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Грэхем Линн

Mediterranean Millionaires

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MERE minutes later, Gwenna caught an accidental glimpse of herself in the cheval mirror in her bedroom. Dismayed, rudely recalled to reality, she stared at her hectically flushed cheeks and swollen mouth. She looked like a shameless hussy. Air cooled her spine as Angelo ran down the zip on her dress and inched it off her shoulders.

‘I feel like a slut…’ she gasped strickenly.

Angelo spun her round, simmering dark eyes pinned to her unhappy face. ‘That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard, bellezza mia,’ he censured. ‘I want you and you want me. What could be more natural than the desire to make love?’

A half-dozen tart retorts hovered on the edge of Gwenna’s mind but she kept them there, consciously protecting herself from a pointless outburst that would only upset her more. She was having an affair, nothing more or less, she told herself squarely. Hadn’t she always been a very practical person? Flights of fancy and histrionics were not for her. She would live only in the present, taking each day as it came.

Angelo smoothed her honey-blonde hair back from her troubled brow in a motion so gentle she blinked in surprise. ‘I saw you and I wanted you before you even spoke. One look and that was that.’

‘But that’s crazy.’

‘Dio mio, I would have moved heaven and earth to bring us to this moment,’ he drawled in a driven undertone. ‘Being desired to that degree should be a source of pride to you.’

Disconcerted by that statement, she blinked. ‘We…we don’t think the same…’

Angelo drew her to him with strong hands, a blaze of heat in his hungry gaze. ‘I wouldn’t want you if you were like me.’

He claimed her luscious mouth and she trembled again, made weak by the hunger he could awaken so easily. While she struggled to catch her breath he stripped off the dress and lifted her onto the bed, peeling off her shoes and, more slowly and provocatively, then her lace-topped stockings. He punctuated each and every action with the drugging demand of his lips on hers. So roused was she by this treatment that when he attempted to step back she automatically put her arms out to prevent him and stretched up to find that taunting, teasing mouth of his for herself. An earthy laugh rasped low in his throat as he toyed with her full lower lip and let his tongue plunge deep in an erotically sweet invasion that left her gasping.

Gwenna lay on the bed where he had put her, her senses singing and quivering. Clad only in a flimsy white bra and panties, however, she soon began feeling horribly exposed and shy and all too shamefully aware that she had pulled him back to her, desperate for another kiss. She watched as he cast aside his jacket and his tie in a series of easy fluid movements. Impatient tanned fingers moved to release the buttons on his shirt. The fabric edges parted to display the sleek bronzed expanse of his muscular chest and taut flat abdomen. Her tension went up another notch.

‘Relax.’ Registering her apprehension in the evasive flicker of her eyes, Angelo endeavoured to employ a soothing tone for the first time in his life. ‘You look incredibly lovely.’

Gwenna shot him a reluctant glance. He was down to black silk boxers that revealed more than they concealed of his bold state of arousal. It was a view that shocked her and she hastily looked away, her heart racing like an express train. Her tension acquired an edge of panic, for suddenly it seemed unbelievable to her that she was actually about to get into a bed with a man she barely knew. ‘I could really do with another drink.’

‘On the cabinet, beside you.’

Gwenna, who had hoped he would have to go off and get her a drink from somewhere, looked in dismay at the bottle of champagne and the glasses sitting in readiness. Angelo strolled round the bed and uncorked the bottle. Golden liquid foamed down into a delicate flute. He extended it with reluctance. ‘You really don’t need liquid anaesthesia.’

Refusing to look at him and edging away, Gwenna hugged her knees with one arm while taking a very hearty gulp of champagne.

‘I understand that you’re nervous—’

‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ Gwenna gritted over the edge of the flute.

‘I’ll make it good, bellezza mia,’ Angelo swore softly. ‘In fact I’ll make the experience addictive.’

‘You couldn’t possibly.

Angelo sank down on the bed with all the panache of a tiger stretching out in the sunshine. ‘I think that someone’s been telling you old wives’ tales. It won’t hurt.’

Gwenna flushed to the roots of her hair. ‘What would you know about it?’

‘You may be my first virgin but I have intelligence, common sense and exceptional proficiency in certain fields.’ Angelo loosened her hold on the champagne flute and eased her firmly back into his arms. ‘Don’t let alcohol take the edge off what promises to be a very pleasurable event.’

At the instant of contact with the muscular warmth of his lean, powerful body, she shivered violently. ‘You’re all ego—’

‘No, all confidence.’ Gazing down at her with glittering dark eyes of purpose, Angelo skimmed a casually possessive hand over the pale, slim expanse of her thigh. ‘Trust me. I’m not a clumsy or selfish lover.’

Little tremors rocking her from the intimate feel of his lean fingers on the taut smoothness of her thigh, Gwenna looked up at him with bemused blue eyes. Trust me. It should have been a laughable request. But she was making the extraordinary discovery that she was ready and willing to be convinced even if she could not understand why that should be.

Angelo kissed her and she stopped wondering and trying to think her way round unfamiliar and complicated corners. Wanton craving took over. He unclipped her bra and the cups fell away revealing smooth white delicate curves crowned by pouting pink buds. ‘You’re ravishing,’he groaned appreciatively.

Lowering her down onto the pillows, he rubbed the luscious crests to even greater prominence with skilful thumbs and finally laved the straining peaks with the tantalising warmth of his mouth.

Gwenna was catapulted from a moment of extreme shyness over her nakedness into an infinitely more shocking surge of pleasure. She shut her eyes tight at the height of it. Her tender nipples throbbed beneath his administrations while a feverish damp heat stirred between her thighs.

‘You can equal my passion at every step.’ As she tried to catch her breath and emerge from the sexual spell he had cast she looked up to find Angelo surveying her with unashamed satisfaction.

‘It means nothing,’ she protested, fighting to detach herself from the urgent messages of her awakened body.

He turned his attention back to the inviting fullness of her small breasts, coaxing the rosy points to a peak of throbbing sensitivity that made her hips writhe against the mattress. ‘It means we’re wonderfully compatible, bellezza mia.’

It scared Gwenna that what she was feeling could overwhelm all control. But she still could not resist the pleasure. At some stage in the breathless fervent heat he evoked her last garment was removed. Expert fingers feathered through the silky blonde down covering her mound to explore the coral-pink lushness beneath. He toyed with the delicate pearl at the apex and she whimpered helplessly, her back arching in sensual shock from the instant onslaught of her own intense response.

‘Tell me that you want me,’ Angelo commanded thickly, ceasing his tantalising caresses when she was utterly enslaved by her craving for that sweet, drowning pleasure.

Her dazed blue eyes struggled to focus on him.

‘I have to hear you say it, bellezza mia,’ Angelo admitted in a fierce undertone, his hot tawny-golden gaze welded expectantly to her lovely face.

There was an unbearably tight feeling of yearning low in her pelvis. She shifted up skittishly against a hair-roughened masculine thigh, absolutely desperate for his touch, controlled by instincts far stronger than she had ever imagined. ‘I can’t…’

Angelo studied her with sizzling determination. ‘Stop acting the victim. Tell me the truth.’

There was not an atom of softness in that lean, darkly handsome visage and the flaming high of anticipation he had induced came as close to physical pain as any she had ever encountered. Tears of fierce shame and angry frustration washed the backs of her eyes. ‘All right!’ she cried, despising herself for yielding. ‘I want you!’

Just as quickly that frightening instant of forced self-discovery was forgotten again beneath his expert touch. The dark, exquisite pleasure of his seduction made her jerk and moan and cling. And she didn’t care, she really didn’t care about anything but that he should continue holding her and teasing her with an erotic skill that made her feel as if she could fly as high and bright as the sun.

At the exact instant when the excitement threatened to become an indescribable torment, Angelo shifted over her and slid between her thighs. She felt the iron-hard length of his sex push against her tender entrance and, although she was frantic, all keyed up with eagerness for the ultimate act, she froze with nerves and the conviction that he was much too well endowed for her.

‘Don’t tense,’ Angelo urged grittily.

Gwenna lay as still as a sacrifice, eyes firmly closed. He stole a sexy, savage kiss that lifted her lashes and he gave her a slashing smile of challenge in reward. Coming up on his knees, he dragged a pillow across the bed and eased it below her hips. ‘It’ll be sublime,’he swore in a roughened undertone.

The slick, hot heat of him forged a passage into the tender depths of her damp, resisting flesh. He felt massive. A startled moan of discomfort was wrenched from her. Immediately he stopped, apologised, swearing in ferocious Italian below his breath.

Gwenna looked up at him with accusing eyes. Fierce strain was etched in his lean, strong face along with an astonishing hunger that made her feel oddly empowered. She was at a screaming pitch of nervous anticipation, both wanting and not wanting, burning quivers of need still shimmying through her slender frame because he had roused her to a point beyond bearing.

Scorching dark eyes met hers with frowning force. ‘You’re very tight. We could try this in another position—’

‘No…just do it!’ she gasped in wild embarrassment.

He was skilful and smooth, but that slow, deep plunge into her silken softness and the final piercing of the barrier of her virginity caused fleeting tears to well into her eyes. He stayed very still then, allowing her to adjust to the invasion. ‘I’m sorry…I hated hurting you.’

Ripples of heat and stimulation pulsed from the hot, secret heart of her again. Newly sensitised, she quivered, her body angling up to his in an invitation that spoke louder than any words. With a ragged laugh of gratification he moved again and a whimper of excitement escaped her because he felt amazing. Her heart began to hammer against her ribs. Exquisite sensation built and the knot of ravenous need in her was tightened and tightened as he set up a raw, sensual rhythm. Delirious with pleasure, she abandoned herself to his dark, driving passion. At the height of a shattering climax she screamed in ecstasy before she tumbled down and down and down in a release from her physical body that was so powerful that she was not quite sure she was conscious for several minutes afterwards.

Angelo kissed her and she stiffened, for once the fog of pleasure had seeped away she was gripped by a stark sense of shame and denial. She felt horribly emotional and tearful. How could she have let herself enjoy it? How could she have let herself down like that? Where was her pride? She was attempting to block out those disturbing thoughts when she registered that Angelo was removing her wrist-watch.

‘What are you doing?’ she mumbled unevenly, lying as still as a corpse under him as if to underline the fact that he was holding her entrapped.

Impervious to the hint intended, Angelo murmured lazily, ‘Giving you a present, passione mia.’

Her smooth brow indented. ‘A present?’

She lifted her hand to examine the new watch in shock and dismay. Gold, diamonds, a famous designer name. Painful early memories of similar expensive gifts surfaced. Revulsion ripped through her and she struggled with desperate fingers to take it off again but the intricate clasp defeated her. ‘No, thanks, I don’t want it. Look…how do you get this off?’

Angelo rested his stubborn jaw on the heel of his hand and surveyed her with deceptively sleepy tawny eyes. ‘I want you to wear it—’

‘What for?’ Her Delft-blue eyes flashed into direct contact with his narrowed gaze for the first time and the angry distaste etched there startled him. ‘So that you can kid yourself that you’re really a kind, generous guy? Or so that you can belittle me by paying me in jewellery for what I just did with you? Well, I may be stuck living in your stonking great status symbol of a mansion and forced to wear the fancy clothes that you paid for but—’ Gwenna had to pause just to draw breath.

‘But?’ Angelo encouraged, outraged that his generosity could be twisted into an insult and rejected.

‘I refuse to wear jewellery you give me.’

Angelo, confounded by her behaviour and furious with her, finally released her from his weight. ‘You will if it pleases me. Consider it part of the role you took on of your own accord.’

‘And do I have that role all to myself?’ The question flew off Gwenna’s tongue before she even realised that she intended to ask it. But just as quickly she accepted that she had to know, she simply had to know, whether or not she was one of a crowd.

His stunning dark gaze veiled; he was a veteran at facing down awkward questions from the women in his life. ‘No comment.’

Gwenna read only one meaning into that unrevealing response. And she felt as if he’d punched a hole right through her and sent the ground beneath her feet crashing away. He wasn’t even willing to be faithful to her? That new knowledge was like a jagged iceberg settling in her stomach and his unapologetic attitude was a humiliating slap in the face. How much lower could he make her sink? She was appalled by his attitude.

Distaste sliced through her. ‘Then, I suppose what we just did is the equivalent of a one-night stand.’

His lean bronzed face was grim as he pulled himself up against the pillows. ‘I don’t do those,’ Angelo growled with incredulous bite.

‘Perhaps I can only face thinking about this arrangement one day at a time.’ Gwenna had already been stripped of virtually everything she valued. Everything he said merely heightened the frightening sense that she was no longer in control of her own life.

Suddenly all the bewildered misery and anger and hurt she had been holding back just broke free of restraint and overflowed. ‘For goodness’ sake, I don’t even like you! You’ve taken my home, my garden, my very history from me and marooned me in a city where I don’t belong. You’ve even taken Piglet!’ she launched in a wild, almost incoherent surge of condemnation, scrambling out of bed to shoot into the bathroom at speed and noisily bolt the door behind her.

Angelo heard her sob and he sprang out of bed. Outrage powering him, he pulled on his boxers. So, let her cry, get it out of her system. She was overwrought. He always gave women in tears the widest possible berth. I don’t even like you!

‘Gwenna…’ Angelo reached the bathroom door without having taken a conscious decision to move in that direction and knocked once. ‘Open this door.’

Her eyes wet, Gwenna sucked in a ragged breath and turned on the bath taps to drown him out. Womanising louse, all sweet-talk one moment, ice-cold, heartless and utterly immoral the next. How could she have just sleepwalked into becoming the mistress of such a man?

Angelo rapped on the door again. ‘I want to know you’re okay. And I want to know right now.’

Blocking him out because she had absolutely nothing left to say to him, Gwenna slid into the warm bathwater. The hint of an intimate ache between her thighs made her pale and, reaching hurriedly for the soap, she washed with helpless urgency. Tears inched down her quivering cheeks and she dashed them away with a furious hand. Why was she crying? She never, ever cried!

Angelo tried the handle one more time and then pulled on his clothes in haste. He kicked the door at the weakest point beneath the lock and it burst open, slamming back against the wall. She was in the bath, drenched blue eyes enormous with fright, honey-blonde waves of hair cloaking her and trailing in the water.

‘I’m sorry if I scared you but you should have unlocked the door,’ Angelo murmured with measured quietness. ‘I was concerned.’

Trembling, Gwenna stared at him, absorbing the sight of his shirt hanging loose, disclosing a muscular wedge of bronzed hair-roughened chest. Shock was rippling through her. He had called her bluff. He had kicked in the door. She couldn’t believe he had done that. She tipped up her chin to snatch a glance at his lean strong face and then hurriedly jerked her head away, out of breath and more tense than ever.

Angelo crouched down by the side of the bath. ‘Look at me…’

‘Do you have to be so intimidating?’ she muttered tautly, sitting knees to chin in the water, naked and cornered.

‘I’m trying bloody hard not to be!’ Angelo flared back at her. ‘Stop cringing…you don’t have to be afraid of me.’

Gwenna dropped her head. How could she not be afraid?

‘I would never harm you.’

Gwenna thought about the kind of harm that had a more lasting effect than mere bruises.

Frustration was roaring through Angelo. She wasn’t listening to him. She often gave him the impression that she was only giving him part of her attention. Not in bed though, he reminded himself with grim satisfaction. But the rest of the time? Either he got the feeling she was holding back or she was lost in her own little world and he didn’t like either sensation. ‘I want to understand why you blew up over the watch.’

Gwenna studied the clear water lapping round her legs and compressed her full ripe mouth. ‘Dad was always giving stuff like that to my mother.’

His brows pleated. ‘So? He was her husband.’

Gwenna was surprised enough to look up again. She had forgotten that he had moved down to her level and she collided unwarily with lustrous dark eyes the colour of autumn. A very dangerous man with strikingly beautiful eyes that made her heartbeat race. She shut her eyes tight in self-reproach. What was the matter with her?

‘Gwenna,’ Angelo chided huskily. ‘I thought women loved to talk about themselves. What’s wrong with you?’

‘My father wasn’t married to my mother,’ she admitted flatly.

Angelo frowned. ‘I don’t follow.’

Gwenna reddened. ‘Mum had an on-off affair with Dad that dragged on for years and years. He was married to his first wife then.’

‘I wasn’t aware that your father had been married twice.’

‘Yeah, well, why would you be?’ Gwenna was mortified by the need to explain the unpalatable facts. ‘When Mum fell pregnant with me she thought he would leave his wife, who couldn’t have children. But he didn’t. Sometimes we didn’t see Dad for months on end and then he’d come visiting with extravagant pressies. My mother liked things like that…I don’t.’

‘But your father must’ve raised you…you have his name,’ Angelo pointed out flatly.

‘Mum died when I was eight and I went to live with Dad and he adopted me. His first wife wasn’t happy about that and they divorced.’

‘I had no idea.’ Angelo was furious that the confidential report he had had done on Hamilton had omitted such highly relevant details. He was astonished by the reality that her mother appeared to have been yet another one of the older man’s sadly deluded female victims. But no sooner had that angle occurred to Angelo than he reminded himself that she was still Donald Hamilton’s only child with the taint of his blood in her veins.

Gwenna watched him rise to his full imposing height, the sleek, hard planes of his darkly handsome features shuttered and cool. She assumed that the story she had just told him had made him think less of her. A lot of people had despised her mother for having an affair with another woman’s husband and giving birth to his child. Taunted and teased at primary school, Gwenna had had few friends. The locals had expressed their scorn and disapproval by excluding Donald Hamilton’s mistress and child from community activities.

In the uneasy silence, Angelo squashed the urge to ask further personal questions. He did not do personal in relationships. He kept it simple. He strolled out of the bathroom. I don’t even like you. That assertion rang clear as a bell in his head all over again, infuriating him. Since when had he cared whether he was liked or not? But then women made a real effort to please him. They were deferential, flattering…servile? The suspicion revolted him. Couldn’t he handle a challenge? Wasn’t he man enough to handle what could just be the very first honest woman he had met? At the last possible moment, Angelo paused in the doorway. Tugging a fleecy towel off the rail he shook it out and strode back to extend it to her. ‘Stop worrying about things.’

‘I’m not worried.’

‘You’re stressed out of your mind,’ Angelo corrected.

In an abrupt movement she scrambled up, water streaming off her slender curves in rivulets, and accepted the embrace of the towel. She felt manipulated, controlled, managed into doing what he wanted her to do. He lifted her out of the bath.

‘Don’t,’ she dared, drawing hurriedly back from him to firmly anchor the towel beneath her arms.

Gleaming eyes surveyed her from below a lush fringe of black lashes and she could feel her skin tightening and burning over her cheeks. Her lips felt full and moist and she imagined and immediately craved the scorching heat and pressure of his mouth on hers. She went rigid in rejection but still cruel sensation leapt and danced over her, wreaking havoc with her body. She was madly conscious and thoroughly ashamed of the straining prominence of her nipples and the wicked dampness of the tender place between her thighs.

‘You see, you may not like me, passione mia,’ Angelo murmured silkily, ‘but all I have to do is carry you back to that bed and you’re one hundred per cent mine.’

Gwenna was white with humiliation and self-loathing and she reacted with anger to that derisive gibe. ‘I’m not yours and I never will be because you can’t touch me where it matters,’ she launched back furiously. ‘I don’t care what you think of me, or what you say or do with anyone else either, because I gave my heart a long time ago to someone worth ten of you!’

As Gwenna spun away to the vanity basin Angelo closed a lean, strong hand to a slim white shoulder to turn her back. Incredulous dark eyes flashed down at her. ‘Are you saying what I think you’re saying? You’re telling me that you’re in love with another man?’ he pressed in a raw undertone.

Slowly she nodded, savouring the anger she had roused and yet disturbed by that ungenerous response. Being mean, argumentative or vengeful had not come naturally to her until she had met him. The reactions Angelo Riccardi incited were as foreign to her nature as the emotional highs and lows she was experiencing. ‘I don’t like the way you make me behave.’

‘You don’t like?’ Angelo framed in a dark, deep voice redolent of thunder in a confined space. ‘Dannazione! Who is this guy?’

Gwenna tilted her chin. ‘You don’t have the right to ask me that question.’

Angelo’s lean, shapely hands clenched into potent fists. He did not lose his temper. He never, ever lost it and prided himself on his rock-solid self-control. But a rage like a burning blinding surge of darkness was rising up inside him. Barely able to credit her answer, he strode into the bedroom and swung forcefully back to face her. ‘On the contrary, I have every right. I set no boundaries on our arrangement.’

‘You wanted my body and you’ve got it. You didn’t ask for and you’re certainly not getting anything else!’ Gwenna muttered bitterly.

‘His name,’ Angelo framed in a tone of ice.

‘None of your business.’

‘I expect compliance.’ Angelo fixed his tie and reached for his jacket. She was hyper-aware of his every move.

‘What I think and what I feel is my business,’ Gwenna told him shakily.

‘Your attitude offends me,’ Angelo delivered with lethal cool.

Her fingernails dug stinging crescents into her palms. The silence was awesome and terrifying in its totality. ‘Ditto.’

Angelo raised an ebony brow. ‘Non ci capisco niente? I don’t understand.’

‘Me too…your attitude offends me,’ she traded quietly, a tight, fearful feeling trapped somewhere inside her.

Angelo settled his chillingly intelligent gaze on her. ‘We have an agreement and you won’t walk away from it until I choose to set you free. You can’t insult me into dumping you.’

‘Is that what I’m doing?’

But Angelo didn’t answer her. He walked out without another word. Snatching in a sustaining breath, she studied the door with the busted lock. Her legs feeling wobbly, she sank down on the bed. He had gone and, instead of being over the moon, she felt annoyed and confused and…strangely abandoned. Had he left to take advantage of more entertaining and compliant female company? Her small white teeth gritted. She hated him with a passion. She had not thought it possible to hate anyone so much. Indeed she had not realised that she had it in her to loathe any living being with such venom. That he should refuse even to be faithful was the ultimate put-down. She was glad she had come clean and told him that she was in love with someone else. That had offended him. How dared he talk to her as if she belonged to him? How dared he? Yet when he came close or touched her she couldn’t say no to him and he knew it. Indeed he knew his own power so well he had thrown it in her face.

Hastily Gwenna stifled that disquieting train of thought. Her attraction to him was a crude, coarse, hormonal thing that had got the better of her self-discipline, she reasoned painfully. An irrational chemical reaction. Had she contrived to lie there like a stone statue he would’ve been a lot less keen. She glanced down and belatedly realised that she was still wearing the watch and that she had actually worn it in the bath. In guilty consternation, she examined it. The water had got in and fogged up the face. Had he noticed? She hoped he hadn’t assumed that she had deliberately set out to damage it…

The diamond watch that swam without a lifebelt. Maybe she would take a hammer to it next, Angelo mused, his handsome mouth set in a bloodless line as his limo ferried him across the city. She didn’t want anything he gave her. Nor did she appreciate anything. Not the house, the garden, the clothes, the fabulous lifestyle that he had created for her benefit. Yet when had he ever made so much effort? Where, one might have wondered, was the punishment factor in his acquisition of his enemy’s daughter?

Eyes hot as a bonfire, Angelo knocked back a brandy and savoured his misfortunes. Indifferent to the luxury that he offered, she preferred dressing like a tramp and grubbing through the soil in all weathers. He was the cruel bastard who had marooned her in a city mansion to be waited on hand and foot. That distance he had sensed within her? Oh, yes, there was very good reason for that distance. Although she was sleeping in his bed, it was in body rather than spirit because she loved another man. That struck Angelo as a deeply unnatural, distasteful and indeed outrageous state of affairs.

He was astonished at how bitter, affronted and cheated he felt. No woman had ever had that effect on him. But then no woman had ever regarded him as less than the main event. Revenge was threatening to take on a twist and rebound on him. He should ditch her, forget about her. What man would accept the role of second best in a woman’s bed? Angelo wanted very badly to smash something. Maybe a whole lot of somethings. In an implacable rage he told his chauffeur to head for a nightclub. There was a hell of a lot of other women available…

The following morning, Angelo attended a board meeting. He had had very little sleep. He had got drunk the night before, something he had not done since he was a teenager. Once he had learnt that his father had had a problem with alcohol, he had been ultra careful to monitor his consumption and he was annoyed and disturbed by his lack of discipline.

Gwenna was out in the garden when Angelo called her at noon.

The dark timbre of his deep voice vibrated down her spine and her tummy clenched. Sensual imagery threatened to engulf her and she tensed as though she had been slapped. No matter how hard she policed her mind he continually forged a bold passage into her thoughts. ‘Yes?’ she prompted tightly.

‘I’m planning to take you somewhere special tonight,’ Angelo told her smoothly.

Her bright blue eyes widened in dismay. ‘But I can’t see you tonight—’

‘Why not?’

Gwenna had no intention of cancelling her night out with Toby. ‘I’m already going out. I organised it yesterday.’

‘Un-organise it.’ With difficulty Angelo haltered his temper that was on a short fuse after the events of the past twenty-four hours. ‘I want to see you this evening.’

‘But I can’t alter the arrangement—this particular friend won’t be available another time.’

‘What gender is the friend?’

She stiffened. ‘I don’t have to answer that—’

‘You just did.’

‘He’s a friend…okay?’ Gwenna fired back, sudden guilt coming at her out of nowhere, which she fiercely fought off. How much honesty did she really owe Angelo Riccardi?

‘I’ll meet up with you, then. Give me a time, a place.’

She was aghast at that suggestion. ‘No way! I’m sorry, but I didn’t know you were planning to see me tonight. You can’t expect me to be available twenty-four hours a day!’

‘I do.’

‘I’ll start tomorrow…please be reasonable.’

Unhappily, Angelo was not in a reasonable mood. Refusal rarely came his way. Refusal in the face of his expressed displeasure had never come his way. He called Franco and instructed him to ensure that Gwenna was watched over from a discreet distance. He thought he should know where she was, what she was doing, who she was with. He did, however, have complete trust in her. After all, she had been a virgin, which suggested that the object of her affections was, for whatever reasons, unattainable. On that basis, Angelo decided that there was no reason why he should even think about the matter.

The bottom line for Angelo was that he still wanted Gwenna Hamilton. Even angry with her, he had fallen asleep aching for her and woken up in a worse state. He didn’t like that. But the more she held back and refused to play by his rules, the more determined he became to hold onto her. Was he suffering from some knee-jerk primal reaction to the challenge she set? Whatever, he was becoming increasingly eager for the moment when cool reason would be reinstated and he would find her more tiresome than desirable.


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