The Marriage Merger

By: Jennifer Probst

Chapter One

It was official.

She was a failure.

Julietta Conte stared sightlessly at the buttercream-colored wall of her home. Funny, she’d never taken the time to put any paintings or photos up. Unmarred by any marks or holes by numerous nails, the clean lines usually soothed her. reminded her of the orderly, controlled life-style she proudly led. Tonight, the pristine perfection of that wall only made her feel empty. Like an imposter. or a ghost.

A funny sound escaped her lips. She had lost the biggest deal her family bakery had ever been offered, but losing her mind was not a possibility at this point. A month of research, endless paperwork, little sleep, and various social outings had yielded rejection by the esteemed Palazzo Hotel. She’d been so sure of success. Instead, she was left with nothing but the image of confessing her failure to her team in the morning.

Tugging her cocoa silk robe tighter around her, she crossed the lush carpet over to her trendy kitchen and poured herself a glass of Bolla. Low voices on the television chattered behind her, but the stark silence of her home screamed.

What was wrong with her tonight? She’d lost deals be-fore. rarely did she allow herself to stumble on her failures—she’d learned to toughen up and head toward the next beacon of profit. It wasn’t like La Dolce Famiglia was in any financial trouble. This wasn’t life or death. yet, the lure of making her mark on the business world and in her family was the only thing she had left to give. And now, she couldn’t even accomplish that.

A demanding buzz rose to her ears. Julietta scooped up her phone and glanced at the text. Her sister. Again. Was this the third or fourth text tonight?

Did you do it?

Impatience nipped at her nerves. Her youngest sibling was happily married to her longtime crush and insisted a ridiculous love spell had brought the whole thing together.

If only. How much easier would life be if you just made a list of all the qualities needed in a man, burned it in a fire to earth Mother, and sat back and waited? of course, Julietta gently tried to explain, it probably wasn’t the book but the simple fact they were meant to be together. Carina refused to believe it.

So Carina had pressed the violet fabric book into Julietta’s hands during her last visit and made her swear on their sisterhood she’d try the spell. Carina believed if Julietta cast this silly love spell, Mr. right would show up at her door and change her life. After an hour of being verbally abused regarding her inability to see past her spreadsheets toward the future, Julietta agreed, certain her sister would forget the ridiculous conversation and move on.

Two weeks now. Twenty texts. A dozen phone calls. And no end in sight to forgetfulness.

Her fingers punched out two letters.


The crisp fruity taste of the wine danced in her mouth.

opening the refrigerator, she grabbed a handful of grapes and made her way back to the living room to stew. Why didn’t anyone understand or accept that a single woman could be happy? And she was happy. Damn happy. ever since that ridiculous purple fabric book bullied its way into her place she’d been tortured nonstop. Carina swore the spell had worked with both Alexa and Maggie to match them with their soul mates.

A massive wave of hopelessness pressed down on her.

She fought sudden panic, dragged in a breath, and coldly analyzed the emotions. of course, she was a bit envious of her siblings. All of them had settled down into married bliss, chattering about families and get-togethers. She was looked upon as the single female who should entertain them with stories of love gone wrong and hot affairs burning up the sheets.

The flashing screen saver on her laptop advertising the logo of La Dolce Famiglia mocked her. Instead, Julietta spoke of figures and sales and the next deal to bring greatness to the family name. even Mama began to look at her with concern and perhaps a shred of pity.

She bit down hard on a grape. Tart juice exploded on her tongue. Merda. Who cared? Wasn’t this the time women did not need men? Sex was overrated and not something she was interested in anyway. Her inability to experience an orgasm or a deep connection with a man had frustrated her for years until she vowed to cut out that part of her life in order to keep her sanity. Her mind might have craved physical intimacy, but her body was steeped in ice. After many failed attempts to feel something—anything—from the opposite sex, she stopped whining and started living.

Without sex.

Her sleek, trendy space bespoke her wealth, taste, and success. Though her sisters preferred warm Tuscan furnish-ings, Julietta favored clean modern lines with a ruthless efficiency that appealed to her sense of order. Bright white paint set off the edgy black and glass tables, bone loveseats, and plum cushions under sky-high ceilings. The huge windows allowed light to flood the rooms in the daytime and offered spectacular views of a lit-up Milan at night. Her kitchen consisted of red leather bar stools and black granite counter tops. No need for a massive table since she always ate alone. If there was a new gadget out, she bought it. The place was wired with the latest in all technology, from her various computers and lightning Internet access to a theater-version television, and sound systems that piped music into every room.

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