Trapped by Vialli’s Vows
by Chantelle Shaw
‘SO YOU’RE LEANDRO’S dirty little secret.’
Marnie jerked her gaze from the door of the restaurant—she’d been watching it for Leandro’s arrival—to the man who had sat down on the bar stool next to her. She wondered if she had misheard him.
He grinned and held out his hand. ‘Forgive my little joke. I’m Fergus Leary, senior accountant at Vialli Entertainment. Everyone in the company is curious about why Leandro keeps his girlfriend hidden. We only heard of your existence when he asked his PA to phone you about the party.’
Marnie tried to ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. She had taken an immediate dislike to Fergus, but smiled politely. At least the accountant had spoken to her, which was more than any of Leandro’s other staff had done. She had felt nervous enough when she’d arrived alone at the restaurant which had been booked for the private party, and the curious glances she’d received from the other guests had made her feel worse.
Like her, everyone seemed to be waiting for Leandro. He was fifteen minutes late and, although she’d tried calling him, his phone was constantly busy. There was nothing new in that, Marnie thought ruefully. She had only spoken to him a few times in the past two weeks while he had been away on a business trip to New York.
‘Leandro gets frustrated with the paparazzi’s constant attention so we avoid popular restaurants and bars,’ she explained to Fergus.
In fact lately she had wondered why Leandro never asked her to accompany him to social events, such as the star-studded film premiere he’d attended the previous week.
‘I’m going to the premiere because it’s a good business opportunity and a chance to network,’ he’d told her when, for the first time in their relationship, Marnie had queried why he hadn’t invited her to go with him.
‘You won’t know anyone, and I’m sure you would be bored.’ Her disappointment must have shown on her face, because then he had said in a conciliatory tone, ‘We’ll go out for dinner when I get back from New York. In fact we’ll have a weekend away somewhere. Choose where you want to go and I’ll make the arrangements. How about Prague? You’ve often said you would like to visit the city.’
He had avoided further discussion by taking her to bed, but later, after he had fallen asleep, Marnie had realised that yet again he had distracted her with the promise of a trip away together and sex—which always reassured her that although their relationship might be unconventional she was extremely happy living with Leandro and he seemed equally content.
The fact that she was here at this party he was giving for his staff from Vialli Entertainment, to celebrate the completed refurbishments of his latest theatre project, was proof that he had listened to her small complaint about their relationship and invited her. Admittedly he must have made a last-minute decision to include her, and he had left it to his PA to relay to Marnie the details of the venue and the time of the party.
Determined to dress to impress for her first public appearance with Leandro, she had shopped for a new outfit on Bond Street. But it had been an unenjoyable experience—not only because the price labels on the clothes had seriously stretched her overdraft, but memories of the humiliating incident when she was eighteen and had been accused of shoplifting from a big department store had made her feel tense while she’d been trying on outfits.
If she had spent a bit longer looking in the mirror at the boutique, rather than being in a rush to change back into her own clothes, she might have noticed that the dress was a fraction too tight, she thought as she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror behind the bar. The black velvet dress clung to her hourglass figure, which was more curvaceous since she had gained a few pounds recently. She hoped that the string of pearls around her throat would detract attention from the dress’s plunging neckline.