But she had to seize her chance now, before Nico came back. Before he touched her again and saw that he’d touched her emotions as much as her body.
She should never have thought she could manipulate Nico by marrying him. She’d underestimated him at every turn. She wouldn’t make that mistake again.
Five months later
‘I THINK WE’VE found your wife, Mr Santo Domenico. I’m sending you over some pictures so you can see for yourself. She’s in Ireland, working in a restaurant in Dublin. Also, there’s something you should be prepared for... She’s pregnant. When you confirm it’s her you’ll have her back within twenty-four hours.’
Nico’s private investigator’s words rang in his head. One word in particular: pregnant.
Nico got up from behind his desk and walked over to the window, which showcased a titan’s view of Manhattan here at the heart of his global corporation which encompassed everything from real estate to media and tech industries. Enough to keep ten men busy, never mind just him. But his mind hadn’t been focused on his businesses for weeks now. Months. Five months, to be exact.
He scowled, still incensed that his very meek and innocent Sicilian wife had had the temerity to leave him and disappear into the ether like a ghost the day after their wedding night.
His satisfaction that Chiara had been found was eclipsed by anger, because she’d put him in a very awkward position for these last few months. All his peers knew that he’d married, and yet he had no wife to show for it. His explanation that she was renovating the castello in Sicily was beginning to wear thin. Only a week before, at an exclusive charity auction, one of his adversaries had slyly questioned if his wife was, in fact, real.
Oh, she was real all right.
The erotic charge of their wedding night lingered in Nico’s blood, much as he wanted to deny it, and the thought of having her back in her rightful place was precipitating a very unwelcome sense of anticipation.
For a man who didn’t dwell on his past actions—and certainly none involving his lovers—their wedding night and the following morning had played ad infinitum in his head for the past five months.
Specifically, that first image of his wife naked. That memory was burned into his brain like a provocative brand. He could still see the luscious curves, the heavy breasts, the tiny waist and full hips. Her hair long and wild. She’d looked like a beautiful nymph.
He hadn’t considered that she might be so innocent, in spite of her being so unsophisticated. An anomaly in this day and age. It was no wonder that she’d been so affected.
But it had been a mistake to give in to his hormones like that. It had exposed him. And it was only because she was so inexperienced that she hadn’t capitalised on his momentary weakness, like another, more cynical woman might have.
When she’d appeared in the kitchen the following morning and he’d seen the look on her face—shy, and still suffused with the same wonder he’d seen the night before—he’d felt a lead weight sink into his belly.
He hadn’t tried too hard to refute her accusation that he had deliberately tried to get her pregnant because it was better that she think him capable of that rather than reveal that he had lost all sense and reason.
Coward... whispered a snide inner voice. He ignored it.
As much as he wanted their marriage to be a real and practical one, he didn’t want her to develop feelings for him—because he would never return those feelings and it would make the marriage untenable. And so he’d left her under no illusions that there had been anything remotely romantic about their wedding night.
If Nico hadn’t learnt to divorce himself from his emotions he would still be in Naples, hustling to make a few euros from stolen phones, or seducing rich and lonely female tourists.
He would never have fulfilled his father’s dying request—to reclaim the Santo Domenico rightful inheritance and bring respect back to the name. Finally.
But now, even though he’d achieved what he’d set out to do—and much more besides, having created a vast personal fortune in the process—Nico couldn’t rest. He had an errant pregnant wife to track down.
She’d left him a note, the contents of which were also burned into his memory—much as he didn’t like to admit it.
As you will no doubt have noticed, I have left. I made a mistake in agreeing to marry you. We are not suited to each other. I only agreed to marry you because I felt it would be one way of securing my right to retain contact with the castello and the burial place of my family.
I think you would have to agree that you can find someone eminently more suitable than me. I don’t want any of your money. I just want a divorce and access to the castello a couple of times a year.
Please take care of Spiro. He is old, and probably won’t live much longer, but I’d like to think of him enjoying his last months in comfort. I’ve left instructions for his care and the details of his vet.
Chiara Caruso. Not Chiara Santo Domenico. As if they hadn’t even married! And she cared more for that dog than him. That stung.