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Грэхем Линн

Mediterranean Millionaires

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GWENNA looked round the noisy room in despair and blocked out the angry flood of accusations being hurled at the hunched and pathetic figure of her father, who had been shorn of all his natural buoyancy by the events of recent days.

The drawing room of the Old Rectory was large and elegant. But the flower arrangement on the table, which Gwenna had taken such special pains with, was now wilting and dropping petals. It was three days since the world in which she lived had shattered into broken shards and, along with it, some of her most heartfelt convictions.

Donald Hamilton had been charged with fraud, false accounting and forgery and informed that other offences might yet be added to that terrifying tally. At first, everybody had been up in arms in defence of the older man. Not just his family, but his friends and neighbours as well for he was a popular figure. The fact that his employer and work colleagues stayed silent and kept their distance had been loudly condemned. But then, possibly people were worried about the security of their jobs. After all it was barely a week since Furnridge Leather had been bought by Rialto, the vast corporate business empire run by Angelo Riccardi. Possibly because of that more cosmopolitan and powerful connection, the case had attracted a great deal of unpleasant publicity.

Perhaps the biggest shock of all had occurred when Donald Hamilton, confronted with overwhelming evidence of his crimes, had chosen to confess his guilt. Gwenna had been truly devastated. That the father she adored and admired should have stooped so low as to steal money had appalled her, but she had been proud that he had ultimately had the courage to admit what he had done and accept the blame. When he had finally been allowed home, he had taken Gwenna into his study for a private chat. There he had confided how the extravagant lifestyle he had been leading had led to steadily mounting debts that he could no longer handle.

‘I just borrowed a little one month from the Furnridge accounts to tide me over,’ her parent explained heavily. ‘Naturally I intended to pay it back. Unfortunately Penelope sprang her big fancy wedding on us without warning and that cost a fortune. Her mother spent another fortune comforting her when her marriage failed. Last year Wanda needed the capital to set up her riding school. As you know that was another disaster and I lost a lot on that venture. But I do realise that that’s no excuse for stealing. You mustn’t think I’m blaming anyone either—’

‘I don’t…I don’t.’ Gwenna’s throat was thick with tears as she gave the older man a comforting hug. She was well aware that nothing less than the very best was ever acceptable to her stepmother and her two stepsisters and that they expected her father to provide for their every need and want.

‘You see, I’ve never been very good at saying no to the people I love. I’m afraid that we’ve been living above our means for a long time in this house but I found it impossible to deny Eva anything. I love her so much, Gwenna. I don’t know what I’ll do if she decides to divorce me over this.’

After that illuminating conversation, Gwenna was now finding it very difficult indeed to stand by listening while the rest of her father’s family made him the target of their bitter recriminations. He was a solicitor, whose main source of income had been earned by his employment at Furnridge Leather. A few hours a week, he worked for a handful of private clients, most of whom were elderly and whom he had inherited from his late father’s now defunct legal practice.

‘They’ve frozen your bank accounts. My allowance hasn’t been paid. How am I supposed to pay my credit card bill?’ her elder stepsister, Penelope, was demanding, her pretty face contorted with fury.

Gwenna wondered what would happen if she dared to suggest that perhaps it was time that the brunette looked for a regular job. Both her stepmother’s daughters still lived at home. Penelope was twenty-seven, a part-time model who treated her career like a hobby and expected her stepfather to fund the luxuries she enjoyed. Her sibling, Wanda, was two years younger and had never held down a job for longer than six weeks.

‘What about the repayments on my sports car?’ Wanda was demanding. ‘Where am I going to get the money to keep them up?’

Eva Hamilton gave her silent husband a bitter look of tearful condemnation. ‘Until now, I never appreciated how lucky I was that my first husband was such an excellent provider.’

Gwenna winced at a reminder that she felt was unnecessarily cruel and wondered fearfully if her stepmother would stand by her disgraced husband, now that the gravy train had ground to a halt.

‘Yes, he was and I’m certainly not living up to that challenge.’ Slumped in his armchair in the corner, Donald Hamilton was sunk so deep in depression that he was a soft target for all such attacks.

‘If only you hadn’t admitted that you took the money! With a good lawyer, we could have fought the charges!’ Penelope told him furiously.

‘We might have had a chance if Furnridge had still been under John Ridge’s ownership. But not now…Rialto is huge and Angelo Riccardi is a hard-hitter. In an organisation of that size, the rules are rigid and the resources unlimited. They’d pursue you to the edge of the grave for a penny, never mind what I’ve creamed off the accounts over the years,’ the older man framed bleakly.

‘I’m ruined.’

‘What matters is that you owned up to what you had done. I’m sure that that was a relief to everyone concerned and that you feel a little better now,’ Gwenna commented hastily.

‘Honesty is the best policy? Did you get taught that in Sunday School?’ Her stepmother sobbed with scorn. ‘You definitely didn’t pick it up at your mother’s knee. After all, she was your father’s secret bit on the side for years!’

Gwenna reddened with the old sense of shame that she had never managed to shake off. It was true: her mother’s long-running affair with Donald Hamilton had been furtive and built on lies and pretences. Even so, while she had often been treated to such sneering reminders as a child, few had come her way since she had attained adult independence. ‘Look, I came over to—’

‘Stick your nose in where it’s not wanted?’ Wanda sniped.

‘So that we could all try to work out how best to deal with this situation,’ Gwenna countered doggedly. ‘If we can pay back the money that’s been taken, Dad might still be able to escape prosecution. Obviously the Massey gardens and the nursery could be sold. Then there’s the apartment in London—’

The very suggestion that the city apartment, much used by Eva and her daughters, should be put on the market roused Gwenna’s step relatives to a vitriolic counter attack. But Donald Hamilton studied his only child with the first glimmer of hope he had displayed since his arrest. ‘Do you think an offer like that could make a difference?’

Gwenna gave a vigorous nod.

‘But if Massey is sold you’ll lose your job, the business you’ve built up and the roof over your head. Would you really do that for me?’ he prompted wonderingly.

‘Of course.’ Gwenna cleared her throat awkwardly. ‘Then there’s this place…’

Eva emerged from her handkerchief like a ferret scenting a rabbit. ‘This house is in my name and I’m not selling it or raising a loan on it!’

Gwenna had not been aware of that reality and she flushed and muttered a hasty apology.

‘You’ve got some nerve!’ Penelope told Gwenna.

The phone rang. The police wanted her father to answer some further queries. Before Gwenna’s anxious gaze the older man turned a sickly grey shade. It hurt her to witness his obvious fear at the prospect of yet another visit to the police station.

With an air of resolution, Gwenna stood up. ‘I’m going to go to Furnridge Leather and ask to speak to whoever has the power to make a decision on your behalf.’

‘You’ll be wasting your time,’ Donald mumbled. ‘I’m dead in the water, dead no matter what you do.’

Angelo accepted a black coffee, but ignored the erotic invitation in the PA’s admiring gaze and the manner in which she contrived to bend low enough to show off her cleavage. Where was her respect? If she had been on his personal staff she would have been history. He didn’t like sex in the office. It was a distraction and he disliked distractions. Women were wonderful…outside working hours, at a convenient time of his choosing. He let nothing get in the way of business or profit.

He stood by the window that overlooked the ground-floor reception area of Furnridge Leather’s premises and listened to his executives uneasily discussing ideas to regenerate the company with the former owner, John Ridge. Occasionally Angelo spoke up to rubbish the more unrealistic suggestions. This was the smallest company he had taken over in a decade. It was a challenge for his staff to think small enough to suit the project, particularly when this latest acquisition had a big black hole in its accounts. Now there were two thousand employees with very good reason to hate Donald Hamilton because the future of the business was very much in the balance.

A young woman approached the reception desk. Her long blonde hair was caught back in a simple clasp. Angelo stiffened, keen dark eyes narrowing in immediate recognition of the graceful angle of her head and her perfect profile. Well, what do you know? he thought without great surprise. Gwenna from the deadest little village in Somerset had found him again. Had she seen his limousine as he’d departed and recognised his financial worth? Whatever, she had evidently now identified him and intended to save him the hassle of looking for her. He felt disappointed. He had thought that just for once he might actually have to make a concentrated effort to get a woman into bed. The phone buzzed.

The call was for John Ridge.

The older man set down the handset and muttered uncomfortably, ‘Donald Hamilton’s daughter, Gwenna, is downstairs asking to see me or whoever is in charge. Is there anyone here willing to speak to her?’

Angelo had become as still as a granite statue. He was frowning because when he had glanced through the background information on Donald Hamilton there had been no reference to a daughter by that name. ‘Hamilton’s actual daughter?’

‘His only child and a lovely girl, but I would really prefer not to have to deal with her. There’s nothing to say, is there?’

‘Nothing,’ one of the executives agreed very drily.

‘I will see her in here in fifteen minutes,’ Angelo decreed, rigorously suppressing the angry sense of shock and recoil spreading through him. A lovely girl? Sì, he could vouch for that. He was a connoisseur and she had stopped even him in his tracks. Impervious to his companions’ surprise at his announcement, he immediately accessed the file on Hamilton on his laptop. And there he found the brief reference to her as Jennifer Gwendolen Massey Hamilton, aged twenty-six years. Donald Hamilton’s only child, who had to be precious even to a lying, cheating fraudster.

Gwenna sat in the waiting area feeling the hostile chill in the air around her and registered that she was reaping what her father had sown. The nerve-racking minutes ticked past. She was astonished to be told that Angelo Riccardi, the billionaire head of Rialto, was in the building and prepared to speak to her, for she had dimly assumed that someone so rich and powerful would have little personal involvement in the acquisition of a comparatively small rural business. By the time she was escorted past the door that had once led to her father’s office and shown into the boardroom, she was very pale, stiff with shamed discomfiture and exceedingly nervous.

‘Miss Hamilton…’ Angelo murmured without intonation, watching the shock of recognition stamp the pure lines of her face. She could not hide her dismay and embarrassment and he marvelled at a transparency that was a rare trait in the world in which he lived. ‘I’m Angelo Riccardi.’

Astonished to be greeted by the male she had met in the village, Gwenna exclaimed in confusion,’ You’re…but you can’t be!’

Angelo elevated an ebony brow.

A timeless moment stretched while she stared, absorbing all over again the stunning set of his tawny gaze above the smooth dark planes of his high cheekbones, the masculine jut of his nose, the sensual fullness of his hard, handsome mouth. A curious little pulse of uneasy heat flickered in the pit of her stomach. Snatching in a ragged breath she made a mighty effort to regain her scattered wits.

‘Well, obviously you are…er, who you say you are,’ Gwenna conceded in an awkward rush. ‘My goodness, a coincidence I could’ve done without today.’

‘I still don’t know why you wanted to see me.’ Angelo was enjoying her frank inability to conceal how flustered she was. It seemed—and he considered himself a very good judge of character—that his enemy’s daughter lacked her parent’s innate guile and cunning.

‘To talk about my father.’

‘I’m surprised you think that I would be interested.’

Gwenna stiffened. ‘My father worked here for a long time—’

‘While he systematically stripped this business of its capital.’

Her lashes dipped over her troubled eyes. ‘I have no intention of trying to deny anything that he has done.’

‘Why else are you requesting this interview? But then, perhaps you expect the same special treatment that your father enjoyed when he worked here.’

Her uneasiness escalated. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘John Ridge treated your father more as a friend than an employee and he could never understand why improved productivity consistently failed to deliver more profits. That’s why he finally sold up.’ Angelo watched her lose colour and duck her head at that news. He was grimly amused by a sensitivity that he knew he would use against her. It was second nature to him to pick up on other people’s weak points and utilise them for his own benefit. ‘He’s gutted now that he understands how his trust was betrayed.’

‘Dad is very ashamed. I know that doesn’t change anything—’

‘You’re living in your own little world, Miss Hamilton. Right now my staff are trying to find a way for this business to survive without massive redundancies.’

Her tummy executed a sick flip of alarm. Already cringing at the reminder of how John Ridge had been deceived, she was even more dismayed to learn what a precarious position the company had been left in. Angelo Riccardi’s rebuke struck her as horribly well deserved; she had failed to consider the wider repercussions that might arise from her father’s embezzlement. In fact she had naively assumed that the future of Furnridge Leather would be more secure as a part of a much larger organisation like Rialto. The risk of redundancies appalled her since the furniture company was the main local employer.

‘I didn’t know…I genuinely had no idea matters were so serious.’

‘How could you not know? A large amount of money has been misappropriated.’ Angelo was discovering that the anger roused by the disclosure of her identity had gone to be replaced by a growing buzz of satisfaction. Why not? She was Hamilton’s daughter. He now had two people to play with, instead of only one, and as he was already discovering she was a very beautiful plaything with an entire repertoire of responses that he had not seen in a long time. ‘No business of this size could weather such a financial loss without shedding staff.’

A gleam of optimism lightened her anxious gaze and she lifted her head. ‘But that’s why I’m here…to talk about how that money could be repaid.’

‘Repaid?’ Angelo queried, his narrowed gaze skimming over her with renewed intensity. The upward tilt of her eyes and the sprinkling of freckles across her nose had an appeal he could not define. The trouser suit might be drab and un-flattering to her frame, but it was outshone by a radiant beauty that continually drew his attention back to her.

‘My father has property interests that could be sold and the proceeds put towards repayment.’ Eager to put that point across, Gwenna partially evaded his gaze as she became aware of the force of his scrutiny. Not for the first time she wondered why he made her feel so uncomfortable. Her throat was tight, her muscles clenched taut. Was it fear?

‘If any of those property interests were purchased with stolen funds and your father is found guilty in court, those assets could be seized and sold to provide compensation.’

That smooth assurance sliced through Gwenna’s hopes like a blade and she felt the full force of her own ignorance. ‘I wasn’t aware of that.’

His agile intellect was already engaged in wondering what favour she had intended to ask in return for the repayment of the stolen funds. In spite of what he had said to her, he was aware that the courts were often reluctant to seize and sell private assets, particularly where there was a wife involved. It would not be the first time that a con man had served his sentence only to emerge from prison and enjoy the ill-gotten gains of his crime. That was a galling prospect to Angelo, who was determined to see Donald Hamilton punished on every possible level. Stripping the offender of his worldly goods would add savour to that process.

‘However, bringing a case such as this takes time, and this business is almost out of time.’ Angelo offered up that piece of encouragement to draw her out again.

‘Dad has already admitted his guilt,’ Gwenna reminded him readily. ‘He would be happy to agree to the properties being put up for sale and to the proceeds being used to repay his debt—’

‘He’s a thief, not a debtor,’ Angelo cut in drily. ‘What is more, although I hate to rain on your parade, property can take a very long time to sell.’

Her teeth worried anxiously at her full lower lip. Although she too had thought of that angle there was no getting round that potential hiccup that she could see. ‘Yes, I appreciate that…’

Ebony eyes of extraordinary power sought and held hers in a grip as strong as forged steel. ‘Of course, if I was prepared to consider such an arrangement, a valuation could be done and the properties concerned could simply be signed over. That could be achieved very quickly.’

Ready to grasp at any prospect of agreement, Gwenna nodded eagerly at that suggestion. She snatched in a ragged breath, wildly aware of his gaze and the insidious unsettling pulse of awareness at the secret heart of her body. Her lovely face suddenly flaming at that acknowledgement, she tore her attention from him and walked over to the window. She could not credit that he could have such an effect on her. He was a stranger and alien in every way to her. How could he rouse the physical consciousness that she had suppressed and buried? She refused to believe that he could. It was a long time since she had decided that she would never give her body without her heart.

‘It would also lessen the risk of anyone suffering last-minute regrets,’ Angelo pointed out, gaze glinting with triumph at his success in finally raising a reaction from her. He had seen the flare of surprise in her eyes. Not quite the ice maiden after all, it seemed. ‘Obviously your objective is to free your father from the threat of prosecution.’

Not knowing whether to be relieved or threatened by the ease with which he had deduced that fact, Gwenna spun back to face him. She lifted her chin and knotted her hands together tightly as if she was bracing herself. ‘Yes.’

‘No can do, cara. It is my personal conviction that all wrongdoers should be punished by the full weight of the law.’

‘But if that money was replaced it would benefit this business and all the people who work here!’ Gwenna protested feverishly. ‘Don’t you care about that?’

‘My heart rarely bleeds, Miss Hamilton.’

Angelo watched her brush a fine strand of honey-blonde hair back from the peach soft curve of her cheek. She was exquisite, delectable, he acknowledged, his usually disciplined body reacting with painful immediacy to the sexual charge of her presence. She was trembling almost infinitesimally. He liked the idea that he might be responsible for that potent effect. He had an almost overpowering desire to see her long hair falling loose round her shoulders in a tumbling mass of waves. She made him think of a Victorian painting he had once seen of a naked woman on horseback—Lady Godiva. That whimsical reflection surprised him but that image gave him a distinctly erotic kick.

‘But in this particular case…’ she dared to prompt.

‘Business is all about the art of profit and the bottom line here is that there’s not enough in your offer to tempt me.’

Disappointment at his refusal flooded Gwenna. She had never felt so nervous or out of her depth. At her most happy when she was working outdoors, she had acquired a host of horticultural qualifications while still regarding herself as only a keen gardener. Now, for the first time, she was uneasily conscious of her lack of sophistication. She genuinely did not know how to appeal to such a man. He had the cold, hard glitter of a very expensive and elegant diamond and he showed no emotion. It was a combination that she found utterly intimidating.

‘What would it take to…er, tempt you?’

Angelo studied her with unnerving calm. ‘You.’

Gwenna blinked. ‘I’m sorry…I don’t follow.’

‘I want you.’

‘I don’t understand.’ Her Delft-blue eyes widened and she dragged in a ragged breath. She felt incredibly stupid because of course he could not mean what she had thought he might mean. True, he had asked her out, but it had been very casual, hadn’t it?

‘Are you always this slow on the uptake?’

‘Are you talking about…sex?’ Gwenna was furious that embarrassment made her mangle that last word into an almost incomprehensible mumble.

Dense black lashes lifted over his brilliant dark tawny eyes and he managed to look very bored. ‘What else?’

Gwenna surveyed him with as much unrestrained amazement as she would have shown a zebra that suddenly appeared out of nowhere to walk across the office. She had always had a problem seeing herself as a sexual being. The passes that came her way were usually pretty half-hearted because she was much better at being sympathetic and sensible than sexy. That a guy of such immense wealth and supposed sophistication should target her as if she were a provocative siren struck her as unbelievable.

‘Is this some kind of a wind-up?’ she asked tautly.

‘I don’t do wind-ups.’

Gwenna studied him, poised there so straight and tall in his sharply tailored black designer business suit. He was devastatingly handsome but she crushed that thought as soon as it entered her mind. ‘But are you really suggesting that if I sleep with you you might reconsider prosecuting my father?’

‘Yes.’ Angelo made that confirmation.

Gwenna was stunned by that unhesitating agreement. ‘But that’s morally wrong.’

‘We’re consenting adults and you have a choice.’

Gwenna flung her head high, furious that she was dying of embarrassment like a schoolgirl, while he was behaving as though nothing untoward was happening. ‘Do you get a thrill out of insulting me like this?’

‘One woman’s insult is another woman’s compliment.’ Angelo sent her a dark smile of challenge. ‘It’s not my ego talking, but fact, when I tell you that a score of women would kill to have the same opportunity.’

Gwenna, who rarely lost her temper, learned now that she could want to kill another human being. His insouciance, his sheer arrogance, his silken insolence, indeed the whole glossy patina of his rich and rarefied existence, which he wore like armour, made her teeth grit. Absolute hatred hurtled through her in an acrid flow. ‘Well, I’m not one of them! I have higher self-esteem.’

‘Which makes you infinitely more desirable.’

‘So, you’re one of those men who always wants most what he can’t have?’

Angelo held her outraged blue gaze, more intrigued than ever by her resistance and the anger that had unexpectedly cut through her tranquil surface. ‘I have never met with a “can’t have”,’ he told her truthfully.

‘You just have,’ Gwenna told him grittily and turned on her heel. ‘My body isn’t something I’m prepared to barter, Mr Riccardi.’

‘Then your father will have to pay the piper and go to prison,’ Angelo murmured and she stopped halfway to the door and turned back, her raw pain at that likelihood etched in her candid gaze.

Torn between stalking out in angry mortification and the sinking conviction that she could not afford such a demonstration of disdain, Gwenna hovered. The very idea of her father going to prison appalled her. He had already lost so much: his job, his reputation, his friends, his financial security. His marriage might well soon slip into that same category of loss. She knew and she accepted that he had done wrong. But what dominated her thoughts was the debt she had owed to her father since the day that he had opened the doors of his home to her after her mother’s sudden death.

When her mother, Isabel, had fallen pregnant during her long-term affair with Donald Hamilton, she’d expected her lover to leave his childless wife, Marisa. Instead Isabel had learnt that she had not been his only extra-marital interest. Heartbroken and bitter, Gwenna’s mother had become a less than enthusiastic single parent.

When Gwenna was eight years old, Isabel had died in a car crash. Donald, still married to his first wife, had come to his illegitimate daughter’s rescue at a time when Gwenna had had nobody else whom she could call her own. Even though he had been almost a stranger, her father had made her feel as if she truly mattered to him. Even when his long-suffering wife, Marisa, forced him to choose between his daughter and his marriage, he had refused to put Gwenna up for adoption. Not long afterwards, Marisa had demanded a divorce. The older man had never reminded Gwenna of the price he had had to pay for choosing to raise his daughter. But in spite of her father’s subsequent remarriage to Eva, Gwenna had always felt very guilty. And the passage of time and the arrival of maturity had not altered her belief that she would always be in her father’s debt for the loving sacrifice he had made on her behalf.

‘Before you leave, hear me out,’ Angelo drawled softly, playing on Gwenna’s hesitation with skill and cool.

Blinking, Gwenna focused on him again.

‘If sufficient assets are signed over to set against the empty coffers here at Furnridge Leather and you agree to be my mistress, I will withdraw the current charges against your father,’ Angelo spelt out.

A long shiver ran through her taut, slender body. He wanted a lot, he wanted everything. Mistress? What was that fancy term for? A one-night stand? Was conquest that important to him? Could he really want to have sex with her that much? The extent of her own sexual ignorance annoyed her.

‘What does being a mistress encompass?’ she pressed without looking at him.

‘Pleasing me…’ Angelo trailed out the word with exquisite enjoyment.

She gritted her teeth. ‘I don’t think I’d be very good at that.’

‘I’m willing to give lessons at no extra cost.’

Furious resentment burned like lava inside her. ‘I think you just can’t stand being turned down…’

‘I don’t think you’re going to turn me down twice.’

Gwenna sucked in a jerky breath. Unable even to imagine taking her clothes off in front of a man without cringing, she blanked out all thought of the nitty-gritty details of actual intimacy. She was aware that lots of people had sex without making a big issue of it. It would be physical, not emotional. There was no need for her to make a major fuss about something that really wasn’t that important, she told herself urgently. She was a pragmatist. She might not be into sex but presumably she could put up with it. ‘Well, as far as I’m concerned it’s senseless and crazy, but if my sleeping with you one night will help my family—’

‘One night won’t suffice.’

Gwenna was as flattened by that unexpected comeback as if a giant rock had been dropped on her. He wanted more than one night? The silence pulsed. Newly discovered defiance made her tilt her chin. She collided with brilliant dark eyes enhanced by spiky black lashes. If eyes were truly the windows of the soul, she thought helplessly, he lacked one. ‘Only hell has no time limit,’ she told him prosaically.

Disconcerted by that comment, Angelo studied her and then flung back his dark head and laughed with grim appreciation. ‘I like your sense of humour, cara.’

‘But I wasn’t trying to be funny. I need to know how long you envisage me filling such a strange role in your life.’

Angelo lifted a broad shoulder in a fluid shrug. But in a lightning-fast change of mood unfamiliar to him he was discovering that he had gone from amusement to an emotion very much akin to anger. He was a proud man and her parade of reluctance, which he refused to believe in, was fast becoming more insulting than intriguing. Long before they parted, she would sing a different tune, he swore inwardly. She would love him as his mother had once fruitlessly loved her con artist of a father.

‘I’ll want you for as long as you provide me with entertainment.’

‘You find it entertaining when a woman hates you?’ Gwenna asked fiercely.

Liquid gold flared in Angelo’s intense gaze and it was as if all the oxygen burned up in the atmosphere between them. ‘I promise you that hatred won’t be what you feel.’

Gwenna compressed her generous mouth and recalled that she was supposed to feel honoured by his interest, like some maidservant of old catching the eye of the lord of the manor. Loathing roared through her to such an extent that she felt dizzy. But then reality penetrated and she thought of her father and of how much she loved him. Angelo Riccardi was giving her the chance and the power to protect her father from prosecution and gaol. How could she say no? How many years of freedom would her father lose if she said no? How would he endure years of being shut away from the world? He would not be the same man when he emerged from such an ordeal, whereas if she kept him out of prison he would find it much easier to embark on a fresh start. What right did she have to deny him that chance of redemption?

‘I want your answer now,’ Angelo told her flatly.

‘Yes…you’ve made me an offer I can’t refuse,’ Gwenna breathed shakily.

Angelo extended his hand.

‘But let’s not pretend that it’s a civilised offer,’ Gwenna heard herself add as she took a step back from him.

Angelo took a step forward and before she had the slightest idea of his intention he framed her cheek with long brown fingers and brought his beautiful insolent mouth down in a mocking taunt on hers. Shock held her paralysed for the first ten seconds and then a wild surge of heat flamed up between her thighs, stretching every feminine muscle wickedly taut. It was like flame in freezing temperatures, shocking and sudden and shatteringly sweet. He lifted his arrogant dark head again, his scorching dark golden gaze raking in an assessing arc over her dazed expression.

‘Being civilised can be overrated, cara. My lawyers will be in touch. If everything is in order, I’ll contact you next week.’


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