Once a Ferrara Wife(5)

By: Sarah Morgan

‘—despite witnessing the wreckage of our marital car crash? Given your relaxed attitude to marriage vows, I’m staggered that you agreed to act as maid of honour. A decision bordering on the hypocritical, don’t you think?’

He shifted the blame onto her, absolving himself of all responsibility, and Laurel didn’t bother arguing because she didn’t want to change the outcome. If he hated her, fine. If anything, his animosity helped because it poisoned those dangerous feelings that still lurked deep inside.

As for being Dani’s maid of honour—

Laurel had thought of a million reasons to say no but none of them had come out of her mouth when talking to her friend. Mistake number four, she thought. How had she made so many? ‘I’m a loyal friend.’

‘Loyal?’ Slowly and deliberately, he removed his sunglasses and looked at her, those thickly lashed dark eyes revealing the depth of his own struggle. ‘You dare speak of loyalty? Perhaps this is a language thing because we definitely don’t have the same definition of that word.’ Unlike her, he didn’t hide his emotions. Instead he spilled them over her and the more honest he was, the more she withdrew. She was struggling to handle her own feelings. She certainly couldn’t handle his.

Drowning under the full force of his contempt, she pressed herself back against the seat, trying to calm her breathing. She could have hurled her own accusations but that would have taken them back to the past and all she wanted to do was move forwards. Her limbs were trembling and the tips of her fingers were suddenly ice-cold.

Knowing how important it was to control her stress levels, she forced herself to breathe slowly. ‘If you’re going to go for one of your volatile Sicilian Mount Etna-like explosions, at least wait until we’re behind closed doors. It’s just a wedding. We can get through this without killing each other.’

‘Just a wedding? So weddings are no big deal, is that right, Laurel?’

‘Let’s not do this, Cristiano.’ He was incapable of seeing that he might have been wrong. Incapable of apologising. She knew that the absence of the word sorry from his vocabulary had nothing to do with his linguistic ability and everything to do with his ego.

‘Why? Because emotion frightens you? Admit it. You’re terrified of what you feel when you’re with me. You’ve always been terrified.’

‘Oh, please—’

‘It burns you up, doesn’t it?’ His voice was silky-smooth and dangerous. ‘It frightens you so badly you have to push it away. That’s why you left.’

‘You think I left because I was afraid of how much I loved you?’ Outrage lit the fires of her own response. ‘You are so unbelievably arrogant you need a whole island just to house your ego. Are you sure Sicily is big enough? Maybe you should buy Sardinia, too!’

‘I’m working on it.’ His laconic reply was delivered without a hint of irony. ‘If you’re so indifferent, then why haven’t you been back?’

‘There was nothing to come back for.’ And every reason to stay away. Laurel stared straight forward, trying to control her thoughts, feeling his gaze on her.

‘You look good. Relieving all that stress with exercise?’

‘Fitness is my job. It’s how I earn my living. And I’m back because of your sister, not because of u—’ the word jammed itself on all the barriers she’d erected between them ‘—you or me.’

‘You can’t even say it, can you? Us, tesoro. The word you struggle with is us. But the concept of being part of an us has always been your biggest challenge.’ Cristiano lounged back in his seat, relaxed and maddeningly sure of himself. ‘Probably best not to use the word loyal again in reference to yourself, either. That one really presses my buttons. I’m sure you understand.’

Laurel felt like a matador trapped with a very angry bull with nothing for protection but her own anger. And that anger burned slow and dangerous because he was behaving as if he’d played no part in the demise of their relationship.

He just couldn’t see it, she thought numbly. He just didn’t see what he’d done wrong.

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