Amidst howls of laughter, thousands of hard grains were chucked over them from every possible angle. Zayed and Stefan got hold of him and tipped a cupful down the back of his morning suit, rubbing them into his back for extra effect.
The official photos were taken in the grounds before the chapel, and then the entire wedding party headed back to the hotel for the proper celebrations to begin.
* * *
The terraced roof of the hotel had been transformed. An abundance of balloons and beautiful flowers covered the entire perimeter, the Parthenon clear in the distance, but close enough that from certain aspects it felt as if you could reach out and touch it.
The day had turned into something magical.
All Alessandra could think was how much work and effort Christian had put into making this a special day for them. Sure, he’d outsourced it all, but he’d been the one to do the outsourcing.
All she’d done was buy her dress. And lingerie...
Crying in her brother’s arms had had the effect of clearing her head.
Rocco had urged her to abandon the whole thing. He and Olivia would take care of her.
Alessandra didn’t need taking care of—her baby did. Christian was her baby’s father. They belonged in each other’s lives.
She’d washed her face and reapplied her make-up and then, when she’d looked back in the mirror, the truth had been reflected back at her in startling clarity.
She was committing her life to Christian and their baby. It was time to embrace it for all their sakes.
Done with taking pictures of her husband and their guests—it truly was a photographer’s dream here—she put her camera back into its case and sat back down at the top table.
Staring at him now—holding court with Zayed, Stefan and Stefan’s date, Clio, on the edge of the dance floor—her heart clenched, packing into a tight little ball.
Christian must have felt her gaze upon him for he met her eyes, raising his glass of champagne to her.
She raised her lemonade back, her skin dancing as if his gaze had physically touched her.
He said something to his friends which made them all laugh. It pained her that Rocco refused to join them, keeping his distance in the far corner of the room with Olivia and an earnest A-list Hollywood superstar. Her brother had spelled out in no uncertain terms that he was there to do his duty and nothing else.
Her suspicions about Christian’s trip to New York had been correct—he had gone there with an ulterior motive. But her fears had been wildly off the mark. He hadn’t gone to meet up with a secret woman. He’d gone in an attempt to make her brother see sense and attend their wedding.
He’d turned up at their New York home and told her brother in no uncertain terms that Alessandra needed him. When he’d left, Olivia had taken up the cause, essentially bullying Rocco into attending.
Knowing Christian had done that for her...è stato incredibile.
She only wished Rocco would see what an amazing thing it was too. To her knowledge, he hadn’t exchanged a word with Christian all day.
Whatever his reasons, and however great his reluctance, she was glad he’d come. More than glad. She hoped with all her heart that one day he would come to accept them and accept that their marriage was the right thing for all of them. He might infuriate her but he was her brother and she loved him.
Christian weaved his way through the dancing guests and took his seat at the top table beside her. ‘How are you feeling?’ he asked, leaning back into his chair.
‘Perfetto.’ She smiled. ‘This has all been amazing, grazie mille.’
He slung an arm around the back of her chair. ‘It is my pleasure.’
The sound of rotor blades in full motion caught their attention.
‘Paparazzi,’ he spat, getting back to his feet and kicking his chair back. Immediately he pulled his phone from his pocket and dialled a number, speaking into it with a low voice packed full of menace.
‘I had arranged that no helicopter fly within a mile of the hotel today,’ he explained tightly when he finished his call, his face taut. ‘I will not have our wedding day turned into a circus.’