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Грэхем Линн

Mediterranean Millionaires

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‘I’VE been doing some research on your boyfriend,’ Toby confided with a disapproving shake of his head over drinks in a fashionable bar. ‘You’re seriously out of your league.’

Gwenna wrinkled her nose in reproof. ‘What happened to tact?’

‘Your friends are supposed to be honest. From what I can understand, Angelo Riccardi makes it a mission to live up to his bad reputation.’ Toby pushed his tobacco-brown hair off his brow in a rueful gesture.

An unexpected current of irritation darting through her in response to that criticism of Angelo, Gwenna folded her lips. ‘In what way?’

‘In every way. He’s a shark in business and he runs through women like a knife through butter. I mean, what are you playing at? You’re a softy—’

‘Perhaps Angelo brings out the concrete in me. I don’t know why we’re talking about him—’

‘How about he’s a billionaire? You only met him a few weeks back? He’s an urban predator and you’re a country mouse? You have nothing in common with him. Of course I’m concerned about you.’

‘But when I spoke to you yesterday you talked like you approved,’ Gwenna reminded him in bewilderment. ‘You said I needed passion in my life.’

‘Where were you last night?’


Toby grimaced. ‘I didn’t want to be the one to tell you but—according to the newspaper I read over my breakfast—Angelo Riccardi was partying very publicly with three fashion models last night.’

In shock, Gwenna went very still. So awful was the pain she couldn’t immediately speak or breathe. She wanted to argue that Angelo had been with her the previous evening but he had left early. In the mood he had been in, it was very possible that he had sought out the sort of women who would tell him how fantastic he was and swoon over a diamond watch. Whereas she had locked herself in the bathroom, wept, told a sad story and served him with a large bitter dollop of home truths. No comparison, was there?

‘Don’t you read the newspapers?’ Toby sighed.

It took effort but she made a stumbling recovery. ‘Not the sort that devote space to rumours like that.’

‘I don’t think it’s a rumour, Gwenna.’

Gwenna struggled hard to blank out what Toby had just told her. Why should she care? Why should the news hurt so much? And how could she be shocked when Angelo had slickly sidestepped an opportunity to promise fidelity? Nor could she understand her almost overwhelming urge to track Angelo down and confront him. Indeed the incomprehensible power of her reactions frankly appalled her.

‘You’re honest and loyal and you deserve better than him,’ Toby declared bracingly.

‘It’s not important. Do you think I don’t know that Angelo and I won’t last five minutes?’ Gwenna fixed a bright smile on her mouth, but her facial muscles felt as if they were set in solid cement. ‘But, hey, I’m twenty-six and I felt it was time to take a few risks.’

But the gloss went off her evening at that point and she couldn’t recapture it. She loved talking to Toby and she found she would get lost in an interesting dialogue about his work, only to have enjoyment vanish when a stab of memory pierced her afresh. She couldn’t really think of anything but Angelo for longer than five minutes. Her imagination kept on flashing up horribly creative pictures of Angelo playing around with a group of dazzling women. Time and time again she rearranged her thoughts.

‘I’ll always be here for you,’ Toby swore earnestly, holding her hand. ‘Even if I’m abroad, you can call me any time.’

Across London, Angelo was working late. He couldn’t settle, though. He paced round his office and finally phoned Franco to find out exactly where Gwenna was. After all, she had spent the whole evening with her friend. An hour later, he strolled into the chill-out room of the same club and saw Gwenna standing with a rangy guy with floppy brown hair. Honey-blonde waves rippling down her back, she was simply dressed in jeans and a blue vest top. He was torn between satisfaction and annoyance; satisfaction that she hadn’t bothered dressing up for her male companion’s benefit and annoyance that she had totally ignored her vast new collection of designer clothes.

An unwilling smile playing round the edges of his handsome mouth, Angelo headed towards Gwenna and her escort. Franco was organising a table and drinks and the club manager was hovering at a respectful distance. In his readiness to play host, Angelo felt that he was being very civilised, very liberal. The dark mood that had powered him throughout the day was lifting, lightening. But as his attention lingered on Gwenna he caught the expression on her face as she glanced up at her companion.

To Angelo’s razor-sharp gaze the loving warmth of that look was indisputable. His lean powerful frame went rigid. It was as if something vital tore asunder inside him and savage anger flooded into the dangerous gap that opened up.

Gwenna only realised that Angelo had arrived when he closed an arm round her to say flatly, ‘Time for you to say goodnight.’

She twisted round and met scorching dark eyes and her heart jumped as if someone had pushed a panic button somewhere inside her. Resentment and excitement melded into an indistinguishable whole. ‘How the heck did you know where I was?’

Angelo shifted her to one side and nodded to the older man, who was awaiting instruction nearby. ‘Franco will see you out to the limo. I want a word with your…friend in private, bellezza mia.’

The deliberate hesitation in his reference to Toby made Gwenna stiffen. Mental alarm bells ringing, she picked up on the current of primitive masculine aggression Angelo exuded. Consternation gripped her but she could not quite credit her suspicions. ‘Angelo, for goodness’ sake—’

‘Go with Franco.’

‘Don’t you dare touch Toby!’ Gwenna gasped in a panic, hastily stepping in front of the younger man, for the dark menace in Angelo’s lean, strong features was unmistakable.

A savage wave of anger gripped Angelo. That she should oppose him and put herself at risk in a ridiculous effort to protect another man only heightened his antagonism. But a glimpse of the apprehension in her expressive eyes snapped him straight back into control.

‘Come home with me, then,’ he breathed tautly.

‘I’m not going any place with you.’ Yet, Gwenna still couldn’t take her eyes off Angelo. There was a light in his brilliant, brooding dark eyes that held her tighter than any chain. Slowly her attention stretched to encompass the impressive whole. In tailored black chinos worn with a striped designer shirt open at the neck, he looked absolutely gorgeous. As usual she was full of wildly conflicting responses. When she had believed he was about to thump Toby she had been terrified and then madly relieved by his withdrawal. Now her anger escalated in direct response to the fierce emotions she had been suppressing all evening.

‘I’m Toby James…just by the way, in case anyone’s interested in knowing that,’ Toby remarked wryly, hovering and much intrigued by the proceedings.

‘I’m not,’ Angelo imparted without looking in his direction.

‘You’re just so rude…you’ve got no manners!’ Gwenna simply exploded into speech, startling herself with that outburst as much as she startled Angelo.

‘One model is infidelity, two models is greed, three is hopelessly decadent,’ Toby extended in obliging explanation for Angelo’s benefit.

Pale as milk, Gwenna refused to even look in Angelo’s direction. ‘Let’s dance, Toby.’

‘I think you should have this out with Angelo…only not here because we’re attracting attention,’ Toby spelt out in a suggestive whisper.

Still ignoring him, Angelo strode forward and closed a hand like a cast-iron anchor to Gwenna’s narrow wrist. Long, lean fingers smoothed her delicate bones, but when she tried to pull free he retained his hold. ‘We’re going.’

Furious pink flushed her cheeks. Had Toby not reminded her that she was in a public place she would have screeched back at Angelo like a harpy. But she was keen to leave and say what she wanted to say with dignity. Chin at a pugnacious angle, she bade Toby goodbye and told him she’d phone him.

‘Not if I’ve got anything to do with it,’ Angelo contradicted in a raw undertone as he walked her away. ‘You told me you were out with a friend. I believed you—’

‘I was out with a friend.’

‘Where did you get the idea that you could fool me?’ Angelo shot her a chilling glance. ‘Now I know you can’t be trusted, you’ll have company everywhere you go.’

‘I can’t believe you have the nerve to talk like this to me. You just ignored what Toby said about the models you were with last night!’

‘I have nothing to say on that score,’ Angelo delivered with the lethal hard-nosed cool that always silenced female pretensions.

‘But I’ve got plenty to say,’ Gwenna hissed on the pavement outside. ‘No, I’m not getting into your limo. I have no need of a lift—’

Angelo shot her a warning glance from glittering dark eyes.

‘I won’t tolerate a scene.’

‘Well, I’ll keep it short and sweet.’ Gwenna squared her narrow shoulders and wondered why Franco was staring at her as if she had suddenly sprouted angel wings and a halo. ‘Just two little words…it’s over.’

Sizzling gold burnished the darkness of Angelo’s sceptical gaze. ‘What the hell are you talking about? What’s over?’

‘Angelo Riccardi…you are dumped!’ Gwenna launched back at him full volume. ‘Do you want it in writing?’

Angelo slung her an exasperated appraisal. Espying a man with a camera moving rapidly in their direction, he scooped her up and settled her bodily into the rear seat of the limo. He slid in beside her. ‘We’ll discuss this in private.’

‘I thought you had nothing more to say on that score!’ Gwenna reminded him irately as the car moved off.

Angelo reached for her, knotting a lean brown hand into the honey-blonde luxuriance of her hair to hold her fast. Breathing in short, shallow spurts, she focused on him in surprise and a second later he claimed her luscious pink lips with ravenous driving heat. Her head swam and her body clenched tight. She quivered violently in the circle of his arms.

‘I hate you,’ she whispered fiercely.

Smouldering dark eyes held hers. ‘So? It’s far from over.’

Gwenna raked trembling fingers through her wildly tumbled hair and twisted away from him into the far corner of the seat. Shame over her surrender threatened to choke her and she fought it by keeping her next move on track. ‘I haven’t got time for this and we’ve got nothing to discuss. I have to pack and pick up Piglet.’

Angelo wanted to drag her down horizontal and finish what he had started. He was painfully aroused and hugely angry and the last thing he wanted to do was talk. That word, ‘pack’. It was another challenge. He couldn’t believe she was still doggedly fighting him. Men feared his anger, his power, his opposition. Women, however, loved his power, his arrogance, his strength. Why didn’t she? He remembered her in the sunlight outside that church: serene and beautiful and gentle. He filed that soothing image away again. She had a core of steel, he acknowledged grimly.

Only when Gwenna stalked out of the car and into a porticoed entrance did she appreciate that she was not where she had expected to be. She rounded on Angelo. ‘Whose house is this? Where have you brought me?’

‘My place.’ Angelo dismissed the hovering staff with a practised inclination of his handsome dark head and ensured that the front door was locked behind him. ‘You’re honoured. My house is a very private space.’

Refusing to be impressed by that claim or intimidated by the soaring ceiling and marble pillars, Gwenna flung her head back. ‘You’re wasting your breath. You’re a total bastard and you have no standards. I refuse to have anything more to do with you!’

‘And where were your standards tonight?’ Angelo derided, strolling forward, which had the immediate effect of making her back away. ‘You set up a meeting with the guy you love behind my back!’

The colour drained from Gwenna’s face leaving her eyes looking a more vivid blue than ever against her pallor. How had he guessed? How on earth had he worked that out?

‘When you agreed to be with me you never mentioned him,’ Angelo continued in attack mode. ‘How truthful was that?’

‘I didn’t think you’d be interested—’

‘Che idea! No, that’s the sort of information every man wants up front and you know it.’ Glittering dark eyes slashed over her with punitive force and she quailed. ‘And when you went sneaking off to see him tonight—’

‘I did not sneak!’ Anger surged to Gwenna’s aid again.

‘Yes, you did. It was much more than an innocent night out with a friend. How fair and decent was your behaviour?’

‘According to some newspaper, you were out on the town with three other women last night, so what’s your problem? You can’t expect me to be truthful and decent when you’re out cavorting with a bunch of tarts!’ Gwenna shot back at him full volume.

‘You’re getting hysterical—’

‘No, I’m giving you the truth you said you wanted and I don’t think you like it much!’

‘Our agreement doesn’t give you the right to question my every move or make new rules,’ Angelo delivered with icy conviction.

‘That’s okay. I don’t care.’ Gwenna walked past him, a tight, hard knot in her tummy, her eyes hot and gritty with stinging tears. ‘I’m not staying here one minute longer, though. No agreement is capable of forcing me to share a bed with a guy who sleeps around—’

‘Dio mio…I don’t sleep around!’

‘There’s no point you arguing with me. My mother may have chosen to accept a relationship of that sort—’

‘Accidenti—do you dare to compare me to your father?’ Angelo thundered in raw disbelief.

‘All I’m saying is that I won’t let any man make a fool of me like that. It’s me and only me, or you can’t have me at all and not all the money in the world is going to change that,’ Gwenna swore shakily, her slender back ramrod-straight. But she was doubly mortified by his palpable distaste for her father. ‘So, open that door and let me out.’

Angelo swore in vicious frustrated Italian.

‘You virtually kidnapped me. I didn’t agree to come here,’ she reminded him steadfastly, only the nervous clenching and unclenching of her slim hands by her sides betraying the level of her agitation. ‘Keeping me here against my will is just not on, Angelo.’

Lean, powerful face rigid, Angelo studied her with seething intensity. The silence pounded and stretched. And then he dragged in a slow deep breath and said grittily, ‘Nothing happened last night.’

Gwenna studied him fixedly. A flood of relief washed over her and left her dizzy and more hopelessly confused than ever. It was not only her pride and sense of decency that had been offended by his apparent faithlessness, she registered in dismay. She had been downright tormented by the idea that he might have been with someone else. She had been jealous, hurt and furious.

Lean, angular features taut, Angelo set his perfect white teeth together. ‘I didn’t touch them…the models…they were company. That’s all.’

‘Did the company stay clothed?’

‘Sì,’ Angelo ground out as if he were being tortured, and that was very much how he felt. Why wasn’t he throwing her out of his house and his life? But the closer she got to the door, the more urgent became his desire to haul her back from it. It was lust, total overpowering lust, and one taste of her had set up one very powerful craving. He loathed the very suspicion that he was no longer one hundred per cent in control, but need was overriding principle.

Gwenna realised that her legs were quaking beneath her. Slowly she turned back to face him fully. ‘Okay…do you think you can do faithful now?’ she asked with sincerity. ‘There’s no point me hanging around if you can’t.’

Angelo dug potent fists of naked outrage and aggression into the pockets of his well-cut trousers. He could not believe what she was doing to him. What did it take to satisfy her? She was as persistent as water dripping on stone. Plain questions left no room for prevarication. He felt like a wild bear being chained up and forced to learn demeaning tricks. ‘Per meraviglia—’

‘Just yes or no will do,’ she whispered in helpful interruption.

Stubborn jaw line set at a most forbidding slant, Angelo was set on categorical resistance when he first rested his hard gaze on her. He did not respond to demands. He guarded his freedom. But with her honey-blonde curls tangled by his fingers and her pink pouting mouth slightly puffy from the imprint of his, she made a picture capable of enticing him over a cliff edge. She looked impossibly sexy. Later he did not recall the moment when he decided to surrender. ‘Sì…yes.’ He closed the distance between them in two graceful strides and closed his hands over hers. ‘You’ll stay?’

Unprepared for the immediacy of that demand, Gwenna blinked and mumbled, ‘But—’

‘But nothing, bellezza mia. I’ve agreed. I’ve given you what you want.’

With that resolute reminder, Angelo angled her head back and drew her close before she could think up any further refinements. He let his provocative mouth glide down the extended length of her neck. A sensation like hot wires tightening sent a frisson of delicious heat darting through her pelvis and she shivered and moaned. He pushed open a door into a dimly lit room and pressed her back against the wall. The heavy pressure of his lean, hard, muscular body against hers sparked a tantalising tingle of delicious warmth and awareness in her erogenous zones. In the midst of an exchange of hot, driving kisses, she found herself pushing back against him, maddeningly conscious of the engorged sensitivity of her breasts and the hollow ache stirring between her thighs. She squirmed against him, her fingers roving over his broad shoulders, delving into his black hair and finally forcing a path between their bodies to rip at the buttons of his shirt.

With a roughened laugh of satisfaction, Angelo lifted his head and let his hand close over the pouting curve of her breasts, teasing at the prominent peaks. The barrier set up by her clothes impelled a low moan of frustration from her. She wanted to touch him so badly she could hardly bear it and splayed her fingers across his hard, flat stomach, revelling in the feel of his warm bare skin.

‘Don’t do that,’ Angelo groaned, pushing away her hand and lifting her into abrasive connection with his fierce erection. He crushed her full, soft lips below his and plundered the damp interior of her mouth with an explicit sensual force that left her trembling.


‘Later…all that you want but not now, cara,’ he growled, hauling her up into his arms and tipping her down onto the arm of a sofa to yank at the zip on her jeans and wrench them off with more impatience than cool.

She tumbled back into the cushions, passion-glazed china-blue eyes locked to him in surprise as he stripped her of her jeans and her panties just at the point when she had naively assumed he would take her upstairs. Her cheeks flamed red as fire but her entire body was hot and throbbing and desperately on edge and she made no complaint. Indeed she locked her arms round his neck for support while he discovered the moist, soft welcome between her thighs. With a guttural sound of uninhibited masculine pleasure, he buried himself to the hilt inside her.

Her back arching at the shockingly erotic impact of his entrance, Gwenna cried out. Smouldering tawny eyes welded to her, Angelo withdrew, slowly rotated his hips and then slammed back into her. Pleasure exploded along her nerve-endings in a blinding wave. She lost any sense of time, all ability to reason. Wicked excitement controlled her. He pushed her vest and her bra out of his path and stroked the painfully beaded tips of her breasts until she was whimpering she knew not what. From that point there wasn’t a moment where she regained control or even came close. She was squirming, writhing, begging him not to stop, possessed by a greedy blaze of elemental need. At an intoxicating high of delirious pleasure she was gripped by wild convulsions of ecstatic release. Shell-shocked by the jolting, all-encompassing power of that experience, she clung to him in the aftermath.

‘You’re amazing, gioia mia.’ Angelo surveyed her with rampant appreciation and dropped a teasing kiss on her brow. So what if he had never done fidelity before? He had never spared much thought for his sexual relationships, but he was becoming powerfully aware that she had an extra-special something that brought a whole new dimension to their every encounter. He should be congratulating himself on his amazing perception. Had he not recognised her extraordinary appeal the very first moment he met her? Hamilton’s daughter she might be, but she was also a triumph worth a harem of ten. Smiling, he vaulted lithely upright and rearranged his clothing.

Like a sleepwalker, Gwenna scrambled up on unsteady legs, wrenching at her vest with one hand and going for her discarded jeans with the other. They hadn’t even got undressed, never mind made it as far as a bedroom. She was embarrassed, hopelessly unsure of how to behave. Her mind was in total turmoil. Everything she had believed she knew about herself was being turned upside down. But she fought off her misgivings and reminded herself that Angelo seemed to be making a genuine effort.

After all, hadn’t he come looking for her this evening? He had been annoyed to find her with Toby. Had he been jealous? Perhaps Angelo was not quite as cold and unfeeling as his womanising reputation. Hadn’t he told her that she should be proud of the fact that he wanted her so much? Worrying at her full lower lip, she studied the sofa and reflected that he had not been exaggerating on that score. Maybe she was ridiculously old-fashioned. Maybe she needed to loosen up a little and stop fretting about the moralities. Although it was obvious that a promise of fidelity was a major undertaking for him, he had given it to her, she reminded herself bracingly. No longer was everything on his terms.

‘We need a shower.’ With that husky, mocking assurance, Angelo closed a lean hand over hers and walked her upstairs.

Gwenna was in a daze—a happy daze, and that acknowledgement stunned her. Her fingers trembled in his and his grip tightened. She had the feeling he didn’t want to let go of her and she liked that. He was making her feel things she didn’t understand, making her think things that struck her as unwise. It was just the impact of all the physical stuff that was confusing her, she reasoned, hurriedly squashing an almost overwhelming sense of vulnerability.

Her mobile phone rang two steps inside the door of a palatial bedroom. She dug it out to answer and walked away from Angelo the minute she recognised Toby’s familiar voice. ‘Yes, of course, I’m all right,’ she muttered in some embarrassment.

Angelo froze, dark eyes flaring angrily as he worked out who had called her. Here she was in his bedroom and she was just chatting to the guy as though that was all right, acceptable, even normal. His perfect white teeth gritted when she gave him an apologetic glance and finished the conversation with the gentle assurance that she would be in touch soon. She smothered a yawn with a polite hand.

‘I don’t think you should be accepting calls from him.’

Delft-blue eyes met his in honest surprise. ‘Why not? Toby’s my oldest friend.’

‘You’re in love with him,’ Angelo spelt out with stinging cool.

‘But nothing’s going to happen. Toby doesn’t think of me that way.’ Embarrassment and uncertainty, however, were claiming her. She always tried to be fair, always endeavoured to look at opposing points of view. It occurred to her that in the light of the fuss she had made about fidelity, Angelo probably thought he had every right to object to her friendship with Toby.

‘But I don’t like it,’ Angelo countered flatly.

Absorbing the smouldering aspect of Angelo’s intent gaze, Gwenna was surprised to feel an unexpected twinge of amusement. She dipped her head to hide it. He was so possessive, so incredibly passionate. He was not at all the cold, callous and insensitive guy she had once believed. ‘I can see your point,’ she answered with determined tact.

The savage tension in Angelo’s broad shoulders eased. He took her into a vast en suite bathroom and undressed her. Each garment was removed with subtle caresses and an exquisitely skilled sensuality that made her quiver and burn. The bright lights made her feel desperately shy but not even that could suppress the helpless tingle of arousal he roused. The lush, swollen heart of her ached but it didn’t stop her wanting him, didn’t stop the hunger rising to a torturous peak of need. He took her in the shower. She shut her eyes tight, surrendering to the melting ripples of slow burning erotic pleasure and the shivering, whimpering rapture of delirious relief. Afterwards, she just wanted to sleep and could hardly stand upright. He wrapped her in a fleecy towel.

‘I wish you would stay awake, passione mia, ‘Angelo complained.

‘Can’t…hardly slept last night,’ she mumbled, all the stresses of the past forty-eight hours finally taking their toll. Her eyelids felt as though weights were attached to them.

He eased her between cool sheets and she waited for him to join her. Instead she heard a door open and she peered sleepily across the room at him, noting that his sleek bronzed length was clad only in boxers. ‘Where are you going?’

‘My room is through here.’He was poised on the threshold of the room next door.

Her pale brow indented. ‘But—’

The smooth brown breadth of his muscular shoulders shifted in a casual shrug. ‘I always sleep alone. I’ll see you in the morning.’

The door closed. I always sleep alone. She had spent a lifetime sleeping alone too and could not comprehend why she should now feel rejected by his withdrawal. Exhaustion soon kicked in, however, to blur her troubled thoughts and sink her into a deep slumber.

She woke with a start, unsure of her surroundings and of what might have wakened her. In a rush she remembered that she was in Angelo’s house and she fumbled for the light switch by the bed. She was sitting up when she heard a disturbing sound from his room. A cry? Without further thought she slid out of bed and snatched up the shirt he had left in a careless heap. Hastily donning it, she opened the communicating door between their rooms.

In the dawn light filtering through the shutters she could see Angelo tossing and turning in the big bed. He was moaning something in his own language. The sheer terror in his voice grabbed her by the throat, shook her up and sent her flying straight to his side. She scrambled up on the mattress to get within reach of him and rested a soothing hand on his shoulder. His skin was as hot as fire.

‘Angelo…wake up!’ she whispered urgently, shaking him slightly.

Angelo wrenched himself up in a sudden movement that startled her. He was trembling, muttering in Italian. With a gruff exclamation, he raked rough fingers through his dishevelled black hair and he turned to study her with a frown that drew his sleek ebony brows together. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘You were having a bad dream—’

‘I don’t get them—’

‘You cried out and woke me up!’

‘I couldn’t have,’ Angelo growled, dark eyes defensive, the fierce tension in his big powerful frame communicating itself to her.

Gwenna loosed a rueful sigh. Evidently, macho men didn’t have bad dreams. In the dim light he was a dazzling bronzed vision of raw masculine appeal. With his hair ruffled and blue-black stubble outlining the aggressive set of his jaw line he looked startlingly handsome, but it was the grim cast of his lustrous eyes that made Gwenna shimmy closer on her bottom and wrap her arms round him. ‘I get nightmares sometimes…’

‘Really?’ Angelo said very drily, but she noticed he didn’t push her away.

Gwenna rested her chin on his shoulder, absently drinking in the warm and already familiar scent of his skin. ‘I wasn’t there when it happened but I used to dream I saw my mother’s car crash. Then when I was at boarding-school—’

Angelo tensed. ‘When was that?’

‘I was ten when Dad first set up home with Eva and her daughters. Unfortunately, Penelope and Wanda didn’t take to me and, for the sake of peace, I was sent off to school. I hated it.’

‘Why…were you bullied?’

‘For waking the other girls up with my nightmares and being a terrible cry-baby.’ Gwenna winced in remembered shame over her past weakness. ‘I was horribly homesick—’

Angelo reached behind him with a long arm and tipped her round and deftly forward into his lap. ‘I was too, but I didn’t have a home to go to any more.’

‘You boarded too?’

‘My mother was dead and her generous employer paid for my education at an exclusive school. I didn’t fit in. Sardinian mothers spoil their sons. I spoke lousy English, and I was a science geek and very small—’

Gwenna squinted up at his shadowy profile. ‘Small?’ she interrupted in disbelief.

Angelo nodded. ‘Tiny…I didn’t shoot up until I was well into my teens.’

‘Were you bullied too?’

‘Of course not.’

But Gwenna caught a certain intonation in his dark-timbred drawl and sighed. ‘Yes, you were. I can tell.’

‘How? With your crystal ball, bella mia?’ Long, taunting fingers explored beneath the shirt she wore and she shivered, her breath catching in her throat. He cupped a pouting breast and in coaxing its tender pink nipple to straining prominence he provoked a gasp from between her lips.

‘Stop trying to distract me…’ she muttered breathlessly.

Angelo swung her down onto the bed beside him and shifted over her in one lithe motion, angling his hips into the soft cradle between her thighs to acquaint her with his thrusting hardness. Scorching eyes scorned her reproachful scrutiny. ‘Is that what I’m doing?’

‘But I want to know…I really want to know what happened to you to make you sound so scared!’ she protested.

His fabulous bone structure clenched hard and he was pale. ‘I was burned with cigarettes, kicked where it most hurts and beaten up.’

‘Oh my word…’ She was overcome by horror and consternation, and her eyes glistened, awash with moisture. ‘Angelo…that’s awful. And you still dream about it?’

‘Sì…’ Even as he wondered why the hell he had told her, Angelo was surveying her reaction in fascination.

Gwenna struggled to fight off the tears of sympathy without much success. She gulped, swallowed, sniffed and finally linked her arms tightly round him and hugged him hard. She was thinking of that bewildered and bright little boy, suddenly deprived of a loving mother and plunged into an alien environment.

‘It made me tough…I was too soft, bellezza mia. It was good for me—’

‘Don’t talk rubbish!’ Gwenna gasped, sucking in a steadying breath of oxygen. ‘I mean, I was just teased and scolded. But you were brutalized—’

‘Do you think I deserve a sympathy shag?’ Angelo enquired in silken interruption.

Her clogged lashes lifted on troubled blue eyes. ‘Sometimes you can be really offensive.’

Almost imperceptible colour scored his superb cheekbones.

‘And the answer is no…not because I’m annoyed with you but because—and I find this very embarrassing—I think I would find it rather uncomfortable right now.’ Grinding to a mortified halt as she referred to the fact that she was rather sore, she bit her lip and turned her face away.

Angelo hadn’t thought of that possibility and guilt came out of nowhere and attacked him full force. It was less then forty-eight hours since she had been a virgin and he had been pretty demanding as well as passionate. Either he had a cold shower or he introduced her to a more creative way of satisfying his high sex drive.

‘I can be a selfish bastard,’ he remarked and waited confidently for her to argue that description.

But it did not even occur to Gwenna to contradict him for a statement she considered accurate. ‘Maybe we could…later.’

‘Later I’ll be in New York, cara mia,’ Angelo groaned in frustration, releasing her reluctantly from his weight but tugging her into his arms, fully intent on attacking her learning curve.

Gwenna squinted at the face of the clock by the bed and gasped. ‘My goodness, is that the time?’

‘It’s only half past six,’ Angelo told her gently.

‘In less than an hour it’ll be feeding time at the pet hotel and I don’t want to be late,’ she lamented, pulling free and rolling over to vacate his bed at a frantic pace. ‘The staff don’t mind me going to give Piglet breakfast because he wouldn’t eat otherwise. But they do like me to fit in with their routine and they don’t like visitors between eight and nine in the morning.’

Barely able to credit that harried explanation, Angelo sat up. ‘Give me a moment,’ he urged tautly. ‘Are you telling me that you’re running over there every single morning to feed that animal?’

‘Evenings too…he has a very tiny tummy,’ Gwenna told him defensively. ‘You should see him on the webcam in his kennel…he’s so depressed, it would break your heart. He won’t even look at the TV or play ball any more.’

Her departure from his room was hasty. Angelo cursed vehemently while he took a cold shower and strode out of the wet room determined to get a look at Piglet malingering on the webcam. And there he was, the clever little tyke, curled up on his gilded four-poster bed with his head sunk between paws, little round eyes dull and his ridiculous bat ears drooping. In no need of canine acting lessons, he was the very picture of full-blown doggy misery.

But Gwenna was devoted to her pet. Totally devoted and obsessed, Angelo reflected dourly. And why not? How much love and attention had she got from her sleazy father and a mother who had probably only had her in an effort to destroy her lover’s marriage? He lifted the phone. When Gwenna got out of his bed at dawn to trek across the city simply to feed the dog, it was time to release Piglet from captivity.


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