Sicilian's Shock Proposal

By: Carol Marinelli

PROLOGUE

‘A WOMAN WHO says she’s your fiancée is in Reception, asking to see you.’

Luka Cavaliere looked up from his computer and saw the wry smile on his PA’s face.

‘I thought I’d heard it all until now,’ said Tara.

Women would try anything to get an audience with Luka, but to have someone pretending to be his fiancée was a first. Tara knew from bitter experience that the woman in Reception was lying—the only thing that Luka ever fully committed to was work.

She certainly wasn’t expecting his response.

‘Tell Reception that she can come up,’ he said in his rich Italian voice.

‘Sorry?’

Luka didn’t respond to Tara’s question. Instead, he got back to the work he was doing on his computer. Certainly he did not need to repeat himself to his PA, nor explain things to her.

‘Luka?’ Still Tara hovered at the door, unable to believe that he knew who this woman was—he hadn’t even asked for her name.

‘Do you want a second warning?’ Luka checked. ‘I have already told you that I should not have to give out my instructions twice.’

‘No, you want to give me a second warning so that soon you can fire me.’ Tara’s voice was thick with tears. ‘You want me gone...?’

Of course he did.

‘It’s because we made love, isn’t it?’ she simpered.

He could correct her but he chose not to. Luka didn’t make love—he had sex.

Often.

His wealth attracted shallow women, but his dark good looks and skills in the bedroom did not lead to the fleeting encounters that he preferred. Always they wanted more than he was prepared to give. He knew that he should never have got involved with his latest PA, especially when he’d just trained her up to be useful.

‘I’m not going to get into a discussion,’ Luka said. ‘Send her up.’

‘But you never said that you were engaged. You never even gave a hint that there was anyone else—’

Bored now, Luka thought. ‘Take as long as you like for lunch,’ he interrupted. Yes, he wanted her gone. ‘Actually, you can take the rest of the day off.’

Tara let out a hopeless sob and then turned and rather loudly left the office.

The slam of the door made Luka’s eyes shut for a brief moment.

It had nothing to do with his PA’s brief outburst, or the noise from the door—it was what would happen in the coming moments that he was bracing himself for.

There had always been someone else.

And now she was here.

He stood up from his desk and moved to the window and looked down below to the London street. It was the middle of summer—not that he usually noticed. His life was spent in air-conditioned comfort and he dressed in the same dark suits whatever the month.

It was ironic, Luka thought, that he and Sophie, after all these years, should meet in London—the place of their far younger dreams.

Until recently he had always assumed that if they did come face to face again it would be in Roma, perhaps on one of his regular visits there. Or even back in Bordo Del Cielo—the coastal town on Sicily’s west coast where they had grown up. He had only returned once, for his father’s funeral last year, but he had been wondering whether he might go back one final time if Sophie’s father decided he wanted to be buried there.

Luka still hadn’t made up his mind if, when that day came, he would attend the funeral.

He knew that that day was coming soon.

And that, he also knew, was the reason that Sophie was here.

His hand reached into his jacket and he took out not a photo, not a memory; instead, it was a brutal reminder as to why they could never be.

He stared at the thin gold chain that wrapped around his long fingers and then he looked at the simple gold cross that lay in his palm. Yes, he would go to her father’s funeral, for this necklace belonged in that grave.

It took only a few moments for Sophie to make her way from the foyer to his suite yet it felt like for ever as he awaited her arrival, but then came the knock at the door that he recognised from yesteryear.

How much easier might his life have been had he not answered the door that long-ago day? Perhaps, Luka thought, he should not respond to it now.

He pocketed the necklace and cleared his throat. ‘Come in.’ He managed a deep summons but, as the door opened, he did not turn around.

‘Your assistant asked me to pass on the message that she’s just resigned. Apparently I’m the final straw.’

The sound of her voice, though a touch stilted and measured, still held, for Luka, the same caress.

For a man who feared little, he was nervous to turn around.

Luka rather hoped that the years that had passed since they’d last met had not treated her kindly—he fleetingly hoped that a nice little drug habit might have aged her terribly, or that she was pregnant with triplets perhaps...anything that might douse the eternal flame.

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