HUSBAND FOR A WEEK
by Mona Risk
HUSBAND FOR A WEEK © Mona Risk 2015
Jonathan Ramirez values his law practice and doesn’t believe in commitment, especially not to Isabella Cantari, a sassy young woman, who seems to attract trouble wherever she goes. Sicilian vendetta, fake husband, and an irascible matchmaking grandmother complicate Jonathan and Isabella’s lives. Can love conquer all?
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AN ARM WRAPPED AROUND ISABELLA’S WAIST and a gun barrel pressed against the sheer wrap covering her bikini.
Good God, a predator assaulting her in the garage of her luxury high rise? She’d always felt safe at the Blue Waves building where invisible surveillance cameras watched over the humongous parking lot sheltering hundreds of cars.
Where were the security guards? Couldn’t they see her? Help her?
Isabella squirmed and twisted to free herself from her assailant’s encircling arm.
To no avail.
“Walk straight, little Cantari. One wrong move and I shoot.” The heavy accent betrayed the man’s Italian origin and his breath reeked of onion. Her nose twitching at the repugnant smell, Isabella slowly turned her head to peer at the aggressor who knew her family name. A Sicilian, to be sure. Dark hair, dark skin and not much taller than her.
“Okay, amico, what do you want?” Was his presence related to the century-old vendetta that had followed her family from Sicily to Fort Lauderdale? Her brother, Dante, had recently received several letters and phone threats from the Ravenos. She’d heeded Dante’s warning and stopped swimming or jogging alone in the early morning.
“Quiet. Walk,” the man grumbled against her hair.
What did he want from her?
No way would she let him intimidate her. After all, Cantari blood ran in her veins. “Hey, you can’t shoot me. Residents and cars cross this garage all the time.”
With the hope that her words would prove true, she surveyed the area around her for a slowly rolling car. Unfortunately none were arriving or going out. She’d left her grandmother on the beach terrace to bring back their lunch, but the old lady wouldn’t be much help. Isabella would have to count on herself.
“Shut your mouth and move.” His gun dug deeper into her side. “We’re taking a ride in my car.”
As if she’d make the mistake of riding with him. If he knew her grandfather, or Dante, she’d show the bastard she was made of the same stuff. Her nonno had insisted Isabella learn self-defense and many more skills to attack a stalker if necessary.
Scowling at him, she bit her lip. Nonno’s voice echoed in her ear. Keep your calm, plot your move, and go for it. Without hesitation, she wriggled her shoulders. Her silk wrap slid down her arms.
“Please, poulheese, don’t kill me,” she whimpered and took a deep breath. Her chest puffed up.
The man peeked at her cleavage and gasped. His eyes widened. “Uh…” He licked his lips. “Move, I said.”
Inhaling and exhaling, she forced deep sobs out of her mouth and bounced her breasts in the process. With more fidgeting, her wrap fell down to her waist. A quick glance assured her that the material covered both the hand squeezing her stomach and that holding the gun.
“I’m too young to die,” she wailed and sobbed, jiggling her breasts right and left to keep his attention focused on her assets.
Boy, he focused all right, and seemed ready to lower his head and devour her. Without stopping the distracting bouncing, she jerked her leg back and kicked his ankle. In a brisk motion, she pulled her wrap open and let it fall off her body and onto his hands.
“Too young,” she mumbled as she propelled herself out of his grasp.
With a perfect karate move, she stretched her leg backward and connected it with his belly. Immediately, she followed with a punch to his eyes. Her excellent martial arts coach had taught her well.
The man doubled over in pain and dropped the gun. She picked it up and raced toward the door leading to the beach. While running, she caught a glimpse of her neighbors, Tom Dallen and his wife Julia, in a car not far from the door. Had they noticed anything?
“Careful,” she screamed. “There’s an armed man in the garage. Call the police.”
“Bitch. Wait,” her aggressor shouted. His fingers entangled in the soft material of her wrap, the man cursed and paused to free his hands.
Tough il mio amico. She didn’t stop or turn her head. In a few more steps she’d be safe. But she couldn’t stroll on the terrace with a gun in her hand and terrify the sunbathing neighbors.
She swiftly surveyed her bikini. Neither of the pieces offered much space to hide anything. On second thought, she slipped the Colt inside the bra material, squeezed it under her right breast, and folded her arm to cover the bikini bra. Nonno would be proud of her.
From the garage she stepped into the hall leading to the beach. With a sharp pull she opened the door to the terrace overlooking the beach and ran to the table and umbrella where her grandmother relaxed.
Nonna immediately propped up her lounge chair. “You took so long. Where’s our lunch? What happened, Bella?” In her late seventies, Regina Cantari was a remarkably beautiful woman, sociable and open minded. She took off her sunglasses to better peer at her granddaughter.
“A Sicilian jerk caught me. He had a gun in my side and tried to abduct me.”
“Madre di Dio, was it one of the Raveno brothers?”
“More like a hired hand. He wasn’t as tall as Lorenzo, or Franco, or Marco.”
“The devil takes these Ravenos.” How often had Isabella heard her grandmother say these words?
“Don’t worry, Nonna. I used our family’s famous karate move on the man and managed to disarm him. Tom and Julia Dallen saw me running and I yelled at them to call the police. Now I need a beer,” she mumbled after a deep sigh.
Isabella bent toward her large bag and retrieved her beach towel and the two cans of beer she’d brought to drink with their lunch. Several gulps restored her racing pulse to a normal speed.
“Much better.” She snapped open the other can and handed it to her grandmother. “Here, have a beer.”
More comfortable now, Isabella flung the towel over her shoulders and chest. Careful not to let her old companion or the dozing sunbathers notice, she withdrew the gun from its hiding niche and stowed it in her bag.
A hand on her heart, her grandmother took a few sips of her beer, and then set the can on the stone table and tapped a number on her cell phone. “Dante, one of the Raveno’s men tried to take your sister at gunpoint. Send us someone to protect her.”
“Nonna, what are you saying?” Isabella snatched the phone. “Dante, I’m fine. I tripped the guy and ran to the beach. I’ll be okay, don’t worry.”
“Good, but remember, no police. Bad publicity for my firm. Stay with Nonna on the terrace until I come,” Dante uttered with the same heavy voice he used to scare her into obedience when she was a little girl.
“Please, Bella. I have enough on my mind.”
“Sure.” Typical big brother’s act. He didn’t even let her explain that the police might already be involved. Would she ever grow up in his mind, be a sensible adult who could make correct decisions on her own?
She fluttered the towel on the lounge chair and sat comfortably to spray suntan lotion on her back and shoulders. “If I have to obediently wait for my big brother, I may as well enjoy the day.” She lay down in the sun and closed her eyes, determined to avoid a discussion about the past and the Sicilian vendetta.
“How are you doing, Mrs. Cantari?” The male voice startled Isabella.
The gorgeous Mexican-born attorney, Jonathan ‘Juan’ Ramirez who’d been working with her brother for two years, turned toward her. Isabella couldn’t suppress a happy smile. Jeez, he was getting more handsome every time she saw him, better looking than in her many fantasies.
“Jonathan, how come you’re here?”
A scowl gathered between his eyebrows and deep concern shadowed his hazel eyes. “Isabella, are you okay? I overheard Dante talking to you. I told him I would come and see you.”
He sat on a chair, facing her and her grandmother. It was one thing to distract an enemy with her skimpy bikini, and another to carry on a serious conversation with her brother’s friend. Maybe she should buy a one-piece bathing suit like the navy blue one Nonna wore, decent and covering all the round parts.
Although Jonathan seemed quite concerned about her well-being, she caught his gaze roaming over her chest and belly. Nothing left to the imagination with her tiny bathing suit. While using her wrap as a weapon, she’d abandoned the delicate fabric to her aggressor. She pulled a second towel from the back of the chair, and casually draped it over herself, holding both ends over her stomach, before launching into her story.
“We were here all morning. Then at noon, I left to bring our lunch boxes from the apartment. As I was crossing the garage, a Sicilian man pressed a gun in my side and tried to abduct me.”
Jonathan’s brows gathered in concern and his hands flew to her shoulders.
“Are you hurt?”
Delighted by his attentions, she lowered her eyelids. “Not really.”
Could she tell him to forget the garage episode and invite her for dinner?