Dear Reader,

Of all the heroines I have written so far, Jade Sommerville in the third book in my Sabbatini brothers trilogy is my all time favorite. She is an intrifuing mix of feistiness and fragility.  And she is a absolutely determined to get her man, but not for the reasons you might expect. Jade doesn't love Nic Sabbatini, or at least not at first. She just needs him to marry her otherwise she will be penniless. All her life she has had to hide the fact that she is seriously dyslexic. Deeply ashamed of her inability to read or write, she has lived off her rich father, all the while projecting the image of a wild child party girl with no ambition beyond having a good time.

Nic Sabbatini is a player not a stayer. He deeply resents the way his late grandfather has set up his will forcing Nic into a marriage of convenience with his arch enemy Jade.

The sparks fly from the moment Jade barrels her way into Nic's office to inform him of her intention to marry him. But Nic isn't the type of man to be told when to jump and how high!

I love it when two characters are so vibrant and sparking with electric intensity. It's as if the were telling me from the word go what they wanted and when they wanted it!

Nic and Jade embark on a journey of discovery about each other that is amusing at times and yet emotionally moving. Nic's sensitivity to Jade's secret pain would make any woman fall in love with him. Jade didn't stand a chance of keeping her heart safe once he drew her into the shelter of his arms.

I hope you enjoy their story and agree with a fan of mine, Jennifer who said: I loved The Wedding Charade! Please tell me there is fourth Sabbatini brother!

Happy reading,

Melanie



Excerpt from The Wedding Charade

© Melanie Milburne


Jade arrived at the hotel in Venice at five in the afternoon. A member of the paparazzi had told her Nic was staying there, right on the Grand Canal. She was quite pleased with her detective work. Her sources had told her Nic was in a meeting until eight this evening, and then he would be returning to the hotel for a massage before a late dinner; she hadn’t been able to find out if he was planning to dine alone or with one of his legion of female admirers.

Nic was the sort of man who had always had women swooning over him. She, to her eternal shame, had once been one of them. It still riled her that he had rejected her when she was sixteen and madly in love with him. Although she knew it was really her own fault for being so wilful, she couldn’t help partly blaming him for the horrid experience of her first sexual encounter, not that she had ever told anyone. Even the man who had taken her virginity had no idea of how dreadful an ordeal it had been for her. But then she was good at deception. Deception was her middle name—well, it would be if she could spell it, she thought wryly.

She smiled at the concierge at the reception desk, fluttering her lashes in the manner she had perfected over the years. ‘Scusi, signor. I am meeting my fiancé here, Signor Nicolò Sabbatini. It is to be a very big … I don’t know how to say it in Italian …a big surprise?’

The concierge smiled conspiratorially. ‘Sì, signorina, I understand—a sorpresa. But I did not know Signor Sabbatini was engaged. There has been nothing about it in the press, I am sure.’

There will be shortly, Jade thought with a mischievous private grin. ‘Sì, signor, it is all very hush-hush. You know how the Sabbatini brothers hate the intrusion of the press.’ She pulled out a photo of her and Nic that had been taken at his grandfather’s funeral. It wasn’t a particularly intimate one but it showed Nic with his head leaning towards her as he whispered something before the service. Luckily, the shot didn’t show her face for she had been scowling at him in fury at the time. Jade smiled at the concierge as she showed him the photograph. ‘As you can see, we are never left alone by the press. That is why I wanted this to be our special time together before the world gets to know. I am so appreciative of your cooperation.’

‘It is my pleasure, signorina,’ he said and, handing back the photo, passed her a regulation form to fill in. ‘If you would be so kind as to give your full name and address and country of residence for our records.’

Jade felt the familiar flutter of panic build in her chest. It was like a million micro bats’ wings flapping all at once. She took a steadying breath and summoned up another megawatt smile. ‘I am sorry, signor, but I have taken out my contact lenses for the flight,’ she said. ‘They are packed in my luggage somewhere. I am practically blind without them and I hate wearing glasses. So unfashionable, don’t you think? Would you be so kind as to just type my details straight into your computer? ‘

The concierge smiled. ‘But of course, signorina,’ he said, his fingers poised over the keys as she gave him her details.

‘You are so very kind,’ Jade said as he handed her a swipe key.

‘Signor Sabbatini is staying on the top floor in the penthouse suite. I will have your luggage taken to the room straight away.’

‘Grazie, signor. But there is one more thing,’ she said, leaning closer. ‘Would you mind contacting the masseuse who was coming at eight?’ She gave him a twinkling smile. ‘I will give my fiancé a massage instead. He will enjoy it so much more, sì?’

The concierge grinned. ‘Sì, signorina. I am sure he will.’

Jade made her way to the lift, smiling at her reflection in the brass-plated doors once they were closed. She had dressed in her best look-at-me clothes. A black and sinfully short tight-fitting dress with a daringly low neck and shoes with the sort of heels podiatrists the world over shook their heads in dismay at, and flashy jewellery that screeched inherited wealth and decadence.

Jade found the room without any trouble and immediately ordered champagne. A bit of Dutch courage wouldn’t go amiss right now. She would have to go carefully, however. She had to keep her wits about her in order to bring about what she wanted. Nic would be furious, but then that was his fault for being so stubborn about this. It was all right for him with his squillions, but what was she supposed to do without her trust fund? It wasn’t as if she could just ‘go out and get a job’ as he had so mockingly suggested. Who on earth would employ her?

She looked out of the window to the bustling tourists below. The serpentine network of the canal system and the colourful villas fringing it was exactly as the postcards portrayed it. Even the light was the same: the pastels in the sky as the sun lowered brought out the pinks and oranges and yellows of the centuries-old buildings. She wished she had time to paint it. Her little makeshift studio back in her London flat was full to bursting with her work. Not that anyone had ever seen any of her paintings. It was her private passion. Something no one could rubbish, something no one could say was trashy and uneducated and unsophisticated.

Jade wandered over to the huge bed and tested it for comfort by pressing a hand down on the mattress. She snatched her hand away as she thought of all the women Nic had bedded on his trips. He would have lost count by now, surely? At least she could count her partners on the fingers of half a hand in spite of what the press reported of her sexual proclivities. Quite frankly, she wondered what the fuss about sex was all about. It didn’t seem all that pleasurable to her to be pawed and sweated over. She could flirt and tease with the best of them and it got her what she wanted—well, most of the time.

The champagne arrived and Jade tipped the young man who brought it. She allowed herself one glass to settle her nerves. The time was dragging and she desperately wanted this to be over with so she could feel more secure. Nic had left her dangling, uncertain of whether he was going to cooperate or not. It was too risky to leave it all up to him. She had to force his hand, otherwise she would be destitute. She didn’t mind pretending to be a tart at times but there was no way she was going to become one because all her other options had been destroyed.

Marrying Nic would solve everything for her. All her troubles would be over if she did what Salvatore’s will stated. The lawyer had explained it all to her after the funeral last year. She had to marry Nic by the first of next month and stay married for a full year. Both partners had to remain faithful. Jade wasn’t sure why her godfather had put that condition in. She didn’t intend to sleep with Nic. He had spurned her in the past. What was to say he wouldn’t do it again? She would find it just as shattering as she had then.

Jade was sipping at her second glass of champagne when Nic came in. His hazel eyes narrowed as he saw her sitting with her legs crossed on the bed. ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ he said.

‘Celebrating our engagement,’ she said with a demure smile as she hoisted her glass.

He stiffened as if he had been snap frozen. ‘What did you say?’ The words came out slowly, menacingly.

Jade took a sip from her glass, looking at him from beneath her lashes. ‘The press already know about it,’ she said. ‘I gave them an exclusive. All they need now is a photo.’

Nic’s anger was palpable. It rolled off the walls towards her, keeping her rooted to the foot of his bed. Jade fought the instinct to flee. She had been hit before. Her father had backhanded her for insolence enough times for her to know how much it hurt, but her pride would not let her show it. Instead, she gave Nic a defiantly sassy look. ‘If you kick me out I will tell the press about the terms of your grandfather’s will. You don’t really want me to do that, do you, Nic?’

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Contest!


Melanie's got another contest to help you feed your books obsession! For a chance to win gift cards and books from her backlist, please visit Melanie's website at http://www.melaniemilburne.com.au and read the new excerpt find the answer to the following question -

What is Jade's father doing to her trust fund and who does Jade think is responsible for it?

Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with the answer and be sure to include your full name and mailing address in the email.   Please also remember to mark the subject heading as 'WeddingCharade'.

Do make sure you email your answers only to staff@authorsoundrelations.com or your entry will not be counted!

Four winners will be contacted shortly after July 17th, 2011.

1st Prize: $30 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a book from Melanie's backlist.
2nd Prize: $20 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a book from Melanie's backlist
3rd & 4th Prizes: A book from Melanie's backlist.

Good luck!

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