The Tuscan's Revenge Wedding(8)

By: Jennifer Blake

Their mother, Marianne, had loved Michael Davies to distraction; he’d been her sun, moon and brightest star. Daughter of an old Atlanta family, she had defied them all to marry him. Wherever he traveled in the racing world, she went without question; when he could spare the time for her, she was there. On his death, she ceased to exist as surely as if she had died with him in that inferno of twisted metal.

Alcohol and prescription drugs had been her coping methods of choice, her retreat from unbearable reality. The combination took her away only five years later.

It made little real difference. For all purposes, Amanda had only had Jonathan, and he’d had her, for years.

Amanda didn’t drink except on rare occasions, such as when an overbearing man with a fascinating accent tipped brandy down her throat. She didn’t party, didn’t stay out late, didn’t speed, avoided all forms of danger. She kept her emotions in check, determined to avoid becoming so dependent on a man that his death would destroy her. Her life was simple, tidy and under control, exactly as she liked it.

She would not allow herself to be intimidated or upset by Nicholas de Frenza. She would fly to Italy with him, but that was all. She’d bring Jonathan home to recuperate from his injuries, and everything would be the same as before.

“We arrive,” Nicholas said as the car passed through an airport security check point and purred between a pair of electronic gates.

Amanda roused from her thoughts to glance forward. She drew a quick breath of surprise as she saw what appeared to be a private jet waiting for them on a stretch of open tarmac.

No wonder the Italian had spoken of a window of opportunity for take-off instead of a flight time, or that he seemed to have her airfare under control. Jonathan had apparently fallen in with a family that was something beyond the ordinary.

An airport official met them at the plane steps. The formalities were brief. Moments later, Nicholas de Frenza guided her onboard with a hand under her elbow as if he expected her to turn and run at the last minute. Perhaps she would have, for there was something disturbing in the idea of being spirited away on a private jet by a man she’d barely met.

The interior of the plane was decorated in serene shades of sea blue and gray. Comfortable chairs and tables sat in cozy groupings and the carpet underfoot was cloud-soft. A pleasant-faced attendant greeted them, brought coffee for Nicholas and fruit juice for Amanda, and informed them they would take off immediately.

Minutes later, Atlanta was fast receding, looking like a child’s toy city below as they rose into the clouds. Rain streaked backward across the windows, and then stopped as they broke through into blue skies. The plane banked in a slow turn and headed toward Italy.

When they leveled out, Amanda’s companion took a thin laptop and handful of files from his briefcase. “You permit?” he asked, tipping them toward her with a lifted brow. “I would not work, usually, but have things that must be done.”

“Of course, please don’t feel you have to entertain me.”

He watched her for a long moment. Then he inclined his head and opened the laptop.

An Atlanta newspaper lay on the table in front of Amanda. She picked it up, skimmed the headlines, read an article or two. Now and then, she threw a quick look at Nicholas de Frenza, intrigued by his ability to concentrate in spite of the strained circumstances. He read what appeared to be reports, made notes, checked files and used his mobile to dictate what might have been memos. If he knew she was anywhere near, he gave no sign.

Without taking his gaze from his work, he reached up and loosened his tie, sliding it from under his collar with a silken whisper. He tossed it aside and opened the top buttons of his shirt so the first hazy edges of black chest hair appeared.

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