Harlequin Presents #2425
Originally published: 10/01/04
Enrico DiRinaldi wants a wife and children, even though an accident has left him unable to walk. So he proposes a marriage of convenience to Gianna Lakewood. Having always longed for a baby herself — and having secretly loved Enrico since she was a teenager — Gianna can’t say no.
The passion Enrico ignites in his innocent bride leaves her breathless. But when she realises that his full recovery is imminent, and his beautiful ex-fiancée is waiting in the wings, Gianna is sure he won’t want her any more. So why is Enrico so intent on keeping his convenient wife by his side?
Originally published October 2004 in Harlequin Presents #2425 in mass market paperback.
Also available in Audio Book.
“Just when one thinks this author has written the best of her best heroes, she releases another story and we are proven wrong.”
—The Road to Romance
“A heartwarming book with two wonderful characters that have to battle personal demons and some tangible obstacles to find their happily ever after.”
—Romantic Times BookCLUB
“Ms. Monroe writes a compelling, sensitive story. Almost heartbreaking, but not entirely, as it surely left a smile on my face.”
“The Italian’s Suitable Wife is filled with vibrant, passionate characters.”
”Blue Ribbon Reviews
“I enjoyed this story from the first page until the last one. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Pick up a copy ofThe Italian’s Suitable Wife and enjoy.”
“Lucy Monroe’s trademark, deliciously sensual scenes—and especially those with an impotent Rico—will take your breath away! The Italian’s Suitable Wife is highly recommended!”
—The Romance Readers Connection
“Lucy Monroe is one of the best at writing the truly Alpha male hero. With a strong plot and compelling characters Ms Monroe is fast becoming one of my favorite Harlequin authors. The Italian’s Suitable Wife is sure to gain her even more loyal readers. Ms Monroe is defiantly a new author to watch.”
—A Romance Review
“Lucy Monroe, shows once again that she is an awesome talent and just gets better with each book. Enrico is very much the alpha male, who thinks that Gianna will be the “perfect” little wife, but he soon realizes he has so much more.”
—Barb Hicks, The Best Reviews
“THE ITALIAN’S SUITABLE WIFE has all the passion, love and unforgettable characters that Lucy Monroe is known for. This is an emotional and gripping story that I hope to read again and again. Bravo to Lucy Monroe for penning another exceptional tale!”
“This book grabbed my attention from the start and refused to let go. It was by turns sweet and scorching and very, very poignant. This one will definitely go on my list of comfort reads because it left me with a smile on my face and the knowledge that dreams really can come true.”
—Fallen Angel Reviews
“I’ve come to expect a lot from Lucy Monroe in a very short space of time, and with The Italian’s Suitable Wife, I have not been disappointed. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this story.”
“This book will captivate you from the very beginning. This book lacks nothing. THIS IS DEFINITELY A KEEPER!!!!”
—Amelia Jolie, More than Fantasies
“THE ITALIAN’S SUTIABLE WIFE is a great book and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.”
—Blue Ribbon Reviews
The Italian’s Suitable Wife is non-stop romance from the first page to the last. You’re going to love it!” – New York Times Bestselling Author Debbie Macomber
“I am in good old “Aussie land,” and thought I would e-mail you about your great book. I just finished reading ‘The Italians Suitable Wife’. I enjoyed every page of it.” – Thelma M, Australia
His lips hovered above hers.
Would they make contact? They never had before, no matter how much she ached for it. He started to lower his head and her heart kicked up its pace. Yes. Oh, yes. This would be the time. But even as she strained toward him, he began to back away. His image dissolved completely as the discordant note of a ringing telephone tugged her toward consciousness.
Gianna Lakewood picked up the cordless handset still half immersed in dreamland, a land where Enrico DiRinaldo was not engaged to Super Model, Chiara Fabrizio.
Her voice still husky from sleep and the emotions elicited by her dream, she said, “Hello?”
“Gianna, there’s been an accident.” The sound of Andre DiRinaldo’s voice brought her eyes wide open as tension immediately tightened her grip on the phone.
“An accident?” she asked, sitting bolt upright and flipping on the bedside light almost in the same motion.
“Porco miseria. How do I say this?” He hesitated while she waited with a premonition of dread fro what was to come. “It is Enrico. He is in a coma.”
“Where is he?” she demanded, jumping out of bed and clutching the phone to her ear, her green eyes wild with the fear coursing through her. She didn’t ask what happened. She could find that out later. She needed to know where Rico was and how soon she could get there. She started shucking out of her pajamas.
“He is in a hospital in New York.”
New York? She hadn’t even known Rico was in the States, but then she’d avoided news of him since his engagement to Chiara had been announced two months ago.
She hopped over to the nightstand, one leg still encased in cotton pajama bottoms, and grabbed a notepad and pen from the drawer. “Which one?” She wrote it down. “I’ll be there as soon as I can!”
She hung up before Andre could say another word. He would understand. He had thought to call her even though it was the middle of the night whereas Rico’s parents would have waited until morning in misguided courtesy. Because Rico’s brother knew that Gianna had loved Enrico DiRinaldo since she was fifteen years old.
Eight years of unnoticed and unrequited love, even his recent engagement to another woman had not been able to dampen those feelings.
She rushed around her tiny apartment, throwing together the necessary items for her trip to New York. She considered checking into flights, but discarded the idea. It was a two-and-a-half hour drive, but it would take longer to get to the airport, book a flight and make the plane trip to New York. She wasn’t like the DiRinaldo’s. She couldn’t command first class attention, or even hope to get on the next available flight unless an economy seat was vacant.
She didn’t bother to take a brush to her chestnut brown, waist length hair, leaving it in the braid she slept in. Nor did she take time to throw on make-up. She barely dressed, leaving off her bra and slipping into a worn pair of jeans, light-weight sweater and tennis shoes, no socks.
A scant two hours later she walked into the hospital and asked to see Rico.
The woman behind the information desk looked up and asked, “Are you family?”
“Yes.” She lied without compunction. The DiRinaldos had always said she was family. The only family she had left. The fact she could claim no blood relation was irrelevant at the moment.
The woman nodded. “I’ll call an orderly to take you up.”
Five minutes that felt like five hours later, a young man dressed in green scrubs came to lead her to ICU. “I’m glad you’re here. We called his family in Italy three hours ago,” so just before Andre had called her, “and they won’t be here for another five to six hours. In cases like this having loved ones around in the first hours can make all the difference.”
Well she wasn’t a loved one, but she loved and she supposed that had to count for something. “What do you mean, cases like this?”
“You know Mr. DiRinaldo is in a coma?”
“Coma’s are very mysterious things, even with all the medical knowledge we have today. There’s a case to be made for the presence of important people in the patient’s life bringing him out of the coma.” The orderly said this with a certain acidic bite, she didn’t understand.
They stopped at the nurse’s station and she was given instructions for her visit with Rico. She also learned why the orderly had seemed so knowledgeable about Rico’s condition. He was actually the intern working with the ICU doctor on call.
She walked into the ICU unit, her eyes not taking in the medical paraphernalia surrounding Rico. All she could see was the man in the bed. Six foot, four inches of vitality as lifeless as a waxwork doll. Eyelids covered the compelling silver eyes she loved so much. His face was badly bruised and one shoulder was splotched with purple as well.
He didn’t appear to be wearing anything but the sheet and blanket, which covered most of his torso. His breathing was so shallow, her heart literally stopped in her chest at first because she thought he wasn’t breathing at all.
She moved forward until she stood beside the bed, her lower body pressed against the metal bedrail. Her hand reached out of its own volition to touch him. She desperately needed to feel the life force beating beneath his skin. Seeing no bandages, she laid her hand very lightly over the left side of his chest. Her knees almost buckled with emotion.
The steady beat of his heart under her barely touching fingers was proof that as still as he was, as pale as he looked, Rico was still alive. “I love you, Rico. You can’t die. Please. Don’t stop fighting.”
She didn’t realize she was crying until the intern handed her a tissue to wipe at the tears sliding silently down her cheeks. She took it and mopped up without once taking her focus off the man in the bed.
“What happened?” she asked.
“They didn’t tell you?”
“I hung up before his brother had the chance. Getting here seemed more important than getting details,” she admitted.
“He was shot saving a woman from a mugging.”
“He was shot?” The only bandages she saw were on his head.
“It was just a crease,” the orderly pointed at the white gauze strips, “along his cranium, but he fell into oncoming traffic and was hit by a car.”
“Were from the car.”
“Is there any lasting damage?”
“The doctors don’t think so, but we won’t know until he wakes up.”
There was something in his voice and her head snapped around. “Tell me.”
“The nature of some of his injuries could result in temporary or permanent paralysis, but there’s no way of knowing for sure until he comes out of the coma.”
“Where is the doctor?” She wanted more information, more than the opinion of an intern, no matter how knowledgeable he might be.
“He’s making rounds. He’ll be in to see Mr. DiRinaldo in a little while. You can talk to him then.”
She nodded and turned her eyes back on Rico, immediately forgetting the intern was in the small cubicle. There was only Rico. He’d filled her world for so long, the prospect of a life without him in it made the pain she’d felt upon his engagement pale into insignificance.
“You have to wake up, Rico. You have to live. I can’t live without you. None of us can. Your mother, your father, your brother…we all need you. Please don’t leave us. Don’t leave me.” She even forced herself to mention Chiara and his upcoming wedding. “You’ll be married and on your way to being a papa soon, Rico. I know that is what you want. You always said you were going to have a houseful of children.”
She’d hoped with the naïve dreams of a girl that those babies would be hers, but she didn’t care if Chiara was the mother, Gianna just wanted Rico to live. She kept talking, pleading with him to wake up, not to give up and she told him over and over again how much she loved him.
She was holding Rico’s hand and willing him to come out of the coma when the doctor came by later.
He examined Rico’s chart and checked the electronic monitors by the bed. “All his vital signs look good.”
“Isn’t there anything you can do to wake him up?” she asked, her throat raw from swallowing tears.
The doctor shook his head. “I’m sorry. We’ve already tried stimulants to no effect.”
Her hand tightened on Rico’s unmoving one. “I guess he’ll just have to wake up on his own then. He will, you know. Rico’s got more stubborn genes than a Missouri mule.”
The doctor smiled, his tired blue eyes warming a little. “I’m sure you’re right. It’s my opinion, having family around does its part too.” His tone was censorious, but she didn’t feel it was directed at her.
“His parents and brother will be here as soon as humanly possible. It’s a long flight from Milan, even on the fastest private jet in the world.”
“I’m sure you are right. It’s too bad his fiancée couldn’t see her way to staying.”
“Chiara is here, in New York?”
“Miss Fabrizio was contacted at her hotel. She came in and became hysterical at the sight of him, furious he’d risked his life for a woman too stupid to know not to walk alone at night.” This time the censure was blatant.
“But why isn’t she here?” Perhaps Chiara had stepped out to use the facilities or something.
“She stayed for about an hour, but when we informed her he was in a coma and we didn’t know how soon he’d come out of it, she decided to leave. She left a number to call when he wakes up.” There was a wealth of disgust in his words.
“She must be really upset.” Gianna looked again at Rico’s motionless countenance and had no trouble understanding his fiancée going to pieces over it. She couldn’t imagine leaving his side, but then everyone dealt with fear in their own way.
“She’ll sleep fine tonight. She insisted we prescribe her an oral sedative,” the doctor added.
Gianna nodded absently, once again focused almost entirely on Rico. She rubbed the skin of his hand with her thumb. “He’s so warm. It’s hard to believe he isn’t sleeping normally.”
The doctor made some comments about physiological differences between coma and normal sleep that she only half listened to.
“Is it all right if I stay?” she asked, knowing it would take an orderly for each arm and one for her legs to get her to move from Rico’s bedside.
Laughter rumbled in the doctor’s throat. “If I said no?”
“I’d sneak back in wearing scrubs and a mask and hide under the bed,” she admitted, amazed she could find any humor in a hospital room with Rico lying broken in the bed.
“As I thought. Are you his sister?” the doctor asked.
She felt the blood rush into her cheeks. Should she lie again? Looking at the understanding light in the doctor’s eyes, she didn’t think she would have to. “No, I’m a family friend.”
Speculation flickered briefly in his expression before he nodded. “I won’t tell if you won’t. It’s obvious you care. Your presence can’t hurt and may very well help enormously.”
Relief swirled through her bloodstream. “Thank you.”
“It’s all about what’s best for the patient.” The doctor exited the cubicle thinking it was a pity his patient wasn’t engaged to the tiny woman who obviously cared so much instead of the gorgeous Amazon with a heart like a rock.
Gianna was only vaguely aware of the doctor’s departure as memories of Rico assailed her. She picked up his hand. It was heavy and she kissed his palm before laying it back on the bed, her own covering it.
“Do you remember the year Mama died? I was five and you were thirteen. You should have hated having me tag after you. Andre called me a pest often enough, but you didn’t. You held my hand and talked to me about Mama. You took me to Duomo Cathedral, such a beautiful place, and told me I could be close to Mama there. It hurt so much and I was scared, but you comforted me.”
She suppressed the memory of how different it had been a year ago when her dad died. Rico had been dating Chiara then and the other woman had no time for Gianna and had made sure Rico didn’t either.
“Rico, I don’t want comforting now. Do you hear me? I want you to get better. I thought nothing could hurt more than when you announced your engagement…but I was wrong. If you die, I don’t want to go on living. Do you hear me, Rico?” She leaned forward her head resting against the strong muscles of his forearm. “Please, don’t die,” she pleaded as tears once again bathed her skin and his.
She was dozing when a familiar voice repeating her name woke her up.
“Gianna? Wake up piccola mia.”
She lifted her head from its resting place by Rico’s thigh. Sometime in the last five hours, she had lowered the bedrail and settled her head beside him. She needed the physical contact as a reminder that Rico was still alive.
Her eyes slowly focused as she blinked in the subdued lighting of the ICU cubicle. “Andre, where are your parents?”
He grimaced. “They left only two days ago on a cruise aboard a friend’s yacht to celebrate their anniversary. Papa insisted on complete privacy and secrecy. They won’t be back for another month and I know of no way to contact them. Rico was the only one with that information.”
He left unsaid the obvious. Rico was in no condition to share his knowledge with them. Her insides twisted when she thought of the reaction Rico’s parents would have to the news of their son’s accident and Andre’s inability to reach them.
“If he dies…” Andre’s emotion filled voice trailed off.
She glared at the younger version of Rico. “He won’t die. I won’t let him,” she said fiercely.
The Italian’s Suitable Wife
Harlequin Presents – October 04
© 2006 Lucy Monroe