Authors: Nicole Flockton
Luciano Morelli has perfected a plan to get revenge on his runaway wife; confronting her at the opening gala for her father’s hotel. What he didn’t plan on was the flaring of emotions the moment he sees her again.
Jasmine Anderson has no memories of her husband. Her only link to him is the wedding rings she wears. Luciano storms back into her life announcing he is her husband, demanding she join him on a business trip or see her father’s livelihood crumble.
Passion reignites as they rediscover what first drew them together. But more than just memories are lost. Can their bond be rebuilt or will secrets infect their already shattered trust?
On her very first school report her teacher said, “Nicole likes to tell her own stories”.
It wasn’t until after the birth of her daughter and having fun on the community board of eharlequin.com that she finally decided to take the plunge and write a book.
Nicole joined the fabulous Romance Writers of Australia and eventually linked up with a great group of girls and formed ’WINKGirls’.
The stories she write are contemporary romances with either a medical setting or in the boardrooms of high powered businesses. Nicole enjoys taking two characters and creating unique situations for them.
Apart from writing Nicole is busy looking after her very own hero–her wonderfully supportive husband, and her two fabulous kids. She also enjoys watching sports and, of course, reading.
To the wonderful Janet Wrenn, Kristy Wyatt and Kat AKA, The Book Tart—the day we connected on twitter was one of the best days. The friendships we have formed will be lifelong. I value the support you’ve given me on my short journey as a published author. Thank you for being my main cheerleaders.
Kat, my web designer goddess, I can’t say thank you enough for the way you are always there, at the end of an email or text message to help me with any question or request I have with regards to my website or marketing help. Know that I truly appreciate the help you give me.
To my fabulous critique group—Wink Girls—thanks for the ideas you gave to improve my story. We’ve been on this journey for a long time, and I don’t see that changing.
My lunch buddies, Shana, Sophie, Vicky and Kim, thank you for your support and fun we have. I’m extremely privileged to have met you all.
Kate Cuthbert, Nas Dean and the team at Escape Publishing, thank you for taking me on this wonderful journey. I’m thrilled to be part of the team.
To my family back in Australia, I’m very lucky to have a family that never questioned me when I said I was writing novels. You encouraged me and celebrated from the other side of the world when I became published.
To my readers—thank you for your continued support.
To my Princess and Sports Dude, I look at you both and can’t believe you’re mine. I love it when you say, “My mum’s an author”.
And to Jason, I don’t know what I would do without you. You are my sounding board, you make me think outside of the square and you always, ALWAYS help and support me. When I mention an idea you research it and look at things I wouldn’t even think of looking at. Each and every book I sell is for you.
For Lidia Chernichenko—you believed in this story from the start
“The deal’s done, Luc.”
A sense of satisfaction filled Luciano Morelli. “Excellent, I’ll speak to you soon.”
Luc tamped down the impatience filling him. “What is it, Nick?”
He could hear his business partner and friend take a deep breath. Whatever Nick was about to say, Luc knew he probably wouldn’t appreciate it.
“Are you sure you want to go through with this?”
Luc knew what he was referring to but decided to pretend ignorance, he didn’t need to answer to anyone.
“Of course I want to proceed with the deal, it makes good business sense.”
“Luc, this is me you’re talking to, don’t try and fob me off. You know exactly what I’m talking about.” Luc could almost hear Nick running his fingers through his hair. “Are you sure this is what you want. She’s your wife. You must have lov…”
“She won’t be my wife for much longer and I’d appreciate you not interfering with my personal life.”
A laugh filtered down the line. “I’ve known you too long to be intimidated by that tone, Luc. I won’t mention it again, you obviously know what you’re doing, but just be careful.”
Luc chuckled as well, he and Nick went a long way back, he knew Nick would always have his back. “I’m always careful. Start planning our next takeover.”
Luc ended the call and slipped the phone into the inside pocket of his tuxedo jacket. Everything had fallen into place as he’d planned. As it always did. He didn’t do ‘possibilities’ he did ‘guarantees’.
As he surveyed the sumptuous grand ballroom, taking in the sparkle and glitter of the dresses and jewels surrounding him, he saw her. A beautiful woman appearing to be alone amongst a crowd of people, looking like an angel with the light reflecting off her long blonde hair. Her aubergine dress was the most striking dress in the room. It’s simple design and lack of adornment surprised him. It hugged her every curve. Curves he knew intimately. Curves that still haunted his dreams even though he tried to banish them each night. He clenched his fists against the bolt of desire that fired through his blood. He had to remember what lay behind that angelic persona—a heart of stone.
He remembered what she’d callously done and rage killed the desire that had threatened to take over his body. He wanted to grab her arms, force her to look into his eyes, and ask why. Why had she shattered their dreams? Had she really thought he would let her go? He’d walked out of that hospital all those weeks ago wounded. Once he’d hardened himself from feeling anything emotional again, he knew what he had to do. Tonight was the start of his plan.
He moved out of her range of vision, not wanting her to notice him. He wanted to see how she acted before he played his cards. He glanced quickly to his left hand, to the gold ring that still encircled his finger. He should’ve taken it off when he’d walked out of the hospital all those weeks ago. He wondered if she still considered herself to be married. Not that she would be married for much longer. As if the few days they’d spent together could be called a marriage. Never again would he get caught up in the ‘romance’ of a tropical island. He never let his emotions rule him. The one time he had, had led to where he stood tonight. In a room full of people he didn’t know. At a celebration that, with a quick phone call, he could bring it all crashing down on his
and her father’s heads.
His hand itched to reach inside his jacket pocket, pull out his cell-phone again and dial the numbers necessary to bring this party to an abrupt end.
No, that would be too easy. He had a plan he’d carefully constructed. One he intended to play out as it should be. Soon Jasmine Anderson would wish she’d never attempted to betray him. He had returned and he would make her pay.
Jasmine stood at the side of the room, paying little attention to her surroundings as she sipped her mineral water, the bubbles tickling as they slithered down her throat. Opening nights held little appeal. Most of the people attending them were fake. One minute they were air kissing, the next they were gossiping about each other behind their hands. Wanting to be seen at every event as if they were important.
She longed for her couch, her comfy pajamas and watching trashy reality shows on her television. Unfortunately she had no choice but to be in this ballroom tonight. Her father had achieved his lifelong business dream and, as his daughter, his only family, it was her duty to stand by his side. Just as he had been by her bedside after her car accident. The only time he’d ever helped her. He had been like a bear protecting her, rushing her to a very private hospital where no visitors were allowed so she could recover. At the time she had enjoyed his caring actions, now she wondered if there was more to it.
Yes, obligation sucked, especially when her father had done nothing but ridicule her, her whole life. Perhaps it had taken almost dying in her car accident for him to realise he loved his daughter.
Jasmine shuddered, trying to dispel all thoughts of the aftermath of her accident. Lifting her glass, the rings glittering on her left hand mocked her feeble attempt. Instead of forgetting, the gold and diamond bands were a constant reminder of that black time.
If the gorgeous rings on her finger suggested anything, it was that she was married. But who was he, and where was he? He was the invisible man. Her accident had erased a year of her life. No matter how hard she tried, searched or questioned people, no one had any answers. Oh people had said they’d seen her with a man, but they didn’t know who he was. She’d always been a private person; her father had made sure of that. Screening her friends so much as a teenager, that eventually the girls stopped coming around. Jasmine wondered what it would’ve been like if her mother hadn’t died. It was really no surprise that no one could categorically say if they knew she was in a relationship or not. Let alone married.
She clenched the glass harder as she thought about the man—the phantom—who had pledged his life with hers.
“And where are you now?” she murmured out loud. “Why aren’t you here tonight with me? Why
you search for me after the accident? Why desert me when I needed you the most? Not that father gave you much opportunity to find me.”
A sharp pain above her left eyebrow reminded her why she’d tried to stop herself thinking about her marriage and her father and how her life was pretty sucky at present. She reached up, touching the scarred flesh, pressing it gently in an attempt to soothe the pain. It was another reminder of that black time.
Enough. The past could not be changed. She had to move forward.
Scanning the room again her eyes lit upon a tall, dark headed guest. At that moment he turned and she caught his strong profile. An unexpected rush of awareness zapped through her veins. His jacket moulded his broad shoulders and her hands burned to reach out and touch them, feel the strength hidden beneath the superbly cut jacket. Trace her fingers over his face; follow the contours of his strong jaw.
She wanted him.
She blinked twice, why was she feeling this way? She’d never met him and yet she wanted him? Could he be the one?
As if sensing her scrutiny, he swivelled abruptly. Jasmine tried to avert her gaze. Even though it was impossible, it seemed as if his hands were able to reach out and capture her face. Holding it so he could study her features. She shivered with desire.
The background noise faded as her whole being focused solely on him. His eyes roamed over her body. It could have been his hands touching her, drinking in her body with every touch. Finding her curves and learning her unique shape. Her breath quickened, shallowing as the desire she initially felt for him started a consuming fire within her. Her nipples tightened and puckered against the fabric of her strapless bra.
Jasmine went to take a step forward. Let herself be enfolded in his embrace. Feel his hands as they caressed her. Her skin felt alive, burning under his gaze.
I’ve found you again
The words whispered through her mind, so subtle yet so clear. She wanted to look around to see who had spoken them, so sure they had been spoken out loud. But she couldn’t. A man she didn’t know, with one look, was consuming her entire being.
A guest knocked her, severing the spell the dark haired stranger had weaved around them. Shaking her head to replace emotion with logic, she let out a shaky breath. She turned her back, refusing to turn around, instead pushing herself through the crowd with a new resolve. She didn’t understand why, but she had to get away. Had to escape that all knowing gaze.