Black Widow Bride. Tessa Radley

Black Widow Bride - Tessa Radley

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      Black Widow Bride

      Tessa Radley

      MILLS & BOON

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      Dedications in first books are special. I’ve so many people to thank, so many people helped me along the way to selling that first book.

      To writers and teachers—

      To Daphne Clair and Robin Donald for running the Kara School of Writing, without which I would never have plucked up the courage to write

      And to Barbara Samuel for touching my heart and Emma Darcy for encouragement when I needed it most

      To the editors who have helped me on my way—

      Karin Stoecker for making me believe

      Dianne Moggy for graceful advice and enthusiasm Briony Green for her time and patience and excellent advice, which I will never forget

      To my dream team—

      Karen Solem and Melissa Jeglinski, who brought my dreams to life

      To my writing group—

      Karina Bliss, Abby Gaines and Sandra Hyde, friends and writers who fill my day with laughter

      To my family—

      Tony, Alex and Andrew, thank you for always believing and being there every day. You guys make each day special!


      Chapter One

      Chapter Two

      Chapter Three

      Chapter Four

      Chapter Five

      Chapter Six

      Chapter Seven

      Chapter Eight

      Chapter Nine

      Chapter Ten

      Coming Next Month


      How had it all gone so horribly wrong?

      Rebecca Grainger wrapped her arms around her stomach, nausea welling up. If she could only stop thinking about it, then maybe the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach would subside. The wedding was her priority, Rebecca told herself. Focus on that. She’d already been paid for arranging it—in full—the cheque flung at her last night.

      Last night. That kiss. No, don’t think about last night.

      Concentrate on the wedding. An Asteriades event. A desperate glance swept the tables laden with glittering silver cutlery and Baccarat glasses, the slim crystal vases each bearing six glorious long-stemmed white roses on the tables.

      Naturally she’d had unlimited resources at her disposal, and no expense had been spared for Damon Asteriades’s wedding. The vaulted ballroom ceiling of Auckland’s San Lorenzo Hotel had been draped in soft white folds of fabric to give the dreamy, romantic mood of a bower. Garlands of ivy and hothouse white roses festooned the walls, filling the ballroom with heady scent. Brass wall-mounted sconces held torches that added an intimate glow, while the vast room had been heated to allow women to show off an astonishing array of flimsy designer gowns even though the winter air blew cold outside.

      In the centre of the otherwise empty dance floor, Damon Asteriades performed a graceful manoeuvre, twirling his new bride to the melodious strains of the “Blue Danube” waltz, his dark head close to her pale blond hair. He was one hundred per cent gorgeous Greek male from the top of his overlong jet-black hair to the tips of his tanned fingers, with a Greek male’s hotheaded certainty that he was always right. And right now Rebecca wished he were a million light-years away.

      “My son is a fool.”

      At the voice of Soula Asteriades—Damon’s mother and widow of the powerful Ari Asteriades—Rebecca smiled and said, “Damon wouldn’t care for that description.”

      “And look at you, Rebecca! My dear, did you have to wear scarlet? Like a red flag to a bull?” Soula sighed. “That wicked dress will only fuel the tales that grow in each retelling.”

      Rebecca laughed and glanced down at the extravagant Vera Wang dress she wore. “Let them gossip. I don’t care. At least I’m not stealing the bride’s thunder and wearing white.”

      “But you should’ve been. You would’ve made a beautiful bride. If only Ari had been here—he might have knocked some sense into the boy’s head.”

      Shocked, Rebecca stared at the older woman. “Soula?”

      “This wedding is a mistake, but now it’s too late. My son has made his choice and he must live with it. That’s my last word.” Soula disappeared into the throng surrounding them.

      Disconcerted, Rebecca turned her attention to the dance floor. Damon chose that moment for an uncharacteristic display of public affection—brushing a kiss across the top of his bride’s head. The bride tilted her face up, revealing astonishment but none of the sparkling joy expected. Rebecca couldn’t help wishing that Damon was where she was right now—in hell.

      She couldn’t bear to watch. She closed her eyes. Her head ached with a combination of inner tension, the strain of the day and the residue of last night’s wine. She wanted the wedding over. Done. So that she could rid her mouth of the bitter taste of betrayal.

      “Come. Time for us to join them.”

      Rebecca’s painful thoughts were jogged by a touch on her cold, clammy arm, and she became abruptly aware that the music from the stylish ensemble on the raised dais was fading. Savvas, the bridegroom’s brother and best man, stared at her expectantly.

      She forced a smile. “Sorry, Savvas. I was miles away.” He gave her a wide grin. “Stop worrying, everything’s magnificent. The flowers, the menu, the cake, the dress. Women will be queuing for you to organise their perfect day.”

      Rebecca blinked at Savvas’s enthusiasm. Organising yet another Auckland high-society wedding was the last thing she wanted; yet she was thankful that he’d put her distraction down to anxiety about the success of the function. No one—not Savvas, nor anyone else—knew why she had fretted all day. Or why the memory of these particular nuptials would cast a pall over every wedding for years to come.

      Oh, God, how could she have been so stupid last night!

      “Come.” Savvas tugged her hand insistently.

      She dug her sandal-clad toes in, not budging. “I don’t dance at weddings I’ve organised.” Over Savvas’s shoulder she met the bridegroom’s narrow-eyed gaze, read the disdain.

      It hurt.

      More fool her. She dragged her attention back to Savvas.

      He chuckled, oblivious to the tension that strung her tighter than the violinist’s bowstring, his blue eyes lighting up with merriment, eyes so

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