A Scandal in the Headlines(7)

By: Caitlin Crews

Santo was the only person alive who could speak to him like that. But Alessandro was a Corretti first, like it or not. Marrying a Battaglia was a part of that. It made sense for the family. It was his responsibility. He would marry for duty, not out of deceit.

Alessandro was not Niccolo Falco.

“I will do my duty,” he had said. He’d tapped his empty glass to his brother’s chest, smiling slightly when Santo took it from him. “A concept you should think about yourself, one of these days.”

“Heaven forbid,” Santo had replied, grinning.

The orchestra had started playing then, and Alessandro had ordered himself to walk away from the strange woman—Niccolo Falco’s woman—no matter how bright her eyes were or how that simple fact made his chest ache. There was no possibility that he could start anything with a woman who was embroiled with the Falcos. It would ignite tempers, incite violence, call more attention to the dirty past Alessandro had been working so hard to put behind him.

Walking away had been the right thing to do. The only reasonable option.

But instead, he’d danced with her, and sealed his fate.


AND NOW SHE was here.

Alessandro had thought he was hallucinating when he’d first seen her on the yacht. He’d thought the stress was finally getting to him—that or the blows to his head. You’ve finally snapped, he’d told himself.

But his body had known better. It knew her.

He could still feel the heat of her when he’d touched her all those months ago, when he’d pulled her close to dance with her, when his fingers had skimmed that tempting hollow in the small of her back and made her breath come too fast. He still remembered her sweet, light scent, and how it had made him hunger to taste her, everywhere.

He still did. Even though there was no possible way that he could have ignored his responsibilities back then and pursued her, even if she hadn’t been neck-deep in a rival family, engaged to one of the enemies of the Corretti empire. He’d told himself that all he’d wanted after that charity ball was to forget her, and he’d tried. God help him, but he’d tried. And there’d certainly been more than enough to occupy him.

There’d been the pressure of managing his grandfather’s schemes, the high-profile wedding and the docklands regeneration project the old man had been so determined would unite the warring factions of the Corretti family.

“You will put an end to this damned feud,” Salvatore had told him. “Brother against brother, cousins at war with one another. It’s gone too far. It’s no good.”

It was still so hard to believe that he’d died only a few weeks ago, when Alessandro had always believed that crafty old Salvatore Corretti would live forever, somehow. But then again, it was just as well he’d missed that circus of a wedding yesterday.

And if Alessandro had woken from a dream or two over the past few months, haunted by clever eyes as blue as the sky, he’d ignored it. What he’d felt on that dance floor was impossible, insane.

The truth was, he’d never wanted that kind of mess in his life.

His late father, Carlo, had always claimed it was his intensity of emotion that made him do the terrible things he’d done—the other women, the shady dealings and violently corrupt solutions. Just as his mother, Carmela, had excused her own heinous acts—like the affair she’d confessed to yesterday that made Alessandro’s adored sister, Rosa, his uncle’s daughter—by blaming it on the hurt feelings Carlo’s extramarital adventures had caused her.

Alessandro wanted no part of it.

He’d viewed his calm, dutiful marriage as a kind of relief. An escape from generations of misery. He was furious enough that Alessia Battaglia had left him at the altar—what would he have done if he had felt for her?

He’d felt far too much on a dance floor for a woman he couldn’t respect. Far more than he’d believed he could. Far more than he should have. It still shook him.

Alessandro turned the water off and reached for a towel, letting the bright sun play over his body as he walked into his rooms. He didn’t want to think about the wedding-that-wasn’t. He didn’t want to think about the things Santo had told him this morning en route to the marina—all the business implications of losing that connection with Alessia’s father, the slimy politician who held the Corretti family’s future in his greedy hands. He didn’t want to think at all. He didn’t want to feel those things that hovered there, right below the surface—his profound sense of personal failure chief among them.

And luckily, he didn’t have to. Because Elena Calderon had delivered herself directly into his hands, the perfect distraction from all of his troubles.

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