VITTORIO'S RUNAWAY BRIDE (The Vittorio Series) (10 page)

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“I know what I told you,” Logan said evenly, “but my circumstances have changed and I am no longer free to escort you to the ball.
I am sorry, but you will just have to find someone else to take you or attend by yourself.”
There was a moment of silence as he listened to Alicia’s pleading.
“No, I cannot stop by to discuss it, Alicia.  I am not even in town.
I have some business to finish up that may take a few more days…”

” Shelby croaked.

Logan whirled around to find a visibly shaken Shelby looking at him as if he was some sort of monster.  “I have to go,” he muttered into the phone before tossing it onto one of the chairs.

, it is not…”

“That’s all I am to you,

He took a step towards her.
“That is not what I meant.
I just did not see any reason to involve her in my personal affairs.”

,” she bit out, “what an interesting choice of words.
, isn’t it?
Alicia is the blonde you’ve been seeing behind my back.”

Logan drew in a sharp breath.
“How did you know she was a blonde?”

Shelby’s face crumbled.
“So it’s true.  You admit that you’ve been having an affair with her.
Oh, Logan, how could you?
How could you come here pretending you wanted to save our marriage when you’re still involved with that woman?”

Per l’amor del Dio
,” he said with a shake of his head.
“I admit to no such thing.
I merely asked how you knew she was blonde and from that you conclude I am carrying on an affair?”

Shelby’s voice came out as little more than a squeak.
“I saw you with her.”

Now Logan was really confused.
“I do not understand.
I took her once to Mancini’s a few weeks ago and to an art exhibit last month, are you saying you were at one of those places?”

She stared at him in disbelief, the rolling pain inside her so acute she clutched at her stomach.
“You took her to
restaurant where people we know were sure to see you?”

The pieces of the puzzle weren’t quite coming together and Shelby looked so distraught he was concerned she would make herself physically ill.
Logan went to her and led her to the sofa, insisting that they talk it out in spite of her protests that she was done talking and wanted him to leave.
He could see the tears pooling in her eyes and the way her chin quivered, and if he wasn’t so sure she’d fight him like a wildcat he would have taken her in his arms and held her there until that horrible look of desolation left her beautiful face.
Instead, he had to content himself with holding one small hand in his.

“Now, we shall start from the beginning.
First of all, I am
having an affair with Alicia.”

“I heard what you said on the phone, Logan.
You had plans to take her to a ball and you admitted yourself that you had been out with her before.”

“As a
,” he said insistently, “nothing more.
Her husband is an old college friend and an important client that I acquired shortly before you left.
His business in Italy has kept him out of the country for over a month now and she asked me to accompany her to a few engagements she had already obligated herself to so she would not have to go alone.
Shelby, look at me,” he said softly.
When her green eyes lifted to his, Logan’s chest tightened.

Mio bello
, do not look at me as if you do not believe a word I am saying.”

“How can I believe you,” she cried, “I saw you with my own eyes.
I saw you and that…that woman!”

cara mia

“The day I left you,” Shelby replied, unsuccessfully trying to blink back the tears.

Logan searched his mind, but had no recollection of having been alone with Alicia that day.
“You must be mistaken.
Richard Delatorre, her husband, was still in the country at that time.
I had a late lunch with him and Alicia…” Logan stopped, a sudden and very vivid memory flashing before his eyes.
,” he said tenderly, “my poor darling, you saw us coming out of the hotel, didn’t you?”

Shelby nodded.
“You had your arm around her,” she said in trembling voice.
“I saw you leave the hotel and get in a limousine with her and I…I was so hurt, so heartbroken to know you’d slept with another woman, I couldn't think of anything except getting away.”

“Shelby, I…”

“No, you have to let me say this.
I blamed myself too because I realized you wouldn’t have turned to her at all if I’d been able to…”
Shelby’s voice faltered as a new round of tears flooded her eyes.
She drew in a deep breath and finished.
“If I had been able to satisfy you in bed, you wouldn’t have felt the need to find someone who could.”

Mio Dio
,” he rasped hoarsely, “you thought you did not satisfy me?”
Logan scooped her up and set her on his lap so fast she didn’t get the chance to protest.
“Listen very carefully, Shelby.
I went to the hotel to pick up Alicia at her husband’s request.  He was running late for our lunch date, and the only reason I had my arm around her is because she was wearing a pair of ridiculously high heels and I was afraid she would fall down the stairs and break her neck.”

“No,” she shook her head, “I saw you kiss her.  Just before you got in the car, she turned around and you leaned down to k-kiss her.”

“That was not the way it happened.  I leaned down to help her into the car and
kissed me.  Think about it,
.  Think about how brief it was.  The kiss did not last past my initial shock that she had done it.  I was angry, but she laughed it off and said it was only a kiss of gratitude for picking her up.  I let it pass because of my friendship with Richard.”  

Shelby looked at him with uncertainty.
“She’s a beautiful woman and you’ve been spending time with her.
Maybe what I saw was perfectly innocent, but what about the other times you were alone with her?”

“I was not alone with her,
The dinner at Mancini’s was with three other couples, all mutual associates of mine and Richard’s.
The art exhibit was a showing for one of Alicia’s friends and I only went with her because she begged me to.
I felt sorry for her because Richard was supposed to have been back by then.”

“And the ball?”

“A charity event that I did not particularly care to attend but felt obligated to.
Alicia was practically in tears because she did not want to go alone, and since I was already going, I agreed to be her escort.”

“Are you…attracted to her?”

Logan’s lip twitched in amusement.
“Attracted to a woman who flaunts her body and bats her eyelashes at every male she comes in contact with?
Not likely.
Besides, why would I want a woman like that when I have you?
You are the one I want, Shelby, the only woman I want sharing my life and my bed.”

Shelby threw her arms around his neck and let out a painful sob.
“Oh Logan, how can you ever forgive me for the horrible way I’ve behaved?”

Logan hugged her to him.
“Just say it is over so we can go home.
I have missed you so much,
mia moglie. 
t was a struggle to get through each day and infinitely more difficult to get through the long nights.”

“It was the same for me.”

“Promise me you will never do anything like this again.
If something upsets you, you must tell me so we can work it out together.”

“Together,” she repeated with a happy sigh.
“I love you, Logan, with all my heart.”
She tipped her head back, hoping to hear those same words pour from his lips.

“Thank God,” Logan said on a sigh as he lowered his head and kissed her.


Logan poured a glass of wine and went out on the deck to watch the sunset while Shelby took a shower.
He tried to convince himself he had nothing to feel guilty about.
She believed what he’d said about Alicia because he really was being honest when he told her he wasn’t attracted to the woman.
It was what he
say that nagged at him and made Logan wonder if he had done the right thing in keeping the whole truth from Shelby.

He’d gone to college with Richard Delatorre but hadn’t seen him for years, so when Logan ran into him about eight months ago he was excited about acquiring Richard’s business and renewing an old friendship.
They met a couple of times, worked out the contracts, and agreed it would be nice to get together for dinner with their wives and celebrate.
Richard was a good man with a pleasant sense of humor even if he was a bit on the conservative side, that’s why meeting Alicia for the first time had been such a shock to Logan.

A week before Shelby left him, Logan arranged to stop by Richard’s house to drop off a copy of the final contracts, but when he arrived he was told by the housekeeper that Richard wasn’t home yet.
She showed him into the sitting room then apparently informed Alicia he was there because he hadn’t been waiting more than a few minutes when she swept into the room.

It was obvious she had been sunning herself by the pool because she was wearing one of the skimpiest bikini’s Logan had ever seen.  She hadn’t even bothered to cover up, although there was a robe draped over her arm.
He remembered standing there, careful to keep his eyes locked on her face, warning bells clanging inside his head as Alicia dropped the robe across the back of the sofa and sauntered over to introduce herself.
Never in a million years would Shelby greet a guest dressed so scantily, not unless she was caught unaware, and not without blushing all the way from her toes to the top of her pretty head.

“Richard said you would be stopping by and I’ve just been
to meet you,” she cooed and held out a perfectly manicured hand.
He hesitated just a fraction too long and Alicia laughed.
“I don’t bite,” she batted her lashes, “unless you want me too, that is.”

Logan stuck out his hand.
“It is nice to meet you,
,” he said formally.

Her fingers curled around his palm, squeezing ever so slightly.
“Call me Alicia.
After all, any friend of Richard’s is a friend of mine.”

Repulsed by her behavior, Logan jerked his arm away.  It felt as if a snake had just coiled itself around his hand and he had to resist the impulse to wipe it off on his trouser legs.
He took a step backwards and glanced around, commenting on how beautiful the place was and asked if she had been involved with the decorating.

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