Date: 7th May 2020, Posted by mollie
How are you doing? Are you still in confinement or coming out of it now? Are you enjoying some peace and quiet or do you have cabin fever? I find that there are ups and downs and some days are better than others, but mostly I am very grateful to be safe and well, and that my family are okay too. The rumours and the fear-mongers make it much harder to stay upbeat but I find there are plenty of positive things to distract myself with.
We are entering week 6 of our lockdown in New Zealand and things are easing up a little. People can move around into ‘new bubbles’ to shelter. Look who moved in next door.
I love alpacas, don’t you! You may remember the important role they played in healing my wounded hero in The Italian Billionaire’s Scandalous Marriage.
Have you heard of GOLOV-20? It’s a new movement designed to help counteract the damage caused by all the fear created in the wake of COVID-19.
Love as we all know, is such a magical cure. That’s why we love romance, right!
I loved, loved, loved writing The Italian Billionaire’s Scandalous Marriage. I hope it shows in my book!
Below is the blurb and a wee excerpt featuring ‘relatives’ of my new neighbours. I hope you enjoy it. We all need uplifting stories of healing during these challenging times.
Do you dream of travelling to New Zealand? Now you can—all from the safety of your own home. The Italian Billionaire’s Scandalous Marriage is set amongst the spectacular scenery of the South Island in New Zealand.
Three women. Three lives. And the lies that bind them. Why is everyone afraid of the truth?
When a lonely young American woman inherits a painting she discovers her whole life was a lie. Desperate for the truth, she goes in search of her true identity. The painting is her only clue. But everyone is determined to keep its secret past repressed, including Vitaliano Rossi, the Italian gold tycoon, unnaturally suspicious of her motives, who wants the painting vanquished. How can she discover who she really is and convince him that his love means more to her than gold?
Alex took a shower and changed into her lace dress in deference to the fact that this would be their first dinner in their real home. Her suitcase of clothes made little impact in the cupboards in the dressing-room, and she made a mental note to ask her mother to send out the rest of her clothes. Then, she went into Vitali’s room entering through their common bathroom and dressing room.
Her heart hammered against her ribs as she stepped into his sacred space. It was wrong to go against his command, but there would be no sense of togetherness at all if Vitali insisted on keeping separate bedrooms. That had to be settled before anything else and here was a domain in which she may be able to bring some womanly control. Control which she must demonstrate right now.
It was only a few minutes before she heard him striding along the deck. Her pulse instantly quickened. She had made a fair fist of regulating what happened between them so far. She couldn’t afford to let him make all the rules at this critical point. Acting on sheer instinct, she sprawled across the bed in a pose of relaxed nonchalance.
The moment Vitali walked in, his body stiffened at the sight of her. ‘This is my room, Alexi,’ he said curtly. ‘You’ve got your own room and I told you there were some things that are off limits. This is one of them. So, if you’re thinking of changing anything, forget it. You’re wasting your time.’
‘I was just trying out the beds to see which was more comfortable for us to sleep in,’ she said. ‘Or were you thinking of sleeping alone? ‘
She felt the touch of his lips as his dangerously beautiful mouth curved. ‘The bed you can share, whenever you like. Like you, I intend to make what I can of this marriage. Just don’t interfere with anything else,’ he gritted. ‘Is that understood?’
‘Understood. But, there are a couple of things you should understand, Vitali,’ she began purposefully.
‘Don’t push me too far, Alexandra. I’ve given you free rein to do what you want with the rest of the house. With the exception of the North Wing, which houses my private study.’
‘You won’t have to worry about me snooping around in your absence. When you’re not here I don’t intend to be here either. Where ever you go, I’ll be with you.’
‘That mia cara, is your prerogative on any international trips I have to take. But you’re not coming on muster with me. For one thing, I don’t take passengers in the helicopter during the round-up. It’s too dangerous. I need total concentration. There’s always a chance that the engine may stall on some of the close manoeuvres.’
His eyes flashed with derisive determination. ‘And secondly, you’d only be a liability on the ground. Apart from the distraction to the men who need to keep their minds on the job, I doubt you could sit in a saddle day after day without causing everyone concern over your well-being.’
He didn’t wait for a reply. He headed straight to the bathroom and shut another door between them. Alex repressed the impulse to chase after him and argue. She didn’t have a rebuttal for him. She didn’t know they used helicopters for mustering, although she could see now how useful it would be when there was such a vast territory to cover.
A thrill coursed through her. Perhaps she could learn to fly. That would make him sit up and notice her. Surely that would gain his respect. Something to think about, she mused, as she sat on the bed and waited for Vitali to reappear.
As for the riding, she liked horses, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to be stuck to one and she doubted her butt would handle being on a horse for 8-10 hours, day after day. Still, if that was what it took to win Vitali over and show that she could handle country life, she would sacrifice her thighs for the ride. By the time the next muster came around, she would be ready. She reasoned that by then all the men on the station would be more familiar with her. She would be less of a novelty and therefore less of a distraction.
At least she had some possibilities to work on, but instinct told her she needed something meatier. The thing her husband valued most was making money, she mused. What if she could match him in the business stakes, show that she was capable to contributing income to the Gold Ridge coffers and of making a considerable profit.
Then she would win on two accounts. If that didn’t earn his trust and respect nothing would. She needed to familiarize herself with the way the station ran before she would be able to come up with any brilliant ideas about just how she would do that.
‘It didn’t take you long to regret your decision,’ Vitali said, sensing the thoughts that weighed on her mind.
Alex had been so absorbed that the mocking question startled her. He had already washed and was emerging from the dressing-room, buttoning the cuffs of a sky-blue shirt. His eyes moved across her face, intensely watchful, as he waited for her confirmation.
‘On the contrary.’ She smiled and rolled off the bed, deciding to close the physical gap between them if nothing else. ‘I have no regrets at all. I was just thinking about our new life together and all the wonderful challenges to be solved.’
Alex sauntered towards him and slid her hands up the walls of his brawny, powerful chest, her eyes teasing at the guarded reserve in his. ‘Why should I regret anything when I have you, my groom.’ She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his lips with a fervor she hoped would short-circuit his brain.
His mouth momentarily softened, as though he was surrendering to the passion storming through then both, then clamped shut as though regretting his momentary lapse of control.
‘What do you expect from me, Vitali,’ she said softly, masking her hurt with a smile.
His hands grasped her hips, halting any further attempt to draw closer. ‘I have no expectations of you, Alexandra. Expectations only lead to disappointment. I discovered that a long time ago,’ he said bitterly.
‘What are you afraid of Vitali?’
Something savagely vulnerable flickered in his eyes. ‘I’m not afraid of anything.’
‘It’s me. It’s me you’re afraid of, isn’t it? I would never do anything to hurt you.’
‘Afraid of a woman? Are you mad? Certainly not,’ he bit out scathingly.
‘Then why are you holding me at a distance?’
He dropped his grasp. ‘You cost me dearly,’ he said, and the tone he used reminded her once again of the layers of steel wedged between them.
‘But I will minimize the damages, as far as is in my power. And don’t think I can’t live without you, Alex,’ he growled, his voice heavily accented as he retreated from her.
‘You don’t have to live without me, Vitali. I’m your wife,’ she reminded him.
He bit back a harsh laugh. ‘Now let’s see you put on another Oscar-worthy performance and play your loving role through dinner, mia cara.’
And that’s just what she did. Much to the McKee’s delight. Vitali had invited them to share a meal with them in the elegant dining room with panoramic views across the lake. But she didn’t have to act. It felt so lovely, so honest, so truthful to share with the couple how much she really loved her husband. And there were moments when she was sure than even Vitali was uncertain whether she was acting or not.
He did not argue when Alex suggested they retire early. This was their honeymoon after all. The McKee’s immediately said their farewells and disappeared into the ebony dark night.
Every step toward their bedroom was charged with electricity. There was no way they were going to separate beds. The door to Vitali’s room was the closest. He swept Alex inside and held her in an embrace that throbbed with uncontrollable desire.
‘Medusa!’ The words hissed from his lips as they claimed hers, but they lost any venom in the passion that surged between them.
Alex didn’t care what names he called her. She cared for nothing but the sweet-honeyed taste of his kiss.
‘Say you want me. Say you need me!’ his voice strained in the extremity of his own need.
‘I want you,’ she gasped. ‘I need you,’ she urged. ‘Now!’ she demanded, unable to contain her desire. She was beyond talking, beyond thinking, beyond games. She barely heard his hoarse cry of triumph as he laid her on the bed, and took her in another peak of tantalizing sensation.
‘Say you’ve never had a man like me before in your life.’
‘Never.’ she cried, acknowledging the truth.
He took her again and again, from peak to higher peak still, and then when she thought they could go no further they both climaxed in unison to the summit.
How much time had passed since they fell into a blissful embrace, their bodies quietly entwined, she didn’t know. Nor did she know what had driven Vitali to command her to say the things she had to him.
Ego? Pride? Doubt? How would he respond if she demanded that he do the same, that he swear that he’d never had a woman who pleasured and excited and aroused him like she did. She couldn’t bear to think of any woman making him feel more than she did. Perhaps he felt the same. Maybe that was why he forced her confession. If so, she wasn’t just a convenience any more. She was more special than that.
But the attraction was still largely physical. She had to reach further…make Vitali see that she was capable of matching him in every way.
And as she glanced out at the moon lancing off the mountain peaks the idea came to her! She had to investigate it and see if it was possible. And she needed money. A lot more money. Certainly more than she had in cash reserves. The acquisition of the European travel chain had eaten into that.
Alpacas! Of course, they’d be perfect, she thought as memories came gusting back of a night she’d spent on a summit in the Andes. She had been leading a group of people interested in eco tourism, and after a day digging channels for irrigation for the villages, the beautiful mountain creatures had milled around them.
She remembered the achingly beautiful sound of the children calling out the names of their pet alpacas. The beautiful creatures with their big brown eyes, and soft, fleecy coats of fur, came running like big teddy bears.
Alex pulled the crumpled sheets over her and snuggled contentedly in Vitali’s arms. She didn’t need to do any analysis. She already knew enough from her time amongst the villagers to act. A little more research would confirm what her intuition told her so strongly. If she fell on her face, if it couldn’t be done, so what? Not trying was the real failure. What was the worst that could happen? While there were no guarantees, something deep in her gut told her she was onto a winner.
She turned toward Vitali and watched him for a long moment as he lay sleeping beside her. His long, dark lashes rested peacefully on his smooth cheeks, his cupid lips were curved in a gentle smile as though he was still relishing the intimacy they’d shared. Her heart did cartwheels in her chest.
Tall, dark, and entirely too handsome, what drove her husband was to control the uncontrollable, to achieve the unachievable, to conquer the unconquerable—that’s what he respected. The greater the hurdle, the more she had to prove, the more Vitali would admire and respect her. Well, that was the theory, and tomorrow Alex would put her hunch to the litmus test.
The blast from the alarm clock shocked Alex from her sleep. She woke to find Vitali fully clothed, tucking the sheets around her. The room was still dark, while outside the slither of the moon was still visible.
‘Go back to sleep, Alexandra.’
‘Vitali? Are you leaving?’ She murmured drowsily.
‘I’m sorry I didn’t mean to wake you. I forgot to turn the blasted thing off.’ He said striding to the bathroom. ‘You wouldn’t have been disturbed if you’d done what I asked and slept in your own room,’ he tossed over his shoulder.
‘You should have insisted.’ she said.
‘Besides, I wanted to be woken up. I have something I need.’
His silhouette in the bathroom door stiffened. ‘Tell me when I return,’ he said autocratically.
She propped herself up on her pillow and tapped the sensor light beside the bed until it dimmed to a soft, gentle light. ‘I’d prefer it if we could discuss it now, Vitali. You did say I had only to ask and you would do all you could to ensure my comfort,’ she said, ensuring her voice sounded firm yet demure.
‘Note to self, you’re not only incredibly strong-willed but you have a memory like an elephant,’ he said, splashing aftershave on his face.
She bit her lips. Dear God, please let me succeed.
Alex decided to come straight out with it. No matter what she said, how creatively she framed it, she needed him to invest in her venture and she doubted he would regard her idea favorably. Far better to set about it under the cloak of secrecy and aim to wow him. He already thought she was a gold-digger, but she would return his investment a hundred times over.
‘I need some money,’ she blurted.
He flashed her a contemptuous look. ‘That didn’t take you long,’ he spat bitterly. ‘At least my perceptions weren’t unfounded.’
His cruel words speared her heart. She took a deep breath and reminded herself that beneath his hardened exterior was a wounded hero. Her wounded hero. And she would do everything in her power to show him she was his heroine, worthy of his trust.
‘I’d like my own bank account,’ she continued. ‘With some money in it’
‘How much money, Alexandra?’
In truth, she had no idea how much her venture would cost. Better to shoot high, she decided. She could always repay any extra, but the last thing she wanted to do was go cap in hand begging for more. It was already demeaning to have to ask him for it in the first place. All her life she had stood independently. But if she was going to make this idea happen then she needed to think big.
‘Three hundred and sixty-three thousand.’ The figure came to her intuitively—her lucky numbers.
He blanched then flashed her an acid look. ‘I’m surprised you are settling for so little. Dollars, I assume?’
‘U.S.,’ she bit. Let him think what he will, but he deserved to suffer for thinking badly of her and her motives. Part of her hated herself for being so childish and feeding his belief. But then they had got off to a bad start and Vitali didn’t look like he was going to change his mind no matter how altruistic her motives.
‘That’s some serious coin. Going somewhere nice?’ he said, mockingly.
‘I’m not leaving with your money, Vitali.’
‘Well, what then?’
‘You said I could do some decorating—add my woman’s touch.’
‘What are you going to do? Repaper the house in 24 karat gold?’
‘Actually I was thinking of exterior improvements rather than interior. I’d also like to learn to fly.’
Vitali thrust his foot into his boot, then looked up at her sharply. ‘What are you up to, Alexandra?’
‘Nothing,’ she said. ‘You can fly a helicopter and I think it would be fun to learn too. How else am I going to fill in my time?’
‘You won’t need money for that. I’ll teach you myself’, he said gruffly.
Alex felt a thrill of triumph. He was offering to spend time with her. Finally she was making progress.
‘That would be fabulous. Thank you,’ she said leaping from the bed and planting a kiss on his lips.
‘Is that it?’ he said fixing her with a wary look as he stood up.
‘That’s it. I hate to appear pushy, but do you think you could put the money in my account straight away. I’d really like to make a start on my project without delay—especially if you’re determined to go away.’
‘You pushy?’ he said, throwing his camel jacket on. ‘What project?’ he added, suspiciously.
‘Nothing to worry about. I promise. In fact, I think you will be pleasantly surprised,’ she said smiling extra brightly at him in the hope of melting the deep ravines of worry creasing his brow.
He sighed an exasperated breath. ‘Whatever makes you happy,’ he said with an ironic twist. ‘Just make sure it doesn’t make me wild. I’ll speak to Bob. He’ll make the necessary arrangements immediately,’ he tossed at her as he headed for the door.
‘What now!’ he said testily.
She raced to him, throwing her arms around his neck before he could stop her. ‘You forgot to kiss me goodbye.’
‘For God’s sake, Alexandra. I’m through with the charade. Stop playing games.’ There was a ragged edge to his vehemence. His hands curved around her soft, warm nakedness as she clung to him. He drew her body even more intimately against his.
‘One kiss,’ she purred, thrusting her fingers persuasively through his thick, coal-black hair. ‘It won’t hurt. I promise. And I was a good wife last night, wasn’t I?’ she purred.
His chest heaved and his mouth possessed hers in angry compliance. His hands splayed over her body, grabbing her with crazed urgency. When he finally wrenched his head up, a raging conflict glittered in his eyes.
‘I am going,’ he pronounced with glacial resolve. He pushed her away from him. ‘You’ve had your proper goodbye, now let me get on with my work, wife. I’ll see you when I return in a week or so—if you’re still here.’
He slammed the door shut after him. His boots boomed along the deck, as though the wolves were snapping at his heels. Alex grinned and leapt back into his side of the bed, drawing the covers up to her face, and inhaling the sultry memory of the passion they’d shared. She writhed in sensuous delight. He was her man. Soon she would convince him that she was his woman.
He wanted her to stay. Hadn’t he said it? Well, not exactly. But he wouldn’t have offered to teach her to fly his beloved helicopter otherwise. And though they’d had a testy exchange he hadn’t balked at giving her the money.
“Whatever makes you happy.” Those were his words. “Just don’t make me wild.” She would show him that she was committed to his happiness. She would prove that together they could achieve their mutual joy.
Did you enjoy this excerpt of The Italian Billionaire’s Scandalous Marriage?
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Praise for Book Two in the Gemstone Billionaire’s series—The Italian Billionaire’s Scandalous Marriage
“I loved the premise that she needs the hero to unlock the secrets to explain her past—it’s great conflict.”
“I really enjoyed this story, your writing, the characters and the kiss. Thanks!”
“What a blinking good read—more please. I was hooked from page one.”
“I want to know the secret in the painting.”
If this is the first time you have read a Gemstone Billionaire story, you can easily read each book as a standalone.
Take good, good care of yourself, stay safe, as we make our way through these unusual and unexpected times. We will get through this, and in the meantime, I’m thinking of you and send you much love, and I hope it’s a peaceful and beautiful week (so many of you are heading toward Spring. Have a great week!
Much Love, Mollie
Do you enjoy reading literary fiction—especially art-related historical novels set in 15th Century Italy? Would you enjoy being a BETA reader?
Please email me Mollie@molliemathews.com.
As you may know, I am an award-winning artist and I love to include art themes in my books. And for my historical novel, I am enjoying learning from Leonardo. Below is one of my sketches (of Leonardo’s)
Tags: art therapy, audiobooks, Excerpt, good romance books, Holiday Romance, Interracial romance, magical realism, romance authors, Romance books, Strong female lead, The Italian Billioniare's Scandalous Marriage