The De Santis Marriage

By: Michelle Reid

CHAPTER ONE




THE WHOLE pre-wedding party thing was revving up like a gigantic engine and Lizzy had never felt less like partying in her entire life.

Now a night at La Scala, dear God, she thought heavily. For here she stood surrounded by luxury in this posh Milan hotel suite, about to put on a posh designer dress that must have cost more money than she dared let herself think about, so she could look the part for a posh gala evening spent at La Scala, while back home in England the family business was about to go under taking everything they owned along with it.

She had not wanted to come to her best friend’s wedding but her father had insisted. Her brother Matthew had gone a whole step further and become really angry. ‘Don’t be stupid,’ he’d snapped at her. ‘Do you want Dad to feel worse than he already does about this mess? Go to Bianca’s wedding as planned,’ he’d instructed, ‘and while you’re there wish her all the damn best from me with her super-rich catch.’

It had been said with such bite it made Lizzy wince to recall him saying it. Matthew was never going to forgive her best friend for falling in love with another man.

Then Bianca and her parents had put even more pressure on her to come to Milan and in the end it had been easier to give in and do what everyone wanted her to do when all she’d wanted to do was to be at her father’s side supporting him.

But instead she had to shimmy into this dress, Lizzy told herself, puffing back an unruly curl when it flopped across one eye as she settled the straps onto her shoulders then turned to the mirror to check out the finished effect.

What she saw reflected back at her sent instant horror pouring into her expressive face. The dress was way too clingy in all the wrong places and the silver-grey colour looked awful against her pale skin! And it was not for the first time in her twenty-two years that she wished with all her heart that she were a delicate and sweet fine-boned brunette like Bianca.

But she wasn’t. She was a long curvy redhead with an unruly long mop of glossy chestnut curls that just refused to stay confined no matter how much torture she put herself through in an effort to pin them up. Add skin so startlingly white it looked dreadful against the silver-threaded grey silk and it was like looking at a ghost!

When Bianca had bought the dress a couple of months ago to wear to her betrothal party she’d looked fabulous in it—pure sensation on legs. Yesterday she’d tossed it at Lizzy in disgust. ‘I don’t know why I bought it. I hate the colour. The length is not right and my boobs don’t fill it.’

Well, there was no chance of that problem here, Lizzy thought, small white teeth biting down into her full bottom lip as she hitched the tightly fitted basque top further up the pale plump slopes of breasts and grimly thanked the boning in the bodice for helping it to stay put.

The rest, she saw on second inspection, didn’t cling quite as badly as she’d first thought it did and—Face it, Lizzy, she then told herself firmly, beggars cannot be choosers, girl, so you should—

The sudden knock sounding at her suite door diverted her attention. ‘Are you ready, Elizabeth?’ Bianca’s mother called out. ‘We must not be late for La Scala.’

Certainly not, Lizzy thought dryly. ‘Just one more minute!’ she called back.

La Scala waited for no man, not even the higher echelons of Italian society she was about to mingle with, she mocked as she slid her feet into a pair of high slender heeled silver mules, then turned to apply a coating of clear gloss to her lips. She refused point-blank to use the seduction red colour Bianca had supplied along with the dress.

Standing back to give her reflection the final once-over, she suddenly found the humour in standing here in her ill-fitting borrowed feathers and laughed for the first time in weeks. All she needed now was for her best friend to toss her that fabulous diamond ring her betrothed had presented her with and she’d be sorted. All family debts paid via the first pawn brokerage she could find.

But Bianca wasn’t quite that giving—not that Lizzy resented her for that. Bianca Moreno had been her closest friend since the day they had both found themselves stuck in the same strict English boarding-school feeling like a pair of aliens dropped in there from outer space. Bianca had come to the school directly from a carefree lifestyle in Sydney with her Italian born parents. They’d gone from ordinary to mega-rich overnight when an uncle in England had died suddenly making Bianca’s father the main beneficiary of the London based Moreno Inc.

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