He should have been stronger.

 In the six weeks since he’d seen her, he’d worked hard to push her from the forefront to the back of his mind, enough so that he’d arrived at Lake Como confident he could handle being in her presence without any problems.


 He’d taken one look at her and all the guilt had churned itself back up. They’d exchanged a few brief words over the course of the day, the same basic pleasantries they’d exchanged with everyone else, but that was the extent of their interaction. So far, at least. There was still the dance to get through.

 Whether he liked it or not, he would have to hold her in his arms one more time.

 Stefan said something to him at the exact moment the band started their warm-up. As he spoke, Christian saw Olivia lean in close to press her ear to Rocco’s mouth. It was a gesture that reminded him of his dinner with Alessandra, the way she’d leaned into him to hear him speak over the noise of the restaurant; the way her sultry scent had played under his nose...

 From the corner of his eye he could see her chatting to the official photographer, the photographer probably getting tips from her. Alessandra Mondelli was one of the most famous fashion photographers in the world, a remarkable achievement, considering she was still only twenty-five. She’d made it all on her own. Just as he’d made his name on his own.

 Stefan repeated himself; he’d been talking about the charitable foundation they and their friends had formed some years back.

 Italian Rocco Mondelli, Sicilian Stefan Bianco, desert Prince Zayed Al Afzal and he had all taken a keen interest in running and raising money for their charity. They were the so-called Columbia Four, although he couldn’t recall which of them had dubbed them so. Whoever had come up with it, it had stuck. They’d met during their first week at Columbia University and, as incredible as it was to look back on, the bond they’d formed had been instant. That bond had grown and a good few years later, when it had become obvious all four were heading towards the Forbes World’s Billionaires List, they’d formed the charity. Christian was extremely proud of their charity, founded to ensure disadvantaged kids could get the education they deserved but were unable to afford. It felt good for them to be doing something together that didn’t involve drinking and bedding as many beautiful women as they could.

 They all believed the bond between them to be unbreakable.

 But even the strongest steel could be destroyed.

 He answered with what he hoped sounded like intelligence but, in truth, what came out of his mouth sounded so unintelligible he could be speaking Martian.

 Luckily Stefan’s attention was diverted by the band striking up their first song.

 The bride and groom glided onto the dance floor to loud applause.

 Christian’s eyes drifted to his right, back to Alessandra. She was looking straight at him, a trapped expression in her eyes.

 His chest tightened.

 A powerful slap to his shoulder broke the spell.

 ‘Time to get yourself on the dance floor,’ Zayed said, sitting on the empty seat to Christian’s left.

 Theos. He had to dance with her. Olivia, the bride, had ordered it. The best man and chief bridesmaid...

 Alessandra met him halfway, her obvious apprehension mirroring what raced inside him.

 It would help if the band were playing one of the usual upbeat tunes that had made them one of the most famous groups in the world rather than the cover of a romantic ballad they were currently warbling.

 Gritting his teeth, he walked by her side to the dance floor and took her into his arms.

 His heart jolted at the first touch, a dozen memories playing in his mind. Her scent. Her taste...

 The back of her dress was low, leaving him no option but to touch her silky skin. It was either that or hold on to her bottom. His hand lay rigid against her bare back, hardly touching her.

 Yet, no matter the physical distance he tried to impose between himself and her slender form, his senses filled with Alessandra, her sultry scent playing tricks on him as they moved over the dance floor in a manner more akin to a pair of robots than a couple who’d had a wild night of sex just six weeks before. The stirring that had begun when he’d watched her walk up the aisle and had simmered since took on new life, an ache forming in his groin that he willed away with increasing frustration.

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