Accidental Bride by Cristina Lollabrigida
A tall,bleach-blonde woman wearing a crisp blue skirt suit cleared her throat and ran her tongue along her perfectly-straight teeth, ensuring no food debris was left behind from her quick lunch. The weather could be unpredictable in the Windy City, but she’d received a tip that couldn’t be ignored.
With an umbrella in one hand and a handheld microphone in the other, she beamed a dazzling smile and waited for her cue. Her cameraman stood a few feet opposite her in a poncho with a boxy camera hoisted on his shoulder. He pointed at the red light to indicate they were rolling. Her earpiece crackled to life, relaying from the studio that her feed was live.
“Hi, I’m Megan Gordon. We’re live from outside the Daley Center, where the evidentiary hearing in the trial of Marcello Russo, the son of crime boss Anthony Russo, has concluded. Jury selection begins next week, and the trial is set to begin next month.”
She quickly brushed her wind-whipped locks behind her ear. The cameraman gestured behind her, indicating her intended subject had left the building. Megan greeted the tall, brown-haired man dressed in a finely-crafted Italian suit.
“Here comes lead prosecutor, Drake Walker.” He was lost in thought, and she waved at him to grab his attention and quickly shuffled over. “Mr. Walker, can you update us on the Russo case?”
“No comment,” he bristled.
“Can’t you give us anything?” she pouted, but he didn’t seem interested. “Is it true that your position at the U.S. Attorney’s office depends on a favorable outcome? Are you worried about going up against a man with extensive influential connections? After all, Anthony Russo is a pillar of Chicago’s Italian community.”
Drake sighed and turned toward the eager reporter. “This is a case just like any other, Miss Gordon. I am confident in my abilities as a prosecutor. The evidence will speak for itself as it’s presented to the jury. I have no doubt that justice will be served in this matter.”
“We appreciate you taking the time to share with us.” She smiled into the camera, listening to a voice in her earpiece. “We were surprised to hear that Drake Walker, one of the most eligible bachelors in the city, is finally settling down. Many people are curious about who has captured your heart. Can you share any details about your lucky bride? Rumors say you’re marrying a family friend to appease the district attorney.”
A look of annoyance crossed his face. “I don’t think my fiancée would appreciate it if I divulged the details of our relationship on live TV.”
A voluptuous redhead, dressed in black from her ruched top and mini skirt to her heels with their trademark red sole, sauntered out of the building behind the reporter and Drake. The cameraman gained the reporter’s attention by signaling once again. She almost squealed in delight at the possibility of getting the young woman to join them.
“Miss Russo! Miss Russo! A moment of your time, please,” the reporter shouted as she walked up to Alessandra.
The redhead tried to hurry away and slipped as she stepped into a puddle. A pair of strong arms grabbed her around the waist and pulled her out of the path of a ride-share. Alessandra shyly bit her lip and looked up at her rescuer from beneath long lashes. Megan’s eyes sparkled with delight, as she couldn’t have planned a better setup if she tried.
“Are you okay?” Drake asked, wrapping his arms tighter around her as though afraid to let her go.
Unable to respond, Alessandra just nodded. She clung to his muscular biceps and stared into his eyes. Megan asked the same question twice before Drake and Alessandra sprang apart.
“Miss Russo, are you okay?”
“It’s Alessandra,” she mumbled.
“Of course.” Megan smiled. “Are you okay? Thankfully Drake was here to pull you to safety.”
“It was nothing,” Drake said humbly and let Alessandra go.
“Alessandra, can you tell us how your brother is holding up? How do you feel about the outcome of today’s hearing?”
“My brother means everything to me. It hurts that he has been denied bail, but I will remain strong for him.”
Megan observed the fiery gaze in Drake’s eyes as he became entranced by Alessandra’s words.
“Is it true that Marcello was acting on orders from your father, Anthony Russo?” the reporter asked.
“I can’t discuss family business.” Alessandra froze like a deer caught in headlights.
“So you’re not denying it?” The reporter smiled, ready for the kill.
“Miss Gordon,” Drake began, shifting the focus away from Alessandra.“Miss Russo has no comment.”
Alessandra looked up at Drake and flushed. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me, Miss Russo.” Drake stiffened.
The segment ended as Megan’s earpiece crackled to life, and she was pleased with how well it went. The cameraman cut the feed and left the three in front of the courthouse.
Drake cleared his throat. “If you ladies will excuse me. Have a good day.”
“Is your fiancée aware of your relationship with Miss Russo?” Megan asked.
Drake rounded on her. “Excuse me?”
Megan held her hands up to ensure she meant no harm. “Off the record, Mr. Walker. I’d have to be blind not to see the attraction between you.”
In heels, Alessandra only stood as tall as Drake’s shoulder. Her face turned red once more as he gazed down at her. Megan studied their body language intently. She could sell the hell out of this story without trying.
“No comment,” he said without taking his eyes off Alessandra.
“Thank you, Drake,” she croaked and broke eye contact.
Although Drake seemed like he had more to say, he nodded and quickly departed. Alessandra immediately walked toward a sleek black town car that pulled up to the curb. An imposing figure stepped out to open the door for her.
She was unaware that Megan Gordon was not the sole witness to their conversation.