Inherited by Ferranti

By: Kate Hewitt


‘I’m only tired,’ she whispered. Marco beckoned her towards him and on shaking legs she came down the stairs and stood before him, trying not to tremble. Not to show her fear. It was one small act of defiance she’d nurtured for most of her life, because she knew it infuriated her father. He wanted his women to cower and cringe. And Sierra had done her fair share of both, to her shame, over the years. But when she had the strength to stand tall, to act cool and composed, she did. Cloaking herself in numbness had been a way of coping since she was small. She was glad of it now.

Marco cupped her cheek with one hand. His palm was warm and dry and even now the tender gesture sent sparks shooting through her belly, and her legs shook.

‘It’s not long now,’ he murmured, and his thumb brushed her lips. His expression was tender, but Sierra couldn’t trust it any more. ‘Are you nervous, little one?’

She was terrified. Wordlessly she shook her head. Marco chuckled, the sound indulgent, perhaps patronising. The assumptions she’d made about this man were proving to be just that: assumptions. She didn’t really know who he was, what he was capable of. He’d been kind to her, yes, but what if it had just been an act, just like her father’s kindness in public was? Marco smiled down at her, his dimple showing. ‘Are you certain about that, mi amore?’

Mi amore. My love. But Marco Ferranti didn’t love her. He’d never said he did, and she didn’t even want him to. Looking back, she could see how expedient their relationship had been. A family dinner that led to a walk in the gardens that led to a proper date that led to a proposal. It had been a systematic procedure orchestrated by this man—and her father. And she hadn’t realised, not completely. She’d thought she’d had some say in the proceedings, but now she wondered at how well she’d been manipulated. Used.

‘I’m all right, Marco.’ Her voice came out in a breathy whisper, and it took all the strength she possessed to step away from him so his hand dropped from her cheek. He frowned, and she wondered if he didn’t like her taking even that paltry amount of control. She’d let him dictate everything in the three months of their courtship, she realised now. When and where they went, what they talked about—everything had been decided by him. She’d been so desperate to get away, and she’d convinced herself he was a kind man.

‘One last kiss,’ Marco murmured and before Sierra could think to step farther away he was pulling her towards him, his hands sliding up to cup her face as his lips came down on hers. Hard and soft. Hot and cold. A thousand sensations shivered through her as her lips parted helplessly. Longing and joy. Fear and desire. All of the emotions tangled up together so she couldn’t tell them apart. Her hands fisted in his shirt and she stood on her tiptoes to bring his body closer to hers, unable to keep herself from it, not realising how revealing her response was until Marco chuckled and eased her away from him.

‘There will be plenty of time later,’ he promised her. ‘Tomorrow night.’

When they were wed. Sierra pressed her fingers to her lips and Marco smiled, satisfied by her obvious response.

‘Goodnight, Sierra,’ he said softly, and Sierra managed to choke out a response.

‘Goodnight.’ She turned and hurried up the stairs, not daring to look back, knowing Marco was watching her.

In the quiet darkness of the upstairs hallway she pressed a hand to her thundering heart. Hated herself, hated Marco, for they were both to blame. She never should have let this happen. She should have never thought she could escape.

Sierra hurried down the hallway to the far wing of the house, knocking softly on the door of her mother’s bedroom.

Violet Rocci opened the door a crack, her eyes wide with apprehension. She relaxed visibly when she saw it was Sierra, and opened the door wider to let her daughter in.

‘You shouldn’t be here.’

‘Papà’s downstairs.’

‘Even so.’ Violet clutched the folds of her silk dressing gown together, her face pale with worry and strain. Twenty years ago she’d been a beautiful young woman, a world-class pianist who played in London’s best concert halls, on the cusp of major fame. Then she’d married Arturo Rocci and virtually disappeared from the public, losing herself in the process.

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