Chapter One

John smiled as he took his new wife's hand in his, watching her as the Italian breeze caused her fiery red hair to dance. He tried to count her freckles, but as soon as he got close to her eyes, he lost count. He let his eyes trace the curve of her ember-colored lashes in the sun, the gentle slope of her nose, the full rose shape of her lips.

"You're staring." She turned to look at her husband, taking his rough, calloused hands in her own and pressing a soft kiss to his lips. "What has you so distracted today?" She asked, letting her eyes trace over the scars on his cheek and eyebrow.

He smirked, tucking her hair behind her ear and rolling his tongue piercing across his teeth. "I just can't believe you're really mine."


"What would you like to drink, Sir?" The waitress asked, her Italian accent thick as the violins played in the background. "We have a lovely assortment of wines from local vineyards, several imported beers, and we even carry-"

"I'll just take a virgin Bloody-Mary." He smiled politely, nodding to his wife. "And the Mrs. Will take a glass of your finest white wine." He met Claire's eyes, placing a hand on her arm when he saw the fear. "I'll be fine, Babe."

She nodded, twisting her wedding ring as the waitress poured a glass for her and placed John's cocktail before him. "You're sure you won't relapse?" She asked, her hand shaking as she lifted the glass.

"I promise." He lifted his cocktail. "To our future together."

She took a sip of her wine, surprised at how much better this was than her mother's American stuff. "Wow…" She whispered.

John nodded, slowly moving his glass away from him and taking a drink of water. "Good, huh?"

She set her glass down, biting her lip as she looked at his tan skin in the low light of the restaurant. "I can tell that you're half Greek here."

He chuckled, kissing her hand as the waitress came back around for their orders. "We'll take a fettuccini alfredo please."

She nodded, scribbling down their order before she left to give it to the cook. "Of course, Sir."

John turned back to his wife, lifting his napkin off of his lap and folding it nicely on the table. "I'll be back in a second, Sweets. I've just gotta take a-" He stopped himself before he said it. "I need to go to the men's room."

She took a sip of her wine, enjoying the sight of him in a suit. "Okay."


Claire applied some chap stick, biting the inside of her cheek when she noticed that a guy was making eyes at her from across the pavilion. She swallowed as she turned her gaze to where John had disappeared to the bathroom, praying that he would show soon.

"Ciao amore…" The man greeted, slipping into John's seat. "What is a delicate flame like yourself doing all alone?"

She ducked her head, avoiding his predatory gaze. "I'm not alone. My husband just had to use the restroom." She gasped as he moved toward her, slipping a hand into her bag and gripping the small pressure stick that John had bought her.

He pulled her to her feet, making her lose her grip on the weapon and sweeping her into a dance. "I believe I saw him with another woman in the hall." He smiled, moving a half-step closer to her and grinding himself against her.

She tried to push him away, turning her face to the side as he tried to kiss her. "Get off of me." She hissed, not wanting to cause a scene.

"Hey!" John's voice boomed over the pavilion, and he shoved the man off of her. "Leave my wife alone." He ordered, his voice low and dangerous as he spoke.

The man turned and ran, leaving John and Claire alone to finish their meal.

John held Claire's shoulders as she shook against him, looking into her eyes to see the same fear he'd felt after he'd been assaulted. "What did he do to you?" He asked, wrapping her in his blazer. "Are you hurt?"

She shook her head, forcing her tears back as she looked at him. "At the wedding… when I was in the dressing room… Timothy try-tried to make me give him oral… and he just-"

John shushed her, waving the waitress over. "Cancel our order please." He gave her a few Euros, pulling his wife close. "This should cover our bill, and anything left you can keep." He took in the confusion on her face. "In America we call it a tip. But if you don't want it then, please, give it to a charity."

She nodded, watching as the young couple left the restaurant. "Thank you…" She whispered, tightening her ponytail and smoothing a hand over her apron.