Uncovering the Silveri Secret - By Melanie Milburne

IT WAS the first time Bella had been home since the funeral. Haverton Manor in February was like a winter wonderland, with a recent fall of snow clinging to the limbs of the ancient beech and elm trees that fringed the long driveway leading to the Georgian mansion. The rolling fields and woods beyond were shrouded in a thin blanket of white, and the lake shone like a sheet of glass in the distance as she brought her sports car to a stop in front of the formal knot garden. Fergus, her late father's Irish wolfhound, gingerly rose from his resting place in the sun and came over to greet her with a slow wag of his tail.

'Hiya, Fergs,' Bella said and gave his ears a gentle scratch. 'What are you doing out here all by yourself? Where's Edoardo?'

'I'm here.'

Bella swung round at the sound of that deep, rich, velvet-smooth voice, her heart giving a funny little jump in her chest as her eyes took in Edoardo Silveri's tall figure standing there. She hadn't seen him face-to-face for a couple of years, but he was just as arresting as ever. Not handsome in a classical sense; he had too many irregular features for that. His nose was slightly crooked from a fist fight, and one of his dark eyebrows had a scar through it, like a jagged pathway cut through a hedge, both hoofmarks of his troubled adolescence.

He was wearing sturdy work-boots, faded blue denim jeans and a thick black sweater that was pushed up to his elbows, showcasing his strong, muscular arms. His wavy, soot-black hair was brushed off his face, and dark stubble peppered his lean jaw, giving him an intensely masculine look that for some reason always made the back of her knees tingle. She took in a little jerky breath and met his startling blue-green eyes, almost putting her neck out to do it. 'Hard at work?' she said, adopting the aristocrat-to-servant tone she customarily used with him.


Bella couldn't quite stop her gaze drifting to his mouth. It was hard and tightly set, the deep grooves either side of it indicating it was more used to containing emotion than showing it. She had once come too close to those sensually sculptured lips. Only the once, but it was a memory she had desperately tried to erase ever since. But even now she could still recall the head-spinning taste of him: salt, mint and hot-blooded male. She had been kissed lots of times, too many times to recall each one, but she could recall Edoardo's in intimate, spine-tingling detail.

Was he remembering it too, how their mouths had slammed together in a scorching kiss that had left both of them breathless? How their tongues had snaked around each other and duelled and danced with earthy, brazen intent?

Bella tore her eyes away and glanced at the damp dirt on his hands from where he had been pulling at some weeds in one of the garden beds. 'What happened to the gardener?' she asked.

'He broke his arm a couple of weeks ago,' he said. 'I told you about it when I emailed you the share-update information.'

She frowned. 'Did you? I didn't see it. Are you sure you sent it to me?'

The right side of his top lip came up in a mocking tilt, the closest he ever got to a smile. 'Yes, Bella, I'm sure,' he said. 'Perhaps you missed it in amongst all the messages from your latest lover. Who is it this week? The guy with the failing restaurant, or is it still the banker's son?'

'It's neither,' she said with a lift of her chin. 'His name is Julian Bellamy and he's studying to be a minister.'

'Of politics?'

She gave him an imperious look. 'Of religion.'

He threw back his head and laughed. It wasn't quite the reaction Bella had been expecting. It annoyed her that he found her news so amusing. She wasn't used to him showing any emotion, much less amusement. He rarely smiled, apart from those mocking tilts of his mouth, and she couldn't remember the last time she had heard him laugh out loud. She found his reaction over the top and completely unnecessary. How dared he mock the man she had decided she was going to marry? Julian was everything Edoardo was not. He was sophisticated and cultured; he was polite and considerate; he saw the good in people, not the bad.

And he loved her, rather than hating her, as Edoardo did.