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Mistress By Blackmail(2)

By: Caro LaFever



“Then this is a problem that needs to be nipped in the bud before the Casartellis find out.”

“Si! Si!” His mother's arms waved in the air, her eyes flashing.

“Momma.”

His cool tone stopped her agitated movements and her gaze met his.

“I'll take care of this.”

The magic words she'd been waiting to hear. He knew it and she knew it.

Her smile beamed through her happy tears. “Marcus—”

“I need to get back to work.” He ran his hands through his hair, trying to stifle his irritation.

Rushing over, she threw her arms around him. “Your father would be so proud.”

“Momma—”

“Matteo's father would be so thankful.”

Unlikely in both cases. But what did it matter? Both men had been dead for years and the responsibility for everything had been on his shoulders for what seemed like forever. It was his job to keep this financial empire intact and it was clearly his job to deliver his stupid brother to the wedding. The wedding that would ensure Rocca Enterprises’ continuing prosperity.

Assuming his mother didn't babble and his brother didn't renege.

“No talking to your friends, Momma.”

“Well, I don’t think—”

“Momma.”

She eyed him, gauged his temper as only a mother could do, and made the right decision. “I will leave all this in your capable hands, Marcus.”

“Grazie.”

With a flurry of lace and purse and flounce and drama, his mother left the room. Leaving him with the mess.

As usual.



* * *



Darcy Moran was a fighter.

At first she'd had to be and now, it was second nature. This situation, obviously, called for a fighter. It made no difference that her knees were doing some serious knocking below the edge of her one good dress. And it made no difference that the office building standing before her was a bit more grand and glorious than she'd imagined.

She had a fight to win.

It was the least she could do for her best friend.

He'd come through for her many times—the latest being when her ugly, old landlord had objected to another overdue rent payment. If not for Matt, she'd have ended up on the streets. She had figured she’d take a couple of weeks to get her feet back under her and then she’d start searching for another flat. Until then, she’d bunk on Matt’s sofa.

But last night, she'd found out she could have his whole place in a month.

All to herself.

“Married?” She hadn't believed him at first. “Forced to marry?”

“I'm afraid it’s true.” Matteo Costa's big brown eyes shone with despair. She knew he used them all the time for effect, but still. Still.

“How could you let him do this?”

“He's the head of the family.”

Her hands fisted in her jeans pockets. “He's not your lord and master.”

“The next best thing.” Her friend’s expression grew more mournful.

“You must confront him,” she instructed. “You need to tell him to go to hell.”

“You don't know my brother.”

“Thank God.”

He sighed. “It's about the families. The connection. This seals the deal. In many ways, the marriage makes sense.”

“You’re being barmy.” Darcy frowned. “No one gets married to seal a business deal.”

“No one but me.”

“Don't give in,” she cried. “Don't you ever give in!”

“That's your rally cry, not mine.” He leaned his head back on the flat’s kitchen wall and closed his eyes. “At least Viola is pretty.”

“You have got to be kidding.” As if the pretty factor of his potential wife would have any impact on whether or not they'd be happy.

“No,” he said, one eye opening to squint at her rigid figure. “She is pretty. And stop shouting.”

“You've got to tell your brother you made a mistake.”

“He'd kill me.”

“Better a quick death than a long protracted death by marriage.”

“Cynic.” Matt's stare turned shrewd.

“Realist.” He'd asked and questioned, but she had no desire to confide about her past. He didn't know how she'd grown up and no amount of talking would ever give him a sense of what it had been like. What it had been like to see her parents fight and split and fight and split. What it had been like to land in foster care at the age of twelve. What it had been like to know she was all alone. Out of long practice, she'd shut the conversation down before the questioning went any further. She had more than enough information anyway.

By midnight last night, she'd made a decision.

The only decision she could make.

Matt had saved her many times. Now was the time she’d pay him back. She didn’t know exactly how she was going to convince his big brother to stop the marriage, still she’d figure something out. Once she met the guy, she’d find some way to wrap him around her finger or bring him to his senses by finding his weaknesses and exploiting them. She’d become good at both a long time ago. Sure, he was a billionaire, but that didn’t mean he had super powers. He was just a man.

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