Michelle Smart

​​CHAPTER ONE (opening excerpt)

THE STRETCH LIMOUSINE was greeted in the piazza by dozens of cameras flashing manically. Since the announcement of her engagement, Rebecca Foley had avoided cameras like the plague. She’d known it would be impossible to avoid them today, the day of the wedding of the century. Italy’s premier bachelor was about to get hitched, and she was the lucky lady he was pledging his life to.
   While waiting for the driver to open her door, Rebecca looked at the empty space beside her where her father should be. This car she was about to be helped out of should be his car, the 1960s battered classic he’d been so proud of getting for a steal, as he’d called it, the year she’d set off for university. Each visit home had seen him proudly showing off all his painstakingly slow improvements. He’d died with the renovations unfinished. Leaving the car locked in a storage facility had been the biggest wrench for Rebecca when she’d made her move to Italy, harder than leaving the only real home she’d ever known.
   She fisted her hands and clenched her teeth at the pang that ripped through her. Four years since the death of her parents and today the pain of missing them was as sharp as it had been in those terrible dark days. She’d never needed them more than she did right now.
   The door opened.
   The driver held his hand out for her.
   It wasn’t just the paparazzi capturing the bride’s arrival outside the domed cathedral but hundreds of well-wishers too, all lining the cordons Enzo had paid the authorities to erect. Having oodles of money meant the barriers normal people faced could be circumvented. It was the greasing of his money that allowed the opulent car transporting her onto the public square vehicles were usually forbidden from entering.
   Taking a deep breath, Rebecca straightened her back, fixed a smile to her face, put one foot in front of the other and prayed not to trip over her dress. Shouts of encouragement followed her into the famous Florentine cathedral. 

   She’d imagined this moment for so long. The wedding had taken months of planning by a highly specialised team. She’d envisaged Enzo’s expression when he saw her in the fairy-tale dress of her dreams and, when he turned at the far end of the aisle to face her, it didn’t disappoint. Every step closer to him brought that expression into clearer focus and brought him into clearer focus too.
   Enzo Beresi. Self-made billionaire. A six-foot-two hunk of pure muscle injected with testosterone. An Italian success story. Dark brown hair worn stylishly messy. Always immaculate and dapperly dressed. The kind of man women salivated for and men wished they could be. Easy-going to a fault. Charming. Even-tempered. Ethical. Renowned for his charitable works. A liar.
   Throughout their whirlwind five-month romance in which he’d proposed four weeks after their first date, Rebecca had constantly asked herself why me? Why had Enzo Beresi set his sights on her, a twenty-four-year-old primary schoolteacher, when he had the pick of the world’s most eligible women? He could have had anyone. But he had chosen her. He had swept her off her feet. And Rebecca had fallen head over heels in love with him.
   As she neared the altar, her father’s sister, Rebecca’s closest living relative, the woman who’d done so much to help her through the trauma of losing both her parents within three days of each other, appeared in her eyeline. She was sat in the space usually reserved for the mother of the bride.
   Rebecca blurred her aunt out before the pain of the loss of her parents and the loss of her future grew too big to endure.
   She reached Enzo.
   His incredible body clothed in a dark grey tuxedo with a swallowtail jacket and dusky pink cravat, his translucent brown eyes sparkled. He mouthed the cliché that must come from every groom’s lips. ‘You look beautiful.’
   He was so good. So believable. That gorgeous, chiselled face with its generous mouth and aquiline nose composed itself into an expression of adoration as he took her hand and drew her to him.
   It sickened her that she could still react with such violent intensity to his touch. Sickened her that she could still want the man who’d never wanted her.
   His insistence that they wait for their wedding night to consummate their marriage had not been the romantic gesture she’d reluctantly gone along with.
   It had all been a set-up.
   He’d never truly wanted her. He’d only wanted what marrying her could bring him. At least she now had the answer to the why me? question.
   Hands entwined, they turned to the priest. The five hundred–strong congregation filled with the rich, the powerful and the beautiful rose as one. The wedding service began.
   All the months of planning and Rebecca had envisaged that the service itself would drag, that she’d be mentally urging the priest to get a move on and get to the good bit. She’d practiced her Italian until she could say her vows faultlessly. Sure, it was only two words—I do—but she’d wanted her accent to be perfect.
   Now that she was living it, she found herself wishing the order of service to have the brakes applied. The closer they got to the moment, the quicker time passed and the more her heart threatened to burst from her ribs.
   The priest got to the meat of it all.
   They faced each other and clasped hands.
   ‘Do you, Enzo Alessandro Beresi, take Rebecca Emily Foley to be your wife...?’
   She was going to be sick.
   He looked her in the eye adoringly and without any hesitation said, ‘I do.’
   And now it was her turn.
   ‘Do you, Rebecca Emily Foley, take Enzo Alessandro Beresi...?’
   She breathed in, looked Enzo straight in the eye and, in the strongest voice she could muster, loud enough for the entire congregation to clearly hear, said, ‘No. I. Do. Not.’
   Enzo’s head jerked back as if she’d slapped him. The half smile froze on the tanned face that drained of colour. His mouth opened but nothing came out.
   The only thing that had kept Rebecca together since she’d opened the package earlier that day was imagining this moment and inflicting an iota of the pain and humiliation racking her on him. Only there was none of the satisfaction she’d longed for. The speech she’d prepared in her head died in her choked throat.
   Unable to look at him a second longer, she wrenched her hands from his and walked back down the aisle leaving a stunned silence in her wake.

A fairy tale dress but a runaway bride...

Discovering that her billionaire fiancé, Enzo Beresi, will receive her inheritance if they wed, Rebecca Foley leaves him at the altar! She refuses to marry a man who keeps secrets from her.

Innocent Rebecca is devastated, yet she can’t let go of their powerful connection. So when Enzo arrives on her doorstep, she gives him twenty-four hours to tell her everything. The brooding Italian vows his feelings for her are real, but dare Rebecca believe in him enough to give in to the temptation of their wedding night?

Innocent's Wedding Day With the Italian 

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"This love story was epic, in my opinion. It was special." Eva K, Beyond the Pages

Send this author my credit card details. Sign me up for everything she writes. What a fun, heartfelt, exhilarating, thrilling and emotionally charged story from the very first page to the very beautiful last page. I loved every single word. Harlequin Junkie

Innocent's Wedding Day With the Italian Playlist