The Consequence She Cannot Deny

By: Bella Frances

CHAPTER ONE

Heavenly things are about to happen!

SO DECLARED THE press pack for Heavenly magazine, in an elegant cursive font across its front cover.

I’m absolutely sure they are, thought Coral Dahl as she sat back on the cream leather of Romano Publishing’s executive jet and started flicking through the folder. Fingers crossed they’ll happen to me…

Heavenly’s tagline summed up how she was feeling about this trip, but for the posse of fashion, art and creative directors, stylists, hair and make-up assistants and editorial staff it was just another day at the office. Celebrity fashion editorials were no big deal to them, but for Coral, as a rookie photographer, it was the biggest career step of her life.

In less than an hour they would be landing on Hydros, the infamous private island belonging to the infamously private Di Visconti family. They’d spend the next two days photographing the heir apparent, Salvatore, and his fiancée before their ultra-hush-hush, ultra-exclusive wedding. All after signing confidentiality agreements. In triplicate.

‘OK, people, listen up.’ Mariella, the senior editor, walked through the cabin, looking more than a little flustered. ‘Word is that Salvatore’s brother Raffaele, our very own commander-in-chief, is going to be there, overseeing things. Yes, I hear you gasp, but I don’t want anyone in a panic or fluttering too many eyelashes—I’ll handle everything. We’re professionals, and we all know what we’re doing. Well, nearly all of us,’ she added, looking at Coral. ‘So there shouldn’t be any problems. Just let me reassure him. We go way back, and whatever it is that’s got him ruffled I’ll sort it out.’

Coral looked around. Everyone seemed to be grabbing their bags and reapplying their make-up.

‘What’s going on?’ she asked the girl next to her.

‘Raffaele Rossini—CEO of Romano. Signor Smokin’ Hot!’ She laughed, slicking her lips with gloss. ‘None of us stands a chance, but it doesn’t stop us from trying.’

Coral raised her eyebrows. She wouldn’t be trying anything with anyone. This trip was strictly business. She’d only vaguely heard of the Di Visconti family before she’d been handed her brief, two hours earlier, but now she knew plenty about the late Giancarlo, founder of the billion-dollar Argento Cruise Line, and his son Salvatore. And, of course, the more mysterious Raffaele Rossini, head of the entire Romano Publishing empire, which just happened to publish Heavenly—the magazine for which she’d won this commission.

‘Nobody gets close to Raffaele. He’s like a god, up in the clouds, so it’s really amazing that we’re going to meet him.’

Coral flicked back through the pages of the press pack, past images from the nineteen-fifties of the first cruise liner in the Argento fleet right up to recent shots of their twelve amazing vessels. It was the most exclusive cruise line in the world. She scanned them for information about Raffaele, but all she could see was that he had an architect-designed cliffside house along the coast from the family’s ancient villa, and that he had launched a bunch of magazines over the years. Oh, and his net worth was billions.

‘It hardly says anything in the press pack about Raffaele,’ she said, frowning.

‘Yes, that’s how he likes it,’ said Mariella, bustling up. ‘Trust me—the fact that he’s getting personally involved is not something that happens every day. So, top of your game everyone. Coral, are you well prepared? It’s a tiny little shoot with Kyla this afternoon. We’ll do it outside—on the loggia. Yes? Happy with that? No need for any fancy ideas, OK, sweetie? Try not to panic. Speak only if spoken to. Leave it to the pros.’

Coral’s heart sank. Outdoors? The loggia? So her creative input was going to be limited as to where to position the reflective umbrella. After all the effort she had put in to winning this commission.

Her portfolio had been super-sharp, super-artistic. She could just imagine her mother gasping when she heard about this. Lynda Dahl would be horrified to hear that the pinnacle of her talented daughter’s art school career was a point-and-click camera shoot with some billionaire’s babe.

Oh, well. It was a start. The start she and her mother had dreamed of for years. And it was on Hydros. And she’d be published in Heavenly. All things considered, that was pretty good going for her first month as a professional photographer.

Despite the air-conditioned chill, Coral warmed at the thought of her mother. After everything she had been through, the pride on her mum’s face when she’d watched Coral graduate had been the best feeling ever. Even though this job wasn’t high art, Coral knew that it was going to mean the world to Lynda.

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