A Facade to Shatter - By Lynn Raye Harris

CHAPTER ONE

ZACH SCOTT DIDN’T do parties. Not anymore.

Once, he’d been the life of the party. But everything had changed a little over a year ago. Zach shoved his hands into his tuxedo trouser pockets and frowned. He’d thought coming to Sicily with a friend, in order to attend a wedding, would be an easy thing to do. There’d been no wedding, it had turned out, but the reception was taking place anyway. And he stood on the edge of the ballroom, wondering where Taylor Carmichael had got to. Wondering if he could slip away and text his regrets to her.

His head was pounding after a rough night. He’d been dreaming again. Dreaming of guns and explosions and planes plummeting from the sky.

There was nothing like a fight for survival to rearrange a man’s priorities. Since his plane had been shot down in enemy territory, the kinds of things he’d once done—fund-raisers, public appearances, speeches, political dinners—were now a kind of torture he’d prefer to live without.

Except it was more impossible to get out of those things now than ever before. Not only was he Zachariah James Scott IV, son of an eminent United States senator and heir to a pharmaceuticals fortune, he was also a returning military hero.

Zach’s frown deepened.

Since his rescue—in which every single marine sent to extract him had perished—he’d been in demand as a sort of all-American poster boy. The media couldn’t get enough of him, and he knew a big part of that was his father’s continual use of his story in his public appearances.

Zachariah J. Scott III wasn’t about to let the story die. Not when it could do him a world of political good.

His son had done his duty when he could have chosen an easier path. His son had chosen to serve his country instead of himself. It was true that Zach could have sat on the Scott Pharmaceuticals board and moved mountains of money instead of flying jets into a war zone. But the jets were a part of him.

Or had been a part of him until the crash had left him with crushing, unpredictable headaches that made it too dangerous to fly.

Yes, everyone loved that he’d bravely gone to war and survived.

Except he didn’t feel brave, and he damn sure didn’t feel like he’d done anything extraordinary. He didn’t want the attention, didn’t deserve the accolades. He’d failed pretty spectacularly, in his opinion.

But he couldn’t make them stop. So he stood stiffly and smiled for the cameras like a dutiful military man should, and he felt dead inside. And the deader he felt, the more interested the media seemed to get.

It wasn’t all bad, though. He’d taken over the stewardship of the Scott Foundation, his family’s charitable arm, and he worked tirelessly to promote military veterans’ causes. They often came back with so little, and with their lives shattered. The government tried to take care of them, but it was a huge job—and sometimes they fell through the cracks.

It was Zach’s goal to save as many of them as he could. He owed it to them, by God.

He made a visual sweep of the room. At least the media attention wasn’t directed at him right now. The Sicilian media was far more interested in the fact the bride had jilted the groom at the altar. Zach was of no interest whatsoever to this crowd. That, at least, was a bonus.

It wasn’t often he could move anonymously through a gathering like this one.

Still, he was on edge, as if he were being followed. He prowled the edges of the crowd in the darkened ballroom, his headache barely under control as he searched for Taylor. She wasn’t answering his texts, and he was growing concerned. She’d been so worried about this trip, about her return to acting, and about the director’s opinion of her.

But Taylor was tough, and he knew she would have gone into the press event with her head held high. She wanted this film badly, wanted the money and respectability for the veterans’ clinic back in Washington, D.C., where she’d spent so much time working to help others. He thought of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines—most suffering the debilitating effects of posttraumatic stress—the clinic helped, thought of the constant need for funding, and knew that Taylor would have entered that room determined to succeed.

What he didn’t know was how it had turned out.

He stepped into a quiet corner—if there was such a thing—and reached into his breast pocket for his