A Scandal in the Headlines(6)

By: Caitlin Crews



The sprawling island house he’d built here on the small little spit of land, closer to the coast of Sicily than to Sardinia, was the only place he considered his true home. The only place the curse of being a Corretti couldn’t touch him.

He shut his eyes and waited for the hot water to make him feel like himself again.

He wanted to forget. That joke of a wedding and Alessia Battaglia’s betrayal of the deal they’d made to merge their high-profile families—and, of course, of him. To say nothing of his estranged cousin Matteo, her apparent lover. Then the drunken, angry night he hardly remembered, though the state of his face—and the snide commentary from the polizia this morning when he’d woken in a jail cell, hardly the image he liked to portray as the CEO of Corretti Media—told the tale eloquently.

His head still echoed with the nasty, insinuating questions from the paparazzi surrounding his building in Palermo when his brother, Santo, had taken him there this morning, merging with his leftover headache and all various agonies he was determined to ignore.

Did you know your fiancée was sleeping with your cousin? Your bitter rival?

Can the Corretti family weather yet another scandal?

How do the Corretti Media stockholders feel about your very public embarrassment—or your night in jail?

He wanted to forget. All of it. Because he didn’t want to think about what a mess his deceitful would-be bride and scheming cousin had left behind. Or how he was ever going to clean it up.

And then there was Elena.

Those thoughtful blue eyes, the precise shade of a perfect Sicilian summer afternoon. The blond hair that he’d first seen swept up behind her to tumble down her back, that she’d worn today in a shorter tail at the nape of her neck. Her elegant body, slender and sleek, as enchanting in that absurd yachting uniform as when he’d first found himself poleaxed by the sight of her in that ballroom six months ago.

Then, she’d worn a stunning gown that had left her astonishingly naked from the nape of her neck to scant millimeters above the swell of her bottom. All of that silken skin just there.

His throat went dry at the memory, while the rest of his body hardened as it had the moment he’d laid eyes on her at that charity benefit in Rome. He didn’t remember which charity it had been or why he’d attended it in the first place; he only remembered Elena.

“Careful,” Santo had said with a laugh, seconds after Alessandro had caught sight of her standing only a few feet away in the crush of the European elite. “Don’t you know who she is?”

“Mine,” Alessandro had muttered, unable to pull his gaze away from her. Unable to get his bearings at all, as if the world had shuddered to a halt—and then she’d turned. She’d looked around as if she’d been able to feel the heat of his gaze on her, and then her eyes had met his.

Alessandro had felt it like a hard punch in the gut. Hard, electric, almost incapacitating. He’d felt it—her—everywhere.

His.

She was supposed to be his.

He hadn’t had the smallest doubt. And the fact that he’d acquiesced to his grandfather’s wishes and agreed to a strategic, business-oriented marriage some two months before had not crossed his mind at all. Why should it have? The woman he was engaged to was as mindful of her duty and the benefits of their arrangement as he was. This, though—this was something else entirely.

And then he’d seen the man standing next to her, a possessive hand at her waist.

Niccolo Falco, of the arrogant Falco family that had given Alessandro’s grandfather trouble in Naples many years before. Niccolo, who fancied himself some kind of player when he was really no more than the kind of petty criminal Alessandro most despised. Alessandro had hated him for years.

It was impossible that this woman—his woman—could have anything to do with scum like Niccolo.

“The rumor is her father has some untouched land on the Lazio coast north of Gaeta,” Santo had said into his ear, seemingly unaware of the war Alessandro was fighting on the inside. “He is also quite ill. Niccolo thinks he’s struck gold. Romance the daughter, marry her, then develop the land. As you do.”

“Why am I not surprised that a pig like Niccolo would have to leverage a woman into marrying him?” Alessandro had snarled, jerking a drink from a passing waiter’s tray and draining it in one gulp. He hadn’t even tasted it. He’d seen only her. Wanted only her.

“Apparently that’s going around,” Santo had muttered.

Alessandro had only glared at him.

“Are you really going to marry that Battaglia girl in cold blood?” Santo had asked then, frowning, his dark green eyes so much like Alessandro’s own. “Sacrifice yourself to one of the old man’s plots?”

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