Alice spent six passionate months as Domenico's mistress. But she knew he would never love her back and would soon discard her--so she left him.
But now he wants her back in his bed, and his terms of possession are the same as before-- until he makes a discovery that changes everything: Alice is carrying his child.
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February 01, 2007
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Excerpt from The Italian's Forced Bride by Kate Walker
Alice Howard knew just who was at the door from the very first second she heard the bell ring.
She knew who it was; knew who was there. And she also knew that he was the last person on earth that she wanted to face. Even though, at the same time, he was the person she most wanted to see in all the world.
Just the thought of opening the door to him turned her legs to water so that she couldn't stand up or go to the window to look out and see if she was right about the identity of her unexpected visitor. But then she didn't need to. She was sure in her mind of that"and more so in her heart, where it mattered most.
The timing was right"just three days after she had sent the letter to tell him she had something important they had to talk about. Her hand slid down and curved protectively over the spot where she had only recently learned that her baby" and this man's child"was beginning to grow. Something very, very important, she had said"and it was certainly that.
The atmosphere was right too. The arrival totally out of the blue. No warning. Not even the sound of a car coming up the small country lane and pulling up outside her gate had alerted her to the fact that he was there.
And even the sound was just right. The hard, loud, unceasing ring of the bell, echoing through the quiet of the afternoon and the silence in the small house, was like an imperious, autocratic summons. As cold and proud and unyielding as Domenico himself.
There, now she'd let his name into her thoughts. She'd finally admitted who she was expecting her unwanted visitor to be.
The man whose arrival on her doorstep she was dreading most.
Or did she mean longing for most--?
She couldn't answer that and shook her dark head slowly, sending her long hair flying around her pale, oval-shaped face. Sharp white teeth worried at the fullness of her bottom lip and her blue eyes were clouded by the deep shadows left by long nights, lack of sleep and that extra little secret as well.
His name slipped from Alice's lips as she sat back on the small single bed in the tiny, shabbily decorated bedroom, hands clenched tightly in her lap as she fought against the craven impulse to rush to her feet, dash across the pale green carpet and peer out of the window.
Safely hidden behind the faded velvet curtains, of course. But she didn't need to look. She already knew exactly what she would see. His image was imprinted on her mind, the strong features and powerful physique, black hair and dark gold eyes etched into her thoughts by the power of the love she had once felt for him. All the tears she had shed since their parting"and before"hadn't been enough to wipe away the memories of the man who had once meant more to her than her own life.
The man who had once held her heart in his hands, to do with as he wished. But he had been totally careless of the gift she had given him. He had treated it callously and cruelly, without a thought for the way she had made herself so vulnerable to him. And so, in the end, unable to take any more, she had had to leave.
She had thought that she had gone far enough away. That by heading back to England, to her home, to the village so many hundreds of miles away from the sophisticated Italian city of Florence where he lived, she had escaped his malign influence. That here, in the quiet of the countryside, she would have a chance to lick her wounds in private and somehow find the strength to face the world again, start over.
If she had had the slightest belief that she was wrong and that the person at the door was not who she feared, then that belief was shattered instantly at the sound of her name.