To Wear His Ring Again

By: Chantelle Shaw

CHAPTER ONE

‘THIS IS THE address you asked for. Grosvenor Square W1.’ The taxi driver glanced over his shoulder at his passenger, who was still sitting on the back seat, puzzled that she hadn’t climbed out of the car. ‘Is this where you want to go, love? Or do you want me to take you somewhere else?’

Butterflies danced in Isobel’s stomach as she stared out of the black cab, and for a moment she was tempted to ask the cabbie to drive on. The Georgian town house looked exactly the same as she remembered; the four storeys of mullioned windows gleamed in the spring sunshine, reflecting the trees in the park opposite. She had loved the house when she had lived there with Constantin, but now its elegant grandeur seemed to mock her.

She was surprised by how emotional she felt to return, two years after she had walked out of the front door for the last time and turned her back on her marriage. Perhaps she should just sign the divorce petition burning a hole in her handbag and post it back to Constantin’s lawyer. What was the point in seeing him again after all this time and dredging up the past?

The truth was that she had never really known her husband. When they had met three years ago, she had been dazzled by his charm and seduced by his smouldering sexuality. At first, their relationship had been a roller coaster of sizzling passion, but after their wedding Constantin had changed into a remote stranger. With hindsight, she realised that she had never truly understood the enigmatic Italian who went by the exotic title of Marchese Constantin De Severino.

She visualised the legal document in her handbag with the heading in stark black typeface: Affidavit in support of divorce—desertion, and felt a rush of anger at the reason Constantin had given for seeking a divorce. It was true that she had been the one to leave the marriage, and so technically she supposed she had deserted him. But he had given her no option but to leave him. He had driven her away with his coldness and his uncompromising attitude towards her career.

She frowned. Desertion was such a damning word and, ironically, it contained more emotion than Constantin had ever revealed during the one year of the marriage that they had spent together.

Who was she kidding? When she pictured his hard, sculpted features it was impossible to believe he had a vulnerable side. Constantin did not do emotions. It was far more likely that the reason he had given for seeking a divorce had been coldly calculated. But she would not take all the blame for the failure of their marriage, Isobel thought fiercely. Constantin needed to realise that she was not a pushover as she had been when he had married her, and he couldn’t have things all his way. Once, she had been overawed by him. But she was determined to end their marriage as his equal.

‘This is fine, thanks,’ she told the taxi driver as she stepped onto the pavement and leaned down to the cab window to pay the fare. The breeze lifted her honey-blonde hair from her shoulders.

Recognition dawned on the cabbie’s face. ‘I know who you are! You’re that singer Izzy Blake from the Stone Ladies. My daughter is a big fan.’ He thrust a notepad into Isobel’s hand. ‘Can I be cheeky and ask for your autograph for my Lily?’

She took the pen he handed her and signed her name. Being recognised by the public was something Isobel doubted she would ever be entirely comfortable with, but she never forgot that the band owed their success to their many thousands of fans worldwide.

‘Are you in London to give a concert?’ the cabbie asked her.

‘No, we finished our European tour in Berlin last week, but I think we’re due to play in London in the autumn.’ She had given up trying to remember the exact details of the band’s hectic schedule. For the past two years, her life had been a blur of airport lounges and hotel lobbies in whichever town, state, continent where the band was performing. She tore a page out of the cabbie’s notebook. ‘Give me your email address and I’ll make sure you’re sent a couple of tickets so you can take your daughter to the Stone Ladies’ next concert.’

The taxi driver thanked her, and when he drove away Isobel unconsciously clenched her fingers around the strap of her bag as she climbed the front steps of the house and rang the doorbell. Despite her determination to remain cool and calm, she could feel her heart thudding painfully hard beneath her ribs. She was not nervous at the prospect of seeing Constantin again, she assured herself. She thought of the divorce petition he had sent her, and the accusatory, condemning word desertion had the same effect on her temper as a red rag to a bull.

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