She hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that he was hiding something from her, though.
Per favore, not another woman.
Do. Not. Trust.
How she could she trust him? She didn’t know how.
She did know that she wanted to. She wanted to believe he would treat her with respect, that maybe one day...
A rap on her door jolted her out of the trance she’d worked herself into.
It was probably a member of staff, come to escort her to the chapel. The sweet girl who brought her breakfast every morning had been shocked when Alessandra had told her she would be walking to the chapel alone.
How she wished she’d swallowed her pride and called her brother and begged him to come. Deep inside, a part of her had believed he would come, that he wouldn’t leave her to do this alone. That he’d forgive her.
This was his flesh and blood growing in her belly, the very reason she and Christian were prepared to take this ultimate step.
Alone or not, she should have left already.
Her stomach clenched.
She gazed at the French doors.
She didn’t have to do this. She could step out onto her balcony, unfold the emergency stairs and escape. Everyone was at the chapel. The staff was busy organising all the celebrations. It could be ages before anyone realised she wasn’t being traditionally late.
She pictured Christian’s face when he realised she’d stood him up.
She couldn’t do that to him. Alessandra knew all about humiliation and would never intentionally inflict it on someone else, least of all him.
And what would their innocent baby say when, at some point in the future, he or she learned what their mother had done to their father?
Another rap on the door reminded her that someone stood on the other side waiting for her.
Hurrying over, she opened it, pulling a smile onto her face that dropped as soon as she saw who it was.
Dressed in a morning suit, stood her brother.
For a moment she didn’t say anything.
Then she burst into tears.
* * *
Christian stood with Zayed and Stefan at his side, his two best men—or, as they were called here in their shared role, his koumbaros—eyes fixed on the chapel door.
Where was she?
It was traditional for the bride to be late but half an hour? If Stefan hadn’t taken his phone from him after Christian had texted her to say he was at the chapel, he would have called and demanded to know where she was.
A face in the congregation caused him momentarily to lose track of his thoughts.
There in the third row sat Mikolaj, an enormous beam on his face. Beside him sat his wife, Tanya, and three of their seven children.
Alessandra must have invited them.
His stomach curled.
She’d done that for him.
Christian nodded a greeting to them but was unable to return the smiles.
Where was she?
The priest continued to smile reassurance but Christian could see the doubt now plaguing his jovial demeanour.
At least the chapel belonged to the hotel and thus was owned by him. They would wait.
Another ten minutes passed. Just as his guts were really starting to churn, the door swung open and there she appeared, the sunshine illuminating her in a golden glow that made the white of her dress sparkle.
It was like gazing at an angel, a moment so beautiful that the relief that should have overwhelmed him faded into nothing, leaving only wonder.
The sound of Pachelbel’s Canon in D began, played by the string quartet hired for the occasion.
Alessandra walked towards him, an ethereal smile on her face, her steps slow.
His eyes fixed solely on her, it took a good few beats before he registered the arm she held on to.
Rocco had come. He hadn’t abandoned his sister. Christian’s trip to New York had paid off.
Behind them walked Olivia, stunning in emerald green.
As the bridal party stepped closer to him, a lump formed in his throat that grew larger with every one of Alessandra’s steps until she was there before him.
Unlike most brides, who pinned their hair up into an elaborate creation, she’d left hers loose, tumbling around her shoulders in dark chestnut waves. She looked amazing. Her dress a work of art: thin lace-embellished straps with tiny diamonds curved down and across her cleavage like a heart, the sheer material wrapping around her waist to showcase the flare of her hips, then floating to the floor and resting in a white circle.