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Authors: Lucy Gordon - Not Just a Convenient Marriage

Not Just a Convenient Marriage

Wedded in Venice…

Starting again is meant to be the purpose of Sally Franklin’s trip to Venice. Not finding herself spontaneously married to enigmatically handsome Damiano Ferrone! Maybe it was the magic of Venice or simply Damiano’s captivating good looks that made his proposal impossible to resist!

Damiano needs the perfect mother for his little boy—and a marriage of the utmost convenience. But before long Damiano is seeing Sally in a whole new light and realizing he’s got a lot more than he bargained for…
a wife for real!

“Look at me,” Damiano whispered.

She did so, and found his lips close to her own.

“Help me, Sally. Say you agree,” he said softly, his breath whispering against her face.

“But—”

“Say it. For my son’s sake.”

“All right. I agree.”

Slowly Damiano dropped his head until his mouth brushed hers. She held herself steady, waiting for it to be over, feeling the tremors go through her, fighting every instinct that urged her to press against him and tempt him on—and on….

His lips parted from hers, but she could still feel the warmth of his breath. She tried to force her mind to take control. Damiano’s kiss had a power over her that she must fight. But her flesh challenged her, telling her mind that thoughts were irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was the sweetness flooding through her, destroying the common sense that had always ruled her life.

His eyes told her that he’d felt her tremble in his arms and knew his power over her. Now nothing could ever be the same. He would force on her a kiss of passion that would leave her no choice. She braced herself—part fearful, part furious, part craving.

She ought to leave Venice, she thought. She couldn’t bear to hurt the child, but it was better for him not to indulge in groundless hopes. But another voice spoke within her, urging her to marry Damiano and put her whole heart and soul into winning his love.

Dear Reader,

A convenient wedding is rarely a matter of convenience alone. Secretly both bride and groom are hoping for something more. Sally, my heroine, is haunted by many thoughts and dreams as she walks down the aisle in Venice, to marry according to the traditions of the city.

Venice has been a special place to me ever since the day I took a holiday there, met a charming Venetian man and became engaged to him in two days. Many years later we are still happily married. I learned then that I was a different person from the one I’d thought. I’d seen myself as cautious, reserved—the last person to fall in love at first sight and make an impulsive marriage. Yet in that magical city my new self took over.

Sally also discovers in Venice that she has several different selves, which lead her to the love that was always fated for her. Just as mine was fated for me.

Suddenly I—an only child—found myself a member of a large family who opened their arms to me with warmth and generosity. I was particularly drawn to Carla, my husband’s sister, who said to me a year ago, “When are you going to set another book in Venice? It’s been too long since your last one.”

That very evening I was working out the plot and looking forward to showing the book to Carla, who’d inspired it. Sadly, I was never able to do so. As I was finishing the last chapter the news came of her death.

All I can do now is dedicate the book to her, which I’m glad to do. It’s hers, and it always will be.

Lucy

NOT JUST A CONVENIENT MARRIAGE

Lucy Gordon

Lucy Gordon
cut her writing teeth on magazine journalism, interviewing many of the world’s most interesting men, including Warren Beatty, Charlton Heston and Roger Moore. She also camped out with lions in Africa, and had many other unusual experiences, which have often provided the background for her books. Several years ago, while staying in Venice, she met a Venetian who proposed in two days. They have been married ever since. Naturally this has affected her writing, in which romantic Italian men tend to feature strongly.

Two of her books have won a Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. You can visit her website at
www.lucy-gordon.com
.

Recent books by Lucy Gordon:

THE FINAL FALCON SAYS I DO*
FALLING FOR THE REBEL FALCON*
PLAIN JANE IN THE SPOTLIGHT*
MISS PRIM AND THE BILLIONAIRE*
RESCUED BY THE BROODING TYCOON*
HIS DIAMOND BRIDE
A MISTLETOE PROPOSAL

*The Falcon Dynasty

This and other titles by Lucy Gordon are available in ebook format from
www.Harlequin.com
.

I dedicate this book to Carla, my Venetian sister-in-law, who made the light-hearted remark that inspired me to write it.

CHAPTER ONE

‘W
OW
! C
ASANOVA
! F
ANCY THAT
!’

The young man devouring the contents of a book was alight with
excitement. Sally, his sister, sitting beside him in the plane, regarded him
curiously.

‘What are you on about, Charlie?’

‘Casanova, the great lover. He came from Venice. It says so
here.’ He held up the tourist booklet about the city. ‘He had a thousand women
and gambled a fortune every night.’

‘Then I can see why he attracts you,’ she said wryly.

At eighteen, Charlie had gambling debts that were fast
mounting, something that barely troubled him while he could rely on his sister
to stump up. But Sally had rebelled. Appalled by his developing addiction and
the fearsome characters who were beginning to haunt their home, she’d hurriedly
got him out of London. Now they were on a plane approaching Venice in what
looked like a holiday but was actually an escape.

‘It’s not just the gambling,’ Charlie said. ‘He could have any
woman he wanted, and they say that even now his legend lives in Venice. Aw, come
on, that should interest you.’

‘Shut it!’ Sally told him.

His manner became comically theatrical. ‘How can you be so
hard-hearted? You’re going to the most romantic city in the world and you
couldn’t care less.’

‘Just as you couldn’t care less about the trouble your gambling
causes. You’re only trying to change the subject. So just drop it, little
brother. Or else!’

‘Or else what? Throw me out of the plane?’

‘No, I’ll do something much worse than that. I’ll cut off the
money and make you get a job.’

‘Aaargh! You’re a cruel woman.’

Their tone was light, but beneath the banter was a hard
reality. Since their parents had died seven years earlier she’d been responsible
for him. She wasn’t proud of the result. He showed no signs of growing up.

As he’d said, they were travelling to the most romantic city in
the world: Venice. Over a hundred little islands, connected by canals and
bridges. A place of staggering beauty and magical, romantic atmosphere. And if
she ‘couldn’t care less’ as he accused, it might be because there had been
little romance in her life. Without being exactly plain she had looks that were
ordinary, with nothing enchanting or alluring about them. Men did not tend to
fall at her feet, and the one time she’d fancied herself in love there had been
little happiness, and pain in the end. She had no illusions that her life was
about to change now.

‘Why did you insist on coming to Venice when we could have gone
anywhere?’ Charlie persisted.

‘Because I had a friend who’d booked a trip here and had to
cancel at the last minute,’ she said. ‘I managed to get her hotel rooms, and air
tickets.’

She had seized the offer as a chance to get away fast and
cheaply. Otherwise she wouldn’t have chosen to make this trip in January.

A voice on the loudspeaker announced that the descent was about
to start. Soon they could see Marco Polo Airport near the boundary of the
mainland. Close by was the sea, with the two-mile causeway stretching out over
the water to the multitude of little islands that made up the city of
Venice.

‘Hang on,’ said Charlie. ‘It says here that there are no cars
in Venice. Does that mean we have to walk along that causeway?’

‘No, there’s a car park called Piazzale Roma on the very edge
of the city,’ she said. ‘A taxi can take us as far as that, then we get out and
do the rest of the journey by boat through the canals.’

As they descended she gazed out of the window, enchanted by the
glittering sea stretching out to where Venice could just be glimpsed on the
horizon. When they landed there was the relief of finding a plentiful supply of
taxis, and soon they were on their way across the causeway.

Now the city was just ahead, looming up in all its legendary
beauty. The taxi turned into Piazzale Roma, and stopped near the water. Here
there was a crowd of motor boats, the Venetian version of taxi. Sally gave their
destination, the Hotel Billioni, and soon they were moving out into the Grand
Canal, the huge elegant highway that sliced through the centre of Venice. At
last the boat turned into a tiny side canal and halted where a flight of steps
came down to the water. The boatman took their bags and led them the few yards
to the hotel.

After checking in they were shown upstairs to the two rooms
where they were to stay. Sally went straight to the window and threw it
open.

Below her the little canal was quiet and mysterious. Darkness
was falling and the only light on the water came in soft gleams from the windows
above.

The little she had seen of Venice so far was enough to confirm
its reputation for romance and mystery. It would attract lovers, perhaps for
their honeymoon.

The word ‘honeymoon’ directed her thoughts to Frank, despite
her efforts to prevent it. These days she didn’t often let herself think of him,
not since she’d resolved to put him out of her life.

He’d attracted her. His kisses had pleased her, yet for some
reason she’d resisted his urging to take them further.

‘C’mon, Sally,’ he’d said, sounding irritated. ‘This is the
twenty-first century. Kisses aren’t enough any more.’

He was right. If she’d wanted to go to bed with him she was
free to do so. But something held her back. When she found him with another girl
it was hurtful but not really a surprise.

He accused me of being cold, she thought, and maybe he was
right. Will I ever want a man so much that I can’t control myself? Probably not.
If it was going to happen I guess I’d know by now.

She gave a little self-mocking laugh.

I’ve come to the city of Casanova, but somehow I don’t think
even he could make me passionate. I’m too sensible. But then, I’ve always needed
to be.

The sound of Charlie moving in the next room reminded her why
good sense was necessary. She had made many sacrifices for him. Even being here
was a sacrifice, as it might have cost her the chance of a wonderful job. She
was an accountant, working independently with reasonable success, but suddenly a
job with a major firm beckoned. If she’d stayed at home it might have been hers.
But they were unlikely to keep it open for her, at least, not for more than a
week.

She could hope, but she knew hope could be destructive if it
was all you had.

Charlie’s head appeared round the door.

‘I’m starving,’ he said. ‘Let’s go and have some supper.’

The restaurant downstairs was humming with life. Delicious
smells wafted from the kitchen and they spent a merry few minutes choosing
food.

‘And this is just the start,’ Charlie said. ‘We’re going to
have a great time.’

‘You might. My time will be taken up watching you to stop you
going crazy.’

‘Hah! So you say. But this is the city of Casanova, the great
lover. You’ll be fighting the men off.’

A chuckle overhead revealed that one of the waitresses had
heard and understood.

‘It is true,’ she said. ‘This was the home of Casanova.’

‘Never mind him,’ Sally said. ‘He can wait. I want some
supper.’

‘Fish,’ Charlie enthused. ‘Did you ever see so much fish?’

‘We have everything you want,
signore
,’ the waitress declared.

‘It’s lucky you all seem to understand English so well,’ Sally
observed. ‘We’d be really lost otherwise.’

‘But people come to Venice from all over the world. We must be
able to talk with them. Now, what can I get you?’

‘I’ll have the codfish prepared with olive oil, garlic and
parsley.’

‘Me too,’ Charlie announced.

‘Duo baccala mantecata,’
she
announced triumphantly, and bustled away.

‘Is that what we ordered?’ Charlie asked.

‘I guess it must have been.’

‘It sounds great. I’m beginning to think you did the right
thing in hauling me out here.’

‘I didn’t haul you.’

‘Come on. You practically chucked me into your suitcase.’

‘Well, all right. I was getting a bit worried by those phone
calls that kept coming from people who wouldn’t give their name. One called
himself Wilton but the others wouldn’t tell.’

‘Wilton—well—yes.’

‘You mentioned him once, made him sound like a nasty piece of
work.’

‘Was that the only reason? Didn’t you want to get shot of
Frank?’

‘Frank doesn’t exist any more. Don’t ever mention him
again.’

Charlie gave her a hilarious look.

‘First you kick Casanova into the long grass. Then Frank.
Perhaps the entire male sex should be nervous about you.’

But he laid a hand on her shoulder in a friendly clasp. Young
and self-centred as he was, Charlie could still be sympathetic.

They spent the meal planning the next day’s sightseeing.

‘We’ll get on a
vaporetto
,’ she
said. ‘That’s the water equivalent of a bus. That way we’ll see the Grand Canal
and the great bridges across it. Then we can go and see St Mark’s Square.’

‘Only it’s not a square,’ he said, studying a leaflet. ‘It’s a
huge rectangle full of shops and restaurants.’

‘It sounds lovely.’

Finally they drifted back upstairs.

‘Goodnight,’ he said, giving her a peck on the cheek. ‘Sleep
tight, and be ready to take Venice by storm tomorrow.’

She gave him a gentle thump and left him. Before going to bed
she went to the window to enjoy the view over the little canal. Below, she could
just make out a small pavement with steps leading down into the water. A man’s
voice seemed to be coming from inside. He sounded angry.

Suddenly a door was flung open and the man came out. From a
little way above Sally could just see that he was tall, dark, in his
mid-thirties, with a face that might have been handsome but for the fierce,
uncompromising look it bore. He was speaking Italian, which she couldn’t
understand until he snapped,
‘Lei parla come un
idiota.’

I guess I know what that means, she thought. He’s calling
someone an idiot. Not a guy you’d want to meet on a dark night. He’s probably
the bouncer.

The man stormed back into the building, slamming the door.
Sally closed the window and went to bed.

That night it rained. By morning the rain had stopped, leaving
the streets wet and glistening. They spent the day discovering Venice, wandering
through narrow alleys that inspired the imaginative side of Charlie’s
nature.

‘All these twists and turns,’ he enthused. ‘If you were
following someone in secret they’d never know you were there. Or if you were
trying to avoid them you could dart out of sight often, then dart back
again.’

‘You’re just a naturally tricky character.’ She laughed.

‘Well, it can come in handy,’ he agreed, not at all offended by
being called tricky.

They found where to board the
vaporetto
for a trip along the Grand Canal, which was followed by a
visit to the Rialto Bridge. Finally they took a water taxi down a narrow
canal.

‘I will set you down just there, where the canal ends,’ the
driver said, ‘and from there it’s just a short walk to St Mark’s.’

At last they reached the Piazza St Marco. One end was dominated
by a huge, decorative cathedral, while around the sides were dozen of shops and
cafés with tables outside.

‘Let’s sit out here,’ she said.

‘Wouldn’t it be warmer inside?’ Charlie protested.

‘It’s not too cold and I like sitting outside and watching the
world go by, especially in a place like this—so many people, so much happening.
But you can go inside.’

‘And look like a sissy while my sister sits out here?’ he asked
with a grin. ‘No, thank you.’

They found a table and ordered coffee, glancing around them as
they sipped it.

‘Oh, look,’ Sally said suddenly. ‘That lovely dog.’

She’d fixed her eyes on a brown and white springer spaniel
bouncing around, enjoying the puddles.

‘It’s so nice to see them having fun,’ she said.

‘You’re a sucker for dogs,’ Charlie observed. ‘If you love them
so much I can’t think why you don’t have one.’

‘Because I’d have to leave him alone so much. It wouldn’t be
kind. You never knew Jacko, did you?’

‘The dog you had before I was born?’

‘That’s right. I adored him. He had a terrific personality,
just like that one over there. Bouncing everywhere, demanding attention.’ She
struck a dramatic attitude. ‘
Wuff! Look at me!
That’s what he’s saying.’ She turned to the dog, who had come close
enough to hear her. ‘Yes, all right, I’m looking at you. You’re beautiful.’

His ears perked, his face lit up, and the next moment he was
flying towards her, bouncing into her lap, sending her coffee flying over her
clothes.

‘Hey, look at your jacket!’ Charlie exclaimed.

‘Oh, heavens! Well, never mind. It’s only a jacket. It was my
fault for calling him.’

‘And he’s covered you with wet paw prints.’

Suddenly a scream tore the air.
‘Toby!
Toby!’

A young boy was dashing across the piazza towards them, waving
his arms and screeching. Just behind him was a middle-aged woman, also running,
her face dark with thunder.

‘Toby!’ the child shrieked.
‘Vieni
qui!’

He reached Sally and flung his arms around the dog so fiercely
that she was knocked off balance and would have crashed to the ground if Charlie
hadn’t seized her just in time.

The woman began a tirade in Italian. Without understanding the
words Sally gathered that she was furious and her manner towards the animal was
alarming.

‘It’s all right,’ Sally said firmly. ‘It was an accident, not
his fault.’

Hearing her speak English, the woman responded in the same
language.

‘He’s a bad dog,’ she said. ‘He’s never been disciplined
properly and it’s time something was done about him.’

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