A Dark Sicilian Secret(4)

And then the pieces fell into place. Of course. It all added up. Why hadn’t she seen it before? Vittorio’s immense wealth. His lavish lifestyle. His strange, secretive phone calls.

Jillian had wanted to throw up. Instead she used her phone to do a quick internet search while Vittorio dressed and the d’Severano name pulled up pages and pages of links and stories and photos.

The maid had been right. Vittorio d’Severano, of Catania, Sicily, was a very famous man. Famous, for all the wrong reasons.

Jillian ran away that very afternoon, taking just her passport and purse and leaving everything else behind. Clothes, shoes, coats—they could all be replaced. But freedom? Safety? Sanity? Those could not.

Jillian gave up everything that day. She gave notice at the hotel, gave up her apartment, left Europe and all her friends, vanishing as if she’d never existed.

She knew how to do that, too. It was something she’d learned at twelve when her family was taken into the American government’s Witness Protection Program. Since twelve she’d been an imposter of her former self.

Jillian became Heather Purcell in Banff, Canada, and worked for four months as a hotel operator at the Fairmont Hotel at Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. It was there in Alberta, Canada that she’d discovered she was pregnant.

“You had to know I’d eventually catch you,” he added kindly. “You had to know I’d win.”

Trapped. The word rushed at her, just as the relentless waves crashed onto the sand. But she wasn’t a quitter. She was a fighter. And she wouldn’t give up. She’d learned through hard experience to be tough, and had been fighting like mad ever since she discovered she was pregnant to protect her child from a life that would destroy him, because Jillian knew that life. Jillian’s father had once lived that life, dragging them all into hell with him.

The rain fell harder, slashes of cold wind and water that drenched, chilling her to the bone, but Vitt looked sleek and polished and unperturbed. But then, Vitt always looked sleek, and polished, and unperturbed. It’s what had drawn her to him in the beginning. That and his beautiful face.

“But you haven’t won,” she said from between chattering teeth. “Because you don’t have him, and you can torture me, or kill me, or whatever it is you do to people, but I won’t ever tell you where he is—”

“Why would I ever want to hurt you? You’re the mother of my son, my only child, and therefore precious to me.”

“I know what I am to you. Dispensable. You made that more than clear eleven months ago when you sent your thugs after me.”

“My men are hardly thugs, and you’ve turned me into an adversary, cara, by keeping my son from me.” Vittorio’s voice momentarily hardened to match the set of his lean, hard jaw before easing again. “But I’m willing to put aside our differences for our son’s sake. So, please, come. I don’t like you standing so close to the edge. It’s not safe.”

“And you are?”

His dark gaze raked the cliff and her shivering, rain-soaked figure. “I suppose it depends on your definition. But I’m not interested in semantics. It’s time to get out of the cold.” And with a decisive step toward her, he shot out his hand, reaching for hers.

But Jillian couldn’t, wouldn’t, let him touch her. Not now, not ever again. She leaned away, pulling back so violently that she lost her footing, crying out as she fell. Vittorio, blessed with quick reflexes, grabbed her wrist and held on tight.

For a split second she dangled in midair, nothing beneath her but the beach and crashing waves, and then her fingers wrapped around his wrist and she squeezed tight.

He could save her.

He would, too.

Vitt hauled her back up from over the edge, pulling her onto her feet and into his arms.

She shuddered as her body came into contact with his. Even wet, he was big and solid and overwhelming. So very overwhelming and she collapsed against him, needing, craving warmth and security and safety.

His arm wrapped around her tightly, holding her firmly against him. He felt good. Warm. Real.

For a moment she imagined he might still possibly have feelings for her. For a moment she imagined that maybe they could find a way to raise Joe together, and then reality crashed into her.

Was she mad? Had she lost her senses completely?

There was no way they could be together, no way to raise Joe together. She could not allow Joe to be drawn into the d’Severano world, and yet as Vittorio’s oldest son, it’s what would be expected of him. And expected of Vitt.

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