The Venadicci Marriage Vengeance. Melanie Milburne
She was trapped.
The steel bars of her guilt had closed around her with a clanging, chilling finality. Vinn had all the power and would wield it as he saw fit. He had insisted on marriage, but not the sort of hands-on arrangement she had naively thought he’d had in mind. She had no hope of repaying the money he had put up to save her father’s business. It would take her two lifetimes to scrape together even half of that amount. And Vinn had known that from the very first moment she had stepped into his office. He had played her like a master, reeling her in, keeping his cards close to his chest as was his custom, revealing them only when it was too late for her to do anything to get out of the arrangement.
And it was too late.
She was going to be Vinn Venadicci’s wife within days.
Melanie Milburne says: ‘I am married to a surgeon, Steve, and have two gorgeous sons, Paul and Phil. I live in Hobart, Tasmania, where I enjoy an active life as a long-distance runner and a nationally ranked top ten Master’s swimmer. I also have a Master’s Degree in Education, but my children totally turned me off the idea of teaching! When not running or swimming I write, and when I’m not doing all of the above I’m reading. And if someone could invent a way for me to read during a four-kilometre swim I’d be even happier!’
Recent titles by the same author:
THE FIORENZA FORCED MARRIAGE
THE MARCIANO LOVE-CHILD INNOCENT WIFE, BABY OF SHAME ANDROLETTI’S MISTRESS
The Royal House of Niroli: SURGEON PRINCE, ORDINARY WIFE (Book 2)
Did you know that Melanie also writes for Medical™ Romance?
SINGLE DAD SEEKS A WIFE
The Brides of Penhally Bay THE SURGEON BOSS’S BRIDE HER MAN OF HONOUR IN HER BOSS’S SPECIAL CARE
THE VENADICCI MARRIAGE VENGEANCE
To Lorraine Bleasby, Dot Armstrong
and Denise Monks—my three past and present helpers who free up my time so I can write. How can I thank you for all you do and have done for me and my family? This book is dedicated to you with much love and appreciation. I want the world to know what truly special women you are.
‘MR VENADICCI has magnanimously offered to squeeze you in between appointments,’ the receptionist informed Gabby with crisp, cool politeness. ‘But he only has ten minutes available for you.’
Gabby schooled her features into impassivity, even though inside she was fuming and had been for the last hour, as Vinn Venadicci took his time about whether he would respond to her urgent request to see him. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘I will try not to take up too much of his precious time.’
No matter how galling it would be to see Vinn again, Gabby determined she would be calm and in control at all times and under all circumstances. Too much was at stake for her to jeopardise things with a show of temper or a tirade of insults, as she would have done without hesitation seven years ago. A lot of water had flowed under the bridge since then, but she was not going to tell him just how dirty some of it had been. That would be conceding defeat, and in spite of everything that had happened she wasn’t quite ready to shelve all of her pride where Vinn Venadicci was concerned.
His plush suite of offices in the heart of the financial district in Sydney was a reflection of his meteoric rise to fame in the property investment industry. From his humble beginnings as the born-out-of-wedlock bad-boy son of the St Clair family’s Italian-born house-cleaner Rose, he had surprised everyone— except Gabby’s father, who had always seen Vinn’s potential and had done what he could to give him the leg-up he needed.
Thinking of her father was just the boost to her resolve Gabby needed right now. Henry St Clair was in frail health after a serious heart attack, which meant a lot of the responsibility to keep things running smoothly while he went through the arduous process of triple bypass surgery and rehabilitation had fallen on her shoulders, with her mother standing stalwartly and rather stoically by her father’s side.
This hiccup to do with the family business had come out of the blue—and if her father got wind of it, it was just the thing that could set off another heart attack. Gabby would walk across hot coals to avoid that— even meet face to face with Vinn Venadicci.
She raised her hand to the door marked with Vinn’s name and gave it a quick two-hit tattoo, her stomach twisting with the prickly sensation she always felt when she was within striking distance of him.
She straightened her shoulders and opened the door, her chin at a proud height as she took the ridiculously long journey to his desk, where he was seated. That he didn’t rise to his feet was the sort of veiled insult she more or less expected from him. He had always had an insolent air about him, even when he had lived on and off with his mother, in a servants’ cottage at the St Clair Point Piper mansion.
In that nanosecond before he spoke Gabby quickly drank in his image, her heart giving a little jerk inside her chest in spite of all of her efforts to control it. Even when he was seated his height was intimidating, and the black raven’s wing of his hair caught the light coming in from the windows, giving it a glossy sheen that made her fingers itch to reach out and touch it. His nose was crooked from one too many of the brawls he had been involved in during his youth, but—unlike many other high-profile businessmen, who would have sought surgical correction by now—Vinn wore his war wounds like a medal. Just like the scar that interrupted his left eyebrow, giving him a dangerous don’t-mess-with-me look that was disturbingly attractive.
‘So how is the Merry Widow?’ he said with a mocking glint in his eyes as they ran over her lazily. ‘Long time no see. What is it now…? One year or is it two? You look like grief suits you, Gabriella. I have never seen you looking more beautiful.’
Gabby felt her spine go rigid at his sardonic taunt. Tristan Glendenning had been dead for just over two years, and yet Vinn never failed to refer to him in that unmistakably scathing manner whenever their paths crossed. She felt each and every reference to her late husband like a hard slap across the face—not that she would ever admit that to Vinn.
She pulled her temper back into line with an effort. ‘May I sit down?’
He waved a hand in a careless manner. ‘Put your cute little bottom down on that chair. But only for ten minutes,’ he said. ‘I have back-to-back commitments today.’
Gabby sat down on the edge of the chair, hating that his words had summoned such a hot flush to her cheeks. He had the most annoying habit of unnerving her with personal comments that made her aware of her body in a way no one else could.
‘So,’ he said, leaning back in his chair with a squeak of very expensive leather, ‘what can I do for you, Gabriella?’
She silently ground her teeth. No one else called her by her full name. Only him. She knew he did it deliberately. He had done it since she was fourteen, when his mother had been hired as the resident cleaner, bringing her brooding eighteen-year-old son with her. Although Gabby had to grudgingly admit that the way he said her name was quite unlike anyone else. He had been born in Australia but, because he had been fluent in Italian from a very young age, he made her name sound faintly foreign and exotic. The four distinct syllables coming out of his sensually sculptured mouth always made the hairs on the back of her neck stand to attention like tiny soldiers.