A Ring for Vincenzo's Heir(69)

By: Jennie Lucas

She leaned against the bus shelter and gave a deep sigh. This past year that she had lived with Leandro had been the happiest time she’d known since she was a child, when her family had still been together. But even back then there had been problems in her parents’ marriage. Memories of her parents’ frequent rows, when her dad had accused her mum of smothering him with her possessiveness, had taught Marnie that she must give Leandro space.

She had certainly tried to do that. It occurred to her that she knew barely any more about him now than when they had first met. He had never introduced her to his friends or family, and the only pieces of personal information he had revealed were that his father lived in New York and his mother had been a famous musical theatre star who had died ten years ago.

She did not know why it suddenly mattered that Leandro kept so much of his private life secret from her. She’d been prone to odd mood swings lately, and maybe that explained why she felt so hurt by his cavalier treatment of her. But her forgiving nature was quick to point out that he was a millionaire business tycoon who had a high-octane lifestyle and he couldn’t make her his top priority all the time.

She had been looking forward to his return from New York because she was excited about telling him her amazing news. It was still hard to believe that not only had she gained a first-class honours degree in astrophysics, but had earned the highest exam marks in the country. Leandro would certainly be surprised. She chewed on her lip. Maybe she should have told him before now that for the past year she had worked only one day a week as a waitress in the cocktail bar, and on the other days had studied astronomy, space science and astrophysics at a top London university.

Marnie heard her mother’s voice in her mind. ‘Why do you want to study astronomy? What’s the use in looking at stars and planets? You need to train for a proper job instead of setting your sights on an impossible dream.’

The teachers at the rough comprehensive school she’d attended had been similarly dismissive of her chances of becoming an astronomer, but she had worked hard at school and ignored the bullies who had called her a geek because she’d enjoyed science lessons. Even though she had been accepted at a top university back then she had lacked confidence in her abilities, and she’d decided to wait to see if she passed her final exams before she told Leandro about her dream of becoming an astronomer.

Now that dream was a step closer to being fulfilled. She had been offered a place on an internship programme to study towards a doctoral degree at NASA’s research academy in California. It would necessitate her moving to the States temporarily, and she hoped Leandro would understand that they would have to have a long-distance relationship for nine months while she was studying in America.

Marnie glanced along the road, hoping to see a bus approaching. Her heart lurched when a black saloon car with dark-tinted windows drew up against the pavement and the rear door opened. Leandro’s face was shadowed in the dim interior of the car, but his steel-grey eyes gleamed with hard brilliance.

‘Get in the car, Marnie.’

She almost sagged with relief that he had come after her. But the rebellious streak that seemed to be intent on causing trouble argued that she could not allow him to continue to walk all over her, that she should stand up for herself a bit more because she did not want to be his ‘dirty little secret’.

While she hesitated, Leandro drawled, ‘I will only ask you once, cara.’

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