“Sir?”

He turned around. “Do you have any more bombshells to add to the pile or is that it?”


“That’s it. The deal is fine for the moment. We’re still negotiating the smaller points and you need to clear those last couple of tricky items with Bavaro, but other than that we’re on track.”

“Bene.” He waved a hand toward the door. “Go. I’ll take care of Angie.”

His lawyer nodded. “Do you want me to file the papers? Get the process started?”

“No.”

Cristopher gave him a stupefied look. “Sorry?”

“I said leave it.”


His lawyer left. A wise decision. He walked to the bar and poured himself a whiskey. Padding back to the windows, he lifted the glass to his mouth and took a sip. Began to feel vaguely human as the spirit warmed his insides and smoothed out the raw edges—raw edges that had been festering ever since one of the clippings in his daily press briefing had buzzed about his former wife...current wife’s betrothal plans to a prominent Manhattan lawyer.

He had pushed the news of Angie’s engagement aside. Refused to acknowledge how it sank its claws into his skin, dug into his insides—inspired dark, inexplicable thoughts he couldn’t have identified if he’d tried. Angie had ended a marriage that had descended to the very deepest depths of acrimony, a marriage many would have left for dead. So why did it still sting so much?

Why was he still so angry, still so damn angry it was like a disease inside of him, eating away at his soul? He itched he was so angry.

Why hadn’t he asked Cris to file those papers? Ended something that should have been ended two years ago?


He stared out the window for a long time, sipping the whiskey, watching night fall over a light-strewn Manhattan. Considered his duty to the Ricci line. The fifteen-billion-dollar acquisition deal in front of him—a deal that required every bit of his concentration—that would make Ricci the top luxury hotel chain in the world if he landed it.

The solution to his predicament, when it came, was shockingly, simplistically clear.

* * *

Why wasn’t there any air in this room?

Angie took the glass of champagne the bartender handed her, turned and leaned against the lit glass surface, surveying the cocktail-dress-attired crowd mingling in the elegant, whitewashed art-gallery space. Shimmering light from the antique chandeliers cascaded onto gleaming black marble floors, while directed lighting spotlighted the stunning artwork on the walls. A perfect, sophisticated backdrop for her and Byron’s engagement party, everything they’d envisioned to celebrate their upcoming nuptials. Why then did the room seem to have drained of oxygen as the night wore on? Why this restless pull in her veins she couldn’t explain?

She should be ecstatic. She had the career of her dreams as one of New York’s most buzzed-about new jewelry designers, the freedom she’d always craved from life as a Carmichael and a wonderful man waiting in the wings. What more could she ask for?

And yet something still felt...missing.

It did not, she told herself firmly, have anything to do with the man who haunted the edges of her happiness. Who had shown her what having everything looked like, then taken it away in the next breath. Because she knew now that kind of an adrenaline rush was for fools. What went up must come down, and in her and Lorenzo’s case, had come crashing down.

A searing pang throbbed in her chest. She took a deep breath of the nonexistent air. Perhaps that’s what she needed—oxygen to clear her head.

Byron engaged with a business colleague across the room, she seized the moment. Winding her way through the buzzing crowd, around the live jazz band to the elegant staircase that led to the second level, unused tonight, she climbed the stairs and headed for the small terrace that opened off the upper level.

Hot, thick summer air hit her like a wall of heat as she stepped outside. She walked to the edge of the beautifully landscaped space, rested her elbows on the railing and drank it in. The frenetic activity in the street below as cabs and pedestrians battled for supremacy on a sticky Manhattan night was a familiar refrain that soothed her senses.

Another sensory impression seeped in. Spicy, masculine, it was imminently familiar. Disturbingly, distantly familiar.

Cold fingers clamped down on her spine. Her heart a drumbeat in her throat, she turned around. Her brain flatlined as she took in the tall, dark-haired, olive-skinned male dressed in an exquisitely tailored suit standing in front of her. She lifted her gaze to his hard, dark eyes, as treacherous as black ice. Moved them down over Lorenzo’s prominent Roman nose, the day-old stubble lining his jaw, his beautiful, sensual mouth that knew how to wound and pleasure in equal measure.

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