"You cannot run from love"
Reviewed by Annetta Sweetko
Posted November 21, 2022
Romance Billionaire | Contemporary
Sicilian tycoon Carlo Messina had always gotten what he wants until Annette left him at the altar. Though she told him she wouldn't marry him - he decided it was just bridal nerves.
Annette had become engaged to Carlo in a whirlwind, but as the day got closer she realized that he didn't love her and she wasn't going to live the rest of her life without love. So she ran. She has given up trying to make her family love her. She might love Carlo but she deserves to be loved in return - not molded into someone she is not. Five years later, she and Carlo are brought back together with a near tragedy that involves her sister, his brother, and a beloved niece. Carlo has been given guardianship but when he realizes that, despite what he was told by her parents and one sister, Annette had been a large part of the niece's life, he offers a deal. She can stay with the niece and help out but the jilted lover has an ulterior motive. He thinks if he has her in his bed he can work her out of his system. But fate does tend to mess the best-laid plans out of the water!
CINDERELLA'S JILTED BILLIONAIRE shows author Lucy Monroe at her storytelling best. She builds the world and the people that live in that world and makes you simply believe they are real.
Carlo was a typical alpha jerk! He expected Annette to change, give up the job she loved and just follow his plans. Tired of trying so hard to make people love her - you have to read CINDERELLA'S JILTED BILLIONAIRE to get a good look at her "family" and then you understand why - she ran.
Life has a way of turning on a dime and they certainly did for Carlo - sorry can't exactly go into detail as it might be considered spoilers. After he took the time to get to know Annette, he does fall in love with the woman she is and he is lucky her love lasted all that time. Considering her feelings and the completely unlikable family she is part of he backs her up with not just words but actions.
CINDERELLA'S JILTED BILLIONAIRE is an amazingly fun, thoughtful, and steamy escape read that will have you wanting more.
Sicilian business tycoon Carlo Messina is used to getting his way, so when his supposedly biddable fiancée leaves him standing at the altar he's shocked...and furious.
Annette has spent her entire life trying to be worthy of her family's love, but she's never measured up. Her parents and two perfect sisters make up their own little family and she has no place in it, unless it's as a modern day Cinderella. When she realizes her gorgeous billionaire fiancé expects her to change to fit his idea of family too, she does the only thing she can. She runs.
It's five years later and Carlo and Annette are living in the same house in charge of their niece while their siblings recover from a terrible accident. The desire between these two passionate people has only grown during their time apart and inevitably, it explodes. Results? An unexpected pregnancy.
For Carlo there's only one solution: the wedding that never took place. Can a marriage of convenience lead to the love Annette craves and her Sicilian billionaire doesn't know he needs?
Annette Hudson rushed around her tiny studio apartment, grabbing last-minute items. She was late leaving for the airport, but she'd had a last-minute emergency at work.
Nothing new in that. Understaffed and underfunded, her nonprofit organization expected her to wear multiple hats on a daily basis. Getting the week off for her little sister's wedding had been nearly impossible, but for once Annette had refused to back down about taking the time.
Joyce was getting married and Annette wasn't going to miss it. Not only was Joyce the only family who still had anything to do with her, but Annette was one of Joyce's bridesmaids. She had the dress to prove it.
That she would see the man she'd jilted at the altar five years before had nothing to do with the discordant concerto playing along her nerve endings. No, of course it didn't. He was just at the center of the biggest mistake of her life, costing her the family she'd dreamed of and the family she'd grown up with, not to mention the man she'd loved beyond reason.
Although the society pages showed him escorting a bevy of beautiful women to his mother's charity galas, Carlo Messina was still single. He would play best man for the groom. In a cruel twist of fate, Annette's baby sister had fallen for, and was marrying, Carlo's younger brother, Fantino Messina.
The similarities between the two couples were uncanny. Joyce was the same young twenty-two Annette had been when she'd left Carlo standing at the altar. Fantino was eerily the same age Carlo had been then as well, twenty-nine.
But there was no chance Joyce would take flight as Annette had done. Not only was she a far more self-assured twenty-two, confident in the love of her Sicilian tycoon, Joyce was also seven months pregnant. The plans had already been in place for the wedding of the century when Annette's younger sister told their families the happy news.
Their mother had been livid, but everyone else, even Carlo's conservative Sicilian relatives, had been delighted.
Annette was thrilled for her sister, if a little envious.
Joyce was building the very life that Annette had always dreamed of, and it was no one's fault but her own that she hadn't realized it first. Determined to show nothing but happiness for her sister, Annette rushed for the MAX line that would take her to the airport.
Several hours and a plane ride later, Annette dragged her suitcase out of the back of the taxi in front of an exclusive building in Manhattan. She might be willing to travel public transport in Portland, Oregon, but wasn't as confident of doing so alone in New York City.
You could take the girl away from wealth and privilege, but you couldn't stop the tapes playing in her head of all she'd been taught by parents who had a distinct us and them mentality when it came to the money haves and have nots. She didn't want to be afraid to ride the subway alone, but she was.
Would she ever be wholly her own person, leaving her parents' narrow view of the world behind completely?
She walked into the lobby of the apartment building and gave the doorman her name. Fantino had an apartment here and Annette was staying there for the week before the wedding. She could have stayed with her parents, but that would have been awkward when they hadn't had a real conversation in five years.
Not since her father had all but forced her to leave New York, by offering a substantial gift to her organization, if they transferred her to their office across country. She'd spent the last five years in exile, very pointedly not invited to family gatherings. Returning for a visit had been out of the question. Labeled an ungrateful daughter who had humiliated her family by standing her billionaire groom up at the altar, Annette had been shunned by everyone except Joyce since that fateful day.
Okay, so there could be a lot of reasons for the butterflies tap dancing in spiked cleats in her stomach right now, and Carlo Messina was only one of them.
The doorman requested her identification and then sent her up in the elevator to Fantino's penthouse floor. The man himself was there to greet her when she knocked on his door.
Looking so much like his older brother, it hurt her to see him, his teeth flashed white in a warm smile. "Annette! Welcome! Joyce will be so glad you have made it."
It was all Annette could do to summon a smile of acknowledgement to Fantino's words. She should have it together. She'd been wholly on her own since leaving New York. Annette had stood up to drug dealers who were messing with the kids in her program. She'd stared down cops doing the same thing.
The prospect of seeing Carlo Messina again shouldn't be so darn scary, much less her own parents.
Only it was.
She was shaking inside but hiding it, and that was the best she could hope for.
"Who is it?" Think of the devil and he will appear. Six feet, four inches of Sicilian male perfection, Carlo stood there looking amazing in a bespoke suit, his dark hair styled perfectly.
No pallor beneath his sun kissed skin to reveal nerves to rival hers. But then, he'd never actually loved her, and she'd never gotten over loving him. He hadn't had neatly trimmed facial hair six years ago. It gave him a sexy edge he didn't need. The man was already sex on a stick with a side of dark chocolate sauce.
The look in his grey eyes when they landed on her was indifferent. So much worse than anger. It indicated that while she hadn't been able to move on, he had.
"Oh, I see," he said dismissively. "Joyce is in the living room," Carlo turned to walk away.
Say something, she instructed herself, but Annette couldn't get a single word past the obstruction in her throat.
"Don't mind him. He's had enough girlfriends since you broke up, he can't claim he's been pining for you," Fantino said airily, leading her into the swank, modern living room of the penthouse.
If that was supposed to make her feel better, it had failed spectacularly.
"Annette!" Her sister's shout reached her ears only a second before the lithe brunette pulled her into a breath stealing hug.
Joyce was the only member of their family who called her by her full name, Annette. The rest of the family and extended family called her Netta, as if trying to erase the existence of her deceased birth mother, Anne.
"Isn't that sweet?" a smooth, feminine voice asked. Annette couldn't see the woman speaking through the crowd of well-wishers attending the prewedding party. "Only I thought Cinderella's family had disowned her."
Joyce let go of Annette and spun around. "The past is the past. My sister is one of my dearest friends and nothing will change that." It was like she was warning everyone in the room.
Annette knew Joyce had fought family pressure to maintain their relationship. Though the younger woman had said nothing, it must have been a battle royal when she insisted on inviting Annette to the wedding. Making her a bridesmaid would have been even worse in their parents' opinion.
Warmth and gratitude surged through Annette.
"Naturally not," Valentina Messina said smoothly as she arrived beside them, looking just as put together and lovely as Annette remembered the woman who had been meant to be her mother-in-law. "Family is family."
"Hello, Signora Messina," Annette said in a huskier tone than usual, but it was taking all she had to form words.
This was so much harder than she thought it would be.
The gorgeous woman now clinging to Carlo's arm like a limpet only made things worse.
Annette had never been a liar, so she'd never lied to herself and claimed to be over the man. She doubted she ever would be.
"It is Valentina, as I am sure you remember," the elegant older woman instructed. "So, you did not marry my eldest son." She waved negligently with her elegant hand. "Life has its little turns. However, your sister will be marrying my younger son and that is all that matters now."
Annette just nodded, all the time her focus inexorably drawn to the beautiful brooding man she had so foolishly walked away from five years ago.
"Thank you for the card and flowers when Alceu was in the hospital. The food baskets and coffee deliveries from my favorite barista were lovely," Valentina went on. "It was a kindness."
"I…it was the least I could do."
"What a kind thing to say, but under the circumstances untrue." She meant because Annette had no longer been a de facto member of the family. "His accident was such a worrisome time for us all and your thoughtfulness was very much appreciated." Valentina gave her husband a significant look. "I warned him for years to stop driving like he wanted to enter Le Mans. But would he listen?"
The weeks after her failed wedding were some of the hardest of Annette's life, made infinitely worse when Alceu, a man she'd come to love like a father, was in the car accident and was taken to the hospital. She could do nothing but watch from the sidelines, hoping he would recover.
The look on Carlo's face and her own parents' expressions said Valentina might be the only person who thought the way she did.
Though she'd had nothing to do with the accident, hadn't even been in the same country it happened in, they definitely blamed Annette. For all of it.
When Annette hadn't shown up at the church, the media had a heyday with their awful headlines and salacious innuendo laden articles and it only got worse after Alceu's accident. There had been speculation that, humiliated by his son being stood up at the altar and the subsequent media frenzy, Alceu had done it on purpose.
Cinderella Jilts Billionaire had morphed to Even Billions of Dollars Can't Get Cinderella to the Altar.
The whole Cinderella angle was her older sister's fault, not that anyone in her family would admit it. Lynette's friends used to make fun of Annette because more often than not, her mother would find fault with something about her appearance or behavior at a social function they were hosting and send Annette to the kitchen to help the cook or the serving staff.
She'd say if Annette couldn't handle her responsibilities as a daughter of the host, she might as well make some use of herself. Lynette's friends had dubbed her Cinderella and that's how that whole group referred to her on social media. Lynette had been the one to give an interview after the failed wedding to a gossip rag journalist about Annette, sharing the nickname and what a supposed failure Annette had been as a socialite.
Lynnette hadn't mentioned Annette's adopted status either, but then that would have sparked ire from their parents and Lynette was too smart for that. Only she hadn't been smart enough to realize that her words could be twisted, and they had been. Her family and Carlo had been raked over the coals by the press. They'd said that despite his billions, he was no Prince Charming.
Which was not true. He'd been her prince, she'd just been too insecure to realize it, much less fight for what they could have had.
Regardless of her lack of foresight, Lynnette had come out of the debacle smelling like a rose. As per usual. Completely ignoring her role in it, everyone had acted like it was Annette's fault the family had drawn censure for making her into a modern-day Cinderella.
It had taken two years of therapy for Annette to realize she had not been at fault. Yes, she'd jilted Carlo at the altar, and she could have handled that differently, but the media frenzy that ensued had not been on her. No matter what her family thought.
"Enough talking of the past, it is time to toast the happy couple," Alceu Messina announced with authority that would never leave him, no matter that he was officially retired now.
He'd worked hard coming back from his accident, and if she didn't know he'd spent six months in a hospital bed recovering from terrible damage to his body, she would never suspect it.
One toast followed another and soon the room was filled with laughing, chatting partygoers. If some gave Annette the side-eye, she ignored it. She was here for Joyce and that was what mattered.
Just as he had for the past six years, Carlo did a great job of ignoring Annette's existence. With his date always there, touching him and flirting with the Sicilian tycoon, Annette was happy to return the favor and kept her focus on Joyce, Fantino, and their friends that didn't seem interested in rehashing six years ago.
The rest of the week was more of the same. Annette spent the rehearsal doing her best to avoid looking at either Carlo, or her parents. It helped she was just a bridesmaid and not maid of honor. That position had been filled by their oldest sister, Lynette.
Annette didn't mind in the least. While she wasn't exactly an introvert, she really didn't like being the center of attention among this crowd, and Lynette's role meant she was the one giving the formal toast to the happy couple at the reception.
Annette didn't mind a bit when the youth she served focused on her. She was comfortable leading workshops for them, but that was different.
Carlo brought yet another beautiful companion to the rehearsal dinner, much to Lynette's obvious chagrin. Apparently, her older sister expected Carlo, as best man, to be her escort and complained to both sets of parents loudly enough to be overheard.
Annette would have found it all laugh worthy if she wasn't fighting her own jealousy over the date's presence. After five years, she should be more inured to such feelings, regardless of her feelings for the man.
After all, she had been strong enough to walk away when she realized it wasn't working. Which wasn't the show of strength she wanted to believe it was, because she doubted that decision almost every day, wishing she'd tried to at least talk to him again, wishing above everything she'd handled the cancelled wedding better.
Texting her parents and asking them to alert everyone else had been a colossal mistake.
Because of course they hadn't. They'd let everyone think she'd skipped town without a word to them. Why Carlo had shown up at the church when she'd told him to his face it was over, she didn't understand to this day.
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