The Wedding Night Debt: Christmas at the CastelloBy: Cathy Williams
DIVORCE. IT WAS something that happened to other people: people who didn’t take care of their marriages; who didn’t understand that they were to be nurtured, looked after, handled as delicately as you would handle a piece of priceless porcelain.
At any rate, that had always been Lucy’s way of thinking, and she wondered how it was that she was standing here now, in one of the grandest houses in London, waiting for her husband to return home so that she could broach the subject of divorcing him.
She looked at her diamond-encrusted watch and her stomach knotted in anxiety. Dio was due back in half an hour. She couldn’t remember where he had spent the past week and a half. New York? Paris? They had places in both. Or maybe he had been in their Mustique villa. Maybe he had gone there with another woman. Who knew? She certainly didn’t.
Self-pity threatened to engulf her and she stemmed the tide with ease of practice born of habit.
She’d been married for nearly a year and a half, plenty of time to get accustomed to the way her youthful dreams had crumbled to ashes.
When she glanced up, she could see herself reflected in the huge, hand-made contemporary mirror which dominated the ultra-modern drawing room. Five foot ten, slender as a reed, long blonde hair that dropped to her shoulders, vanilla-blonde and poker-straight. When she was sixteen, she had been spotted by an agency and her father had tried to shove her into a career in modelling, because why waste a pretty face? After all, women weren’t cut out for anything more challenging, not really... But she had resisted—not that it had done her any good at all, in the end, because what good had been her degree when she had ended up...here? In this vast house, wandering in and out of rooms like a wraith, playing the perfect hostess? As if perfect hostessing was any kind of career for someone who had a degree in maths.
She barely recognised the woman she had turned out to be. On a warm evening in the middle of July, she was languishing in silk culottes with a matching silk vest top, just a few discreet bits of fairly priceless jewellery and high heels. She had turned into a Stepford Wife, except without the adoring husband rolling in at five-thirty every evening and asking what was for dinner. That might have been a distinct improvement on what she actually had, which was...nothing.
Or, had been nothing. She allowed herself a little smile because things weren’t quite as sterile as they had been. Her situation had changed in the past two months and she hugged that secret pleasure to herself.
It made up for all the time she had spent dressed up like an expensive doll, administering their various properties, smiling politely when she needed to smile politely and hosting dinner parties for the great and the good. Or, at any rate, the very, very rich.
And now...a divorce would set her free.
Provided Dio didn’t kick up a fuss. Although she told herself that there was no reason for him to, she could still feel a prickle of nervous perspiration break out over her body.
When it came to the concrete jungle, Dio Ruiz was the pack leader. He was an alpha male who played by his own rules. He was the sexiest man on earth and also the most intimidating.
But he wasn’t going to intimidate her. She had spent the past few days telling herself that, ever since she had decided which turning she would take at the crossroads—the turning that would put as much distance between herself and her husband as possible.
The only slight fly in the ointment was the fact that this would be the last thing he would be expecting and Dio didn’t do well when it came to flies in the ointment, not to mention the unexpected.
She heard the slam of the front door and her stomach lurched sickeningly but she only turned around when she sensed him at the door, his powerful, restless personality permeating the room even before she looked at him.
Even now, after everything, hating him as much as she hated him, his physical beauty still managed to take her breath away.
At twenty-two, when she had first laid eyes on him, he had been the most sinfully stunning guy she had ever seen and nothing had changed on that front. He was still the most sinfully stunning guy she had ever seen. Raven-black hair framed arrogantly perfect features. His pale, silver-grey eyes, so unusual against his bronzed skin, were dramatically fringed with thick, dark lashes. His mouth was firm and sensuous. Every little bit of him relayed the message that he was not a guy to be messed with.
‘What are you doing here? I thought you were in Paris...’ Lounging in the doorway, Dio began tugging at his tie, strolling into the room at the same time.
Surprise, surprise. It wasn’t often he found himself anywhere with his wife that hadn’t been meticulously planned in advance. Their meetings were formal, staged, never, ever spontaneous. When they were both in London, their lives were hectic, a whirlwind of social events. They each had their separate quarters, readied themselves in their own private cocoons and met in the vast hall, both dressed to the nines and ready to present the united image that couldn’t have been further from the truth.