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Seducing His Shy Cinderella

Written by Michelle Smart

Chapter Seven

"I've told you, there’s nothing wrong.” How could she tell her own aunt that she’d behaved in such an out-of-character way with a man who’d behaved exactly in character?

Despite the twinkle he put in Serena’s eye, her aunt must have sensed something brewing between them, because she’d gently warned Jodie off Antonio at the start.

“He’s got an eye for the ladies,” she’d said. “He’s a gorgeous man and excellent company, but he only does short-term flings. I can’t see him ever settling down.”

So Jodie had kept her night with Antonio to herself. How could she admit that she’d ignored Serena’s warning? As far as her aunt knew, it was homesickness steering her towards England.

Blinking back hot tears that had suddenly welled, she whispered, “I think I’m just tired.”

Serena’s shrewd eyes didn’t leave her face. Then she gave a sharp nod and took the tray from Jodie’s hand. “We’re running low on red wine. Go to the cellar for some more and take the time to compose yourself. Okay?”

She nodded. “Thank you.”

Serena smiled gently. “The party will be over and Antonio will be gone before you know it.”

“What?”

Her aunt just smiled some more, sympathy radiating from her. “Go and get the wine.”

*

To reach the cellar meant going through the busy kitchen where chefs were working hard preparing and baking fresh canapés and bite-size desserts that would be taken out to the guests in around an hour. A batch of delicate choux that would soon be turned into éclairs was pulled out of one huge oven, the scent reminding Jodie she’d had only a croissant to eat that day.

Her normally healthy appetite for food had diminished over the last week.

Out of the kitchen, she walked another of the endless corridors, opened a small door and descended the steep, narrow stairs to the cellar, hitting the lights as she went. She could have taken the special elevator, but she hated going in the rickety thing. For all the money spent modernising this section of the castello, her suggestion that the cellar elevator be replaced had been met with stony silence. She guessed it would be different if it were family members or paying guests at risk of getting stuck in it rather than lowly members of the staff. She would wait until she had to go back up laden with bottles of wine before using it and keep her fingers crossed it didn’t break down while she was in it.

The cellar itself was actually a dozen interlinking rooms covering half thecastello floor space. Once it had been used for storing the wine in caskets before bottling, but nowadays that was done in the new state-of-the-art bottling facility closer to the vineyard. This cellar was now only used to store wine for the castello’s own use, not for resale. As a result, barely half of the dank rooms were used. It had its own special scent, though, a stale yet fruity tang she’d grown to like.

She didn’t like anything else about this underground cavern, but right then she considered it the lesser of two evils. Down here there was only her own overactive imagination to contend with. Upstairs…

Upstairs there was Antonio.

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About the author

My love affair with books began as a baby when, according to my mum, I...

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Michelle Smart

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