Reunited with the Rebel BillionaireBy: Catherine Mann
Fiona Harper-Reynaud was married to American Sports magazine’s “Hottest Athlete of the Year” for two years running.
She hadn’t married the New Orleans Hurricanes’ star quarterback for his looks. In fact, she’d always been drawn to the academic sort more than the jock type. But when that jock happened to be visiting an art gallery fund-raiser she’d been hosting for her father, she’d been intrigued. When Henri Reynaud had shown an appreciation and understanding of the nuances of botanic versus scenic art, she’d fallen hook, line and sinker into those dreamy, intelligent dark eyes of his. His eyes were the color of coffee and carried just as strong a jolt.
Still, she’d held back because of her own history with relationships, and yes, two broken engagements. Held back for all of a couple of weeks. And ever since then her life hadn’t stopped spiraling out of control.
Sure, they’d eloped because they’d thought she was pregnant. But she’d loved him so intensely, so passionately, reason scattered like petals from a windswept azalea. They hadn’t realized until it was too late they had no substantive foundation in their marriage when difficult times came their way. And what little base they’d built upon had crumbled quickly.
Especially right now.
In two short hours, Fiona would be greeting the elite community of New Orleans for her latest fund-raiser, purely in a volunteer capacity. Any time a foundation offered to pay, she donated the funds back to the charity. She believed deeply in the causes she supported and was grateful to have the wealth and time to help.
But the pressure of the high-glitz affair wasn’t what rattled her. The doctor visit today had her scared, and more determined than ever she couldn’t continue a marriage built on anything but love. Certainly not built only on obligation.
She switched her phone to speaker and placed it on the antique dresser, one of many beautiful pieces in the home she shared with Henri in New Orleans’s gracious and historic Garden District. Her eyes lingered on the crystal-framed photograph of her with Henri from a trip they’d taken to Paris a few years back. Their smiles caught her off guard.
Had her life ever been that happy? The version of herself in the photograph felt like a stranger now.
She’d been so focused on the photograph, she almost forgot she was on the phone with Adelaide, her future sister-in-law and longtime personal assistant to Henri’s half brother Dempsey. At long last the two were engaged. Their love had taken longer to bloom, unlike Henri’s impulsive proposal to Fiona.
Blinking, Fiona shifted her attention back to the conversation. To her family. She internally laughed at that thought. Family implied closeness and solidarity. Instead of that, she felt numbingly alone and isolated.
And there was no reason for that. The Reynaud family was large and the majority of them resided right here in New Orleans. Two of her husband’s brothers lived in a private compound of homes on Lake Pontchartrain. And they’d be at that compound tonight for the fund-raiser.
Star athletes, celebrities and politicians would gather and mingle for Fiona’s newest cause. Conversation would fill the air. And if her past events were any indication, she would raise the funds necessary to open up the new animal shelter.
She perched on the delicate Victorian settee at the end of her four-poster bed. She pulled on one thigh-high stocking as she listened to her future sister-in-law rattle off the wines, liquors and other beverages delivered.
Still caught in the past, when she’d fallen hard for Henri Reynaud, she rolled the silk socking up her other leg. Henri had chased her relentlessly until she’d begun to believe him when he said he adored her mind every bit as much as her body.
Hands shaking, she tugged the band on her thigh into place. She couldn’t afford to think about those days before their marriage turned rocky, only to have him stay with her because of her health. She respected his honor, even as it hurt her to the core to lose his love. But she couldn’t accept anything less than honest emotion.
Which meant she had to keep her secret. She tugged a wrinkle from her stocking and continued her phone conversation with Adelaide. “I can’t thank you enough for helping me out with tonight’s fund-raiser.”
“Glad to lend my help. I wish you would ask more often.”
“I didn’t want to impose or make you feel pressured before when Dempsey was your boss.” She’d known Adelaide for years, but only recently had they all learned of her romance with Dempsey Reynaud.
“But now that we’re going to be sisters-in-law, I’m fair game?”