The Marriage Merger
Marriage to a Billionaire - 4
I’m a mom first, a writer second. Thanks to my own special mommy support group, who I’ve known since pre-K days, and who have entertained me at play-dates, parties, birthdays, and school trips while our children played together: Danielle Nelson, Patti Turner, Susan Hansen, and Amanda Winters.
And, as always, to my family, my own True North.
It was official.
She was a failure.
Julietta Conte stared sightlessly at the buttercream-colored wall of her home. Funny, she’d never taken the time to put any paintings or photos up. Unmarred by any marks or holes by numerous nails, the clean lines usually soothed her. reminded her of the orderly, controlled life-style she proudly led. Tonight, the pristine perfection of that wall only made her feel empty. Like an imposter. or a ghost.
A funny sound escaped her lips. She had lost the biggest deal her family bakery had ever been offered, but losing her mind was not a possibility at this point. A month of research, endless paperwork, little sleep, and various social outings had yielded rejection by the esteemed Palazzo Hotel. She’d been so sure of success. Instead, she was left with nothing but the image of confessing her failure to her team in the morning.
Tugging her cocoa silk robe tighter around her, she crossed the lush carpet over to her trendy kitchen and poured herself a glass of Bolla. Low voices on the television chattered behind her, but the stark silence of her home screamed.
What was wrong with her tonight? She’d lost deals be-fore. rarely did she allow herself to stumble on her failures—she’d learned to toughen up and head toward the next beacon of profit. It wasn’t like La Dolce Famiglia was in any financial trouble. This wasn’t life or death. yet, the lure of making her mark on the business world and in her family was the only thing she had left to give. And now, she couldn’t even accomplish that.
A demanding buzz rose to her ears. Julietta scooped up her phone and glanced at the text. Her sister. Again. Was this the third or fourth text tonight?
Did you do it?
Impatience nipped at her nerves. Her youngest sibling was happily married to her longtime crush and insisted a ridiculous love spell had brought the whole thing together.
If only. How much easier would life be if you just made a list of all the qualities needed in a man, burned it in a fire to earth Mother, and sat back and waited? of course, Julietta gently tried to explain, it probably wasn’t the book but the simple fact they were meant to be together. Carina refused to believe it.
So Carina had pressed the violet fabric book into Julietta’s hands during her last visit and made her swear on their sisterhood she’d try the spell. Carina believed if Julietta cast this silly love spell, Mr. right would show up at her door and change her life. After an hour of being verbally abused regarding her inability to see past her spreadsheets toward the future, Julietta agreed, certain her sister would forget the ridiculous conversation and move on.
Two weeks now. Twenty texts. A dozen phone calls. And no end in sight to forgetfulness.
Her fingers punched out two letters.
The crisp fruity taste of the wine danced in her mouth.
opening the refrigerator, she grabbed a handful of grapes and made her way back to the living room to stew. Why didn’t anyone understand or accept that a single woman could be happy? And she was happy. Damn happy. ever since that ridiculous purple fabric book bullied its way into her place she’d been tortured nonstop. Carina swore the spell had worked with both Alexa and Maggie to match them with their soul mates.
A massive wave of hopelessness pressed down on her.
She fought sudden panic, dragged in a breath, and coldly analyzed the emotions. of course, she was a bit envious of her siblings. All of them had settled down into married bliss, chattering about families and get-togethers. She was looked upon as the single female who should entertain them with stories of love gone wrong and hot affairs burning up the sheets.
The flashing screen saver on her laptop advertising the logo of La Dolce Famiglia mocked her. Instead, Julietta spoke of figures and sales and the next deal to bring greatness to the family name. even Mama began to look at her with concern and perhaps a shred of pity.
She bit down hard on a grape. Tart juice exploded on her tongue. Merda. Who cared? Wasn’t this the time women did not need men? Sex was overrated and not something she was interested in anyway. Her inability to experience an orgasm or a deep connection with a man had frustrated her for years until she vowed to cut out that part of her life in order to keep her sanity. Her mind might have craved physical intimacy, but her body was steeped in ice. After many failed attempts to feel something—anything—from the opposite sex, she stopped whining and started living.
Her sleek, trendy space bespoke her wealth, taste, and success. Though her sisters preferred warm Tuscan furnish-ings, Julietta favored clean modern lines with a ruthless efficiency that appealed to her sense of order. Bright white paint set off the edgy black and glass tables, bone loveseats, and plum cushions under sky-high ceilings. The huge windows allowed light to flood the rooms in the daytime and offered spectacular views of a lit-up Milan at night. Her kitchen consisted of red leather bar stools and black granite counter tops. No need for a massive table since she always ate alone. If there was a new gadget out, she bought it. The place was wired with the latest in all technology, from her various computers and lightning Internet access to a theater-version television, and sound systems that piped music into every room.
She may not own her sister Venezia’s flair for fashion drama, but her tailored suits were always designer and beauti fully cut. She appreciated well-made clothes and lavished her girly side with a walk-in closet full of leather, suede, silk, and satin. She could have easily bought a mansion on her salary, but she preferred her luxury apartment in the middle of Milan—close to work, people, and activity. Too much silence in the mountains might make her go insane.
She chewed on more grapes as her phone vibrated again.
What are you afraid of?
Julietta grabbed the phone and did the unthinkable: hit the power button and punished her sister in the only way possible—forcing her into a void of silence.
She feared nothing except failure. Fortunately, she’d learned that hard work and ruthless control led to success.
The only thing she’d been unable to change was her body, so she’d done the next best thing. Accepted it and moved on. Now a few texts from her sister rattled her like chattering teeth on a bony skeleton.
Her gaze swung around and settled on the book. The fabric cover seemed to pulse, somehow demanding, almost begging her to cross the room. She’d shoved it on the shelf next to the biographies she favored, but the odd violet color refused to blend with the other spines. Maybe she’d glance through the book and tell Carina she did the spell. Then they could move on and get over this ridiculous subject.
She placed her wineglass on a coaster, walked to the shelf, and plucked the book from the row. The small, square book seemed innocuous enough. The Book of Spells. Hmm, no author noted. As she flipped through the worn, delicate pages, no witches’ smoke puffed out. The room didn’t shake, and no cold wind blew through the space.
Julietta settled back against the cushions. Strange, just one love spell made up the entire book: Make a list of all the qualities needed in a soul mate. That certainly didn’t promise marriage or happily ever after. Place a copy of the list under her mattress. Burn the original list in a fire. Chant something silly to the entity of earth Mother. Finito.
Julietta shook her head, and with a muttered curse, she grabbed the ledger pad she always left next to her laptop.
The dark ink bled on the stark white pages as she scribbled furiously, refusing to linger. No pondering or analyzing this time. Just an emotional dump she rarely allowed herself, a list of everything she always wanted in a mate and knew was impossible to achieve.
Julietta didn’t read it over. She folded both papers into four quarters and placed one under her mattress. Then she trudged to the kitchen. Whipped out a stainless steel bowl, grabbed a match from the drawer, and lit the paper.
The edges blackened and curled. She fanned her smoke detector and watched the list disappear. Her lips formed the silly chant to earth Mother, and her cheeks burned in humiliation at the act. She was going to kill her sister for making her an idiot, but at least she’d kept her vow. A few deep breaths and nothing was left in the bowl except for scattered ashes.
An odd sense of doom came over her. Her heart skit-tered. Why had she written such a list? She should’ve stuck to clear, cold qualities in a mate rather than the stark need pulsing from every word on that paper.
Didn’t matter. No one would know or suspect. And since earth Mother wasn’t talking, Julietta was safe.
She grabbed her phone, punched the power button, and hammered out her message.
It’s done. Now leave me alone.
A second passed. A smiley face popped up on the screen.