For better...or for bedding?
Laurel Ferrara wouldn't know a happy ending if she fell over it--of course her whirlwind wedding was always going to end in disaster. But it wasn't as simple as just walking away. From the moment she is summoned back to Sicily, the shivers of unease set in....
The command comes from legendary tycoon Cristiano Ferrara, the husband she can't forget--but it might as well have come from the devil himself. The outrageously gorgeous Cristiano's power is a potent reminder of this Sicilian dynasty's unbreakable rule: once a Ferrara wife, always a Ferrara wife....
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'Ladies and gentlemen welcome to Sicily. Please keep your seat belts fastened until the aircraft has come to a standstill.'
Laurel kept her eyes fixed on the book in her lap. She wasn't ready to look out of the window. Not yet. Too many memories waited there--memories she'd spent two years trying to erase.
The toddler in the row behind her yelled a protest and squirmed, smacking both his legs into the back of her seat with a force that jolted her forwards, but Laurel was aware of nothing except the hot ball of stress that burned at the base of her ribs. Normally reading soothed her but her eyes were recognising letters that her brain wouldn't compute. Even as part of her was wishing she'd packed a different book, another part of her knew it wouldn't have made a difference.
'You can let go of the seat now. We've landed.' The woman seated next to her touched her hand gently. 'My sister is a nervous flyer too.'
Laurel heard the quiet voice from somewhere in the distance and slowly turned her head. 'Nervous flyer?'
'It's nothing to be ashamed of. My sister once had a panic attack en route to Chicago. They had to sedate her. You've been gripping that seat since we took off from Heathrow. I said to my Bill, "That girl doesn't even know we're sitting next to her. And she hasn't once turned the page of that book." But we've landed now. It's over.'
Absorbing the startling truth that she hadn't turned the page once during the flight, Laurel stared at the woman blankly. Kind brown eyes looked back at her. The woman's expression was concerned and motherly.
Laurel was surprised she was even capable of recognising that expression, given that she'd never seen it before, especially not directed at her. She had no memory of being left wrapped in supermarket bags in a cold city park by a mother who didn't want her, but the memories of the years that followed were embedded in her brain like shrapnel.
She had no idea why she would suddenly feel tempted to confess to a stranger that her fear had nothing to do with flying and everything to do with landing--in Sicily.
The other woman filled the silence. 'We're safely down now. You can stop worrying.' She leaned over Laurel and craned her neck to see out of the window. 'Just look at that blue sky and that view. It's my first time in Sicily. And you?'
Small talk. Conversation that skimmed the surface but never dipped into the murky ocean of feelings beneath.
This, Laurel could do. 'It's not my first time.' Because the woman's kindness deserved some reward, she added a smile to the words. 'I came here on business a few years ago.' Mistake number one, she thought.
The woman eyed Laurel's skinny jeans. 'And this time?'
Laurel's lips moved, the answers flowing automatically even though her brain was engaged elsewhere. 'I'm here for my best friend's wedding.'
'A real Sicilian wedding? Oh, that's so romantic. I saw that scene in The Godfather, all that dancing and family and friends--fabulous. And the Italians are so good with children, of course.' The woman threw a disapproving look at the passenger behind them who had read her book throughout the flight and ignored her fractious toddler. 'Family is everything to them.'
Laurel stuffed the book in her bag and undid her seat belt, suddenly desperate to escape from the conversation. 'You've been so kind. Sorry I've been such boring company on this flight. If you'll excuse me, I have to go.'
'Oh, no, dear, you can't leave your seat yet. Didn't you hear the announcement? There's someone important on the plane. Some VIP or other....