Pursued by the Desert Prince(65)

By: Dani Collins

But Alice hadn’t loved him. She had never said the words but he’d fooled himself into thinking she’d been showing it instead. How gullible he had been. How stupid to be so naively romantic when all she’d wanted was a quick fling with a foreigner to boast about with her friends.

What had his nonna been thinking? She had only met Alice a couple of times. Why bequeath her a share in a property worth millions and with such odd conditions attached? Six months of marriage? What sort of nonsense was this?

He hoped to God it wasn’t some sneaky matchmaking ploy from the grave. His grandmother knew he had changed his mind about settling down. He had laughed off the suggestion every time she asked him when he was going to provide her with a great-grandchild. Nonna had expressed her disapproval of his playboy lifestyle on numerous occasions but he had always dismissed her concerns because no one was going to tell him how to run his life.

No one.

His grandmother had been disappointed when his relationship with Alice broke down. Terribly disappointed. But he had refused to talk about it. He’d had enough trouble managing his own disappointment without having to handle his grandmother’s. Over the years she had stopped mentioning Alice’s name knowing it would get zero response from him. Why then had she done this? Forced him back into Alice’s life when it was the last thing he wanted?

The way the will was written meant if he didn’t convince Alice to marry him then he would lose valuable shares in the family company to a cousin he had no time for. He wasn’t going to hand over those shares only to have his cousin Rocco sell them to another party when he ran a little low on cash after playing the tables in a casino. Cristiano would rather marry his worst enemy before seeing that day dawn. He blamed himself for not telling his grandmother of Rocco’s disturbing spending habits of late. But he hadn’t wanted to burden her in the last months of her terminal illness.

Now it was too late.

The will had been written and now he had to convince Alice Piper to marry him.

Not that Alice was an enemy in the true sense of the word. She was a mistake he had made. A failure he wasn’t particularly fond of being reminded about. He had wiped her from his memory. Every time a thought of her would enter his mind he would ruthlessly erase it like someone cleaning a whiteboard. He had lived his life since as if she had never been a part of it. As if he had never had such amazing sex with her it had made his body tingle for hours afterwards. As if he had never kissed that sensually supple mouth. As if he had never felt that mouth around him while she blew the top of his head off.

Cristiano wasn’t going to let Alice think he was anything but delighted with the way his grandmother had orchestrated things. It suited him to let Alice think he was eager to put that ring on her finger and tie her to him for six months. Besides, maybe avoidance wasn’t the way to handle the lingering sting of her rejection. Maybe some immersion therapy would finally end his torment.

Alice might have given him that haughty look and said no as if it were her last word on it, but this time he wasn’t taking no for an answer.

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