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Ache for You (Slow Burn #3)
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In this fairy tale with a sexy twist, she’s a penniless San Francisco seamstress. He’s the king of Italian couture. Who’s got designs on whom?
Boutique owner Kimber DiSanto has seen better days. She’s been dumped at the altar by Prince Charmless, her business went up in flames (literally), and now she’s stuck in Florence, Italy, with an ice-queen stepmother, to try to save her late father’s failing dress shop. Only one thing could make it worse: another man in her life. The arrogant Italian fashion tycoon offering to buy her father’s shop is as rich as he is sexy, and their attraction is off the charts. But Kimber’s not about to get burned again.
Women don’t say no to Matteo Moretti—and certainly not with Kimber’s stinging precision. With all the heat and fury sparking between them, Matteo can’t resist baiting the gorgeous American. His plan? Win her over one scorching kiss at a time.
Kimber tells herself it’s all just a game. That her broken heart isn’t in danger, and that Matteo’s touch does not make her Lady Land dance with joy. But sometimes it takes the fieriest of enemies to turn a fantasy into a real-life romance.
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No matter how plump, plain, or poor a woman is, the right wedding gown will make her feel more beautiful than any fairy-tale princess.
Right about now, I’m thinking Cinderella can kiss my beautiful ass.
My heart pounding, I step out from behind the dressing room door in an extravagant cloud of silk and lace that took me three months to make, and wait for Jenner’s reaction.
It’s even better than I hoped.
“Winston Churchill’s hairy balls!”
He jolts to his feet from the ugly chintz divan he’s been lounging on while I’ve been getting ready for the ceremony. Sleek as a seal in his perfectly tailored Armani tuxedo, he looks me up and down slowly. “You’re an angel! A vision! A fucking goddess!”
That makes me blush. I take compliments about as comfortably as enemas. “Thank you.”
Pursing his lips, he frowns and folds his arms over his chest. “Would it be very wrong if I got an erection? Things are getting a bit heavy downstairs.”
Delighted, I laugh. “You always were a slut for French lace.”
He waves a hand in the air, imperious as the queen. “Twirl, darling. We need to see this dress in action.”
I pick up the hem of my dress and spin around in a ballerina’s twirl. My veil floats around my shoulders like the finest of halos, spun from pure clouds. When I stop and face Jenner again, he’s pretending to be misty-eyed, covering his mouth with a fist.
“My little girl’s all grown-up.”
I sigh, looking at the ceiling. “Oh my God. You’re one month older than me.”
“I’m being metaphorical!” Hands out, he strides toward me with his elegant gait and takes me in his arms, careful not to wrinkle my dress or smudge my makeup when he kisses my cheeks. “Now, I admit I didn’t always have faith that Brad would marry you—”
“You literally told me, and I quote, ‘That shitstick will never marry you.’”
He groans. “Mary Poppins, you’ve got a memory like an elephant! As I was saying, I didn’t always have faith, but I’m so happy to be proven wrong. For your sake.”
He pulls away and grasps me gently by my shoulders. Because he gets twitchy when things aren’t just so, he tucks a rogue curl that’s escaped from its updo behind my ear. When his voice hardens, his British accent becomes even more clipped. “But if he does a single thing that makes you unhappy, if he so much as makes you frown, I’ll neuter that shitstick with a rusty butter knife.”
Gazing at Jenner’s stern face, I smile. I say softly, “I love you, too.”
“You’re disgustingly sentimental.”
He says that dismissively, but I see how his lower lip quivers. “I’m gonna throw that right back at you when you’re weeping into your hankie as I take my vows, girlfriend.”
He’s quiet for a moment, thinking, then he starts to fiddle with the edge of my veil. “Any last-minute jitters?”
I’ve been waiting for this moment for three years. Since the second I laid eyes on Bradley Hamilton Wingate III, I’ve been madly in love with him. This is the happiest day of my life. The only thing that would make it more perfect is if my father were walking me down the aisle, but since his intense claustrophobia makes a transatlantic flight impossible, my handsome, elegant Jenner will do the job almost as well.
Still thoughtfully toying with my veil, Jenner says, “I’ve got the Jag right outside, you know. We could be in wine country getting massages and ogling the pool boys at Meadowood in under two hours.”
I glare at him. “I know Brad’s not your favorite person, but if you ruin my wedding day by talking shit about my husband, I’ll light your collection of vintage Gucci scarves on fire.”
He quirks his mouth into a wry pucker. “Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Bridezilla. My lips are henceforth sealed.” He pretends to turn a lock and throw away the key, then pauses. “But I want to be on the record as saying that you could do so much better—”
He takes in my clenched jaw and fists, my bulging eyes. “You’re right,” he says softly. “My bad. I just want what’s best for you, that’s all.”
He leaves unspoken all the times I cried on his shoulder after one of my fights with Brad about how emotionally unavailable he was, all the teary phone calls when I agonized over why he wouldn’t commit and get me a ring, all the soul-searching over mimosas about what I might be lacking.
But all that’s over now. We were just going through what we needed to go through to get to our happily ever after, where we were supposed to be all along.
Everything will be different once we’re married.
I’m just about to tell Jenner that when the wedding coordinator bursts into the room in a flurry of flailing hands and breathless gasps, her dark hair frizzing in the August humidity.