The Mistress Wife

The 50th Romance Book from Lynne Graham

November 5, 2004

November 5, 2004

November 5, 2004

November 5, 2004

Preview

When Vivien became convinced that Lucca, her billionaire Italian husband, had been having an affair, she left him – pronto!

Though she was pregnant with his child, she could no longer live with him. Now Vivien has discovered that Lucca might not be as guilty as she first thought. She’s determined to win her husband back and save her marriage . . . if only for the sake of their small child. But Lucca is in no mood for a tender reconciliation. He will have his wife back, but on his terms . . . as his mistress!

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Excerpt

‘I WASN’T sure whether or not you would want to see this…’ Speaking in the uneasy tone of one apologising in advance for a potential offence, Lucca’s cousin, Alfredo, settled a tabloid newspaper down on the elegant glass desk.

At first glimpse of the smirking blonde displaying her bountiful curves in the centre of a page topped by garish headlines, Lucca Saracino froze, his lean, powerful face hardening. It was Jasmine Bailey, the bimbo whose lies had contributed to the destruction of his marriage. Now yesterday’s news as far as the rich and famous were concerned, Jasmine was plumbing even sleazier depths with the no-holds-barred revelations of exactly how low she had had to sink to achieve her original fifteen minutes of fame. In that uninhibited telling, the former topless model freely confessed that she had concocted her story about having shared a wild night of passion with the Italian billionaire, Lucca Saracino, on his luxury yacht.

‘You should sue her!’ Alfredo, a stockily built young man in his early twenties, urged with all the eager but unsophisticated zeal of a recent law graduate keen to prove his mettle.

Such an exercise would be futile, Lucca reflected, wide, sensual mouth assuming a sardonic curl. He would gain nothing from dragging a cheap little scrubber and his own long-lost reputation through the courts. More to the point, his divorce was about to be made final. Vivien, his soon-to-be ex-wife, had judged him guilty with a speed and lack of trust that would have shocked any male with a sense of fair play. Lifting her virginal little head high, Vivien had donned the mantle of saintly, suffering piety and vacated the marital home. Encouraged by her sour and money-hungry sister, Bernice, Vivien had walked out on their marriage in spite of the fact that she’d been carrying their first child. She had refused to listen to his declaration of innocence. The woman who wept buckets over Lassie films had shown him a face of stone.

‘Lucca…?’ Alfredo prompted in the brooding silence that every other member of Lucca’s personal staff would have read as a tacit warning.

With difficulty, Lucca suppressed an exasperated rebuke. Allowing his gormless cousin to work for him even temporarily had been an act of charity on his part. Alfredo was desperate to add some business experience to his unimpressive CV. Lucca had found him clever but impractical, conscientious but uninspired, well meaning but tactless. While others soared, Alfredo would always plod and often infuriate.

‘I owe you a big apology,’ the younger man continued awkwardly, standing square in front of the desk and evidently determined to say his piece. ‘I didn’t believe the Bailey woman had set you up. My parents didn’t either. We all thought you had been playing away!’

Every low suspicion of the level of that side of the family’s faith in him now fully confirmed, Lucca veiled grim dark golden eyes.

‘And absolutely nobody blamed you in the slightest,’ Alfredo hastened to assert. ‘Vivien just didn’t fit the bill—’

‘Vivien is the mother of my son. Don’t speak of her with anything other than the respect that is her due,’ Lucca murmured in icy reproof.

Alfredo flushed and hurried to offer profuse apologies instead. Impatient with his essential stupidity, Lucca dismissed him from his presence. Rising from his seat, he strode over to the imposing windows that proffered a spectacular view of London, but his forbidding gaze was turned inward and his thoughts were relentlessly bitter.

His infant son, Marco, was growing up without him in a mean little home where Italian was not spoken. There had been nothing civilised about the breakup of his marriage or the separation that had followed. Lucca had had to fight hard for what little he saw of the child he adored. He had been branded an unfaithful husband by Jasmine Bailey’s sleazy allegations. His lawyers had made it plain to him that he had no hope whatsoever of winning guardianship of his son from an estranged wife with an irreproachable reputation. It utterly outraged Lucca’s sense of justice that Vivien, who had wrecked their marriage with her distrust, should have effortlessly retained custody of his child.

He knew himself to be at best an occasional visitor on the outskirts of Marco’s life and he was afraid that his son forgot him altogether between visits. How could so young a child remember an absentee father between one month and the next? There was no way either that Vivien would be reminding Marco of the parent she had deprived him of possessing. But now there was also no way that she would be able to retain occupancy of the moral high ground…

As that tantalising reality pierced Lucca’s brooding reflections it was like a shot of adrenalin slivering through his lean, powerful frame with life-giving force. His luxuriant lashes lowered on eyes that suddenly glowed tiger-bright with scorching satisfaction. He pondered the very real possibility that Vivien might miss out on seeing Jasmine Bailey’s confession. An academic who took little interest in the everyday world, Vivien rarely read newspapers.

Lucca buzzed his secretary, instructed her to obtain a pristine new copy of the relevant paper and have it delivered to Vivien with a gift card bearing his compliments. Petty? He didn’t think so. Pride demanded that he draw her attention to the proof of his innocence.

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