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To Wear His Ring Again

To Wear His Ring Again

Mills & Boon Modern Romance

February 2015

ISBN: 0263248395

 

Harlequin Presents

February 2015

ISBN: 0373133154

 

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About the Book

Desertion. The word sticks in Isobel Blake's throat. How dare Marchese Constantin de Severino accuse her of abandonment? Their marriage might have been hasty, but the loss of their child nearly destroyed her and Constantin was nowhere to be found.

Having rebuilt her life, Isobel will use her newfound confidence to confront her powerful husband and end their marriage as equals. But when she sees Constantin again, the temptation to wear his ring once more becomes overwhelming.

Now, as long-dormant secrets are uncovered, Isobel must decide if Constantin is still hers to have and to hold...

 


Read an Excerpt

‘You were determined to mould me into the perfect wife, in the same way that my father had tried to mould me into the perfect daughter,’ Isobel rounded on him, her eyes flashing. ‘But neither you nor my dad were interested in me as a person. And like my dad, you never showed any interest in my music or encouraged my singing career.’

His mouth tightened. ‘When we were first married, you were not hell-bent on pursuing a music career. You’ve said yourself that we were happy living in London at the time, and you gave the impression that you were content to be a wife and soon-to-be mother to our child.’

His words sliced through Isobel’s heart. ‘But I didn’t get the chance to be a mother.’ Her voice was raw. ‘It’s true that in the early months of our marriage I was absorbed in my pregnancy,’ and in you, she thought to herself, remembering the man she had married. Constantin had been a charming and attentive husband and she had let herself believe that her happiness would last.

‘After we lost Arianna I was left with nothing. For reasons I didn’t understand, you had become a remote stranger and I felt that I hardly knew you. All I had was my music. Writing songs and singing with the band were my only comfort in those terrible days when I sometimes wondered if I would go mad with grief.’

She swallowed the lump in her throat. Revisiting the past was always painful, but tonight, when her emotions were ragged after her scare with the stalker, being bombarded with memories was unendurable.

‘This conversation is pointless,’ she told Constantin as she jerked to her feet. ‘We should have had it two years ago, but we didn’t and now it’s too late. One of the reasons I left was because you refused to talk about the things that mattered, like the miscarriage. You might have been able to forget about our baby but I felt desolate and unsupported by you.’

He leapt up and raked a hand through his hair. ‘Perhaps we might have talked more if you had spent more time at home. I lost count of the number of times that I arrived home from work to be told by Whittaker that you were out with your friends.’ His blue eyes glittered as cold and hard as sapphires. ‘Don’t put all the blame on me, Isobel. We couldn’t work on the problems with our marriage because you were never there.’

She shook her head. ‘It was you who was absent from our relationship. I don’t mean in a physical sense, but on an emotional level you had distanced yourself from me. My friends gave me what you seemed incapable of giving—emotional support. You never allowed us the opportunity to share our feelings about the loss of our daughter. Even now, whenever I mention Arianna you clam up.’

What’s the point in going over and over it?’ Constantin saw Isobel flinch at his raised voice and knew she was startled by his violent outburst, as well she might be, he thought grimly. He never lost control.

Only once in his life had he seen his father show emotion—on the day of Constantin’s mother’s funeral. He had been eight years old, and had managed to get through the church service and watching his mother’s coffin being lowered into her grave without crying because he knew it was what was expected of him. ‘De Severino men never cry,’ his father had told him many times. But later, on his way up to bed, Constantin had heard a noise from his father’s study, a sound like a wounded animal in great pain that had chilled his blood.

Peeping round the door, he had been startled to see his father lying curled up on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. Franco’s outpouring of grief had been shocking and terrifying to witness for an impressionable young boy. Constantin had felt sad that his mother had died, but his father’s agony had scared him. At the age of eight he had decided that he never wanted to feel such pain. He never wanted to love so intensely that love’s dark side, loss, would bring him to his knees.

He dragged his mind from the past and found Isobel staring at him with a bitter expression in her eyes.

She might have guessed that Constantin would not show even a flicker of response to their daughter’s name, Isobel thought angrily.

‘You really are made of stone, aren’t you? On the surface you are a man who has everything: looks, wealth, power, but you’re an empty shell, Constantin. Inside, you are an emotional void and I actually feel sorry for you.’

Her words rankled. What did she know about the emotions he kept buried deep inside him? What did she really know about him? But the fact that she did not know him was his fault, taunted a voice inside Constantin’s head. He had not dared open up the Pandora’s box of his emotions to Isobel for fear of what he might reveal about himself.

He looked at her wearing the baggy tee shirt that disguised her shape, and was infuriated by the realisation that even if she wore a sack that covered her from head to toe he would still want her more than he had ever wanted any other woman. Goaded by the accusation in her eyes, and by the knowledge that he had failed her when she’d had the miscarriage, he shot out his hand and caught hold of her wrist.

‘I don’t need your pity, mia bella. There’s only one thing I ever needed from you,’ he told her, pulling her towards him. ‘You keep saying that you wished we had talked more, but the truth is neither of us wanted to waste time talking because we were so damned hungry for each other.’

‘Sex would not have solved our problems,’ Isobel cried, panic filling her as she tried vainly to break free from him. In truth, his grip on her wrist was not very tight. It was his grip on her heart that prevented her escape.

As she watched his dark head descend she wondered if, when their marriage had been falling apart, sex might have been a solution that would have given them a way to communicate again. But ever since Constantin had suggested that they make love two months after the miscarriage, and she had rejected him, a chasm had opened up between them and he had not approached her again.

At the time she had been angry with him for what she had perceived as his lack of support. But perhaps he had been trying to reach out to her, she thought with hindsight. In bed they had always understood each other perfectly and their desire had been mutually explosive and fulfilling.

While her mind had once again been focused on the past, she had forgotten the danger of her present situation. When had Constantin unclamped his fingers from her wrist and slid his arm around her waist? Her breath rushed from her lungs as he tugged her against him, making her agonisingly aware of every hard muscle and sinew on his whipcord body as he locked his other arm around her. Her eyes flew to his face, but her demand for him to release her died in her throat as his mouth came down on hers and he made demands of his own, his kiss hot and potent and utterly ruthless in its mastery.

He moved one hand down to clasp her bottom, jerking her pelvis into burning contact with the solid ridge of his arousal. She found his dominance shamefully thrilling. Beneath his civilised façade Constantin was all primitive, passionate male. It had been so long since she had felt him inside her. The thought weakened her resolve to resist him and when he slipped his hand beneath the hem of her shirt and stroked his fingers over her stomach and ribcage, she held her breath and silently willed him to move his hand higher and touch her breasts.

He had always had the ability to read her mind, and when he brushed his thumb pad across one swollen nipple she gave a choked cry. He took advantage of her parted lips to push his tongue into her mouth. Isobel’s senses were swamped by him. The scent of his cologne was achingly familiar. She remembered the first time he had made love to her; she had been overwhelmed by the responses he had drawn from her untutored body, and afterwards she had pressed her face into his neck and tasted salt on his sweat-sheened skin.

He transferred his hand to her other breast and rolled her nipple between his fingers, causing a shaft of exquisite sensation to shoot through her. With a soft moan she melted against him and tipped her head back as he traced his lips down her throat. Constantin pushed the neck of the too-big tee shirt over her shoulder and trailed kisses along her collarbone.

Mio Dio!’ His savage imprecation shattered the sensual mist as he stared at the livid red mark he had uncovered. ‘What happened to your shoulder?’

Isobel had noticed the beginnings of the bruise while she had been undressing for bed, but when Constantin had kissed her she had forgotten everything but her need for him. ‘He…the stalker caught hold of me as I ran for the lift, but I managed to get away from him.’ She shivered as her mind flashed back to those terrifying moments before the lift doors had closed, when she had turned and seen David’s face contorted with fury. She had tried to convince herself that he had meant her no harm, but the memory of his wild-eyed expression was stuck in her mind.

Constantin glimpsed the fear in Isobel’s hazel eyes and felt a surge of anger at the stalker, but also at himself. She had run to him for safety. He choked back a mirthless laugh. The bitter truth was that, far from being safe with him, she was innocently unaware of the danger he posed to her. His—as it turned out—unfounded jealousy of Ryan Fellows was proof that he had inherited a dark side to his nature from his father. The monster that had been inside Franco De Severino also lived within Constantin and the only way to control the beast was to avoid awakening it...

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