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CHRISTIAN MARKOS TIPPED the last of his champagne down his throat and immediately refilled his glass.

He’d known today was going to be hard, but hadn’t imagined quite how torturous it would be. Not even all the running around he’d done with Rocco that morning, in their seemingly desperate attempt to find the bride, had mitigated it.

Afterwards, he’d stood by the side of his closest friend on the happiest day of his life and all he’d been able to think was how deeply he’d betrayed him.

While Rocco had been exchanging his vows, Christian had been using all his willpower to stop his gaze flitting to Alessandra.

He was still fighting it.

Alessandra Mondelli: Rocco’s baby sister. A pretty child who’d grown into a ravishingly beautiful woman. The one woman in the world who was totally off-limits.

Or should have been.

Attired in a long, sleeveless, silk mauve dress, with her glossy, dark-chestnut hair pulled back in a tight chignon, she’d arrived by boat with the radiant bride, the spring sun beaming down on her golden skin.

In his eyes the chief bridesmaid outshone everyone, including the famous supermodel bride.

The last time he’d seen Alessandra she’d been wearing a short, cream lace dress with black beading and a pair of black shoes so high he’d been amazed she could walk in them. But walk in them she had, beautifully, her delectable bottom swaying with every step. That was the last time he’d seen her clothed. The last time he’d seen her properly she’d been burrowed naked under the bed covers in her apartment.

The wedding party had moved from the beautiful gardens by Lake Como and into the Villa Mondelli ballroom. The wedding dinner was over, the evening celebration about to start. He’d made his best man’s speech and managed to raise some laughs from the other guests, especially Stefan and Zayed, who’d substituted the speech he’d written with a bluer version. Instead of relaxing, knowing his job was done, Christian was on tenterhooks waiting for the music to strike up.

An American A-list starlet kept making eyes at him, a stunning woman with a body to die for. Just six weeks ago he would have been at her side like a shot. If not her, then one of the other gorgeous women littering this star-studded event already being labelled ‘wedding of the century.’ Supermodels, lingerie models, singers... It was like being a child in a sweetshop.

If that were the case, then he must have diabetes, because none of the sweets looked remotely tempting.

Except one. The forbidden one.

How could he have allowed things to get so out of hand? He might flit from bed to bed but he never lost control of himself.

To have lost his control with Alessandra...

He could blame it on all the champagne they’d drunk. He could blame it on a lot of things, but all the blame was on himself.

Alessandra had been vulnerable. Try as she’d done to hide it, she’d been a mess, grieving the loss of her grandfather, the man who’d raised her since she’d been a baby and who’d been buried barely two weeks before.

Christian had dropped in at the House of Mondelli, the world-famous fashion house, on his way back from Hong Kong, expecting to take Rocco out for a night on the tiles, maybe spend the weekend together on his Italian friend’s yacht. But Rocco had been in New York and he’d bumped into Alessandra, who’d insisted he take her out instead. Under normal circumstances he would have made his excuses and got back in his jet to fly on to Athens. If he hadn’t caught the desperation in her beautiful honey-brown eyes, he would have done just that, not found himself recalling how she’d barely been able to stand during the funeral service.

When they’d set out for the evening, the last thing he’d expected was that they would end up in bed together.

Women came and went in his life on a regular basis. He could only assume that it was the fact Alessandra was someone who was in his life, so to speak, that meant he was having a hard job forgetting and moving on. That and the guilt of it all. She might have been the one to instigate the kiss that had led to them making love, but the blame for what followed lay firmly on his shoulders.

Tags: Michelle Smart Billionaire Romance