Her Shameful Secret Online - Susanna Carr

CHAPTER ONE

ISABELLA WILLIAMS heard the throaty growl of an expensive sports car and lifted her head like a hunted animal scenting danger. The sudden move made her head spin. She took a step back, gripping the serving tray as she fought for her balance.

The sound of the car faded before she turned to see it. Isabella exhaled shakily, her bunched muscles relaxing. She swiped her hand against her clammy forehead, hating how her imagination ran wild. Her mind was playing tricks on her. One sports car drove past her and she immediately thought of him.

It was ridiculous to think that Antonio Rossi was in this part of Rome, or even searching for her. She rolled her eyes in self-disgust. She’d only shared a bed with him for a few glorious months in the spring. The guy would have long forgotten her. He was every woman’s secret fantasy and Isabella was certain that she had been replaced the moment she left his bed.

The thought pricked at Isabella and she blinked away the tears that stung in the backs of her eyes. Glancing at the clock, she calculated how many more hours she had left on her shift. Too many. All she wanted to do was crawl back into bed, burrow under the threadbare covers and keep the world at bay. But she couldn’t afford to take a day off. She needed every euro to survive.

“Isabella, you have customers waiting,” her boss barked at her.

She simply nodded, too tired to give her usual sarcastic response, and headed toward one of the small tables on the sidewalk café. She would get through this day just like every other day. One foot in front of the other. One minute at a time.

It felt like she had waded through sludge by the time she got to the tiny table where the couple waited. They didn’t seem to mind her slow pace. The man gently, almost reverently, kissed the woman’s lips. Envy pierced through Isabella’s stupor. She bit down on her lip to hold back a whimper as she remembered what it felt like to be adored and desired.

Isabella’s shoulders slumped as the bittersweet memories poured over her. She couldn’t recapture that kind of love. She would never be the center of Antonio’s attention again, and he would no longer be her entire world. She missed his possessive kisses and the raw hunger they’d shared. But, much as she missed him, he would never take her back. Not when he discovered the truth.

Her knees threatened to buckle under the weight of her regret. She gritted her teeth and harnessed the last of her self-control. Those wildly romantic days were over, she reminded herself fiercely. It was best not to think of them.

“Are you ready to order?” she asked hoarsely in Italian. Her grasp of the language wasn’t that great, despite her taking a few classes in college. Her struggle to communicate made it even more difficult to get through a day.

Once she’d had big dreams of becoming fluent in Italian, transforming herself into a sophisticated and glamorous woman and taking the city of Rome by storm. She’d wanted to find adventure, beauty and love. For a brief moment she’d had it all in her grasp, but she’d allowed it to slip through her fingers.

Now she worked all day in this dump and had no money. People either ignored her or viewed her as trash. So much for her transformation. She could have gotten that treatment back home. At least then she would know what was being said behind her back. She lived in a room above the café that didn’t have running water or a lock on the door. All she had was the weight of the world on her shoulders and a deep need to survive.

As she took down the order and walked back to the kitchen Isabella realized that she was in danger of getting stuck here. She needed to work harder, faster and smarter if she wanted to return to America in the next few months. Now more than ever she needed to surround herself with the familiar. Find a place where she could keep her head down, work hard and complete her college degree. After all this time yearning for excitement, she now longed to find a safe haven.

But she didn’t think she could keep this up, working long hours and barely getting by. And it was only going to get harder. The thought made her want to drop to the floor in