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Got Too Close

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"You're a dangerous woman, Elena," He reached, turning on the shower beside her head. "I think your demons are making you see things wrong, Mr. Rossi," she murmured through the water spilling down her head. He laughed, "They are right; you're my trigger," his nose buried into the crook of her neck, he muttered, sending shivers down her spine. "And too bad a lot of people cross you..." ***** Her life came crashing down when she signed a contract marriage with the calm President Nikolai Rossi, who only had eyes on one woman who wasn't her. To make matters worse, she couldn't help but fall in love with him and his son, knowing he'd never reciprocate. After a terrible divorce, three years later, Elena Vero is a mother of one. She now has to return to Italy for business, unfortunately falling into the waiting palms of her ex-husband, who surprisingly wants her back. But being his wife has never been a bed of roses and never will it be, especially when she finds out he isn't all that he seems.

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"What are you?" it came as nearly a whisper.

He looked at her, his tousled hair falling into his eyes, watching her from under dark lashes as he unbuttoned his cuff. "What do you mean, what am I, Elena?" He pulled down the shirt and raised a brow. "You know what I am..."

She took a glance at the open door, calculating her steps. Getting Mia was going to be impossible if he raced with her, but she tried anyway and shrieked when her back went crashing into the wall.

He covered her lips with his palm, "Hush, love, I won't hurt you." A smile appeared at the corner of his lips: "Unless you want me to."

****

"Congratulations, President Nikolai Rossi, It's Certain Italy Will Bloom Under You." The chairman stepped back, and as if on cue, everyone stood up, clapping.

Elena Vero checked her wristwatch and sighed; she needed to get home to Matteo, and hopefully, he wasn't crying out for her, giving the nannies a hard time.

And then he stood. Elena smiled, seeing her husband walk up to the podium, giving everyone the huge charismatic grin he kept hidden, showing perfectly white teeth that won everyone to his side in minutes.

But that was the Nikolai they knew—the smiling, easygoing, well-mannered president—but was that him? She knew the one who locked himself in when a deal went wrong, the one who had his teeth clenched when he smelled a scandal.

Every man smiled at him, every woman wanted him to herself, and over the years they had been married, she constantly received threats from his female fans. It was expected; a young, handsome, easygoing man was hard to find, but Nikolai had all those qualities.

He was the people's savior.

Women tagged her as lucky.

But there was another secret: Nikolai Rossi wasn't in love with her; they were just husband and wife on paper, husband, and wife because he wanted to please his grand-aunt if Dora was even one.

She had taken care of her in the seniors' home, and the woman loved her. The first few months, Dora would suddenly make a snide remark, telling her that she wanted her for her grandson and that the other "golddigger" wasn't fit for him.

She remembered pushing it off as the woman's age was taking a toll on her, and she didn't know what she was saying. But it had become so intense.

One time a date came to pick her up from work, and when she came back, Dora refused to eat her food. She worried and promised to do whatever the woman wanted if only she'd eat.

And Dora held her hand in the dim room, "Promise me you'll marry my grandson," she tightened her hand around Elena's, "I want you for him, please, Elena."

Elena had groaned inwardly at the fictional grandson case again. So far, Dora didn't have a family; no one had visited her, except sometimes when a man in a black suit came to pick her up in a car.

And she would not return for a few days.

But Dora kept insisting on wanting her for this imaginary son who could take care of her.

She promised so peace would reign.

She looked up at Nico, who was giving a speech; he said a joke, and everyone laughed, everyone except her because she knew the other side of him that none of them knew—the other side without the reading glasses and the formal suits.

She knew the side with the silent rage.

How did she come to this, then?

She lowered her eyes, recalling how she had ended up in this situation.

She had arrived at work quite late that day, and when she arrived at the gates, she noticed everything was at a standstill, the seniors whispering to themselves, her fellow workers on one side giggling away.

After asking a few people what was happening and receiving no reply, she let out her frustration and ran to the medicine room before hurrying toward Dora's.

When she reached it, she was surprised to see two men in suits standing outside her door. Confusion stamped on her face as she whispered to herself. "What's going on here?"

She stood before them, "I'm sorry, I need to give her her drugs."

"Who are you?" they demanded in a tone that scared her.

She dragged her hair back, trying not to look them in the eye. "I'm her nurse."

And they made way for her; she passed, still recovering from the confusion of what all of this was when she came face to face with him; she stopped, and by itself, her jaw hung open.

The metal tray that held the medicine dropped from her hands, clattering on the floor.

Prime Minister Nikolai Rossi was in Dora's room, holding her hand and caressing her hair so tenderly, but now that he was distracted, he stared at her, brown eyes sizing her up.

"Oh God," Elena had whispered.

Dora smiled wide, contrasting her son's gentle but blank expression, "Elena, I want you to meet my grandson, Nico."

And that was it; she felt her spirit leave her body as she gawked at the man she only saw on TV and admired, not to mention having a crush on with millions of other girls in Italy, standing up, stopping right before her, his hand outstretched.

"Elena," a beautiful baritone surrounded her, "I've heard so much about you," he didn't shift his gaze from her emerald green, "If you don't mind, I'd like a minute of your time."

He took her for coffee before he presented her with his options; obviously, he had a newborn son with another woman, who refused to be in the picture but whom he was still in love with.

"I want you to be my wife," he said, leaning back and staring at her. "I know you're shocked about me being this abrupt, but I don't have a choice; Dora is falling sick and wants me to get with you." She wanted to say something, but he raised his hands, which she thought was rude, until he gave her a small smile and said, "I'm sorry, it's hard to remember to be polite when you're in a position of authority."

She nodded, "I understand."

"Hear me out," he placed his hand on the table, "They'll be a wedding, so Dora sees one, but then it's just a contract marriage, soon Dora will bite the dust, and we'll part ways," he then added quickly, "I'll pay you too, handsomely for every stress you go through."

"Sir, I don't think..."

She was interrupted by a waitress who dropped their order on the table in front of him instead of in their middle, gave him a beaming smile, and bent over to serve him his coffee. When she asked if he wanted cream and he shook his head, she turned and walked away.

Elena wondered if she wasn't also receiving the same treatment. No one gave a d*mn about her.

But then he reached over and poured her a cup, sizing up a spoonful of milk and then pushing it towards her. She nodded her thanks, but the temptation to reach for the milk again and add even more cream tugged at her.

She stuck to behaving herself.

"This is it, Elena; the marriage won't be real." He left his tea untouched, watching her down hers, a slight disdain in his eyes as drops fell on her white blouse. "It might go on for a year, two years at most, and then you'll be on your way, rich enough to booth. This is a one-time opportunity."

Rich to Booth sounded excellent; as the only child of a fisherman and a seamstress, this was an opportunity to live her dreams after leaving home at sixteen.

Convinced by how simple it sounded, she had agreed and signed the marriage contract the following day, but nothing had told her she would fall in love with the man and his newborn son.

Matteo was an adorable baby when she came into his life, and soon enough, they had this connection so hard to break that he had called her momma first, and even though she wasn't the love of his father's life, she had endured it all because of the little boy.

She wished Nikolai would grow feelings for her just like she did for him, watching him each morning come to kiss his son good morning, but she'd finally come to terms with the fact that another woman owned his heart, a woman who never stayed in his life long enough even to love her child.

But lately, he was beginning to smile at her as much as she smiled at him; he even sat down to eat breakfast with her and Matteo, and just last week he—

Just last week... They had the perfect night. She curled against him as he took her in a way better than she always fantasized, marking his back with her fingers, their sweaty bodies humping against each other.

But then, why couldn't he even meet her eyes now? Smiling at everyone but not her?

She followed his smiling eyes, and that was when she saw her.

Alexa Ferrari.

Fed Up

That explained everything then—the distance, how he dodged her eyes when they met with his, the brown orbs filled with guilt, and how he never stayed home to spend time with her and Matteo.

Alexa was back, and seeing her, she passed her a disgusted look that had Elena swallowing her hurt back and suddenly wanting to dash out of the gathering.

Nikolai finished talking, and he came down from the podium. She waited for him to sit beside her, but he never came. She turned to see him walk past Alexa outside the hall.

Elena had seen enough; she brushed a tear from her face. Her mama never taught her to cry for any man, but she couldn't stop hurting so badly, maybe because she had sacrificed so much for this man to throw her away like thrash.

And he was then choosing a woman who didn't think of him as anything.

It seemed her prayers were answered because the party had ended, and raising her long blue gown with a long sleeve up, she walked over to where Nikolai

Heroes

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