Missing Husband Found Alive! Damiano Braganzi is back!
Damiano – the husband whom Eden had thought she’d never see again. Eden and Damiano had been married only a short time when he disappeared, and things had not been good between them. So, though Eden knows her love for Damiano is as strong as ever, she fears that he will want a divorce… unless she can overcome her hang-ups in the bedroom.
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EDEN was in the changing cubicle pinning up the hem on a customer’s skirt when she heard the shop door open.
‘You’re always very busy,’ the older woman commented. ‘I suppose people just don’t have the time to do their own alterations these days.’
‘I’m not complaining.’ With a rueful smile, Eden eased the last pin into place and rose upright. Five feet four inches tall and slightly built, she wore her thick golden hair twisted up into a clip. Her heart-shaped face was dominated by her clear green eyes.
Emerging from the cubicle, she looked in some surprise at the two men in business suits, who in company with a young woman were talking to her middle-aged assistant, Pam.
‘These people are looking for you, Eden.’ Pam could not hide her curiosity.
‘How can I help you?’ Eden asked.
‘Eden James?’ The older of the two men double-checked.
Conscious of the keen appraisal she was receiving from the trio and also of the indefinable tension they exuded, Eden nodded slowly.
‘Is there somewhere we could talk in private, Miss James?’
Eden’s eyes widened.
‘Perhaps upstairs in your apartment,’ the young woman suggested briskly.
She both looked and sounded like a police officer, Eden reflected, her anxiety increasing. But usually the police identified themselves first. Aware that her two employees and single customer were a captive audience, she flushed and hurriedly opened the door that led into the short passage which gave entrance back out onto the street.
‘Could you tell me what this is about?’ Eden prompted tautly then.
‘We were trying to be discreet.’ The older man now extended an official identity card for her inspection. ‘I’m Superintendent Marshall and this young woman is Constable Leslie. This gentleman with me is Mr Rodney Russell, a special advisor from the Foreign Office. May we go upstairs to talk?’
Somehow, Eden found herself responding automatically to that calm note of command. What did they want? The police? A senior policeman too. The Foreign Office? The Foreign Office? Her mind blanked out with sudden horror and her hand started to shake as she stuck the key into the lock on her front door. Damiano! For so long, she had waited for such a visit but here it was catching her totally unprepared. When had she stopped fearing every phone call, every ring of the doorbell? When? Guilt-stricken dismay at that discovery about herself froze her to the spot.
‘It’s all right,’ the female police officer asserted, contriving to gently urge Eden out of her paralysis and over the threshold. ‘We haven’t come here to break bad news, Mrs Braganzi.’
Mrs Braganzi? The name she had left behind when the cruel spotlight of press intrusion had become more than she’d been able to handle. So many reporters had wanted to ask her what it was like to be the wife of an important man who had simply disappeared into thin air. Refused those interviews, tabloid interest in Eden Braganzi had taken a nastier turn.
Not bad news? Eden blinked, mind briefly focusing again. How could it not be bad news after five years? There was no good news possible! And then natural common sense exercised its sway and steadied Eden a little. Was this yet another official courtesy call; was that it? Just letting her know that the case was still open but unsolved? It had been some time since anyone official had requested actual face-to-face contact with her. She herself had gone long past the stage where she continually phoned them, pushing, pressuring, finally hysterically begging for some action that she had only gradually come to appreciate they could not offer her. And only at that point had she begun finally to give up hope…
After all, Damiano’s brother, Nuncio, and his sister, Cosetta, had given up hope of his survival within a month of his disappearance. Damiano had been in the South American republic of Montavia when a military coup had taken place. In the street violence which had followed in the capital city that day, Damiano had simply disappeared. He had checked out of his hotel and climbed into a limousine which should have taken him to the airport and his flight home. But that had been the last reliable sighting of him alive. The bodyguards in the car behind had been blown off the road by an explosion. Unhurt but with their vehicle wrecked, they had lost the limousine. Damiano and the limo and the driver had all vanished without trace.
During the subsequent enquiries, the new dictatorship had not been particularly helpful, but then by that time opposition to the coup had been spreading and a full-scale civil war had been threatening Montavia. The overstretched authorities had had little interest in the disappearance of a single foreign national and had pointed out that, during the fighting which had raged a full week in the city, many people had died or disappeared. There had been no trail to follow and no witnesses had come forward. But neither had there been any evidence found to actually prove that Damiano had been killed. It had been that appalling lack of proof of any kind which had tormented Eden for more years than she could bear.
‘Please sit down, Mrs Braganzi,’ some one of the three prompted her.