Home > Half Empty (First Wives #2)(3)

Half Empty (First Wives #2)(3)
Author: Catherine Bybee

She leaned back. “I’ve only studied Italian for six months.”

He stopped rowing briefly. “Again, I’m impressed.”

His shameless flirting brought a lightness to the inside of her chest. She didn’t take him seriously. Not completely, in any event. The flirtation had to be limited in light of the fact that she needed to make an effort to leave Venice in a few days. Even if she had to switch planes in Paris, and perhaps end up delayed there for a few days, or a week. She had half a chance of convincing the First Wives that she was sincere in her struggle to get home, even though she’d be channeling Pinocchio while she smiled.

“What are you thinking of, Bella?”

“That my trip here is coming to an end.”

He grunted, and she looked over her shoulder.

His bottom lip was pushed out in a childish pout.

Trina rolled her eyes.

“We just met, surely you can stay a little longer,” Dante pleaded.

She shrugged, looked forward again. “We’ll see.”

“These words I can work with.” And with that, Dante started to sing.

Halfway through his song, the wind kicked up, and the sky above them started to darken.

“It appears that we must cut this short,” he said as he pushed the gondola toward the nearest dock. Luckily for him, the docks were on every corner.

A boom of thunder brought her attention to the change in Dante’s smile.

He secured the gondola to the dock with a single rope and used his weight to hold the rocking vessel steady while helping her onto dry land.

Lightning flashed, and the thunder rolled quickly behind.

Dante scrambled over his boat to cover the seats with a fitted tarp. He was halfway through when the rain started to pelt down.

Trina wanted to help but knew she’d just be in the way.

Instead, she stood in the warm Venezia thunderstorm and proceeded to get soaked. There was something cathartic about purposely standing in the rain and letting the water run down her hair. Standing there with someone, even a someone she didn’t really know, was better than being there alone.

The second Dante finished covering the gondola, he jumped to her side, grasped her shoulders, and rushed them down a small alley that opened into a plaza. As in most of the squares in Venezia, there was a church with a large overhang to protect them from the rain.

Not that it mattered—they were both dripping in the shadow of the building.

Thunder ripped through again and the rain flew at them sideways.

They both moved as close as they could to the door, and still the rain managed to reach their feet.

Looking down at her soaked shirt and cotton shorts, Trina started to laugh.

Soon Dante joined her.

“This is nuts,” she said in English.

“It can last for hours or minutes,” he told her.

She poked her head out from under the eaves and looked at the gray sky.

“I think we’re somewhere in between.” When she looked at Dante again, he was standing closer. He reached out and pushed a wet strand of hair from her face.

Kiss one for me. Avery’s voice buzzed like an annoying fly in her head.

“You are so very beautiful.”

“And you’re a player.”

“Guilty,” he said as he stepped closer.

Just one kiss. It wouldn’t kill ya!

“Shut up, Avery,” Trina whispered in English.

Dante licked his lips. “Talking yourself out of my attention, or into my affections?”

She shivered, knowing before he leaned in that she would not have to lie to her best friend.

He moved slowly, giving her time to back away.

Trina didn’t.

And when Dante kissed her, she forced her eyes to close and her head to tilt back.

It was nice . . . okay, maybe a bit more than just nice. It had been so long since she’d kissed anyone, she thought maybe she’d forgotten how.

Dante, on the other hand, knew exactly how to kiss.

When his hand reached around her waist, and he pulled her into his arms, Trina panicked.

“Bella. You’re so lovely,” he said again, his lips set close to her ear. “We could make beautiful love.”

Yeah, that wasn’t gonna happen.

She put a hand on his chest. “I don’t think . . .”

“No one needs to know. Just you, and me. I won’t tell your husband and you won’t tell my wife.”

Trina froze, her gaze moving to the hand she had on his chest.

Fedor’s ring stared her in the eye.

She pushed. “I’m not.” Oh, God. “But you are? You’re married?”

Dante didn’t stop smiling. “Don’t deny. It’s okay. I don’t care.”

Trina ducked out from under his arm and into the pouring rain.

Only then did Dante’s grin fall.

“I’m not married, asshole!” she said in English. And because it sounded even harsher in Russian, she tossed that language at him, too.

“My condolences to your wife,” she yelled before running to the closest exit from the square.

He didn’t chase. Then again, he wouldn’t have to, since he knew where her hotel was.

For twenty minutes, she zigzagged through the never-ending maze of streets until she found a familiar path.

She wiped her lips with the back of her hand and cussed all the way back to the hotel.

Chapter Three

She lugged her overstuffed suitcase down two flights of stairs since the small hotel didn’t have an elevator.

“Mrs. Petrov . . . you’re leaving us?”

“I am. I’m going to need a water taxi to the airport.”

“You’re booked through the end of the week.”

She eyed the door. “Change of plans,” she said in English before switching to Italian.

The older man typed a few things into his computer before pulling up an invoice for her to sign. When she did, she once again caught Fedor’s ring out of the corner of her eye.

This is ridiculous.

“Shall I call for a taxi now?”

Her gaze fell on her suitcase, then the ring.

She held up a hand. “Hold off. I need to do something first.”

“Oh . . .”

“Watch my suitcase. I’ll be back.”

She didn’t run, but it was one of the fastest determined walks she’d done since her days as a flight attendant when she was late for work.

Luciano’s was only an hour into their day, and only one table was occupied.

“You’re early today,” Luciano greeted her, a kiss to each cheek.

“I’m not staying.”

Luciano looked disappointed.

“I’m actually on my way home.”

“You’re leaving Venezia?”

“I am.”

He kissed her cheek again. “It saddens my heart, even though I knew your time here wouldn’t last forever.”

“Thank you, Luciano. You’ve been one of the best parts about my visit.”

“Will you return?”

“I’m sure I will. This will be one of the first places I find when I do.” Trina looked over his shoulder. “Is Marco here?”

“Of course.”

Luciano yelled out his son’s name, and the younger man stepped out from the back of the restaurant, placing a long apron around his waist.

“Ms. Trina is leaving us,” Luciano announced.

“I wanted to say goodbye.”

“We will miss you,” Marco said.

Trina hugged Luciano first, and then turned to his son.

After she hugged the younger man, she pulled away and captured his hands in hers. “Follow the dream, Marco . . . and the money will come. If you love her, don’t let her go.”

He smiled.

She patted his hands, knew he felt that she’d slipped something in his, and squeezed.

“Ciao,” she said to both of them as she left the restaurant nearly as quickly as she’d run in.

Behind her, they called her name.

Trina started to run.

An hour later, as she sat in the airport lounge, she looked at her naked hand and released a long-suffering breath.

I’m at the airport. Trina texted Avery instead of calling.

It had taken two hours, but she’d managed to grab a standby seat en route to Paris. As Trina had planned, a storm was descending upon that part of France, and the chances of planes being grounded were actually quite high.

Having been a flight attendant for most of her young adult life, she knew which regions to avoid to minimize nasty weather and delays. Now she used that knowledge to do the exact opposite. London was known to have fog all times of the year, but summer storms were a much more likely issue in the southern regions.

If the rain over France didn’t delay her, she’d find her way to Florida, where a tropical depression would. No matter how you spun the wheel, she’d end up arriving in Texas after the weekend she was supposed to see her friends. She didn’t want to face them.

More importantly, she wanted to trudge through the anniversary of Fedor’s death by herself.

Their marriage had been on paper, something the First Wives would remind her of. But for some reason, Trina had grown to care for her late husband more since his passing than she had during their marriage. She’d stepped into his world as a hired bride. She was supposed to end their marriage after a year and a half and leave with five million dollars.

Only Fedor had eliminated the need for a divorce with the use of a gun.

His suicide had been in the papers for weeks.

Then, when his mother died of incurable cancer, the reason he’d wanted to marry in the first place, the papers had blown up.

Alice left her entire fortune to Trina, along with one-third say in the oil company she co-owned with her sisters, Diane and Andrea.

When all was said and done, Trina became one of the wealthiest women in the world, with well over $350 million in assets.

The fact that she was sitting between an overweight man and a teenage kid who smelled as if he’d been living in a hostel during his backpacking experience in Europe was quite ironic.

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