Trust: A New Beginning

Trust - 1


Cristiane Serruya

To Raphaela, a hell of a daughter!

Your level of awesomeness is so high that it exceeded even my own expectations.

(Sorry, baby, couldn’t resist…)


First of all, I have to thank Margarete Bianchi. Thank you, thank you. A hundred times thank you. For believing when no one else did, for encouraging when I faltered, for your trust in my capacity.

Then, of course, my family, in ascending order:

Giovanna, my youngest daughter, I promise I’ll catch up on the time I’ve stolen from you;

Raphaela, my oldest daughter, you really helped me sort out some tricky scenes. When you grow up a bit, I promise I’ll let you read it all. (Yeah, I’ve censored it for you, baby);

Sergio, my brother and my best friend. Thank you. For drawing such amazing eyes for the cover and for your wise advice;

Jayne, my sister-in-law, for sharing my enthusiasm;

My dear husband, Raphael, sorry for the nights you slept alone. And thanks for the helping hand with the girls. You are the best, Amore;

And my parents, Lilian and Sergio, who gave me an exceptional education and the possibility to travel as much as I did. I can’t thank you enough.

I have also to thank those who worked with me closely to birth this book. Girls, you are its surrogate mothers.

Carla Kasumi Atkins, for your infinite patience in editing my baby and helping me through the tangles of the written world.

Renata Santos Fontanive, for your creativity in designing the covers and your help starting my marketing life.

Carmen Neri, for your friendship all these years and your essential help in checking the corrections with me.

And last but not least, I have to acknowledge those who didn’t believe. You kindled my fire.


United Kingdom.

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009.

Some minutes after midnight.

London, Eaton Square.

She felt the evil approached her. Her head tossed on the pillow and her hands gripped the sheets.




She awoke with her own screams, her right hand gripping her left scarred arm, long nails digging in.

She fumbled for her table lamp. Light flooded the room and gleamed on her square diamond ring and wedding band.

She exhaled slowly and sat on the bed. Her forehead dropped to her knees, which she drew tight to her chest as she hugged herself.


Why can’t I remember?

She rose from the bed and donned a wrap.

Padding silently to the living room, she looked at the photo of a tall, blond man and big, fat tears fell from her eyes.

London, Park Lane.

He sat on the bed, resting his back against the headboard and pillows as he raked a hand through his brown sun-kissed hair.

The woman lying beside him on the bed sighed with pleasure and curled up against his strong thigh.

He studied the gorgeous brunette clinging to him and grimaced, disgusted with himself.

Why does she keep haunting me?

Why can’t I feel anything for a woman?

Why can’t I be let myself be loved?

Scotland, Northern Highlands.

The whip lashed across the woman’s back and she screamed.

A dark smile spread over the rugged features of the dark-haired man. His arm descended again and again and again, red, angry welts imprinting on the woman’s skin.

The sound of leather against skin, feminine screams, and heavy masculine breathing filled the room.

He threw the whip away, turned the woman on the bed, and thrust into her as he tore the blindfold away.

Blue eyes stared adoringly at him. And the memory of another face masked the one in front of him.

An incredible anger surged through him and he grabbed the long blonde hair in his hands, yanking her head back.

One more whore.

One more to torment me.

Is this what I really want?

Chapter 1

London, Heathrow Airport.

Thursday, October 15th, 2009.

7 a.m.

“I’m so sorry, madam. Your flight to Switzerland has been cancelled. There is a red flag for a snowstorm.”

“Surely you can transfer me to an earlier flight. For God’s sake, we’re at Heathrow!”

“You don’t seem to understand. All earlier flights are full. I can reimburse you or reemit your ticket for another day.”

Rage coursing through her veins, Sophia almost screamed, “Listen, I have to go to Geneva or somewhere near it, today or, rather, now!

“I’m sorry, there is nothing I can do,” the attendant turned to answer another passenger’s complaint, leaving her there.

Ethan Ashford halted mid-stride and scanned the beautiful woman standing at the airline counter. A wicked smile formed on his lips. Elbowing his friend and lawyer, Leonard Allenthorp, he whispered, “My lucky day.”

“What?” Leonard stopped.

“I’m going to offer a ride to that damsel in distress.” Ethan discreetly pointed with his thumb at the young five foot six woman on his right. “See the sexy one over there, with long raven hair?”

“Oh, come on, Ashford. We’re heading to one of your most important meetings and all you can think about is screwing a woman?” Leonard scowled.

“Allenthorp, I have to give you some lessons on mixing business and pleasure,” he stalked up to the woman.

“Excuse me. I couldn’t help listening to your conversation with the attendant. I’m heading to Geneva. If you want a ride, I can help you solve your problem.”

Sophia half turned at the sound of the voice and was rewarded with the view of a large chest and broad shoulders immaculately dressed in a tailored dark blue suit, crisp white shirt, and blood- red tie.

Sophia bit her lower lip and craned her neck to look at his face. Oh. My. God. Mesmerizing eyes of startling Mediterranean Sea blue were staring at her. Azure eyes. A white, perfect smile slashed his tanned, bearded features. Light brown sun kissed hair neatly cut and combed back.

“I beg your pardon?” she breathed. “Mr. ah…”

“I apologize. Ethan Ashford, at your service.”

Oh, damn. Ashford Steel Industries.

“Nice to meet you, Miss…” he said, with a wolfish smile curling his lips.

Mrs. Santo. Mrs. Sophia Santo,” she said, eyeing Ethan with clear distrust.

“So, Sophia,” her name left his lips as a caress, “care to accept my offer?” He dipped his voice a tone, eyes turning a deep dark blue. They seemed to pierce her soul. She had never seen intense eyes like these.

“I don’t understand. A ride?” The offer astonished Sophia. Uh-oh. Something is wrong here. A tall, muscular, handsome, and extremely rich man is offering me a plane ride? For free? In the middle of Heathrow Airport? Why me? Why now?

She stepped backwards and bumped into a firm chest. A loud bang was heard as two hands grasped her arms, steadying her. She spun on her heels and saw another man, looking a little older, shorter, and leaner than the first but no less interesting. Leonard Allenthorp, ‘The Lawyer Duke.’ What is happening?

A chill ran through Sophia’s spine. “I’m sorry,” she blurted.

“It’s okay.” He bent down and picked up his briefcase.

She saw an easy smile, kind blue eyes, and dark blond hair, graying at the temples. He stretched his hand, in a friendly way, saying, “Leonard Allenthorp. How do you do, Mrs. Santo? What my friend said is that we’re heading to Geneva in ten minutes, in a private jet, and if you’re willing, we’ve got space for you.”

He looked at her and down at his outstretched hand, as if daring her to shake it.

“How much?” Sophia blurted, with a frown.

He looked confused, “It’s a free ride we’re offering. It’s Mr. Ashford’s private jet.”

Sophia took a deep breath, gathering courage. As she was well aware, everything in life had a price but she needed to go to Geneva today.

“Thanks, I accept,” she shook the outstretched hand, smiling a little, trying to relax. She had nothing to fear from this man.

A deep voice purred from behind her, in her right ear, “It will be my pleasure.”

That man, Ethan, he unnerved her. Sophia steeled herself.

Leonard made a small gesture with his hand. “Shall we go? We don’t want to meet the snowstorm in midair.”

She put her turquoise Chanel bag on her shoulder and caught the handle of her carry-on.

“Do you want help with your luggage?” Ethan offered.

“No. Thanks.”

She watched Ethan surreptitiously as she walked between the men. He had the inborn firmness of those who know how to achieve things in life. He wore a dark blue three-piece suit perfectly tailored to show off his strong body. Gucci black shoes. He carried nothing, not even a briefcase. A man who demanded perfection, even from himself.

On her other side, Leonard kept pace. Almost as tall as Ethan. Sophia knew he was about to turn thirty-five. She had just read an article about him in the Sunday Magazine. His clothes were also expensive; however, he used them in an effortless way. If she didn’t know better, she would say he was harmless. She sensed he was a man she would like to befriend.

“I have to thank you for the ride,” Sophia smiled at Ethan. “I should have imagined that something like this could happen. We’re having such terrible and unstable weather this year.”

“Yes, we are,” he agreed. “Have you kept abreast of the floods in northern England?”

Sophia nodded.

“Awful, isn’t it?” Leonard said quietly. “My brother-in-law had serious problems on his property.”

At passport control, Ethan quirked an eyebrow at Sophia when she didn’t follow them. She just smiled back. He shrugged and followed Leonard.

The police officer did his work quickly and handed the passport back to her, with a big smile, saying, with a heavy British accent, “Bom dia.”

Really, there is nothing cuter than Portuguese spoken with an accent. Sophia grinned back, saying, “Obrigada.”

Ethan eyed her document with interest when she tucked it back in her bag.

“This way, Sophia,” he motioned.

They went through an empty corridor.

Downstairs and outside the building was a new silver-and-black Gulfstream G650. Next to the carpet on the tarmac by the stairs, the captain waited to welcome them.

At the top of the stairs, a good-looking flight attendant smiled. She wore a tight, black-and-white uniform, “Good morning, ma’am. May I take your luggage and coat?”

“Yes, thank you.” Sophia handed over her carry-on and her navy overcoat.

The attendant’s smile broadened and she melted at the sight of Ethan. “Mr. Ashford, a pleasure to see you again.”

Ethan smiled back, “Good morning, Vanessa.”

Vanessa turned to greet Leonard, “Mr. Allenthorp, good morning.”

Leonard nodded at her, “Vanessa.”

Every detail had been chosen with care. All the seats were handcrafted with genuine black leather with white-and-gray hues for the carpet and other decorative touches. It was very masculine, subtly stylish. The inside of the airplane resembled its owner.

Sophia walked past single seats facing each other. Halfway down the aisle, there was a four-place mahogany conference table with double seats on each side. She sat on one of the double seats, next to the window, putting her bag on the seat on the aisle. Leonard leveled a look at her and smiled as he noticed the maneuver, seating himself on the other side, opposite her. Sophia noted that all modern technologies were at hand, as in a fully functional office.

At the rear, a three-seat black divan with gray-and-black striped silk pillows faced a mahogany credenza topped with a wide-screen plasma TV.

“Mr. Ashford, may I fix you your drink?”

“What are you drinking, Sophia?” Ethan politely asked.

“Water. Sparkling, thank you.”

“The same for me, Ashford,” Leonard added.

“Vanessa, please, water for Mrs. Santo and Mr. Allenthorp. The usual for me,” he leaned on the table, two big hands flattened, to look at Sophia. “Want a tour before takeoff?”