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Tall, Dark & Handsome: The Infamous Italian's Secret Baby / Pregnant by the Millionaire / Liam's Secret Son

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CHAPTER SEVEN

‘YOU make a stunning bride, Bella!’ Claudia smiled at her tearfully as she put the finishing touches to the veil before stepping back to admire her sister’s appearance.

Bella could only stare numbly at her own reflection, in a beautiful white satin wedding gown and lovely lace veil, in the full-length mirror on the door of the wardrobe in the bedroom that had been hers as a child.

Whoever would have thought, having agreed to Gabriel’s marriage proposal, that only five weeks later Bella would be standing here dressed in this beautiful white wedding gown and veil, preparing to drive to the church with her father, on her way to becoming Gabriel’s bride?

Gabriel’s bride.

Gabriel Danti’s bride.

Oh, God!

‘You can’t be having second thoughts about marrying a man as gorgeous as Gabriel, Bella?’ Claudia teased her obvious nervousness.

‘No, I can’t, can I?’ she agreed with forced lightness. ‘Go and tell Daddy that I’m ready to leave, hmm?’ she asked, waiting until Claudia had left the bedroom before turning back to look at her reflection in the mirror.

What would be the point in having doubts about marrying Gabriel when he had already legally claimed Toby as his son? The name Danti had been enough to ensure that Gabriel’s claim was dealt with quickly and positively. Toby Scott was now Tobias Danti.

As Bella would very shortly become Isabella Danti.

Even that name sounded alien to her, not like her at all. Which was pretty apt when Bella hadn’t felt like herself for the last five weeks. Even less so today!

The woman reflected in the mirror wearing the white satin gown and delicate lace veil over the dark cascade of her hair certainly looked like her, but Bella could feel no joy in her appearance, or at the thought of becoming Gabriel’s wife.

They had shared the news of their engagement with their delighted families five weeks ago. Bella and Toby had then remained in San Francisco for two more days to give Gabriel the time to settle his affairs before he flew back to England with them.

Since arriving in England, Gabriel had been staying in the house in Surrey where Bella had first met him, but coming to the cottage every day in order to spend time with Toby.

When in the company of her family and Gabriel’s they had, as agreed, given every impression that they were happy in each other’s company.

Not an easy thing on Bella’s part when the more time she spent in Gabriel’s company, the more physically aware of him she became. Until now, on their wedding day, she felt so tense with that physical awareness it was a constant painful ache. So much for her condition that this was to be a marriage in name only…

This was her wedding day, Bella accepted heavily.

And she couldn’t have felt more miserable!

‘Where are we going?’

‘On our honeymoon, of course,’ Gabriel said with satisfaction as he drove the black sports car to the private airfield where the Danti jet was fuelled and waiting to take off, the two of them having just been given a warm send-off by their wedding guests.

‘What honeymoon?’ Bella frowned as she turned in her seat to look at him, still wearing her wedding gown and veil. ‘At no time in the last five weeks did we discuss going away on a honeymoon!’

‘We did not discuss it because I knew this would be your reaction if we had,’ Gabriel told her unrepentantly.

She scowled her frustration with his high-handedness. ‘If you knew that then, why—?’

‘It was meant to be a surprise,’ Gabriel growled.

Her mouth compressed. ‘Oh it’s certainly that all right.’

‘It is Toby’s surprise, Bella,’ he elaborated softly.

She looked at him sharply. ‘Toby’s?’

Gabriel nodded. ‘Our son confided in me several weeks ago that newly married people go away on honeymoon together after the wedding.’

Bella’s cheeks were flushed. ‘You should have explained to him—’

‘Should have explained what exactly to him, Isabella?’ Gabriel grated harshly. ‘That although his mother and father are now married, they are not in love with each other? That his mother has no desire whatsoever to spend time alone with his father?’

Bella winced. When he put it like that…!

They had spent the last few weeks, individually and together, convincing Toby that they were all going to be happy as a real family. Obviously they had succeeded as far as Toby was concerned, which was why he had decided his parents going away on honeymoon together was what a ‘real family’ did…

‘I don’t have any other clothes with me—’

‘Claudia was kind enough to pack a suitcase for you,’ Gabriel explained. ‘It is in the trunk of the car with my own.’

Well, that explained the mischievous glint Bella had seen in Claudia’s eyes earlier as her sister had stood with the other wedding guests outside the hotel to wave them off!

‘Toby also arranged to stay with your parents for the week we are away,’ Gabriel supplied. ‘With my father remaining in England and visiting him often.’

‘He’s certainly been busy, hasn’t he?’ Bella sighed as she raised her hands to take the pins out of her hair and remove the veil, her head throbbing. ‘That’s better.’ She threw the veil onto the back seat before sitting back more comfortably.

This really had been the most difficult day of Bella’s life. Starting with the conversation her father had insisted on having with her early this morning…

He had been alone in the kitchen drinking coffee when Bella had come downstairs at six-thirty, his conversation light as she had made herself a cup of coffee. Once Bella had sat down at the kitchen table with him it had been a different matter, however.

He had gently voiced his own and her mother’s worries about the haste with which Bella and Gabriel were getting married. Was she doing the right thing? Was she really sure this was what she wanted? There was no doubting Toby’s excitement but was Bella going to be happy?

Lying to her father had possibly been the hardest thing Bella had ever done.

Even now, thinking of his gentle concern for her happiness, Bella could feel the tears prick her eyes. ‘So, where have you decided we’re going on our honeymoon?’ she asked Gabriel heavily.

Gabriel’s mouth tightened at the fatigue in Bella’s tone as she made no effort to hide the fact that today had been no more than a trial she’d had to get through.

She had looked stunningly beautiful as she had walked down the aisle towards him.

A vision in white satin and lace.

A vision in white satin and lace who had avoided so much as meeting his gaze. Whose voice had quivered with uncertainty as she made her vows, her hand trembling slightly as she allowed Gabriel to slide the thin gold wedding band in place. Her fingers had been cold as she’d placed the matching gold band Gabriel had insisted on upon his own finger, her mouth stiff and unresponsive as Gabriel kissed her to seal their vows. Although admittedly she had made an effort to smile and acknowledge their guests as they’d walked back down the aisle together as husband and wife.

Probably because looking and smiling at their guests was preferable to looking at him, Gabriel acknowledged grimly to himself.

‘We are flying to your island in the Caribbean,’ Gabriel told her.

‘Don’t you mean your island in the Caribbean?’ she corrected.

‘No, I mean yours,’ Gabriel said. ‘It is my wedding gift to you.’ He hadn’t meant to tell her that quite so abruptly; had intended surprising her with his gift once they arrived at their destination. He would have stuck to that plan, too, if he weren’t feeling quite so frustrated with her distant behaviour.

Bella was absolutely stunned as she stared at Gabriel in complete disbelief. Gabriel was giving her a whole island in the Caribbean as a wedding present?

His mouth quirked as he obviously read some of her incredulity. ‘Do not look so concerned, Isabella. It is only a small island.’

‘Isn’t even a small island a little overkill when I only gave you a pair of cufflinks?’A frown marred her brow.

Bella had only bought the cufflinks at the last moment because Claudia, as Chief Bridesmaid, said she had to; until then Bella hadn’t even thought of giving Gabriel a gift to mark their marriage. What could she possibly give to the man who had everything?

Although Bella had noted, as they stood together in the church, that Gabriel was wearing the diamond and onyx links in the cuffs of the pristine white shirt he wore beneath the dark grey frock coat…

‘You have given me so much more than that, Isabella,’ Gabriel assured her huskily.

She looked at him warily, but she was unable to read anything from his expression. ‘I don’t know what you mean,’ she finally murmured uncertainly.

‘I am talking of Toby, Isabella. You have given me a son,’ he explained evenly.

A man who had everything—except that…

‘Wow, a wedding ring and an island in the Caribbean,’ she mocked. ‘What would you have given me if I had only produced a daughter? A monthly allowance and visiting rights, perhaps?’

‘No, I would have given you a wedding ring and an island in the Caribbean!’ A nerve pulsed in Gabriel’s cheek as he answered her. ‘I would value a daughter no less than a son, Isabella, and I have no idea why you would ever think that I might. Or why it is you take such delight in insulting me!’

Why did Bella take delight in insulting him?

Because she was angry with him. Because she was angry with herself. Because she was just plain angry!

She was angry with Gabriel for forcing her into this marriage.

She was angry with herself for allowing him to do so.

She was angry because a part of her had thrilled at the sight of Gabriel as he’d stood down the aisle waiting for her, looking so devastatingly handsome in the dark frock coat and white shirt and red bow tie. She was angry because her voice had quivered with emotion as she had made her vows to him and because her hand had trembled at his slightest touch as he’d placed his wedding ring upon her finger.

Bella was angry for all of those reasons and more!

‘I’m sorry,’ she sighed wearily. ‘It’s been a long and—and difficult day.’

‘For both of us,’ Gabriel pointed out.

‘Yes.’ Bella turned her head to look at him.

Gabriel looked as strained as she felt, Bella acknowledged ruefully, lines beside his eyes and the grimness of his mouth, his skin slightly pale beneath his naturally olive complexion.

How different this could all have been if Gabriel hadn’t been in love with another woman five years ago. How different today could have been if the two of them had married because they were in love with each other now.

Instead they were two strangers who had married to protect and sustain their young son’s happiness.

Bella swallowed hard. ‘I think, if you don’t mind, that I would like to just sit here quietly for a while.’ She closed her eyes.

Gabriel did mind. If Bella thought the last five weeks had been any less of a strain for him, then she was mistaken.

In company, Bella had managed, as agreed, to maintain an air of tranquil happiness, but once they were alone it had been a totally different matter. She had shown a total lack of interest whenever he had tried to discuss the wedding arrangements with her. Had been uncommunicative on the three Sunday mornings they had attended church together in order to hear the reading of their Banns.

Worst of all, once they were alone, Bella had avoided so much as touching him…

If Bella wished to punish him for forcing this marriage on her then she could not have chosen a better way to do it than with her icy silence and her obvious aversion to his lightest touch!

‘You and your father certainly know how to travel in style,’ Bella commented lightly as she sat across the table from Gabriel in the luxurious cabin of the Danti jet, only now beginning to appreciate the wealth and power behind the Danti name.

Well…apart from earlier when Gabriel had informed her he had given her an island in the Caribbean as a wedding gift!

Bella shied away from even thinking about what she was going to do with an island in the Caribbean and instead turned her attention back to her present surroundings.

The Danti-owned jet was the height of luxury, only six ultra-comfortable seats in the spacious and carpeted main cabin, with a bar at the cockpit end, and a door to another private compartment at the other.

Gabriel had given instructions to the captain to take off as soon as they were on board and their luggage had been stowed in the cabin at the back of the plane. A male steward had then placed two long-stemmed fluted glasses on the glass table in front of them before pouring the bubbly champagne, leaving the bottle cooling in a bucket of ice beside Gabriel and then disappearing back into the galley behind the bar and closing the door discreetly behind him.

Bella had totally avoided even looking at her own glass of champagne as it reminded her all too forcibly of that night with Gabriel five years ago. The last thing she needed to think about at the moment was that!

Gabriel nodded now. ‘As you and Toby will also do now that you are Dantis.’

The sinking feeling in Bella’s stomach owed nothing to air-sickness and everything to the realisation that that was who she really was now.

Isabella Danti. Wife of Gabriel.

‘No doubt Toby will be impressed,’ she answered.

‘But not you?’

Bella was more nervous than impressed. Nervous of being really alone with Gabriel for the first time in five weeks. A quivering wreck just at the thought of spending a week alone with him on her Caribbean island.

She shook her head. ‘I’m not four years old, Gabriel.’

‘No, you are not, are you?’

Bella shot Gabriel a swift glance, not in the least reassured by the intensity of his chocolate-brown eyes as his gaze met hers and held it captive.

She physically had to turn her head away to break that gaze before she could stand up abruptly. ‘I—I think I would like to go into the other room and take off this wedding gown.’

‘An excellent idea, Isabella,’Gabriel murmured huskily.

Bella frowned up at him as he rose slowly to his feet, his height and the width of his shoulders at once dominating the cabin. ‘I think I’m quite capable of changing my clothes on my own, thank you,’ she told him sharply.

Gabriel gave a mocking inclination of his head. ‘I thought you might need some help with the zip at the back of your gown.’

Good point, Bella realised. The wedding gown was medieval in style, with long, close-fitting lace sleeves that tapered to a point at her wrist, their snug fit making it impossible for Bella to reach the zip that ran the whole length of her spine without risking ripping the sleeves at the seams. It hadn’t been a problem earlier today, because Claudia had helped her to dress, but Bella couldn’t say she was exactly comfortable now with the thought of Gabriel helping her to undress…

Comfortable? The thought of Gabriel touching her at all was enough to send her already fractured nerves into a complete tailspin!

She was never going to wear this gown again anyway, so what did it matter if she did rip the sleeves?

‘I’m sure I can manage, thank you,’ she replied distantly as she turned away.

‘I need to change into less formal clothing, too,’Gabriel insisted quietly as he reached the door to the back compartment before Bella and held it open for her to enter.

Bella looked up at him uncertainly, knowing by the hard challenge she could see in his eyes that Gabriel expected to continue—and that he was actually enjoying!—arguing with her. On the basis that some sort of response from her was better than none, perhaps? Probably, Bella acknowledged wryly, even as she experienced a perverse desire not to give him that satisfaction.

‘Fine,’ she accepted airily before striding past him into the cabin at the back of the plane.

Only to come to an abrupt halt as she found herself, not in another sitting-room as she had supposed, but in a room totally dominated by the king-size bed in its centre!

Gabriel’s eyes darkened with amusement when he saw Bella’s stunned expression as she took in the luxuriously appointed bedroom with its fitted wardrobes, gold thick-piled carpet, and the deep gold and cream silk linen that covered the bed, several throw cushions of the same rich material against the sumptuous pillows.

Unfortunately Bella didn’t stay stunned for very long as she turned to look up at him accusingly. ‘I hope you don’t have any ideas about adding my name to the list of women you’ve no doubt seduced in here!’ she snapped.

Gabriel’s humour faded at the deliberate insult. ‘You have the tongue of a viper!’

She raised mocking brows. ‘It’s a little late for second thoughts, don’t you think, Gabriel? We were married earlier today, remember?’

‘Oh, I remember, Isabella,’ he rasped harshly. ‘Perhaps it is time that I reminded you of that fact also!’ He closed the door gently behind him.

Bella took a step back as she obviously read the intent in his eyes. ‘I meant what I said, Gabriel—I am not about to become another notch on your mile-high bedpost!’

Gabriel’s jaw clenched as he took that same step forward. ‘I meant what I said five weeks ago, too, concerning the right to change your mind about our marriage being in name only!’

Her eyes widened in alarm. ‘Not here!’

‘Wherever and whenever,’ he promised.

She backed away from him. ‘I told you I will not become another notch—’

‘If you look at the bed again, Isabella, you will see that there is no bedpost.’ Gabriel’s voice was dangerously soft. ‘And we are at least three miles high.’

‘Your three-mile-high club, then,’ she persisted as she faced him bravely, only the uncertainty Gabriel could read in her eyes telling him of the nervousness Bella was trying so desperately to hide.

Gabriel took another step forward, standing only inches away from Bella now, and able to see the nerve pulsing at the base of her throat and the slight trembling of her lips.

Full pouting lips that were slightly parted, that perfect bow of a top lip a temptation, the bottom one becoming a lure as the tip of Bella’s tongue moved moistly between them.

An invitation, whether Bella meant it to be so, that Gabriel had no intention of resisting!

‘Turn around, Isabella, so that I can unzip your gown,’ he suggested gruffly.

She swallowed hard. ‘I don’t—’ She broke off with a gasp as Gabriel ignored her protest and stepped behind her. She felt the touch of his fingers as he slowly began to slide the zip down.

Bella’s second protest went unspoken, her back arching involuntarily as she felt the delicious ripples of awareness through her whole body as that zip slowly—so very slowly—moved down the length of her spine, her breath catching in her throat as Gabriel parted the satin material and she felt the warm caress of his lips against the bareness of her shoulder.

Desire. She instantly felt a hot, burning desire that ripped through her body at the first touch of Gabriel’s mouth against her heated flesh, the moist rasp of his tongue as he licked and tasted her only intensifying that burning heat.

Much as she denied it, much as she fought against it, Bella knew she wanted him.

Wanted Gabriel passionately.

Knew that she had been fighting that want, that need, for the last five weeks, afraid to even touch him in case she revealed that ever-escalating desire. With the result that each minute she spent in his company had been torture, and full of an aching desire that had always seemed only seconds away from release.

It was a passion that Bella had only been able to keep in check by presenting Gabriel with a veneer of icy coldness. An icy veneer that had melted with the force of an avalanche the moment his mouth touched her naked flesh!

Her neck arched, her head resting back against Gabriel’s shoulder as his hands slid inside the unzipped gown to move about her waist and then higher as he cupped the nakedness of her breasts beneath the satin gown, her own hands moving up to rest on top of his as she pressed him into her, wanting his caresses.

She cried out, desire surging between her thighs as Gabriel’s thumbs moved across her turgid nipples, her body taut with expectation, not able to breathe as she waited for the second caress, gasping, almost sobbing as Gabriel’s lips moved heatedly, moistly against her throat as he took those throbbing peaks between his thumbs and fingers and squeezed rhythmically.

‘Gabriel?’ Bella groaned as her bottom moved against the hardness of his arousal. ‘Gabriel, please…!’

‘Not yet, Bella,’ Gabriel refused huskily even though his own body throbbed with that same need for release.

They had a long flight ahead of them, hours and hours before they reached their destination, and before that happened Gabriel intended to discover and fulfil every one of Bella’s fantasies, as he hoped that she would fulfil every one of his.

Stripping the white satin wedding gown from Bella’s body was only the first of the fantasies that had kept him awake night after night for the last five weeks!

Gabriel heard her moan of protest as he slowly moved his hands from inside her gown, her breath catching in her throat seconds later as she realised he had only done so in order to slide the gown from her shoulders and down her arms before he bared her to the waist and then slowly allowed the gown to pool on the floor at her feet.

Bella’s eyes were closed and Gabriel stared down at how beautiful she looked in only a pair of brief white lace panties and white stockings.

Her throat was exposed, her lips slightly parted and moist, her lids half closing over eyes of deep purple as Gabriel’s arms moved about her and his hands once again cupped her breasts before his thumbs moved to caress the deep rose nipples.

‘Yes!’ she exclaimed. ‘Oh, God, yes, Gabriel…!’

Gabriel pulled her back against him so his lips could roam freely, erotically up the length of her throat to the sensitivity of her ear lobe, his teeth nibbling on that lobe even as one hand continued to caress the firmness of a perfect nipple and his other hand moved lower still.

Bella’s skin felt like velvet as his fingers splayed across the bare expanse of her waist and down over the jut of her hip. Gabriel opened his eyes to look down to where his hand cupped and teased her breast, his own skin so much darker than the creamy magnolia of hers.

His teeth bit the softness of her ear lobe even as his gaze moved lower to where his fingers quested beneath the silk of her panties to the dark curls he could see clearly through the sheerness of the material, parting the dampness of those curls and seeking the sensitive nub nestled amongst their darkness. Seeking and finding as his fingers began to stroke her there.

She was so hot and slick, her sensitive folds swollen with need, a need Gabriel intended building until Bella cried out, begged for him to give her the climax her body craved.

Bella moaned low in her throat as she felt the brush of Gabriel’s fingers against her, her legs parting to allow him greater access, an invitation he accepted as he plunged one long, satisfying finger deep inside her, followed by another as his thumb continued to stroke against her swollen nub and his other hand squeezed and caressed her breast in the same mind-blowing rhythm.

Again and again.

Those caresses becoming fiercer. Deeper. Faster.

The heat rose unbearably, building, growing ever stronger as Bella’s hips moved to meet the deep thrust of Gabriel’s fingers inside her.

‘Don’t stop, Gabriel!’ she gasped breathlessly. ‘Please don’t stop!’

‘Let go, Bella!’ he groaned hoarsely against her throat. ‘Give yourself, cara!’

‘Yes…’ she breathed raggedly. ‘Oh, yes! Oh, God, yes…!’ Bella gasped and writhed against Gabriel’s hand as her climax surged out of control and wave after wave of burning, shattering pleasure rippled through her.

Gabriel held her captive as his fingers continued to pleasure her, Bella climaxing again and again, her body quivering and shaking at Gabriel’s slightest touch.

‘No more, Gabriel!’ she finally sobbed as she collapsed weakly in his arms.

.

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