Still in Love, page 1
Still in Love
Garden Avenue Press
Latin Men series
Also by Delaney Diamond
About the Author
Three years ago, Nadine Alesini divorced her husband and left Buenos Aires with her daughter in tow. Now she’s back and forced to spend time with the man she left behind.
Cortez Alesini long ago accepted that his music career aided in the demise of his marriage. So he didn’t expect that he and Nadine would spend passionate nights together while she’s back in his country, causing them to question if they gave up too soon. But the reappearance of someone from his past immediately causes friction, and may destroy any chance they have at a true reconciliation.
Still in Love by Delaney Diamond
* * *
Copyright © August 2015, Delaney Diamond
Garden Avenue Press
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No part of this e-book may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or mechanical means, including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and e-mail, without prior written permission from Delaney Diamond.
To all of you wonderful readers who followed this story every Friday as each episode was revealed, chatted with me on the blog, shared your comments on Facebook and Twitter, or sent an email letting me know your thoughts.
I enjoyed each and every conversation and appreciated your feedback. I miss our Fridays together. We’ll have to do it again real soon.
Coming back to Argentina had not been anywhere near on Nadine Alesini’s list of things to do, but when her former sister-in-law followed up a wedding invitation with a personal plea, she hadn’t been able to say no. Now, at least for the moment, she was glad she hadn’t.
She’d missed Buenos Aires.
The “Paris of South America” had been her home for twelve years, eleven of those while married. Her marriage had ended, but the product of their union sat close to her side outside the Ezeiza International Airport terminal. Antonella, her twelve-year-old daughter, whose voluminous black curls were piled on top of her head in a high ponytail, sat with feet swinging as her eyes searched the cars pulling up to the curb.
The eleven-hour flight hadn’t diminished her daughter’s excitement one iota. The annual flights south were not enough for Antonella, and this bonus trip for the wedding had made her ecstatic; she’d get to see her father and the rest of her family twice in one year.
Nadine tucked her chin-length hair behind an ear, and—like her daughter—searched the cars for her ex-husband. Where her daughter practically bounced with excited energy, a knot of anxiety lay heavy in her stomach.
“What time is it?” Antonella asked.
Nadine checked the face of her phone. “A few minutes after six. He’s not that late.”
Antonella sighed. “He’s usually on time.”
Behind a red sports car, a black limo approached, and Nadine knew it was Cortez even before the door opened. Not only because it was a limo, but because her skin prickled, as if someone had dusted wool fabric along her arms and created static electricity, and the hairs stood on end, a clear indication of his presence.
The car cruised to a stop, and the back door opened before the driver could come around to it. Cortez Alesini emerged, looking quite relaxed in a pair of dark shades. He was dressed casually in black slacks and a plain white shirt, which looked anything but plain the way it lay against his tanned skin and hugged his muscular chest and arms.
Antonella raced forward and jumped into his outstretched arms.
Nadine stood, gaze pinned on Cortez’s bent head as he lifted their daughter from the ground and crushed her to him. Their close, affectionate embrace created a tightness of guilt in her chest, and she looked away, reaching for the luggage. Before she could even touch her suitcase, the driver, Joachim, grabbed the handle.
“I have it, señora.” Joachim was in his early fifties but appeared fifteen years younger. Along with his uniform of a tan shirt and dark trousers, he wore an ever-present smile and had a self-effacing manner, often bowing his head to demonstrate his respect.
He took off with the bags, leaving Nadine to stand awkwardly, waiting, as Cortez and Antonella finished their greeting. When he finally released her, Antonella held onto his hand, behaving more like a two-year-old than a twelve-year-old. The way she clung to her father once again created a pain in Nadine’s chest, reminding her that she was the reason they had to live apart.
Cortez removed his sunglasses, almost as if in slow motion, and Nadine felt the full strength of his gaze, like a blow to her chest. Her breath held for a beat, rendering her motionless, tightening every muscle in her body. In that moment, she was very much like one of his millions of adoring fans. Transfixed. Thrilled, that of all the people hurrying by, he’d chosen to lavish her with his attention.
Finally she found her voice. “Hello, Cortez. It’s been a long time.”
Three years, in fact, since they’d last seen each other in person. Their split had been less than amicable, and in all that time she’d only seen the odd photo of him online, but mostly the photos she did see were pictures Antonella shared after each trip. By silent, mutual agreement, their only contact was by phone or email. Elsa, her former sister-in-law, had been the one to escort Antonella south every year on a chartered flight.
“Nadine.” Nah-deen. He and his entire family said her name the same way, using a lyrical, almost poetic pronunciation. But his voice…God, his voice was like the gentle strum of a guitar—deep and enticing, and made her want to lean into the sound.
His eyes roamed over her, gaze lingering on her breasts and skimming her hips, before dropping lower to her denim-clad thighs. The thorough examination left her tingling all over.
“You have not changed much,” he murmured, almost to himself.
The warm-sounding compliment made her heart ache. This was what she’d been dreading ever since her decision to come—the face-to-face with Cortez and having to endure the emotions he’d evoke.
“Neither have you, so we’re even.”
He’d been a gorgeous young man, in every sense of the word, and as an older, mature-looking man, he could clearly still turn heads. His eyes, gray with hints of blue, showed signs of wrinkles at the corners, but age had simply ripened his looks, giving him a more distinguished appearance.
Tall and very broad, Cortez was half-Italian and half-Argentine, and exemplified what could happen when two equally attractive people fell in love and procreated. His father had come to the country as part of a wave of Italian and Spanish immigrants from Europe and fallen in love with Cortez’s mother. They married and proceeded to have a large family of three boys and three girls.
“I think you must be blind.” A sexy smile lifted o
Now that he was no longer in the public eye and hounded by adoring fans, he’d allowed his hair to grow a little longer, the curling mass dusting his collar and ears. Silver around the temples indicated middle age had caught up with him, but by his fit body and trim waist, he might have been caught, but not yet conquered.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about it,” Nadine said. “You look fine.”
They stared at each other, the moment a little awkward, and the air becoming thick and soupy with the burden of unspoken thoughts. Right as Cortez opened his mouth to talk, Antonella tugged his hand, drawing their attention and slamming the door on whatever was transpiring between them.
“Let’s go, Papá. I’m ready to see everybody.”
One would think Antonella hadn’t been here just six months before, but she’d lived in Argentina the first nine years of her life, and though she’d become acclimated to the United States very quickly, she loved her home country and her family one hundred times more.
Cortez’s face softened, filling with affection as he looked at his daughter. “After you, mi amor.”
Antonella hurried into the back of the vehicle, and Cortez extended an arm toward the open door. “After you,” he said to Nadine.
She slid past him and climbed into the plush interior. She settled onto the leather seat beside Antonella, and Cortez joined them, sitting with his back to the front.
“Are you taking me to Elsa’s first?” Nadine asked, setting her purse on the seat next to her.
Her sister-in-law had offered to let Nadine stay in one of the bedrooms of her three-bedroom condo.
“Didn’t she tell you?” Cortez frowned at her.
“Tell me what?”
“You’re staying at the house.”
Nadine’s heart jolted at the news. “I—I don’t understand. Elsa said I’d be staying at her place.”
Cortez crossed his legs and extended a hand across the back of the leather seat. “Change of plans. Two of her close college girlfriends who originally couldn’t make it were able to come and they’re staying at her condo. She asked me if you could stay at the house, and I told her that was fine. That’s not a problem, is it?”
“No, of course not.” Unless one considered a week in the same house as her ex-husband a problem.
Nadine was very aware of Antonella’s presence, and she didn’t want to give the impression that they couldn’t get along.
“Gustavo and his family will be coming to stay for the wedding,” Cortez said, referring to his older brother, “but there’s plenty of room at the house.”
“I know. I used to live there.” Nadine wished she could pull back the words. She’d meant to only state a fact but had sounded bitchy instead.
A muscle in his cheek twitched. “Yes, you did.” The words sounded like an indictment of wrongdoing rather than a simple statement.
Abruptly, he shifted his attention to Antonella. “How was the trip, mi amor?”
They lapsed into Spanish to continue the conversation.
As the vehicle rolled toward the gated community where Cortez lived, impending dread rode along in Nadine’s stomach. She wondered how she’d make it through the next seven days without falling apart, in a house she used to live in, with the man she used to love.
Cortez slipped back on his sunglasses. While he carried on a conversation with his daughter, he kept an eye on his wife—ex-wife. After all this time, one would think his brain would have grown accustomed to the fact that she was no longer his spouse, but every now and again he slipped up. She had been his first wife—should have been his only wife—but anger and mutual pain had caused irreparable damage in their marriage and torn them apart.
She hardly looked her forty years, wearing a loose-fitting shirt with billowing long sleeves, a pair of jeans that molded to round hips—meant for a man’s hands to hold onto—and thick thighs to lose himself between. Then there was her incredible ass, which he hadn’t been able to resist ogling as she moved past him to enter the car.
His fingers folded tightly into his palm, and he resolved not to be distracted by her appearance, no matter how unbearable it was to be this close and not able to touch.
He’d almost declined his sister’s request to have Nadine stay at the house, but Elsa had pleaded with him because she’d promised Nadine she wouldn’t have to worry about the cost of lodging if she came for the wedding. Yet in the midst of all the preparations, she had clearly forgotten to pass on the message to Nadine about the change of plans.
The limo paused at the security gate of Nortada, located on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and one of the first communities of its kind in Argentina. They rolled through the entrance, past the first of nine neighborhoods that occupied the affluent enclave filled mostly with upper-middle-class families, but also wealthy businesspeople and celebrities.
A family of ducks waddled across the street—not an unusual sight in this peaceful environment—to get to the man-made lake on the other side. The purple blooms of jacaranda trees lined the road and fought to wrestle attention from the bright yellow of the lemon trees, whose fragrance could be detected even through the car’s barrier of glass and steel.
They’d chosen this place as their home because of the numerous amenities which ensured residents could have all their needs satisfied within the gates. Not only did they have their own medical center, the sports center offered rugby, soccer, American football, and tennis. A mall offered a below-ground supermarket, with clothing and small restaurants occupying the upper two floors. Then there were four private schools, one of which was the bilingual Catholic school Antonella had attended before she and her mother moved to the States. Over the years, he and his former bandmates from Los Tigres had put on shows at the performing arts center to raise funds used to preserve and maintain the community’s green space.
Life at Nortada was truly utopian living, which many on the outside complained was elitist and provided an unrealistic view of the world for the children raised within its borders. But during the height of his performing career, he’d seen it as the perfect place to raise a family and the privacy and security put his mind at ease when he traveled, except now he had to endure the tranquil landscape alone. His carefully constructed paradise was nothing more than a glamorous cell.
The black iron gates of his own abode eased open and the limo came to a stop in the circular driveway of the two-story mansion. An elegant structure of cream-colored stone, the house stood out even among the many jewels in the development. For him and Nadine, it didn’t just say we made it, it was a place they’d envisioned living for many years and raising a large family.
Joachim preceded them into the house with the bags, and as soon as they entered, Philippa, the housekeeper, came shuffling into the large foyer. Her rotund face exploded into a big smile when she saw Antonella and Nadine.
“¿Cómo estás, la chiquita?” Philippa spread her arms wide, and Antonella ran into them, pressing her face into the woman’s large bosom.
After their effusive greeting, she sent a more cautious smile in Nadine’s direction. “Hola, señora. I have prepared the room next to Antonella for you.”
“Thank you, Philippa.” Nadine took the housekeeper’s hand. They had a special bond. Nadine had hired her, and when Cortez went on the road for months, the two had become very close. “I’m a little tired, so I think I’d like to take a nap, if that’s okay.” She turned to face Cortez.
Her eyes were so dark they appeared as shiny and luxurious as black onyx, and he was struck again by her effortless beauty. The brick-red top showed off the
He mentally shook himself when he realized they all awaited a response from him. “I think you both should probably get some rest after such a long flight.” He looked pointedly at Antonella.
“We’ve been up since the crack of dawn,” Antonella announced.
They all chuckled.
“On that note, we’ll head up,” Nadine said.
Antonella raced up the stairs, and Nadine followed behind at a more reasonable pace.
Philippa watched them go, hands clasped together in front of her. “It’s good to have Mrs. Alesini back.” She looked very pleased, smiling much more than the occasion warranted, as if Nadine was back for good.
“She’s only here for a week,” Cortez reminded her. Antonella’s winter break ended next week.
“Yes, but it’s a good way to start the New Year, isn’t it?” Expectant brown eyes sought out his.
“It is,” Cortez agreed in a measured voice. He dared not get too excited.
By the pleased expression on Philippa’s face, his answer sufficed. “I’ll prepare dinner so that everyone can eat together.”
“I won’t be here for dinner.” Cortez fished in his pocket for the keys to one of his cars. “I have an unplanned dinner meeting tonight—some business I need to wrap up before the wedding.”
“Yes, sir.” Philippa took off toward the kitchen.
She had been devastated when he and Nadine divorced, but not only for the dissolution of the marriage. She had come to love Antonella as one of her own. While she was accustomed to seeing his siblings and their families around, he lived alone in this house—a house she’d stated only a few months ago should be shared with a wife and children. Perhaps she felt sorry for him, but he had to dispel any wishful thoughts she had.
Other author's books:
- Princess of Estoria (Royal Brides Book 2)More Than a Mistress (Latin Men Book 5)A Passionate LoveJust FriendsThe RulesHere Comes TroubleA Hard Man to LoveFight for Love
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