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Authors: Susanna Carr

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Her Shameful Secret

BOOK: Her Shameful Secret
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“Hello, Bella.”

No, no, no!
She looked up sharply and her cloudy eyes cleared as she focused on Antonio. He was here. In front of her. Waiting for her to make the next move even though they both knew it was useless.

Run
. The word screamed through her brain.

Does he know? Is that why he’s here?
She couldn’t stop staring at him like a deer caught in the headlights. Antonio wore a black pinstripe suit, the ruthlessly tailored lines emphasizing his broad shoulders and lean, muscular body. The hand-made shirt and silk tie offered a veneer of civility, but they couldn’t mask his animal magnetism. He was the most sensual man she had ever known, and the most powerful. She had been an idiot to get involved with him.

Antonio Rossi was also the most callous person she’d met. Isabella took short, choppy breaths, but she was suffocating with dread. She couldn’t gauge his next move or his next thought. She only knew that it was going to be devastating.

About the Author

SUSANNA CARR
has been an avid romance reader since she read her first Mills & Boon
®
Modern™ at the age of ten. Although romance novels were not allowed in her home, she always managed to sneak one in from the local library or from her twin sister’s secret stash.

After attending college and receiving a degree in English Literature, Susanna pursued a romance-writing career. She has written sexy contemporary romances for several publishers, and her work has been honoured with awards for both contemporary and sensual romance.

Susanna lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family. When she isn’t writing she enjoys reading romance and connecting with readers online. Visit her website at: www.susannacarr.com

Recent titles by the same author:

 
  • THE TARNISHED JEWEL OF JAZAAR

Did you know these are also available as eBooks?
Visit www.millsandboon.co.uk

Her Shameful Secret

Susanna Carr

www.millsandboon.co.uk

To Carly Byrne and Lucy Gilmour with thanks for their insights and generous support.

CHAPTER ONE

I
SABELLA
W
ILLIAMS
heard the throaty growl of an expensive sports car and lifted her head like a hunted animal scenting danger. The sudden move made her head spin. She took a step back, gripping the serving tray as she fought for her balance.

The sound of the car faded before she turned to see it. Isabella exhaled shakily, her bunched muscles relaxing. She swiped her hand against her clammy forehead, hating how her imagination ran wild. Her mind was playing tricks on her. One sports car drove past her and she immediately thought of him.

It was ridiculous to think that Antonio Rossi was in this part of Rome, or even searching for her. She rolled her eyes in self-disgust. She’d only shared a bed with him for a few glorious months in the spring. The guy would have long forgotten her. He was every woman’s secret fantasy and Isabella was certain that she had been replaced the moment she left his bed.

The thought pricked at Isabella and she blinked away the tears that stung in the backs of her eyes. Glancing at the clock, she calculated how many more hours she had left on her shift. Too many. All she wanted to do was crawl back into bed, burrow under the threadbare
covers and keep the world at bay. But she couldn’t afford to take a day off. She needed every euro to survive.

“Isabella, you have customers waiting,” her boss barked at her.

She simply nodded, too tired to give her usual sarcastic response, and headed toward one of the small tables on the sidewalk café. She would get through this day just like every other day. One foot in front of the other. One minute at a time.

It felt like she had waded through sludge by the time she got to the tiny table where the couple waited. They didn’t seem to mind her slow pace. The man gently, almost reverently, kissed the woman’s lips. Envy pierced through Isabella’s stupor. She bit down on her lip to hold back a whimper as she remembered what it felt like to be adored and desired.

Isabella’s shoulders slumped as the bittersweet memories poured over her. She couldn’t recapture that kind of love. She would never be the center of Antonio’s attention again, and he would no longer be her entire world. She missed his possessive kisses and the raw hunger they’d shared. But, much as she missed him, he would never take her back. Not when he discovered the truth.

Her knees threatened to buckle under the weight of her regret. She gritted her teeth and harnessed the last of her self-control. Those wildly romantic days were over, she reminded herself fiercely. It was best not to think of them.

“Are you ready to order?” she asked hoarsely in Italian. Her grasp of the language wasn’t that great, despite her taking a few classes in college. Her struggle
to communicate made it even more difficult to get through a day.

Once she’d had big dreams of becoming fluent in Italian, transforming herself into a sophisticated and glamorous woman and taking the city of Rome by storm. She’d wanted to find adventure, beauty and love. For a brief moment she’d had it all in her grasp, but she’d allowed it to slip through her fingers.

Now she worked all day in this dump and had no money. People either ignored her or viewed her as trash. So much for her transformation. She could have gotten that treatment back home. At least then she would know what was being said behind her back. She lived in a room above the café that didn’t have running water or a lock on the door. All she had was the weight of the world on her shoulders and a deep need to survive.

As she took down the order and walked back to the kitchen Isabella realized that she was in danger of getting stuck here. She needed to work harder, faster and smarter if she wanted to return to America in the next few months. Now more than ever she needed to surround herself with the familiar. Find a place where she could keep her head down, work hard and complete her college degree. After all this time yearning for excitement, she now longed to find a safe haven.

But she didn’t think she could keep this up, working long hours and barely getting by. And it was only going to get harder. The thought made her want to drop to the floor in a heap and cry.

Isabella leaned against the kitchen wall. One day she’d get out of this nightmare. She weakly closed her eyes, ignoring her boss’s reprimand to hurry. Soon she’d
have enough money to fly back to America. She’d start over and maybe get it right the next time. If there was one thing she could rely on it was learning from her mistakes.

Antonio Rossi surveyed the small sidewalk café. After searching all weekend he was going to face the woman who had almost destroyed him and his family. He strode to an empty table and sat down, his lethal grace concealing the anticipation of battle that was racing through his veins. This time he wasn’t going to fall for Isabella’s big blue eyes and innocent beauty. He would be in command.

He leaned back, his legs sprawled under the tiny table. Sliding dark sunglasses on his nose, Antonio looked at the paint-chipped, rusted furniture. Of all the places he’d thought she would be, he mused as he glimpsed the ratted, faded awning, he hadn’t pictured a dirty little café on the wrong side of Rome.

Why was Isabella living in this filth and poverty? It didn’t make sense. He had opened his world to her. She had lived in his penthouse apartment and shared his bed. She had had his servants to take care of her.

And she’d thrown it all away when she’d slept with his brother.

The knowledge still ate away at him. He had provided Isabella with everything, but it hadn’t been enough. No matter how much he’d given, how hard he’d worked, he hadn’t been able to compare with his brother. It had always been that way.

Still, he had been blindsided by Giovanni’s drunken confession six months ago. Had responded by casting
Isabella and Giovanni out of his life. It had been swift and vicious, but they had deserved much worse.

Isabella stepped into his view. Tension gripped Antonio, and he braced himself for the emotional impact as he watched her precariously balance two cappuccinos on a serving tray. He had prepared himself for it, but seeing her was like a punch to his gut as she walked past him.

She wore a thin black T-shirt, a skimpy denim skirt and scuffed black flats, but she still had the power to draw his attention. His gaze lingered on her bare legs. He remembered how they’d felt wrapped around his hips as he drove into her welcoming body.

Antonio exhaled slowly and purged the image from his mind. He would not be distracted by her sexual allure or her innocent face. He had made the mistake of lowering his guard with her. He had trusted Isabella and got close to her. That wouldn’t happen again.

Antonio grimly watched her serve the couple, noticing that she looked different. The last time he’d seen her, she had been asleep in his bed, flushed and naked, her long blonde hair fanning like a halo across the white silk pillow.

Isabella now looked pale and sickly. Her hair fell in a limp ponytail. The curves that had used to make him forget his next thought had diminished. She was bony and frail.

She looked terrible. A cruel smile flickered on the edge of his mouth. Antonio hoped she’d been to hell and back. He was prepared to take her there again.

He’d once believed she was sweet and innocent, but it had all been a lie. Her blushes and slow smiles had disarmed him and he had been convinced that she wanted
only him. But her open affection had been a smokescreen.

It turned out that Isabella was a master of the mind game and outplayed the most conniving women in his world, who would lie, cheat and bed-hop to get closer to Gio, heir to the Rossi fortune. Isabella had seduced Antonio with her angelic beauty. Made him believe that he was her first choice. Her only choice. But all that time she had been working her magic on Giovanni.

Isabella turned away from the table and headed towards him. Her head was bent as she grabbed her notepad and pen. Tension coiled inside him, ready to spring. He sat unnaturally still, refusing to make any sudden moves that would alert her to impending danger.

“Are you ready to order?” she asked uninterestedly.

Her hoarse voice was nothing like the husky whisper he remembered.

“Hello, Bella.”

No, no, no!

She looked up sharply and her cloudy eyes cleared as she focused on Antonio. He was here. In front of her. Waiting for her to make the next move, even though they both knew it was useless.

Run
. The word screamed through her brain.

Isabella slowly blinked. Maybe she was hallucinating. She hadn’t been herself lately. There was no way Antonio Rossi, billionaire, member of the social elite, would be sitting in this café.

But her imagination couldn’t conjure the electric current coursing through her body from his nearness. Or the panic that stole her breath. Her heart gave a brutal leap before it plummeted.

Does he know? Is that why he’s here?

She couldn’t stop staring at him like a deer caught in the headlights. Antonio wore a black pinstripe suit, the ruthlessly tailored lines emphasizing his broad shoulders and lean, muscular body. The hand-made shirt and silk tie offered a veneer of civility, but they couldn’t mask his animal magnetism. He was the most sensual man she had ever known, and the most powerful.

Antonio Rossi was also the most callous person she’d met.

Isabella took short, choppy breaths, but she was suffocating with dread. She couldn’t gauge his next move or his next thought. She only knew that it was going to be devastating.

She had been an idiot to get involved with him. He was the kind of man her mother had often warned her about. Antonio would see a woman like her only as a plaything and then discard her when something better came along. Isabella knew all this but she had still been drawn to him like a moth to a flame. Even now she felt the pull and she couldn’t stop staring at him.

His eyes were hidden behind the sunglasses, but the angles and lines of his savagely masculine face were just as sharp and aggressive as she remembered. Antonio wasn’t beautiful, but his dark, striking looks made women of all ages eager for another glimpse of him.

Run. And don’t look back
.

“Antonio?” Her voice was high and reedy. “What are you doing here?”

“I’ve come for you.”

She shivered. She’d never thought she would see him again or hear those words. But it was too late. She
couldn’t go back. She wouldn’t let herself think that it was possible. “Why?”

“Why?” Antonio leaned back in his chair and arrogantly studied her appearance.

Her skin tingled as she felt his lazy gaze sliding over her tired body and cheap clothes. Her pulse tripped before galloping at maximum speed.
How much did he know?

She couldn’t tell because his sunglasses hid his eyes. Was he here because he missed the sex? What they had shared had been hot, raw and primitive. It had made her wild, irresponsible and addicted to him. When they were together nothing else had mattered. And if she were smart she would keep her distance before she fell under his spell again.

BOOK: Her Shameful Secret
8.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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