ou alwa"s seemed so incredibl" con)i%dent:'
Damiano caught her into his arms and held her )ast$ shimmering dark golden e"es scanning
her with tender amusement 'Call it like it was$ tesoro mio$' he urged '& was arrogant and &
'ust could not credit that a #irgin could run rings round me:'
'& was #er" ner#ous o) that kind o) intimac"but & think that i) &'d known "ou lo#ed me
a)ter we married$ & would ha#e )elt #er" di))erent$' Eden said slowl" '9n+

)ortunatel"$ "our sister told me about Annabel and then$ when & came back )rom our
hone"moon and )inall" saw Annabel$ & thought that "ou most likel" had married me on the
'!ou and & were engaged )or all o) one week & was engaged to her )or two "ears and ne#er
got m"sel) to the point o) )i/ing a wedding date$' Damiano pointed out '& lo#e "ou #er"$
#er" much E#en when & was acting like a 'erk$ & ne#er doubted that & couldn't ha#e
handled it i) &'d come home and "ou hadn't been here )or me'
Eden glowed with happiness 1he rested her head down on his chest$ listening to the slow$
solid thump o) his heart beating$ drinking in the )amiliar scent o) him Then she smiled
'How do "ou )eel about ha#ing a bab"-'
'On a scale o) one to ten:ten being the height o) keen$' Damiano in)ormed her teasingl"
'1ounds promising:'
Damiano #ented a laugh '& ha#e now )inall" reached the pinnacle o) male maturit" where &
can consider a bab" without being gripped b" the de#astating )ear that "ou might )eel more
)or the bab" than "ou )eel )or me4'
'E#en better Are "ou aware that & ha#en't been on the contracepti#e pill )or "ears-, Eden
en8uired$ slowl" raising her head to stud" him
A slight )rown+line drew his ebon" brows together '& ha#e to con)ess that & hadn't got
around to thinking about technical stu)) like that "et:'
'Technical stu))-' Eden 8ueried chokil"
'(hen &'m in bed with "ou$ &'m not e/actl" grounded' 3ustrous dark golden e"es suddenl"
settled on her with raw intensit" 'Accidenti4 &) "ou're norand & ha#en't been using:'

'!ou're going to be a )ather$' Eden told him so)tl"
Damiano rolled her gentl" )lat against the pillows and stared )i/edl" down at her 'Are "ou
teasing me-'
'&'m pregnant$' Eden declared
At that con)irmation$ Damiano hastil" released her )rom a good hal) o) his weight ,That's
)antastic4' he breathed$ #isibl" stunned
'2ut not breakable$' Eden added$ hauling him back to her with possessi#e hands
One "ear and one month later$ Eden walked into the nurser" at the ;illa Pa#one Diamonds
glittering at her wrist and in her ears$ she was wearing a )abulous pale green ball gown in
readiness )or the big part" the" were throwing that e#ening
Damiano was tucking in the twins Their son$ Niccolo$ la" still like a little prince$ big
sleep" green e"es pinned to his )ather$ bu' his twin sister$ Chiara$ was still wriggling
Damiano was endea#ouring to mes%merise his in)ant daughter into more rest)ul mode with
the use o) the musical mobile abo#e the cot
Eden smiled 1he could still barel" belie#e that she was the mother o) two children 1he
had been a couple o) months along be)ore a scan had picked up the )act that she'd been
carr"ing two babies$ rather than 'ust one 1he had been delighted at the news but Damiano
had been concerned that a twin pregnanc" would be more risk" Howe#er$ although
Niccolo and Chiara had come into the world a little earl" as did most twins$ both Eden and
their children had come through )ine
The past "ear had been #er" e#ent)ul )rom start to )inish The" had spent a lot o) time in
&tal"$ en'o"ing the rather more rela/ed pace o) their li)est"le there Damiano had been re+
elected Chairman o) the 2ragan6i

2ank but he delegated much more$ worked )rom home when he could and took her with
him when he went abroad &ndeed$ Eden had once or twice )elt e#er so slightl" guilt" that
what had been a trul" stupendous$ wonder)ull" happ" and success)ul "ear )or her and
Damiano had been something less )or others
Although there had been one light moment Annabel 1ta#el" had rushed o)) and married an
elderl" peer o) the realm a)ter Nuncio had in)ormed her that he e/%pected all the mone" he
had gi#en her repaid 1i/ months later$ she had become a reasonabl" wealth" and$ it had to
be admitted$ a )airl" merr" widow according to the gossip columns
Then$ 'ust three months ago$ Damiano had passed Eden a newspaper and had indicated a
small article about 0ark Anste" 0ark had been sent to prison )or embe66ling a huge
amount o) mone" )rom the un)or%tunate owners o) the organic )arm compan" The biggest
shock )or Eden had been the disco#er" that that had not been 0ark's )irst o))ence
&n the past "ear also$ Nuncio and Tina had )ailed to mend their di))erences and had ended
up going through a bitter di#orce During a heated 8uarrel$ Tina had reall" lost her temper
and had told Nuncio that their daughter$ Allegra$ was not his child Nuncio had been
de#astated Tina had then thought better o) her honest" and had tried to persuade him that
she had onl" been l"ing to hurt him Howe#er$ Nuncio had had DNA testing done and that
had pro#ed that Allegra could not be his E#en so$ Nuncio had still insisted that he wanted
to maintain contact with the little girl because he was #er" )ond o) her
Damiano and Nuncio were now beha#ing like broth%ers again simpl" because Nuncio had
become so de+

pressed a)ter that bombshell about Allegra that Damiano had had no choice but to o))er
s"mpath" and support Eden had then persuaded Damiano to in#ite Cosetta to the twins'
christening &gnored b" Damiano )or months$ his sister had been on her best beha#iour and
an/ious not to cause o))ence Eden was content to settle )or po%liteness at their occasional
lDio mio' Damiano rh"med$ turning )rom his now sleeping daughter to appraise Eden in
her ball gown with deepl" impressed e"es o) gold '!ou look )antas%tic'
Eden did a little twirl to ensure that he got the )ull e))ect o) her bare shoulders and the low+
cut back He wol)+whistled 1he grinned$ her own attention ro#ing with e8uall" keen
appreciation o#er his beauti)ull" cut dinner 'acket$ silk shirt and narrow black trousers$ all
o) which accentuated his commanding height$ his ath%letic ph"si8ue and his sheer se/iness
1he tried reall" hard to wol)+whistle back but Damiano started laughing and she couldn't
manage it
'Happ"$ cara mia-'
'Absolutel" )i66ing with it4' Eden assured him cheer%)ull" as he settled his hands to her
slim waist and drew her into the circle o) his arms '&t's not e#er" woman who gets to
celebrate two wedding anni#ersaries a "ear4'
E/actl" a "ear ago$ the" had renewed their wedding #ows in a church ceremon" which had
meant a great deal to both o) them Damiano$ howe#er$ also liked to celebrate their original
wedding anni#ersar" as well O#er )i)t" people were 'oining them )or dinner that e#e%ning
and a couple hundred more )or a massi#e ball which would last until dawn
Taking a last proud and lo#ing look at their sleeping

children$ the" walked downstairs and strolled into the main salon$ now )urnished with )ar
)rom authentic com)" so)as and armchairs Damiano uncorked a bottle o) champagne and
sent it )oaming into glasses
'1houldn't we wait )or our )irst guests-' Eden en%8uired in surprise
Damiano passed her a heart+shaped leather 'ewel case
1he )lipped up the lid Damiano could not apparentl" stand the suspense o) waiting )or her
reaction and he reached out and li)ted out the gorgeous sapphire and diamond pendant to
turn it o#er to displa" the inscrip%tion
' ,To the onl" woman & ha#e e#er lo#ed$ Damiano,$' Eden read out loud$ her e"es misting
'& adore "ou$ tersoro mio$' Damiano murmured hus%kil"$ )astening the beauti)ul necklace at
the nape o) her neck
'& 'ust adore the wa" "ou keep on telling me$' Eden whispered dreamil"$ spinning back to
him$ meeting his burnished e"es and 'ust melting back into his arms '& lo#e "ou too'
HI?JK THE DE0ETR&O1 ;&R5&N Penn" .ordan
Andreas 3atimer was 1askia's boss:and he'd 'ust added a clause to her 'ob description$
hor the sake o) his 5reek )amil"$ she was to pla" his )iancee4
HI?LM A33 N&5HT 3ON5 Anne 0ather
A)ter spending a head" night o) passion with a gorgeous stranger$ All" tries to tell hersel)
that she's relie#ed not to be seeing Raul againThe ne/t da" she's o)) to the 2ahama:but
more than one surprise awaits her
HI?L? A 1ED9CT&;E RE;EN5E <im 3awrence
.osh Prentice has a broken heart$ and there's onl" one wa" to mend it= seduce *lora and
then 'ilt her 2ut he doesn't e/pect it to be so hard to walk awa"4
HI?LI PA11&ON'1 2A2! Catherine 1pencer
.ane was )ascinated b" &iam$ a brooding$ se/" man One passion+)illed night later and .ane
was in trouble 1he'd )allen head o#er heels in lo#e with &'am:and he had #owed nA@#er
to risk his emotions again
HI?LN 1ED9CED 2! THE 2O11 1haron <endrlck
Dan 0c<night 0egan's boss$ insis)d she pretend to be his lo#er$ to ward o)) a girl with an
obsessi#e crush on him 2ut a)ter Dan and 0egan shared a room:and a bed:the
attraction between them was suddenl" #er" real4
HI?LO CONTRACT 2R&DE5ROO0 1andra *ield
Celia wanted to gran' her d#in'7 )ather's wish to see hiT,happil" married$, so she was
pa"ing .ethro to be her temporar" hushanrt Then she disco#ered .ethro was a
multimillionaire? '+Tr" on earth had he agreed to marr" her-

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