Authors: Zena Wynn
Max Desalvo is a broken man. Two years ago he gave his heart, soul and body to another man’s wife, Cassidy Brannon. And, he’d thought, his child. They’d made promises, vows. One year. One year for Cassidy to secure her freedom, so they could be together. Unable to be in the same city with Cassidy and not see her, hear her voice, or touch her, Max left. While gone he waited, waited, and waited for the call that never came.
Now he’s returned to Philly, his home. Running into Cassidy was inevitable, but she isn’t the woman he remembers. If he’s broken, she’s shattered. Phillip, her husband, is dead. Why hadn’t Cassidy contacted him once she was free? And why does she gaze at him with eyes full of hurt and mistrust, as though he were the one to break her heart?
Max has a choice. Discover the truth of what happened and reclaim the love he’s lost or forever remain…broken.
A Real Love Enterprises Publication
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Broken Copyright © 2014 Zena Wynn
Edited by www.jimandzetta.com
Proofreaders: Irene Davis and Wynita Duncan
Cover art by Shirley Burnett
Electronic book Publication April 2014
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To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
-- Lewis B Smedes
“Forgiveness is the final form of love.”
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
Maximillan Desalvo stood in front of the floor-to-ceiling glass wall, looking out over the glittering cityscape that was downtown Philadelphia at night, cradling a glass of bourbon on the rocks. Behind him came the murmur of conversation as the cream of Philly society mixed and mingled in their sophisticated finery. They’d congregated together to donate outrageous sums of money to this event’s charity. Women in jewel toned cocktail dresses and black evening gowns conversed with gentlemen in their finest suits or, like Max, personally owned tuxedos. He was here but somehow removed from it all.
At last he’d come home. Home to heal from the devastating heartbreak he’d incurred in this city of brotherly love when the love of his life, the woman he’d given his everything to, had cast him aside in favor of her low-life, cheating husband—his former best friend. Cassidy Brannon had destroyed him.
Max grimaced at his image in the darkened window. In the last two years he’d lost weight. His face was leaner, harder, his gaze cynical. He took another sip of the bourbon he’d come to depend on a little too heavily in the last year and a half. It was time to pull himself together.
Still, as he looked out over the metropolis, he couldn’t help but wonder. Was Cassidy out there? Was she even now lying in the arms of her husband? Making love to him? Giving Phillip the words of love she’d once given him? Were they once more the happy little family?
How long before the bastard cheated on her again? How long before Cassidy realized she’d made a mistake and thrown away the best thing that ever happened to her—him? Last time, it had taken two years for Phillip’s true nature to show. Would it take less or more this time? Whatever the case, Cassidy had made her choice. Now she’d have to live with it.
Max knew his family, particularly his mother, worried about him. Momma wanted him to forget the past, settle down with a nice Catholic girl—preferably Italian—and make babies. His father wanted him to return practicing the law he’d abandoned or join the family’s restaurant business. All of them wanted him to lay off the booze.
He wished to hell he could.
How could he forget the woman who, for a time, made him feel more of a man than he’d ever felt in his life? Who’d completed and complemented him the way no other had or ever would? The answer was he couldn’t.
He’d tried to in the bottom of liquor bottles and between the thighs of sexy, beautiful women. With his financial status, he had unlimited access to both. Women lined up to spread their legs in exchange for his wealth, hoping to acquire his temporary favor. Cassidy was the only woman who hadn’t been interested in his bank account.
Scowling at his inability to keep her out of his head, even after all of this time, Max took a big gulp of his drink and swung around suddenly with the intent to go get another double. He crashed into someone, and the remaining contents of his glass sloshed over the side and onto the woman’s chest.
She gasped as the cold liquid and ice hit her.
“Shit! I’m sorry. I didn’t see you,” Max apologized, grabbing the woman’s arm to keep her from falling.
“It’s okay. I didn’t see you standing there in the cor—” She looked up from swiping at her neckline and her words trailed off. “
“Cassidy?” Automatically his hold tightened as he stared.
For a brief second, the shock on her face transformed into one of pure pleasure. Then, as though a switch were thrown, blanked to nothingness. Max couldn’t stop his gaze from eating her up. The long hair he’d loved to wrap around his wrist as he made love to her was gone. She’d cut it so that it barely brushed her shoulders. The arm he held felt fragile, as though the bone would break if he gripped it too tightly. Her normally slim figure appeared gaunt beneath the loose flowing outfit she wore. Even her oval face was thinner, the long line of her slender neck more delicate. But she was still beautiful, even with those black shadows under her eyes and the sickly yellow undertone to her stunning golden-brown complexion.
“I thought you’d left the country?” Cassidy said, now looking like she wanted to be anywhere but with him. She subtly withdrew but Max held firm, his hand ignoring his mental command to release her.
“I’m back,” he said flatly, wondering how she’d known. Had Cassidy checked up on him?
Before he could ask, a server stooped down and lifted something. “Ma’am, is this your cane?”
Cassidy reached out and grasped the fancy walking stick with her free hand. “Yes, thank you for getting it for me.” To Max she said, “Welcome home. I’m sure your family is happy to have you back. I need to—”
“Max, there you are. I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Why are you hiding over here in the corner?” Gianna, his date for the night, came up and clutched him by the arm, leaning her voluptuous body against his left side.
If he hadn’t been watching Cassidy so intently, he’d have missed the flash of pain that crossed her features before she looked away. Tugging insistently, she said stiffly, “Excuse me. I need to take care of this before it stains.”
Max didn’t want to let her go. It had been too long since he’d seen her. To remind his stubborn heart Cassidy was off limits, Max asked brusquely, “Where’s your husband?”
Some indefinable emotion flashed in her expressive brown eyes. “He’s dead.”
Astonished, he loosened his hold and she immediately pulled free. Transferring the cane to her right hand, Cassidy leaned heavily on it as she limped away without a backwards glance.
“Max, who was that woman?” Gianna asked.
“No one you know,” he said rudely, watching until Cassidy was swallowed by the crowd.
Phillip was dead? When? How
And what the hell had happened to Cassidy
? Belatedly, Max realized the one person who could answer his questions was getting away. He started after her.
“Max,” Gianna protested, her voice a high-pitched whine.
“Go find someone else to talk to,” he said dismissively. He snatched free of her annoyingly possessive grip and strode off.
Max would hear about this from his mother later, he knew. Gianna was a cousin, several times removed, who’d come to the States with him when he’d returned from his visit to Italy. She’d complain to his mother and his mother would lecture him about the proper way to treat family. Momma had high hopes he would eventually marry Gianna, whom she deemed a proper wife. She’d even purchased the tickets to tonight’s event and insisted he escort Gianna so she could “meet the proper people.” A ploy, he knew, to get them to spend more time together.
He pushed his way through mingling groups of socialites and businessmen. For a woman walking with a cane, Cassidy moved damned fast. In this crowd of black evening attire, a tall, slender, African-American woman in a glittering turquoise and silver pants suit should have stood out, but Max didn’t see her anywhere. However, he did find her friend Erika and her husband named something that started with a D.
He approached, still searching the crowd for a glimpse of his quarry. “Hi, Erika. You may not remember me, but have you seen Cassidy? I saw her a minute ago and she slipped away before we could talk,” he said, tamping down on his impatience.
Erika’s distinctly Asian features tightened with distaste, her slanted, brown doe eyes narrowing in dislike. “I remember you,” she said coolly. “I also remember warning you if you hurt my friend, you’d better spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder.”
That caught his attention. He focused fully on the woman, glaring at her with all the fury and betrayal he still felt. “What the hell are you talking about? I hurt
? Your precious friend is the one who dumped me.”
Cassidy’s friend sniffed, unimpressed. “If she did, who would blame her? You’re the one who quit your job, changed your number, and left the damned country. When Cassidy really needed you, you weren’t here. By the way, how’s your wife?” she asked disdainfully.
“I’m not married,” he said coldly. “If you don’t know where she is, I’ll find her myself. And for your information, if she needed me, she damned sure never bothered to let me know. I waited over a year for a promised call that never came. Guess she doesn’t quite tell you everything after all,” he said, shouldering past.
“Max!” she called after him.
He glanced over his shoulder. Erika exchanged a brief, questioning glance with her tall, lanky husband who dwarfed her in height. At the incline of his sandy blond head, she turned to Max and said, “Cassidy did call you brother Nicco, telling him she needed to see you. Hell, I called myself trying to reach you on her behalf more than once. Ask him.”
Max stalked off. Erika didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. No one had phoned looking for him. Nicco would have told him. Had promised to contact him the minute Cassidy called. His brother knew how important Cassidy was to him. His whole family did. Nicco would have never kept something that significant from him.
He continued to search but eventually had to admit defeat. Cassidy was gone. He’d never get the answers to those questions now. Erika damned sure wouldn’t tell him what he needed to know. She’d already proven how little she knew about the situation between him and Cassidy with her unfounded accusations. Max snorted. As if he’d do anything to hurt the woman he’d loved more than life itself.