By:  Emma Swan  Completed
Language: English
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They've never stopped being married... Alessandro ‘Alex’ Baroni doesn't accept that Ariana is his daughter. He believes Hailee, his wife, cheated on him with another man, and Ariana is the result of that betrayal. So, Hailee and Alessandro are separated, until the silence between them is forcibly broken. Ariana has been kidnapped! Alessandro knows he is the only one who can secure the little girl's safe return, but it means he must go back to Hailee. He will find that, even after three long years, she still wears his ring...

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36 chapters
               ‘I hate this carpet… these people… Sitting here and waiting. Wondering…’ the woman thought. ‘I just want to know where Ari is… And no one here knows… So why are they here?’          She was standing on one of the soft-cushioned sofas, staring at the carpet under her feet. Six hours since it happened… Six long, terrifying hours… She was here, in London, in this beautiful, big house, close to Hyde Park, trying to make sense of what was really going on around her.          Everybody in the living room was doing something… except for her. She was just standing there, motionless, empty, still stunned. The tension in the room was so thick one could cut it with a knife.     
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          She slowly exhaled. Hailee couldn’t care less if she was alone with Alessandro in the same room or not. She wasn’t afraid of him. Never was… He might be able to make other people tremble in their shoes. He might be able to request blind obedience from anyone who came within his despotic reach.          But not her. Never her! And she found it amazing if not pathetic that one man could walk into a room and command that kind of sheep-like obedience without even having to give his name.          Then again, this one man wasn’t just any man. This was a man who had such power that he could walk into any room, anywhere in the world, and demand immediate attention.          The same man who had had this house and its beautiful grounds locked up like a for
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          Understand? Of course, she understood! Loud and clear!“You want to know if they were Sicilian…” Hailee said almost choking. “I lived with you for so long, I understand Italian and most of the accents, I visited your family in Italy, and I can spot a Sicilian accent a mile away. So, yes! They were Sicilian… like your family!” she added accusingly. “I recognized the accent, filled with arrogance and contempt… like you are the superior race and we all are the dirt under your shoes.”          Alessandro ignored her last part of the reply and kept his composure.  “Male or female?” he persisted.“M-male,” she breathed.“Old or young? Were you able to notice that? Or even to recognize it?”          Hailee
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          A big man in a grey suit and a tough-looking face stood guard just outside the door. A stranger to keeping her away… But away from what? From finding the truth? From finding out that the man that took her little girl away from her was Alessandro’s father? “I want to see Alessandro. Where is he?” Hailee asked shakily. “Where…Uh… Where is my… husband?”           His gaze drifted towards the closed study door. “Signor Baroni wished not to be disturbed.”           The man’s accent disturbed her profoundly. She had heard it so many times… It was Sicilian as the voice that had spoken to her on the phone. Hailee shuddered and stepped past him, ignoring the obvious hint in his reply. She hurried across the hallway and pushed open the study door.           Alessandr
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          That accusation hardened him, canceled every bit of solace she’d seen on his face as Alessandro struck her with a narrowed glare.“You leave my father out of this, Hailee,” Alessandro commanded grimly. “I’m warning you… Stop it right now.” “Oh, trust me, I wish I could do that,” she replied, “but I absolutely can't cut him off my list. You know very well why I can’t do that. It all started when you went against his wishes and married me, Alessandro. A complete stranger and not Italian,” Hailee reminded him. “Even if I went above and beyond, learning to speak a language that wasn’t mine, even if I kept our conversations at the minimum required, Guido never forgave me for going against the Almighty Baroni.”          ‘Thank you for the pills, doctor!’Read more
          The door flew open. As Alessandro came back into the room, Hailee leaped to her feet, forgetting all about Giovanni Masini. Alessandro gave both of them a sharp glance. The air had to be thick with tension after their discussion. And, even if it wasn’t, the way Giovanni was standing aside, very stiff and with an offended expression, was giving everything away.“Well?” Hailee asked anxiously. “Have they...?”          Her words faded away… Seeing his expression it was enough to wipe what bit of life her heated discussion with Giovanni had put into her face right away again.“Be calm, Hailee,” Alessandro soothed as her arms whipped around her body and she began to shiver. “They are still negotiating. Try to keep in mind that they want what I have the power to give them more than they want to keep your child.”     
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          The house had returned to its usual smooth running like nothing had happened. Before going down the stairs, Hailee glanced out of her bedroom window and saw Mrs. Bradshaw, the housekeeper, rushing in search of her husband, who was busily working on the new play area for Ari he and Hailee had been planning at the bottom of the garden.          Her heart almost broke seeing him rhythmically spreading bark chippings over the specially prepared patch where, next week, a garden swing and a slide were due to be fixed, yet, oddly, it comforted her.          Mr. Bradshaw didn’t lose his hope on Ari’s return, so neither would she. When Hailee eventually forced herself to go downstairs to the dining room, she found Alessandro standing at the window watching the old man at his work.         
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         Alessandro was tall and she wasn't, the top of her head barely reaching his chin, so she had to tilt her head to look into his face. The rain had caught him too, but only briefly, so the drops sat on the expensive silk of his jacket in small crystal drops that could easily be brushed away.          His hair was so black that it reminded her of midnight, gleaming damply but not dripping wet like hers. She didn't know then that the great Alessandro Baroni stood there like that, in silence, because he was completely and utterly love-struck.          He admitted that to her later, weeks later when his single-minded campaign to break through her shy reserve was successful, on a night when she was lying in his arms on a bed of fine linen, their bodies damp, limbs tangled, his hand gently caressing her long hair across the pillow.  &n
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           She began to quiver at the expression on his face.“I won’t… because I w-want to talk this t-through...”           Alessandro began striding around the bed towards her. Hailee backed away, her hands outstretched toward him off, long, delicately boned fingers trembling.“Please, Alessandro, don't,” she whispered unsteadily. “You're frightening me right now. And I don't want to be frightened of you too…”           But he wasn't listening, or maybe didn't care at that moment that he was about to murder the one firm bit of faith she had in him… That he, this hard-headed, ruthless hunter she had married, wouldn’t, couldn’t hurt her.          He hurt her. Oh, not in the physical
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          It has been a long, exhausting, unnatural night. Hailee dozed on and off and came down to breakfast the next morning hollow-eyed and wan-faced, to find Alessandro sitting alone at the breakfast table, swiping through his phone.          The moment he saw her, Alessandro put the phone away, making a narrow-eyed study of the obvious evidence of strain in her face. Hailee gave an inward grimace, entirely aware of exactly how terrible she looked. She was wearing no make-up, and the peaches cream bloom that her skin usually wore was missing.          She had brushed her hair, but only so she could tie it at the back to keep the long, heavy mass out of the way. And she was wearing a simple, blue skirt teamed with a long, loose silk knit jumper in a delicate shade of cream.          Under normal cir
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