Main Capelli's Captive Virgin; Sold to the Enemy; The Vasquez Mistress; Bought- The Greek's Innocent Virgin

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Year:
2015
Publisher:
Harlequin
Language:
english
ISBN 13:
9781459291904
Series:
Billionaire's Virgin Box Set
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If you’re ready to be mesmerized by the passionate and sensual stories of USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan, look no further than The Billionaire’s Virgin Box Set!

Capelli’s Captive Virgin

Now that Lindsay Lockheart is working for Alessio Capelli, he won’t let her turn him down the way she did years ago. Alessio relishes the thought of having a virgin in his bed, and he’ll do everything to keep Lindsay captive!

Sold to the Enemy

Leandro Ziakas might be her father’s most hated business rival, but when Selene Antaxos needs to start a new life she apprehensively turns to Leandro for help. Except the dark-hearted tycoon is nothing like the white knight she remembers!

The Vásquez Mistress

When innocent Faith arrives at his Argentinean estancia, Raul Vásquez instantly resolves that she will make the perfect mistress! But as Faith gets swept up in Raul’s world, she discovers that she’s done the one thing that was expressly forbidden…

Bought: The Greek’s Innocent Virgin

At Angelos Zouvelekis’s command, waitress Chantal has no choice but to play the part of his bride-to-be. Angelos thinks she’s nothing more than a gold digger, until he makes a discovery that shatters his arrogant assumptions. Chantal came to his bed a virgin…





The Billionaire’s Virgin Box Set


Capelli’s Captive Virgin

Sold to the Enemy

The Vásquez Mistress

Bought: The Greek’s Innocent Virgin

Sarah Morgan





Table of Contents


Capelli’s Captive Virgin

By Sarah Morgan

Sold to the Enemy

By Sarah Morgan

The Vásquez Mistress

By Sarah Morgan

Bought: The Greek’s Innocent Virgin

By Sarah Morgan





“You just can’t help yourself, can you?”




She struggled to keep her voice level. “You have to embarrass me.”

“Mi dispiace,” he purred, his eyes glinting wickedly. “I’m sorry—unfair of me, I know. It’s just that I love watching you blush. Your cheeks are the same color they will be after we’ve had frantic sex.”

“That is never going to happen. Accept it.”

“That shows how little you know me. I have a compulsive need to chang; e situations that aren’t to my liking.” He smiled—a slow, dangerous smile. “It’s called negotiation.”

“Negotiation is when both parties get what they want—it’s supposed to be a win-win situation.”

“I understand the winning bit. I’m not so good at accepting half a solution.” His tone was gently apologetic, but his dark eyes were as cool and unemotional as ever. “When I want something, I want all of it. Not part of it.”

“You’re not my type, Alessio.”

“That’s what makes it so exciting, tesoro….”





Dear Reader,

Harlequin Presents® is all about passion, power, seduction, oodles of wealth and abundant glamour. This is the series of the rich and the superrich. Private jets, luxury cars and international settings that range from the wildly exotic to the bright lights of the big city! We want to whisk you away to the far corners of the globe and allow you to escape and indulge in a unique world of unforgettable men and passionate romances. There is only one Harlequin Presents®, available all month long. And we promise you the world….

As if this weren’t enough, there’s more! More of what you love. Two weeks after the Presents® titles hit the shelves, four Presents® Extra titles join them! Presents® Extra is selected especially for you—your favorite authors and much-loved themes have been handpicked to create exclusive collections for your reading pleasure. Now there’s another excuse to indulge! Midmonth, there’s always a new collection to treasure—you won’t want to miss out.

Harlequin Presents®—still the original and the best!

Best wishes,

The Editors





Sarah Morgan





CAPELLI’S CAPTIVE VIRGIN




TORONTO • NEW YORK • LONDON

AMSTERDAM • PARIS • SYDNEY • HAMBURG

STOCKHOLM • ATHENS • TOKYO • MILAN • MADRID

PRAGUE • WARSAW • BUDAPEST • AUCKLAND





All about the author…

Sarah Morgan


SARAH MORGAN was born in Wiltshire, U.K., and started writing at the age of eight, when she produced an autobiography of her hamster.

At the age of eighteen she traveled to London to train as a nurse in one of London’s top teaching hospitals, and she describes those years as extremely happy and definitely censored!

She worked in a number of areas after she qualified, but her favorite was the Accident & Emergency department, where she found the work stimulating and fun. Nowhere else in the hospital environment did she encounter such good teamwork between doctors and nurses.

By now her interests had moved on from hamsters to men, and she started writing romance fiction.

Her first completed manuscript, written after the birth of her first child, was rejected by Harlequin®, but the comments were encouraging, so she tried again. On the third attempt her manuscript Worth the Risk was accepted unchanged. She describes receiving the acceptance letter as one of the best moments of her life, after meeting her husband and having her two children.

Sarah still works part-time in a health-related industry and spends the rest of the time with her family, trying to squeeze in writing whenever she can. She is an enthusiastic skier and walker, and loves outdoor life.





CONTENTS



CHAPTER ONE




CHAPTER TWO




CHAPTER THREE




CHAPTER FOUR




CHAPTER FIVE




CHAPTER SIX




CHAPTER SEVEN




CHAPTER EIGHT




CHAPTER NINE




CHAPTER TEN





CHAPTER ONE




‘SIGNOR CAPELLI doesn’t have an opening in his diary for five months.’ The stunning blonde receptionist spoke faultless English and was clearly experienced in providing an impenetrable shield between her sexy billionaire boss and the public. ‘You wouldn’t believe the demand for divorce lawyers of his calibre. And anyway, his personal clients are all men.’

Lindsay dug her nails into her palms. ‘I don’t need a divorce lawyer. That isn’t why I want to see him.’

And she knew his clients were men.

She knew everything about him. She knew that when a man instructed Alessio Capelli to handle his divorce, the wife in question might as well give up. The ruthless Sicilian lawyer had apparently made it his life’s mission to ensure that women gained as little as possible from the end of a relationship. She also knew that his various business interests had made him a billionaire in his early thirties, which meant that he now worked purely for entertainment value.

And what sort of man found entertainment in crushing people’s fragile marriages?

The girl tapped a perfectly manicured nail on the glass desk. ‘I could call one of his team?’

‘I need to speak to him.’ Eaten up by worry, Lindsay tried to think clearly. She hadn’t slept for three nights, the adrenaline was surging round her body and she felt physically sick as she contemplated what was unfolding before her. ‘Please—I’ve flown to Rome specially—it’s a personal matter. Something between myself and Signor Capelli.’ A vision of her sister’s pale face tormented her, but Lindsay had no intention of revealing her family secrets to this glacial beauty.

It was an unnerving experience—trying to gain access to the last man in the world she wanted to see. A bit like stepping towards the edge of a very sheer, crumbling cliff face, knowing that there could be only one outcome.

She was going to fall—

The receptionist raised her beautifully shaped eyebrows and it was obvious from her disbelieving gaze that she found it unlikely that someone like Lindsay would ever share anything personal with Alessio Capelli. ‘Did he give you his mobile number?’

‘No, but—’

‘Then clearly he doesn’t want you to contact him. Women who have a special relationship—’ the receptionist paused for emphasis and gave a faintly patronising smile ‘—always have that number.’

Lindsay wanted to tell her that her taste in men didn’t run to arrogant, heartless marriage wreckers, but she sensed that she wouldn’t be believed.

Alessio Capelli was a magnet for women. His profession should have acted as a deterrent but instead it seemed to increase his appeal—as if every woman on the planet wanted to prove that they could win over this notorious cynic.

She stepped aside as another beautiful girl sauntered up to the bold curve of glass that formed the ultra-modern reception desk. ‘The boss is in the gym, taking out his frustrations on a punchbag. If that file he is waiting for ever arrives, send it straight up to him on the sixteenth floor.’

As she listened in to the conversation Lindsay’s gaze slid towards the bank of elevators at the back of the foyer. Could she? Her heart skipped a beat at the shear audacity of the idea. No, she couldn’t possibly. She didn’t break rules—

But somehow her feet were walking—quickly.

Waiting to feel a hand on her shoulder at any moment, Lindsay shot through the open doors and slammed her shaking hand onto the button that said sixteen.

As the doors closed she felt nothing but relief and then realised that her respite was only temporary.

She still had to get to Alessio Capelli.

Her heart was pumping, her palms were clammy and she fumbled with the lock of her bag as she searched frantically through the work she’d brought to do on the plane. Work she’d been too worried to touch. Exactly what sort of file was Alessio Capelli waiting for? Something buff-coloured and formal? Thick? Thin? Something in a sealed envelope? Hands shaking, she pulled out a file and tucked it under her arm. It didn’t look particularly official, but it would have to do.

Sick with nerves, she checked her appearance in the mirrored wall. Looking back at her was a serious young woman dressed in a crisp white shirt and a straight black skirt that stopped just above the knee. Her pale blonde hair was twisted into a severe knot at the back of her head and her make-up was discreet and professional. She looked—businesslike.

No wonder the receptionist hadn’t thought she was the sort of woman likely to have attracted the attention of Alessio Capelli, a man renowned for being seen with extremely beautiful women.

Something stirred inside her. A tiny spark of female vanity that she tried almost instantly to suppress.

But she had attracted his attention, hadn’t she?

Once.

Once, he’d noticed her. In fact he’d more than noticed her.

If she hadn’t rejected him, they’d have—

Lindsay put her hands on her skirt and slid it slowly up her thighs until it revealed the same amount of leg as the girl downstairs had been showing. She stared at herself for a moment. Then she gave a nervous start and let the skirt drop just as the lift doors opened.

For crying out loud—what was she thinking?

Trying to look confident, she approached a set of glass doors manned by a muscular security guard.

Alessio Capelli certainly made sure he was well protected, she thought dryly, wondering whether it was because of his indecent wealth or the number of enemies he’d made in the pursuit of that wealth.

He was hard, cynical and ruthlessly ambitious. Unfortunately he was also sexier than any man had a right to be and Lindsay felt a moment of pure panic as the moment of confrontation grew closer.

She focused her mind on her sister.

Ruby. This was about Ruby, not her.

Ruby was her one and only priority.

‘I’m here to see Alessio Capelli.’ She smiled at the security guard. ‘Sto cercando il Signor Capelli.’

The man looked at the file under her arm and immediately punched a number into a keypad. The doors opened, revealing a state-of-the-art gym offering an incredible view over the rooftops of Rome.

Despite the breathtaking architecture, it was an all-male domain—the atmosphere thickened by testosterone, the room a melting pot of male ego, pumped muscle and raw aggression.

The security guard took one look at her uncertain expression and gestured towards a man who was throwing hard, rhythmic punches at a bag.

‘That’s him. That’s the boss.’

Lindsay was grateful for his help because, without it, she never would have been able to identify the infamous Sicilian.

It wasn’t what she’d expected of a billionaire with a taste for the finer things in life. But perhaps it was symbolic, she thought wryly, that Alessio Capelli had chosen this particular method of keeping his body in top physical condition. Did he run or lift weights like the other men in the room? No. He chose to thump the living daylights out of something.

Which simply confirmed what she already knew—that he was a tough, ruthless, cold-hearted machine who knew nothing about emotion.

Several of the other men glanced in her direction and suddenly she felt as vulnerable as a lone gazelle finding itself in the middle of a pride of lions.

Gritting her teeth, Lindsay kept her own eyes forward and followed the security guard across the room.

Alessio Capelli hadn’t seen her. He continued to pound his fists into the bag, the muscles of his arms and shoulders bunched in a display of physical force. His bronzed skin gleamed with sweat and his shorts and vest top displayed a physique honed to perfection by hard, punishing exercise. His shoulders were wide and powerful, his body athletic as he threw punch after punch with ruthless precision and impeccable timing.

Watching this display of brutal male aggression, Lindsay faltered, sure that the security guard had made a mistake.

This was the wrong man. It wasn’t him.

It was six months since she’d seen him, but Alessio Capelli’s smooth sophistication and startling good looks were still inconveniently lodged in her brain. Not that it had been looks alone that had drawn her attention. For her, the quality that had made him dangerously attractive was his astonishing intellect. He was a man who used his razor-sharp brain to twist legal precedent to his advantage. His weapon was words, and he used them with lethal skill to achieve the outcome he wanted, whether it was winning a case or seducing a woman into his bed. As a lawyer he was, she knew, the very best.

As a human being—

Lindsay flinched as the man in front of her punched his fist hard into the bag. There was nothing smooth or suave about this particular man. On the contrary, he seemed to represent masculinity at its most basic level.

And then the angle of his body shifted and Lindsay drew in a sharp breath because she could now see the tiny scar above his left eye and the slight bump on his nose that blemished an otherwise faultlessly handsome face.

Once seen, never forgotten.

Every inch of his cold, hard features was etched into her memory for ever.

Horrified by the sudden flash of awareness that exploded through her body, Lindsay took a step backwards regretting the circumstances that had forced her into his path again.

Averting her eyes from his spectacular body, she suddenly wished he were dressed in a formal suit and standing on the other side of a very large desk.

How could she possibly have a serious conversation here?

He was half naked, for goodness’ sake.

Half naked and angry, if the power behind those rhythmic punches was anything to go by.

That missing file had obviously been something important.

He still hadn’t noticed her and it crossed her mind that she could still slink away and wait outside the door for him to finish his workout.

And then his gaze shifted and he stilled.

Dark, deep-set eyes connected with hers and in that single moment the world seemed to shrink. Nothing existed outside the square metre that contained the both of them.

They stared at each other in silence, exchanging a long, lingering glance that was wholly sexual. Trapped by the intimate demands of his intense dark gaze, Lindsey felt the blood pound in her head and she ceased to breathe.

He’d had exactly the same effect on her the first time she’d seen him and it was as terrifying now as it had been then.

Even knowing who he was and what he did for a living had done nothing to lessen the sheer physical impact of the man. He was unashamedly and blatantly masculine, his Sicilian roots evident in every bold line and hard angle of his impossibly handsome face. Stripped virtually naked, he was even more breathtaking. Unlike most men, he had no need of clothes as a disguise for physical imperfections. Alessio Capelli looked even better undressed than he did dressed.

His eyes were dark and framed by such thick, long lashes that it was as if nature had decided to emphasise such an unusually striking feature with extra care. Other men might have used those lashes as an effective screen for his emotions, but not Alessio Capelli. His gaze was direct and unflinching and she suspected that the reason he never felt the need to conceal his emotions was because he’d never actually experienced an emotion of any sort in his life.

He dealt with facts and numbers. And they were big numbers if the rumours were correct.

Feeling eighteen rather than twenty-eight, Lindsay cleared her throat. ‘Hello, Alessio.’

His fists dropped to his sides and his eyes didn’t leave hers. Then he slowly removed each of his gloves and dropped them onto a nearby bench.

‘You’ve chosen a romantic venue for a reunion, Lindsay.’ He spoke in perfect English, but in every way that mattered he was pure Sicilian. The dark good looks, the arrogance, the simmering volatility barely held in check by the veneer of sophistication that surrounded him like another skin—all products of his ancestry.

A wicked thrill of pleasure that he hadn’t forgotten her was immediately replaced by dismay.

Flouting the powerful messages from her brain about not responding to him, her insides tumbled with excitement and her knees weakened. This was why she didn’t trust herself around him—every second that she was in his company, her life became a battlefield. She was instantly trapped in a vicious conflict between what her body wanted and what her brain wanted.

The layers of protection she’d built around herself melted away in an explosive blast of raw chemistry. Her grip on the present slipped, and her mind twisted the highly charged sexual attraction into the ugly, destructive monster she knew it to be.

Terrified by the sudden glimpse into her own vulnerability, Lindsay reminded herself again that this was about Ruby. Ruby was the reason she was here.

‘I’m surprised you haven’t forgotten me, given the number of blonde women in your life. They must merge after a while.’

Amusement shimmered in his eyes as he reached for a towel. ‘The unexpected is always memorable. You walked away from me.’

And she could tell from his tone that no woman had done that before.

‘There was never the slightest possibility that I’d become involved with you. Unlike you, I think with my head.’

He laughed at that, and Lindsay frowned slightly because over the months she’d managed to forget that he had a sense of humour. And she knew why—that sense of humour made him seen more human and she didn’t want to think of him in that way. It suddenly seemed vitally important to remember that he was cold, ruthless and unemotional. In her head he needed to be as unattractive as possible.

But the smile he gave her was anything but unattractive. ‘So why are you standing in front of me now?’

‘I’m here because I need to talk to you.’ And that was true. But it didn’t change the fact that she was painfully aware of him.

And he knew it.

Alessio Capelli had so much experience with women that it would have been impossible for him not to know and the slow lift of his brow confirmed it.

‘You have flown all the way from England just to talk to me? I didn’t realise you found my conversation so stimulating.’

Lindsay was trying hard to ignore his superior height and the width and power of his shoulders. She hadn’t needed a display of his boxing prowess to be aware of his strength. Strength was woven through his very being; an essential part of the man. Everyone who came up against him crumbled. Physically and mentally he was a titan.

And he made his living from using that strength against others.

Against women.

Suddenly she wished desperately that she could wind the clock back. If she could have done so, then she wouldn’t have chosen Rome for a city break and she definitely would have paid more attention to where she was walking late at night.

Indirectly this whole situation was her fault.

If she’d never met him he would have remained in her head as a professional adversary instead of a man. When their paths had crossed professionally she would have been wearing her protective cloak, instead of which—

‘I tried calling you from England,’ she said crisply, ‘but no one would put me through to you. I’ve travelled here purely because you’re impossible to get hold of. Your staff will never say where you are. How do your clients contact you?’

He wiped his hands on the towel. ‘If you were a client,’ he said evenly, ‘you would have been given a different number to call.’

The same number as his women? Dismissing that thought, Lindsay bit her lip. ‘I told them on the phone that I wanted to talk to you about a personal matter—’

‘Then it’s hardly surprising that they didn’t put you through. They know that I never discuss personal matters.’

‘I said it was urgent.’

‘Which they would have translated as meaning that you were a journalist working to a tight deadline.’ He looped the towel around his neck and Lindsay frowned slightly, wondering what it was like to lead the sort of life where everyone wanted to know everything about you.

‘That was why no one would answer my questions? Because they thought I was a journalist?’

‘I’ve trained my staff to be suspicious. A tiresome necessity driven by being in the public eye.’ A cynical smile on his face, he stooped to retrieve a bottle of water from the floor. ‘I’m intrigued as to what could possibly be important enough to drag you back into my disreputable presence. Hopefully you’ve finally decided to abandon those principles of yours and explore the endless pleasures of emotionless sex.’

‘Alessio—’

‘You’ve no idea how much I’m looking forward to getting you naked, tesoro.’ His dark drawl connected straight to her nerve endings and she felt a flash of heat low in her pelvis.

He was doing it on purpose, she knew he was. Trying to unsettle her.

‘You just can’t help yourself, can you?’ She struggled to keep her voice level. ‘You have to embarrass me.’

‘Mi dispiace,’ he purred, his eyes glinting wickedly. ‘I’m sorry—unfair of me, I know. It’s just that I just love watching you blush. Your cheeks are the same colour they will be after we’ve had frantic sex.’

‘That is never going to happen. Accept it.’

‘That shows how little you know me. I have a compulsive need to change situations that aren’t to my liking.’ He smiled—a slow, dangerous smile. ‘It’s called negotiation.’

‘Negotiation is when both parties get what they want—it’s supposed to be a win-win situation.’

‘I understand the winning bit—I’m not so good at accepting half a solution.’ His tone was gently apologetic but his dark eyes were as cool and unemotional as ever. ‘When I want something, I want all of it. Not part of it.’

Her heart was racing out of control and her thoughts were going in much the same direction. ‘You’re not my type, Alessio.’

‘That’s what makes it so exciting, tesoro.’ He was clearly enjoying teasing her, tying her in knots. ‘If your taste in men ran to dangerous divorce lawyers, it would be boring. The chemistry between us must be very inconvenient for you.’

The conversation had taken a dangerous direction.

It’s like sailing a ship through a storm, she thought wildly. Almost impossible to keep it from being blown off course.

He took her somewhere she didn’t want to go.

Somewhere she’d marked as off-limits a very, very long time ago.

‘Ruby—’ she croaked. ‘I’m worried about Ruby.’

‘Ah.’ His eyes narrowed slightly. ‘I should have known that your sudden arrival would have something to do with the disappearance of that racy, naughty little sister of yours.’

‘Disappearance? So you don’t know where she is, either?’ His words successfully dampened the sexual chemistry that had been threatening to eat her alive. Deeply troubled by that piece of unwelcome news, Lindsay sank her teeth into her lower lip, her mind speeding ahead, sifting through the options. ‘I thought—I hoped that you’d know what was going on. I thought she might have said something to you.’

‘Why would she do that?’

‘Because you’re her boss! She’s been working for you for the last six months.’

‘And you think I spend my working day exchanging confidences with my administrative staff?’ Alessio lifted the water bottle to his lips and drank deeply and Lindsay watched in dazed, mesmerised silence, momentarily distracted by the bronzed column of his throat and the tangle of dark, male chest hair at the curve of his vest. Intercepting her gaze, he lowered the bottle slowly and a hint of a smile touched his hard, sensuous mouth. ‘It’s unwise to look at me like that,’ he warned silkily, ‘if you don’t intend to follow through. And we both know that this isn’t the time or the place.’

The knowledge that he’d read her so easily was almost as disturbing as the unexpected and unwelcome burst of warmth that erupted low in her pelvis. ‘Do you ever think of anything other than sex, Alessio?’

‘Yes.’ Relaxed and in control, he scanned her flushed cheeks with disturbing intensity. ‘Sometimes I think about money.’

Lindsay looked away briefly, furious with herself for giving him the opportunity to increase her discomfort. ‘Can we please just talk about Ruby?’

‘If we must.’ His tone shifted from bite to boredom and he glanced at the clock on the wall. ‘Obviously you’re still trying to exert your authority over her.’

‘It isn’t about authority. I love her and I care about her.’

‘As long as she is living her life the way you think she should live it. I don’t claim to be an expert on love, Lindsay, but I think it’s something to do with accepting people as they are and not trying to change them. You grip her like an eagle holding its prey.’

Lindsay felt a stab of pain, hurt by his criticism of her relationship with Ruby. He had no idea. No idea what their lives had been like. The quicksand of her emotions shifted and she stayed still, not allowing herself to be sucked down by the past. ‘As you say, you know nothing about love.’ She wasn’t going to let her mind drift backwards. ‘She hasn’t phoned me for a week and that’s not like her. She isn’t answering her phone and when I called your office they said that she hasn’t been in but they don’t seem to know any more than that. I’m worried. Really worried.’

‘Worried that she’s slipped out of your grasp? She’s twenty-one. Old enough to make her own mistakes without any outside interference.’ He adjusted the towel. ‘And it appears that she’s done just that.’

Lindsay stood still, tortured by a moment of self doubt. Was she interfering? No, this was her sister they were talking about. ‘Ruby is extremely vulnerable. When we met you and your brother last summer—well, she’d just come out of a very destructive relationship. She was devastated and—’ She broke off, reluctant to reveal anything about their past. ‘On the surface she seems all bubbly and together but—You may think you know her, but you don’t.’

His eyes fastened on her face. ‘She’s been working for me for the past six months. I suspect that I know a great deal more about your sister than you do.’ His tone was dry. ‘And now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m seeing a client in an hour and I’m flying to the Caribbean after that. Which is where, incidentally, your sister should be. She was supposed to be assisting me with a big case.’ He strolled through a pair of swing doors and Lindsay hesitated briefly before following him.

Client—case—

He was obsessed with work; totally focused on generating still more wealth to add to his billions. Why?

Frowning slightly, Lindsay dismissed the question instantly.

She wasn’t interested in what had turned Alessio Capelli into a ruthless, money-making machine. All she cared about was her sister. And he’d just revealed a small amount of information. Not much—just a morsel, but at least it was something.

‘She knew you were expecting her to go to the Caribbean?’

‘Of course. She was in charge of all the logistics both before and during the trip.’

‘There’s no way Ruby would have just abandoned her responsibilities like that—’ Lindsay stopped dead, realising that she’d followed him into the changing room.

Fortunately for her it was empty, but Alessio threw her a challenging glance, a sardonic gleam in his dangerous dark eyes. ‘You intend to continue this conversation while I shower?’ He pulled the tee shirt over his head, his lack of concern about his semi-naked state in direct contrast to her own growing discomfort.

Faced with a full-on display of breathtaking male physique, Lindsay felt her heart thud hard against her chest. ‘Could you just—not do that for a moment—?’ Her voice cracked and she tried again. ‘All I’m asking for is a few minutes of your time to talk. Please.’

‘If all you want is to talk, then the going rate for a minute of my time is about a thousand dollars. Unless you’ve suddenly won the lottery, you couldn’t possibly afford me. However, if you don’t want to talk then I’ll consider a preferential rate.’ His gaze raking her flushed cheeks, he gave an unsympathetic laugh. ‘What’s the matter? If you’re shocked, then you have only yourself to blame, tesoro. If you follow a man into the shower then you need to accept the consequences. It probably isn’t the best action for someone who is trying to deny the sexual side of their nature.’

‘I’m not denying anything. Yes, there’s chemistry between us—’ incurably honest, she stumbled over the words ‘—but that doesn’t mean I have to act on it. Being an adult is about taking responsibility for your choices.’ His amused glance set fire to her cheeks and Lindsay lifted her chin. ‘You’re not my choice.’

‘No?’

Somehow the conversation had become personal again and Lindsay lifted a hand and rubbed her fingers over her forehead. This wasn’t how she’d planned it. She’d been determined not to make it personal. ‘Please—can we just talk about Ruby?’

‘Of course. You talk. I’ll shower. If you’re so confident about your “choices”, it won’t bother you to see me naked.’ His hands dropped purposely to his shorts and she inhaled sharply and averted her eyes.

He was trying to unnerve her, she knew that, and the best response would have been to stare boldly at him and say something cutting, but her brain had turned to treacle and her tongue wouldn’t move.

‘Outside,’ she muttered incoherently. ‘Perhaps I should wait for you outside—’

‘Why would you need to do that?’ His voice was silky soft. ‘Not having problems with your “choices”, are you? Not finding that famous willpower of yours tested? Is that why you’re wearing the formal suit and the prim hairstyle? You’re hoping that if you’re tightly buttoned up on the outside, the inside will follow?’

‘I came straight from work.’

‘Ah, yes—your work. Lindsay Lockheart, relationship counsellor. How’s that all going? The last time we were interviewed by the same radio show you were earnestly urging people to use RAP, your new Relationship Analysis Programme.’ He sounded amused. ‘I tried it out with my last girlfriend. Unfortunately I finished with her before we reached the end of it.’

Lindsay bit her lip. ‘You don’t need my programme to identify that your relationships are all shallow and meaningless. The programme isn’t designed to factor in the emotional shortcomings of a cynic like you.’

‘So perhaps you should release a version called the Cynic’s Relationship Analysis Programme.’ He smiled. ‘Conveniently shortened to CRAP.’

Her face burned. ‘I’m not here to rehash our professional differences.’

‘I’ve always been intrigued as to how you’ve managed to build a reputation as an expert on relationships when your own experience in that area is so limited.’

It was as if he’d stripped off her clothes with the slice of a knife and left her vulnerable and exposed in front of him. Lindsay suppressed a helpless shiver, trying to find the weapons to fight him.

But confrontation wasn’t her speciality.

No wonder he was unbeatable as a lawyer—he identified a person’s weakness and then he pounced without hesitation or conscience.

If it weren’t for Ruby she would have been out the door and back on the plane.

As it was she forced herself to focus on Ruby again.

‘I need to know if my sister is involved with your brother.’ Please say no, she begged silently. Please say that isn’t what’s happened here. ‘She was definitely seeing someone, but she was very cagey about it and that isn’t like her. Normally she tells me everything.’

‘Everything? So that you can enjoy a vicarious sex life?’

Lindsay gritted her teeth. ‘Could they be together? Could she be having an affair with Dino?’

‘I’m sure she could. They seemed to find each other—entertaining.’

A cold trickle of dread ran through Lindsay’s veins. ‘And you didn’t try to stop them?’ Even without looking she was conscious that he’d removed the rest of his clothes and she kept her eyes firmly fixed on the wall. ‘It didn’t occur to you that they’re totally unsuited?’

‘Unlike you, I don’t make it my business to interfere. My control streak doesn’t extend to managing other people’s relationships. And I am not my brother’s keeper.’ Arrogantly confident, he strolled towards the showers and she caught a glimpse of hard male muscle, strong thighs and bronzed skin. Then he closed the door and she heard the sudden rush of water.

Momentarily released from his presence, Lindsay sucked in a breath and blinked back tears of frustration and worry. If circumstances had been different she would have walked away because when it came to verbal sparring she was no match for him. He tied her in knots. But his words had left her deeply worried for her sister and frustrated by his lack of support.

As far as she was concerned, this was the worst-case scenario. It appeared that Ruby was involved with his brother, to the extent that she no longer even cared about her job.

If Alessio was telling the truth, then her sister had abandoned her responsibilities.

What would have made her do that?

Why would she have behaved in such a reckless, irresponsible fashion?

And why hadn’t Alessio put a stop to it when it was obvious that the whole thing was going to crash and burn in the most disastrous way possible?

Couldn’t he see? Couldn’t he see that a relationship between Ruby and Dino was an accident waiting to happen?

Lindsay stared angrily at the shower cubicle.

Yes, of course he could see that. But he didn’t care about anyone but himself.

He had no idea what that sort of relationship would do to Ruby.

It crossed her mind to tell him the whole tragic story in the hope that it might appeal to his sense of decency. But she honestly didn’t think Alessio Capelli had a decent side.

What had possessed her to come here?

It had been a completely wasted journey.

They were so, so different in their approach to life, their beliefs—everything.

Feeling another rush of concern for her sister, Lindsay tried to think as she might. Where would Ruby have gone? What exactly had she done? And why had she done it? ‘Did you encourage them?’ She raised her voice to be heard above the shower and the sound of water stopped suddenly.

He emerged from the shower, a towel looped around his lean hips, his mouth curved into a cynical smile. ‘Even you can’t be that naïve. Two hormonal adults don’t need encouragement, Lindsay. All they need is opportunity.’

‘And I’ve no doubt you created that opportunity.’ Rubbing her forehead with the tips of her fingers, Lindsay tried to think clearly. ‘You encouraged them, I know you did. You knew how strongly I felt about the two of them becoming involved. When we first met, I told you Ruby was just getting over a broken relationship. She was—incredibly vulnerable. Still is. Your brother is the last thing she needs at the moment.’ Lindsay swallowed. ‘Did you do this on purpose? To punish me because I refused you? Was this about your ego, Alessio?’

Dark lashes veiled his gaze. ‘If you’re looking for somewhere to lay blame for your sister’s behaviour, perhaps you should look a little closer to home.’ His tone several shades cooler, he gave a careless shrug. ‘If anyone is to blame for the way your sister lives her life, then it’s surely you.’

‘Me?’ Genuinely shocked by that harsh analysis, Lindsay gaped at him. ‘That’s ridiculous. I’ve always warned her against having meaningless affairs and I certainly warned her to stay clear of you and your brother.’

‘Precisely. For a relationship counsellor, you clearly know very little about human nature.’

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘That the forbidden and the dangerous is always more exciting than the permitted and the safe,’ he said flatly. ‘I can guarantee that the day you warned her to stay clear of me was the same day she showed up at my office looking for a job.’

‘And you gave her one.’ She couldn’t keep the reproach out of her voice and he gave a dismissive shrug.

‘There was a vacancy in my administrative team. Ruby is decorative, sociable and a relatively competent secretary.’

‘Relatively?’

Alessio’s mouth curved into a faint smile. ‘Well, she’s not here, is she? She does have a tendency to become—easily distracted.’

‘By your playboy brother, presumably.’ Frustration mingled with anxiety and Lindsay shook her head. ‘You didn’t think that throwing the two of them together might not be a good idea?’

‘I allow my sibling to lead his own life. And unlike you I don’t see anything wrong with animal passion. On the contrary, I endorse animal passion. It’s one of the few truly honest human emotions.’ With a casual movement Alessio unhooked the towel and threw it carelessly over the nearest bench. ‘You ought to try it some time.’

Blinded by a disturbing vision of raw masculine perfection, Lindsay felt her mouth dry and looked away quickly. ‘You’re doing this on purpose,’ she muttered hoarsely, ‘trying to unnerve me.’

‘Does it unnerve you my being naked?’ As relaxed as she was tense, he ripped the packaging from a fresh shirt and thrust his arms into the sleeves. ‘That’s interesting. Next time you’re analysing behaviour, you might want to dwell on that. Deep down, buried underneath that layer of control, is a real woman trying to get out.’

‘Ruby.’ Her voice hoarse, Lindsay kept her eyes fixed on a point on the wall, trying to erase the shockingly vivid image of dark body hair and substantial manhood. ‘We were talking about Ruby. You don’t even care that she might have gone off with your brother.’

‘On the contrary, I do care. I’m as keen as you are to contact her. You can look. I’m decent.’

‘You are? I mean—you want to know where she is, too?’ Relief flooded through her. Perhaps she’d misjudged him. He did, after all, have a human side. ‘Then what have you done so far? Have you tried to contact your brother?’

He’d pulled on a pair of beautifully cut dark grey trousers, but the white shirt still hung loose, affording a tantalising glimpse of masculine chest hair shading hard muscle. ‘Like your sister, he isn’t answering his phone. I suspect they’re otherwise occupied.’

Lindsay made a distressed sound. ‘But you can find them. I know you have contacts. It won’t take you long to track them down.’

The snowy-white silk shirt seemed to emphasise his masculinity and Alessio threw an amused look in her direction as he fastened the buttons with slow, deliberate movements of his long fingers. ‘Your belief in the degree of my influence is quite sweet. Do powerful men turn you on, Lindsay?’

‘Please stop it.’ A hoarse whisper was all she could manage because her body was in such a turbulent state. ‘Please, please stop it. I’m just relieved that you’re as keen as I am to intervene before this relationship goes too far.’

‘I have no intention of intervening in the relationship.’

Confused, Lindsay frowned. ‘But you said—’

‘I said that I am as keen as you are to find out where Ruby is—’he reached for his silk tie ‘—but not because I intend to counsel her on her choice of men. I believe in letting people make their own mistakes in life.’

Lindsay just stared at him. ‘Then why are you keen to find her?’

‘Under the terms of her contract, your sister was obliged to give notice if she intended to terminate her employment. She hasn’t.’ With skilful grace his fingers produced a perfect knot and he eased the tie up to his bronzed throat. ‘If she doesn’t turn up for work by four o’clock this afternoon, she loses her job. I thought it only fair to warn her of that fact.’

There was a buzzing in Lindsay’s ears. ‘You’re going to fire her?’ The words came out as an appalled squeak. ‘That’s ridiculous.’

‘That’s business. I employed her to do a job. She’s not doing it. Be grateful I’m not suing her for breach of contract.’ His tone hardened and she gazed at him in shock.

‘Even you can’t be that hard-hearted.’

His eyes held hers. ‘What would you say if I went back to my office this afternoon and fired someone on the spot?’

‘I’d say you were a megalomaniac,’ Lindsay said faintly and a smile flickered at the corners of his mouth.

‘You’d say I was unfair. Employers and employees have a certain responsibility towards each other. I’m a fair employer but I expect the same degree of fairness in my employees. I expect a certain code of behaviour. Your sister broke that code. I intend to make an example of her.’

Lindsay closed her eyes. If she’d thought things were bad before this conversation, they were fast becoming worse.

‘No.’ She shook her head in disbelief. ‘Please don’t do this—Ruby really likes working for you.’ Although she’d never understood why. ‘Losing her job would be devastating.’

‘It will send a clear message to other employees to think twice before they wilfully abandon their contracts.’ Showing not a glimmer of remorse or uncertainty, he reached for his jacket. ‘Your sister has until four o’clock. If she isn’t on my plane, ready to do the job for which she is employed, then her time with my company is over.’

‘Alessio, I’m begging you not to do this—’

His gaze lingered on her face. ‘Normally I have no problems with a woman begging, but on this occasion you’re wasting your time. If she isn’t here within the hour, she’s fired.’





CHAPTER TWO




LINDSAY stood in stunned silence, wondering how a bad situation had suddenly become so much worse.

Ruby was about to lose everything. ‘Please don’t take her job away from her. When her relationship with your brother crashes, Ruby is going to be devastated.’

‘Only if she has unrealistic expectations about relationships, which, being your sister, she undoubtedly will have.’

Reminding herself that an argument on that topic would get her nowhere, Lindsay bit her lip. ‘If she loses her job as well, it will finish her.’

‘Or perhaps it will teach her an important lesson about loyalties, priorities and the fact that actions have consequences.’ His tone was unsympathetic. ‘Ruby is employed by me to do a job. If she can’t or won’t do it, then I don’t want her on my team.’

‘She’s a junior member of your secretarial staff. I’m sure you have literally hundreds of people who could easily take her place on this trip of yours.’

‘That isn’t the point. This is Ruby’s responsibility. If she lets me down, she’s out.’

‘If she lets you down then you should fire your brother!’ Lindsay glared at him. ‘He’s as much to blame for this situation as Ruby. More because he’s eight years older than her!’

‘My brother runs his own area of the business—his actions are of no interest to me.’ Displaying not a whit of sympathy, he slipped his Rolex onto his wrist and fastened it. ‘Stop trying to run her life. You can’t protect her from everything. This might be just the wake-up call that Ruby needs. I’m sure it will prove to be a useful life experience for her. There’s nothing quite like a few knocks to toughen a person up.’

What did someone like him know about knocks? He went through life giving them, not receiving them. Someone with his wealth and confidence knew nothing about struggling to survive. Nothing about uncertainty and insecurity.

‘Ruby needs this job. And she’s usually very responsible. This isn’t like her. I don’t understand it.’

‘My brother and Ruby couldn’t keep their hands off each other. It’s called passion,’ he said dryly. ‘It happens to the best of us.’

‘But they didn’t have to act on it. They’re not children,’ Lindsay said tartly. ‘They should have known better.’

His gaze dropped to her mouth and lingered there with disturbing intensity. ‘You’ve never been so overwhelmed by passion that you throw caution to the wind?’

Her face burned scarlet. ‘I’m an adult, Alessio, not a teenager. And one of the characteristics of adulthood is the ability to exercise self-control when the need arises.’

For some reason he seemed to find that amusing. ‘That comment makes me wonder whether that legendary self-control of yours has ever been truly tested.’ His gaze lifted to hers, his dark eyes burning with sexual challenge. ‘When did you last struggle not to rip a man’s clothes off, Lindsay?’

When she’d first met him—

Before she knew who he was and what he did for a living.

Her heart was bumping against her chest. ‘We were talking about Ruby.’

He smiled. ‘So we were. Well, your sister is either lacking your iron self-control, or she is a master tactician who has her eye on a higher prize. There’s always the possibility that she’s hoping that my brother will marry her.’

‘Ruby isn’t interested in marriage.’

‘All women are interested in marriage if the prize is high enough.’ His tone was deeply cynical and Lindsay shook her head.

‘Ruby knows that your brother isn’t the marrying kind any more than you are.’ But he’d scattered doubt in her mind. Did her sister know that? Or was she deluding herself, as so many women did once they were in the throes of passion? ‘We both know that their affair isn’t going to last five minutes.’

Alessio raised his eyebrows. ‘They did your CRAP test?’

Lindsay flushed. ‘We both know that they’re not in love. Theirs is a relationship based on casual sex. To be successful, a relationship has to be founded on real intimacy. But that’s something I don’t for a moment expect you to understand.’

He gave a slow smile. ‘I don’t have any problems with intimacy, Lindsay. In fact, intimacy is my favourite method of relaxation.’

Her entire body warmed under his lazy scrutiny and she straightened her shoulders, instinctively rejecting her response. ‘I’m talking about emotional intimacy.’

He leaned his wide shoulders against the wall, a wicked sparkle in his eyes. ‘By emotional intimacy I assume you mean a cuddle after sex.’ Tilting his glossy dark head to one side, he pretended to consider the point for a moment. ‘I’m not totally averse to that, providing the woman in question has pleased me. I can be generous when it suits me.’

She knew he was winding her up and she also knew that she was getting herself deeper and deeper into trouble. The atmosphere was suddenly impossibly tense and she told herself that it was just because they were talking about sex. ‘Let’s just not even discuss this,’ she muttered faintly. ‘You and I will never agree on what makes a good relationship.’

Under the penetrating force of his dark gaze she felt heat rush through her body.

‘A good relationship is one that ends when it is time for it to end,’ he said dryly, ‘and doesn’t struggle along for years in mortal agony.’

‘Oh, please.’ Determined to ignore everything that was happening to her, Lindsay made an impatient sound. ‘Next you’ll be telling me that divorce lawyers do the human race a favour.’

‘Not the whole human race. Just a select few who I believe to be worthy of my particular skill set.’

‘You make money out of people’s misery.’

‘So do you,’ he returned instantly, the glint in his eyes suddenly hard. ‘The difference between us is that I’ve built a successful business based on reality, whereas yours is based on fantasy. You peddle dreams. Fairy tales. Happy ever afters.’

‘That isn’t true—’

‘Expecting a relationship to last in today’s society is the stuff of fantasy.’

‘That isn’t true either—’

‘Then why is my phone always ringing? Why am I busier than I’ve ever been?’ Cool and calculating, he watched her. ‘Because people are finally accepting that expecting to be hooked to someone for life is totally unrealistic. Better to do what my brother and your sister are currently doing—have wild exciting sex until it is no longer exciting. Then move on.’

Listening to him rip holes in everything she believed in, Lindsay felt her limbs tremble. ‘I completely disagree with you.’

His eyes lingered on her mouth. ‘Well, of course you do. If you didn’t, you’d be out of a job. I watched you on television last week, recommending ways in which a certain Hollywood actress could save her marriage. Lindsay Lockheart, relationship expert. You look cute on the screen, by the way.’ His voice was dangerously soft. ‘Cute and convincing, which is all the more surprising when you bear in mind that Lindsay Lockheart, relationship expert, has never actually had a relationship herself.’

Ignoring the mockery in his eyes, Lindsay defended herself. ‘It’s true that I’ve never been married, if that’s what you mean.’ Her heart pumped hard because he was pressing in close to a subject she avoided.

He studied her in silence, his expression thoughtful. ‘It wasn’t what I meant. Do your clients know that you’re a fraud, Lindsay?’ His tone pleasant, he slipped his arms into his jacket and her face flamed.

‘I’ve had relationships, Alessio.’

‘I’m not talking about a dinner date or a dignified trip to the opera.’ With unconscious grace, he strolled purposefully towards her, suddenly looking every inch the sophisticated, successful lawyer. Gone was the street-fighter image of moments earlier. The transformation from rough and tough to slick and sophisticated was complete. Dressed in a dark grey suit that moulded his powerful shoulders to perfection, he exuded wealth and success. The only thing that hadn’t changed was the air of raw power that clung to him like a second skin.

Lindsay felt her heart rate double and fought the impulse to take a step backwards. No way was she going to let him have the upper hand. He’d stop in a moment—he had to.

But he didn’t.

He strolled right up to her and backed her against the wall, decisive, masculine and very much the one in control.

Flustered, she lifted her hands and then dropped them again. ‘Alessio, for goodness’ sake—’

‘I’m not talking about a staid exchange of views over a quiet drink in one of your English country pubs. I’m talking about an explosion of passion, real intimacy.’ He planted a powerful arm on either side of her head, blocking her escape route. ‘I’m talking about real intimacy, Lindsay. Hot, sticky, exciting intimacy—intimacy that makes your heart race and makes you forget that you have responsibilities—’

‘Alessio—’

‘Intimacy that’s out of your control. Intimacy that drives you to bad decisions. I’m talking about man-woman stuff.’ His eyes glittered, dark and dangerous, and his mouth was suddenly terrifyingly close to hers. ‘Animal instinct.’

‘Alessio!’

‘Ever felt that, Lindsay—’ his breath was warm against her mouth ‘—the sort where logic and self-control don’t get a look-in?’

He was going to kiss her.

This time, Alessio Capelli was going to kiss her.

There was a buzzing in her ears, her knees felt like jelly and her stomach burned with wicked sexual excitement. Even as her brain struggled to resist it, she could feel herself going under, submerged by swirling waters of dark, dangerous passion.

The damaged child inside her was screaming at him to go away, but the woman inside her wanted him right where he was.

His gaze held hers for a long moment and then his arms dropped to his sides and he took a step backwards. ‘That’s the sort of relationship I’m talking about, little Lindsay.’

Her heart was pounding so hard that for a moment she was terrified that she might actually pass out. She blinked several times to clear her vision and forced herself to breathe slowly. And then humiliation rushed through her veins because she knew she’d been microseconds away from sliding her arms round his strong neck and pressing her mouth against his. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ It wasn’t disappointment she was feeling. It absolutely wasn’t going to be disappointment.

‘I know you don’t. And that’s the point I’m making. How the hell has someone like you managed to carve out a career for yourself advising couples on their relationships?’

It wasn’t safe to be this close to him. And not because of him.

She just couldn’t trust herself—‘Just because I haven’t made a mistake—’

‘Your idea of a mistake is another person’s idea of a life,’ he said dryly and she clasped her hands in front of her.

‘You’re talking about meaningless sex—’

‘And you don’t think two people can have a relationship based on meaningless sex?’ His eyes narrowed. ‘Trust me, tesoro. A relationship based on meaningless sex is the best sort.’

His remark restored her common sense. ‘Which brings us right back to the point I made earlier—’ strength ran through her veins and she met his gaze bravely ‘—that you don’t know anything about true intimacy. Intimacy is not a cuddle at the end of sex. Intimacy is about sharing. Real love is about sharing thoughts and feelings, hope and fears.’

Alessio gave a faint smile. ‘Then I’m truly relieved that I’ve managed to avoid your type of “intimacy”,’ he drawled. ‘And people’s spurious belief in something they call love is what keeps my phone ringing.’

Lindsay gave an exasperated sigh. ‘Love exists. And if you’ve never experienced that first-hand or witnessed it, then I feel sorry for you. It must be very cold and lonely in your bed.’ She regretted the words instantly and, sure enough, his sensual mouth curved into a wicked smile.

‘Generating heat in my bed isn’t one of my problems,’ he drawled softly, ‘so any time you need a practical demonstration of alternative energy sources, just bang on my bedroom door, tesoro.’

Lindsay lifted her fingers to her forehead and breathed deeply. ‘I suppose it’s your job that’s made you so very cynical—’

‘Realistic,’ he slotted in helpfully. ‘It’s made me realistic. Which is why I haven’t had to pay out a fortune in alimony.’

‘You have no experience whatsoever of sustaining a loving, intimate and accepting relationship.’

His gaze was mocking. ‘Of course “loving, intimate and accepting relationship” can be conveniently shorted to LIAR, a word which effectively describes everyone who claims to be happily married.’ He glanced at his watch. ‘Fascinating and absorbing though this discussion is, I have an anxious client waiting in my office, eager to eradicate the last LIAR in his life, and I’m due to fly to the Caribbean immediately after that.’

Flustered, she tried to marshal her thoughts. ‘But Ruby—’

‘Console yourself that Ruby is, at this moment, probably having the best sex of her life. If she happens to have the sense to show up at the airport, I’ll suggest that she calls you,’ he said in a cool tone. ‘If not, then next time you do speak to her, you can advise her to start looking for a new job.’

* * *

Emotionally shattered by her encounter with Alessio, Lindsay sat alone in the café, her tiny cup of espresso coffee untouched on the table in front of her.

It had been worse than she’d feared. So much worse than she’d feared.

Despite all her efforts, just being near the man unsettled her and it had become harder and harder to think of Ruby.

Even now, as she tried to focus on her sister’s plight, her mind was haunted by Alessio Capelli’s dark, sardonic smile.

Lindsay stared blankly at the dark, pungent coffee in the tiny cup, wishing for the millionth time that her sister had never taken the job.

For Ruby—young, impressionable and so desperately wounded after her last disastrous relationship—the lure of a job in sun-baked Italy, in the employment of a sophisticated billionaire, had proved too tempting to turn down.

A fresh start, she’d called it.

More like ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’, Lindsay thought wearily, remembering just how hard she’d tried to persuade Ruby to see sense.

‘Alessio is a typical Sicilian male. He might seem very modern and charming, but underneath—’ she tried hard to make Ruby see the truth ‘—underneath he’s ruthless, macho and his view of women is firmly stuck in the Stone Age.’

Dark eyes staring into hers, demanding her attention.

‘You didn’t think he was so unbearable when he saved our necks that night by the Coliseum. If he and his brother hadn’t happened to be passing—’ Ruby gave an expressive shudder. ‘They were amazing. I mean it was like something out of a movie, wasn’t it? The two of them taking on that gang of thugs and they beat them easily.’

Lindsay just looked at her sister helplessly, not knowing what to say.

It was all too easy to see how Ruby might have been seduced by the romance of the whole situation, because for a short time she’d felt the same way.

Once Alessio Capelli had dispensed with the gang who had surrounded them, he’d lifted her gently but decisively to her feet, his sexy dark eyes faintly quizzical as he’d studied her in the dim light.

For that one breathlessly exciting moment, she’d forgotten who, and where, she was.

With his broad shoulders and superior height, he’d seemed so powerful and safe that she’d actually swayed towards him, driven by the delicious and unfamiliar curl of desire low in her pelvis.

Looking back on it now, she realised that she probably would have been safer with the gang that had attacked them.

Fortunately for her, Alessio had released her before she could make a complete and utter fool of herself, but not before he’d awakened a part of Lindsay that she’d previously refused to recognise.

The two brothers had taken them to the bar of the most expensive hotel in Rome, a venue so exclusive that Lindsay wouldn’t have had the courage to put her toe inside the door of such a place if she hadn’t been with them.

Overawed by the opulent surroundings, it had been several minutes before she’d noticed the deference of everyone around her and several more minutes to realise that the arrogant, powerful man currently extending a glass of champagne in her direction actually owned the hotel. Vastly entertained by the fact that she had no idea who he was, he’d introduced himself properly and it was at that point that everything had fallen apart for her.

Alessio Capelli.

Of all the men who could have come to her rescue, it had been Alessio Capelli, the ruthless divorce lawyer who had a reputation for protecting his male clients from ‘gold-digging’ women.

The irony was, she knew him. Their paths had crossed professionally. They’d never met in person, but they’d been interviewed on several occasions by reporters keen to publicise their opposing views on relationships. And as she’d familiarised herself with his opinions, Lindsay had gritted her teeth and fumed. When asked to comment on some of her techniques for predicting marital success he’d been scathing and derogatory in his remarks.

And as if that weren’t enough, she’d worked with some of his clients on an individual basis. She’d seen first-hand some of the damage he’d wrought.

‘Alessio Capelli crushes women,’ she told her sister flatly, but Ruby simply shrugged.

‘Not all women. Just the greedy ones. You didn’t think he was so objectionable when he used his muscle to save you from that lowlife. I bet he’s a fantastic kisser.’ Ruby gave her a wicked look. ‘Rumour has it that what Alessio Capelli doesn’t know about seducing women isn’t worth knowing. Come on, Linny. I know you always use logic and common sense, but you have to admit he’s gorgeous. And if you don’t like your men dark and intimidating, there’s always his cute younger brother…’

Lindsay clamped her lips together, deciding not to point out that only two weeks earlier Ruby had been so devastated over the end of a relationship that she hadn’t seen the point of living.

‘Ruby—try and be a bit more analytical,’ she urged. ‘Think beyond the handsome face. Do you have the same views on life? Do you share the same values? Do you have what it takes to sustain a relationship?’

‘I’m just having fun, Linny. Not planning a wedding,’ Ruby snapped at her. ‘You’re so serious. You should have an affair with Alessio Capelli. It would do you good. A week of sun, sex and hot Sicilian man.’

Closely followed by a lifetime of heartache.

‘I’m not interested in a meaningless affair with someone whose values I don’t respect. And we’re talking about you, not me. I just don’t think you should get involved with anyone else for a while,’ Lindsay said tactfully and Ruby’s eyes clouded slightly.

‘Don’t worry. I’ve learned that lesson.’

Lindsay stared at her cold coffee now.

Had she?

Or was Ruby in the middle of yet another wild, crazy affair that would undoubtedly lead to another major emotional crash?

Her thoughts driving her almost demented with worry, Lindsay reached for her phone and called everyone she knew one more time. But still no one had any news of Ruby.

So now what?

Feeling helpless, she glanced at the clock on the wall of the café. Ruby had less than an hour to make the flight.

She tried to think positively.

There was still time for Ruby to turn up. She knew the importance of reliability in the employment market—she wouldn’t let Alessio Capelli down…

Suddenly Lindsay felt an ominous stabbing pain above her eye and winced as she recognised the beginnings of a migraine. Oh, no, not now. And not here, in a foreign country where nothing was familiar.

Gritting her teeth, she reached into her bag for the packet of tablets she carried with her. But there was no sign of them. With a frown, she emptied the contents of her handbag over the table and rummaged through it. No tablets.

Infuriated with herself for forgetting to replenish the tablets last time she’d used them, Lindsay swept the items back into her handbag and tried to think clearly. Normally she’d take a tablet, lie down for a few hours and emerge revived.

This time she had no tablets and the hands of the clock were relentlessly moving towards four o’clock. She didn’t have time for a headache. She knew what Ruby was capable of doing—

Drenched with sudden panic, Lindsay forced herself to breathe slowly—to think.

What could she do?

With something approaching desperation, Lindsay pressed her fingers against her temples, searching for alternative options.

The knifelike pain in her head increased and she closed her eyes. But with her eyes closed she had a sudden vision of Ruby’s pale lifeless face and she shot to her feet in the grip of an overwhelming panic. It took a moment to wrestle her overactive imagination back under control and remind herself that she had no evidence that anything bad had happened to Ruby.

There was probably a perfectly simple explanation for all this.

Perhaps her phone was broken, or perhaps she’d simply lost track of the time and had every intention of returning to the Capelli offices in time for the Caribbean trip.

Perhaps she was there now, offering an apology for her lateness to Alessio Capelli.

Keeping that thought uppermost in her mind, Lindsay reached for her bag and paid for her coffee.

Perhaps, she thought as she left the café, this whole nightmare would have a swift and happy ending.





CHAPTER THREE




ALESSIO CAPELLI rode the glass elevator down to the ground floor of his office building, ignoring the insistent buzz of the telephone that was tucked in the pocket of his suit.

He should have been rejoicing. In one short meeting he’d gained another high-profile, influential client and, more to the point, he’d ripped him away from a rival law firm. Ruthlessly competitive, Alessio waited for the usual high that came from defeating an adversary, but this time there was nothing.

Instead his brain was dominated by a picture of a pair of troubled blue eyes and blonde hair so tightly secured at the base of her slender neck that not even a strand was likely to escape.

Control, he thought dryly. Lindsay Lockheart was big on control. She controlled her hair, she controlled her emotions, but most especially she controlled her little sister.

For a woman who made her living trying to modify human behaviour, Lindsay was appallingly naïve when it came to understanding the actions of her younger sibling.

He’d never met anyone so serious. She acted as though she were ninety, and yet he knew she was only in her late twenties.

He strode across the polished marble floor of the lobby, through the revolving glass door and out into the street where his car awaited.

As if conjured straight from his thoughts, there was Lindsay Lockheart. She was standing by his car wearing the same crisp white shirt and slim black skirt that she’d had on earlier, her small overnight bag clutched in her fingers. Her delicate chin was held at a certain angle and there was a hopeful look in her eyes that melted into anxiety as she saw that he was on his own.

His driver shot him a look of nervous apology and Alessio sighed, lifted a brow in sardonic appraisal and focused his gaze on her pale face. ‘If you want to spend more time conversing, then I’m going to have to bill you.’

She stepped towards him. ‘Has Ruby turned up?’

‘You are obsessed with your sister’s movements.’ He handed his case to his driver, noting the way her cheeks blanched. It was a strange sibling relationship, he mused. Just how far was Lindsay prepared to go for her wayward sister? And, more interestingly, why?

‘I love my sister,’ she said huskily, ‘and I won’t apologise for that. Nor do I intend to explain myself to you.’

‘A decision that leaves me quite weak with relief,’ Alessio confessed in a lazy drawl, his eyes drawn to the tempting thrust of her breasts through her perfect white shirt. ‘I can’t imagine anything more likely to challenge my attention span than a summary of your family history. So, if you haven’t come to bore me, why are you here?’

‘I was checking whether you’d heard anything. I thought she might have turned up to do her job.’

‘Sadly for Ruby, the answer is no.’

Her slim shoulders sagged slightly as he delivered what was clearly a very unwelcome piece of news. ‘Could you give her a few more minutes? Just in case?’

‘No,’ he said gently, ‘I couldn’t.’

She closed her eyes briefly and he saw that her lashes were long and thick, the skin on her eyelids as pale as the rest of her face. ‘Please—’ Her voice cracked and when she opened her eyes again there was desperation there. ‘I—I know we don’t agree on things, but this is really important to me. Is there anything I can do to stop you firing her?’

The wild and wicked side of him took over. ‘Come in her place.’

He made the demand in absolute confidence that she would refuse.

The way they lived their lives was diametrically opposed.

On the surface they clashed, conflicted and disagreed.

But perhaps the biggest discordance lay under the surface. The powerful pull of sexual attraction disturbed her and he had a strong feeling that the roots of that disturbance were to be found deeper than the obvious restrictions posed by her ridiculously idealistic belief system.

He knew there was no way that Lindsay would ever voluntarily put herself in his path, so when she responded with a shocked ‘I can’t do that,’ he shrugged, reflecting on the fact that being constantly right could border on the tedious.

‘Of course you can’t.’ He couldn’t resist goading her a little more. ‘To be trapped with me in a romantic Caribbean hideaway would be a completely unfair test of your willpower. I understand.’

‘You flatter yourself, Signor Capelli.’ Her voice shook and her cheeks had slightly more colour than they had a moment earlier. ‘I could lie naked in a bed with you and still have no trouble resisting you because I know you’re just not right for me.’

Alessio laughed, thoroughly enjoying himself. ‘Now that’s a challenge no red-blooded Sicilian could refuse.’

‘I wasn’t issuing a challenge,’ she said stiffly. ‘I was merely pointing out that the brain does actually play a prominent part in my decisions although I can understand that you, as a “red-blooded Sicilian”, might find that hard to comprehend since you obviously think with a very different part of your anatomy.’

And that particular part of his anatomy was currently making its existence felt in the most predictable way possible, Alessio acknowledged wryly. And given that Lindsay Lockheart had yet to discover the wonders of sex without emotional attachment, the only available solution to this particular attack of animal lust appeared to be a cold shower.

‘If you have so much faith in your mental discipline, why would you be afraid to come with me?’

‘I’m not afraid.’ Her chin lifted and suddenly the tension between the two of them reached screaming pitch.

‘You’re afraid, Lindsay,’ Alessio said softly, ‘and I’ll tell you why. So far, the only thing that has kept me from having sex with you is lack of opportunity.’

She was so deliciously easy to shock, he mused, watching as her eyes widened and hot colour poured into her cheeks.

‘That’s nonsense. We could have all the opportunity in the world and I still wouldn’t have—we wouldn’t—’ She swallowed. ‘The ability to think and use our brains is what separates us from animals. I’m in control of what I do.’

‘If you’re so confident about that, then come in your sister’s place.’

He could see a tiny pulse beating in her creamy throat as she struggled with the challenge he’d thrown into her path. ‘I can’t just abandon my life.’

‘You mean you don’t trust yourself to be on a Caribbean island with me and not have sex.’ He gave a slow, sure smile. ‘Be honest, Lindsay. You know that your logical approach to relationships is going to be worth nothing when we’re both naked. And you’re afraid to lose.’

‘Damn you,’ she whispered, her eyes sparking angrily. ‘Damn you for making this about us when it should be about my sister.’

‘If it was about your sister, then you’d come.’

The lawyer in him interpreted every expression that flickered across her face. Nerves, worry, stress, fear and something else that he couldn’t immediately identify—something much, much more complex than all the other emotions put together—

‘I can’t just drop my life at a moment’s notice.’

‘You’re worried that one of your clients might get divorced when you’re not looking and that would be bad for publicity?’

‘I don’t care about publicity. I don’t care about winning and losing. I care about people. I care about Ruby. And I’m not coming with you.’

Alessio was astonished by the depth of his disappointment.

Why should it matter to him? It wasn’t as if his bed was going to be empty.

There was no shortage of beautiful, sophisticated women desperate for his attention. Women who wouldn’t waste time fighting him. Why would he be bothered about Lindsay’s refusal?

And then he gave a wry smile, a flash of insight giving him the reason for his reaction.

He hated losing.

He absolutely hated losing, but it had been so long since he’d lost at anything that he hadn’t immediately recognised the feeling. And if there was one thing designed to send his competitive streak into overdrive, it was the concept of losing.

Lindsay Lockheart represented a challenge. And when had a woman ever been a challenge to him?

Aware that his driver was agitated about the time, he applied analytical skills to the problem. ‘Fine. If I hear from her before you do I’ll be sure to tell her that you cared about her. But not enough to do her job in her place. Have a good flight back.’ And with that carefully orchestrated parting shot he strode towards the car, wondering how long it would take.

Three strides? Maybe four?

‘All right.’ Her voice stopped him on two and he smiled to himself as he turned because in the end it had been disappointingly easy.

Women were so predictable.

‘Scusi?’ He pretended to be confused, watching as she walked towards him like someone going to the gallows.

‘Why would you be surprised? You’ve won, Alessio. Isn’t that what you always do? You find your opponent’s weakness and you exploit it.’ Without giving him time to answer, she pushed past him and slid into the back of the car.

And clearly she wasn’t used to getting into the back of a limousine. Accommodating her sudden movement, her skirt slid up to mid-thigh and Alessio’s attention was momentarily diverted. Fabulous legs, he thought absently, his libido acting like a break on his thought processes. Who would have thought that Lindsay Lockheart was hiding a body like that under her sober, serious black skirt? Those long, shapely legs appeared to be encased in sheer stockings with a hint of a sheen and Alessio found himself wishing that her skirt were just slightly shorter…

Then she tugged the skirt down and Alessio started to breathe again.

‘Let me get this straight—’ trying to ignore the vicious ache in his loins, he dragged his gaze away from her slender ankles and leaned an arm on the roof of the car ‘—you’re offering to warm my bed in the Caribbean?’

‘No, I’m not.’ She turned her head and her blue eyes connected with his. ‘You may think you’ve won, but winning doesn’t matter to me. All that matters is protecting Ruby. And if stepping into her shoes protects her job, then fine, I’ll work for you.’ Her tone was cool and collected, but he saw that her pupils were dilated and her breathing was rapid and shallow. Her fingers clutched her bag tightly and Alessio suddenly had a disconcertingly clear image of her naked and squirming on his silk sheets, those same slender fingers curled around a certain part of him.

How much of a nudge would it take to push her from prim to passionate?

He decided to push her a little further out of her comfort zone. ‘My client is recovering from the end of a disastrous marriage. He needs relaxation and legal counsel.’ Was she wearing lipstick? He didn’t think so but there was a tempting sheen to her lips. ‘A relationship counsellor would be about as helpful on this trip as a blizzard at a barbecue.’

‘I’m not accompanying you in my role as relationship counsellor.’ She tucked her bag neatly by her side, but still she didn’t look at him. ‘I worked for a year in a law firm in London when I left college. You can give me a full brief. Whatever it is you expect of Ruby, I’m sure I’ll be able to fulfil it. And I can relax, Alessio, if that’s what’s worrying you.’ But every angle of her body shrieked tension. She looked like someone who was on the verge of snapping in two.

The trip was clearly going to be a nightmare for her. ‘Are you doing this to save your sister’s job or to prove to yourself that your brain is stronger than your body?’

She stilled. ‘I don’t need to prove anything.’

‘So it’s all about your sister.’ But he didn’t believe that for a moment. He sensed that there was much, much more behind her acceptance than a desire to protect her sister’s job. He also sensed that his careless challenge had touched something deep inside her. ‘You think you can make it through a whole week without lecturing me or my client on love and marriage?’

She bit her lip—the same lip he couldn’t stop staring at. ‘Of course.’

‘Or sleeping in my bed?’

‘That will be the easy part.’

Alessio studied her profile thoughtfully. What had promised to be a mundane, uneventful business trip suddenly seemed full of interesting possibilities. ‘What happens when emotions overcome your rational side, Lindsay?’

‘Making decisions based on emotions is always a mistake. I don’t let that happen.’

Alessio’s eyes dropped to the perfect curve of her mouth and drifted down to the slim column of her neck. ‘Are you saying that you’ve never made an impulsive decision based on an emotion?’

‘No.’ Her tone was crisp. ‘And I’m sure that you haven’t, either. Even when you’re in bed with a woman I’m wiling to bet that part of you stays detached. You exercise control over your emotions all the time and you’re much too cynical to allow yourself to be taken for a ride.’

Surprised by her insight, Alessio laughed. ‘You might be right about that. All right, Lindsay Lockheart—’ he reached out a hand and took the passport she held out to him ‘—let’s see how an incurable cynic and a relationship counsellor get on when confined in a small space. I have a feeling that the next week is going to be interesting.’

* * *

Private jet. Why did he have to own a private jet?

She’d been hoping for safety in numbers for their flight to the Caribbean, instead of which it was just her and Alessio and a discreet cabin staff who only materialised when something was needed.

Trying not to be overawed by the sumptuous interior of the plane, Lindsay steadily called her way through her list of clients, relieved to have something to do that didn’t involve talking to Alessio Capelli. ‘I know, Alison,’ she soothed as she listened to the latest round of developments in her client’s tempestuous marriage, ‘but do you remember what we talked about last time we met? About selective listening?’ Catching Alessio’s amused gaze, she gritted her teeth. ‘I’ll be back next week and we can talk about it then.’ Lindsay ended the conversation and dialled her next number, determined that he wouldn’t unsettle her, but all too aware of his own conversation.

‘Let her sweat, Jack,’ he drawled, the phone tucked between his cheek and his shoulder as he studied the screen of his laptop. ‘She’ll be lucky to walk away with the staff flat by the time we’ve finished with her.’

Lindsay gritted her teeth, kept her own call as brief as possible and tried to ignore the worsening pain in her head.

When he finally hung up, she glared at him. ‘Don’t you ever feel guilty? That poor woman has probably given the best years of her life bringing up his children and making him a home, while he was off picking a younger model.’

Alessio stretched his legs out in front of him, completely relaxed. ‘That “poor woman” abandoned her two young children to pursue her affair with her ski instructor.’

Taken aback, Lindsay frowned. ‘Oh—that’s terrible. The poor man. Is he doing all right?’

‘He will be by the time I’ve finished.’ Alessio gave a deadly smile as he pulled a file out of his briefcase. ‘Revenge is sweet. We’ll get her where it hurts her most.’

Lindsay ignored that comment. ‘How are the children?’

‘Better off without her.’ Alessio opened the file and scribbled something in the margin of the first page while Lindsay watched him, deeply troubled.

‘However deep his own pain, I’m sure he wouldn’t want to hurt the mother of his children.’

‘Are you?’ Alessio reached for a file from the table. ‘That’s why you’re not a divorce lawyer.’

Lindsay put down her appointments diary carefully. ‘You can’t apply cold, hard facts to people’s relationships. It just doesn’t work. It’s important to delve deeper. I’m immediately asking myself why she would do a thing like that. Why would any mother leave her children? Was she depressed or something?’

Alessio gaze was faintly mocking. ‘I think it’s fair to say that she was extremely depressed once she realised that she’d trashed her chance of receiving a generous settlement.’

Lindsay lifted her fingers to her forehead, telling herself that his warped humour and lack of sentiment was good. If he kept talking like that it would make it easier to ignore the chemistry that still managed to crackle between them. Chemistry that made it impossible for her to relax.

How was she going to survive a week with him?

It wasn’t that she had doubts about her own willpower, because she didn’t; it was more that their powerful sexual connection stirred up something dark and ugly in the depths of her brain. Something that she didn’t want to face.

Feeling a flicker of panic, she concentrated her mind on work. ‘People usually have reasons for the way they act, Alessio. If she left her children, then—’ her hand dropped to her lap as she pondered the issue ‘—perhaps she didn’t want children in the first place. Did he pressure her? Was he a lot older than her? Was parenthood an issue that they discussed before they married?’

Incredulous dark eyes met hers. ‘Accidenti, how would I know? I’m a lawyer, not a psychiatrist.’ With an impatient flick of his long fingers, Alessio flipped through the pages.

‘But surely they should try some form of counselling before they just give up. He should let her come back and try again. There are children involved—’

‘What makes you think she wants to come back?’

Appalled, Lindsay stared at him. ‘Doesn’t she?’

He lifted his gaze to hers. ‘Lindsay—’ his voice held a warning note ‘—you’re doing it already. Ignoring the facts and looking at the emotions.’

‘Emotions are important.’

‘But they’re your emotions,’ he pointed out gently, ‘not my client’s.’

‘But the children—’

‘You seem particularly sensitive to this situation. Are you this emotionally involved with every case you deal with? No wonder you’re always so tense.’

‘I’m not tense.’ She was agonisingly aware of him, of his powerful shoulders and his hard, handsome face. Why is it, she wondered desperately, that a person can still be devastatingly attractive even when they are so deficient in other more important qualities? ‘You hate women, don’t you?’

He raised an eyebrow. ‘Is this my cue to say that some of my best friends are women?’

‘That’s not friendship.’

His smile was impossibly attractive. ‘Friendship means different things to different people.’

And she was in no doubt as to what it meant to him. ‘But you seem to make it your life’s work to make sure that women don’t profit from marriage.’

‘Only when the purpose of their marriage was profit. I don’t believe that marriage should be a source of income.’ His long bronzed fingers played idly with his pen and she lifted her own fingers and rubbed her forehead again. The dangerous mix of cool and charismatic was making her head spin.

‘It’s the source of your income,’ she pointed out, and his smile widened.

‘Touché.’ He glanced up as a uniformed girl sashayed down the plane with a tray of refreshments. ‘Ah—supper. Are you hungry, Lindsay?’

Her head was getting worse and to make matters worse her stomach was starting to churn. ‘Actually, no. But thank you.’ She wished once again that she hadn’t left her pills at home. This whole situation was going to be difficult enough without having to do it with a headache. ‘Perhaps this would be a good time for you to tell me something about the objective of this trip. If I’m to assist you, I’d better know something about the case.’

‘My prospective client hasn’t yet appointed legal counsel,’ Alessio purred. ‘He simply wishes to discuss his situation. I’ve agreed to listen.’

‘So he’s not even sure he wants a divorce?’

‘He knows he wants a divorce—he just hasn’t yet decided how to go about it. Or who he wants to represent him.’

‘So he might choose you.’

‘If he can afford me, he’ll choose me.’ Alessio suppressed a yawn and Lindsay shot him a bemused glance.

‘Why do you do this? You obviously don’t need the money.’

‘I enjoy the mental stimulation. I’m naturally competitive. I enjoy winning.’

‘Do you really think it’s “winning” to destroy someone’s marriage?’

‘Marriages come to me ready broken.’ His dark eyes flashed a warning. ‘And lecturing me isn’t in your job description.’

‘But has your client even tried to fix what’s wrong? Perhaps if he talks to an outsider—someone who isn’t involved—’ Lindsay broke off and winced as another shaft of pain lanced her head. Her stomach churned horribly and she sat totally still, willing it to settle.

Not now. She didn’t need this to happen now.

Alessio frowned, his eyes fixed on her face. ‘Is something wrong?’

‘Nothing at all.’ She could just imagine how a man like him would react to a woman with a migraine. Deciding that it was best to make her escape while she could, she stood up gingerly. ‘If you’ll excuse me for a moment. I need to use the bathroom.’

His eyes lingered thoughtfully on her face. ‘Last door on the left.’

Wishing he weren’t studying her quite so intently, Lindsay followed his directions and pushed open a door. Had circumstances been different she would have been amazed by the beautiful bathroom that confronted her, but as it was she felt too ill to react with anything other than relief at the prospect of privacy.

Closing the door carefully behind her, she put her hand on her stomach and took a deep breath. How long was the flight to the Caribbean? She hadn’t even asked, but without her medication she knew that she was going to be ill for all of it. And it was going to be horribly embarrassing.

Why now? Why now, when she really needed to have her wits about her?

Her head throbbed and she just wanted to lie down, but the thought of doing so in front of Alessio prevented her from returning to the cabin. Instead she sat down on a chair and leaned her head against the cool, marble wall, closing her eyes.

If only the pain would stop—

She didn’t know how long she sat there. She was in too much pain to move; so much so that when the bathroom door opened, she barely reacted.

‘Maledizione,’ a rough masculine voice cursed softly, ‘how long have you been like this? Are you ill?’

‘Migraine. I’ll be OK. Just leave me alone for a bit.’ Her eyes tightly shut against the light, Lindsay felt a firm masculine hand touch her forehead and then he muttered something under his breath in Italian.

‘I thought you were looking pale. Why didn’t you say something before?’

‘Alessio, please just go away,’ she muttered. ‘You’re difficult enough to deal with in good health. Trust me, you don’t want to be in here. I think I might be sick.’

Apparently undeterred by that warning, he scooped her easily into his arms and carried her through a door that led to a bedroom. Then he laid her gently on the enormous king-size bed. The soft pillow was cool against her cheek and it felt so wonderful to lie down that she gave a moan of gratitude.

‘Maybe you’re not all bad,’ she mumbled. ‘At this moment in time I almost like you.’

His eyes gleamed. ‘Stop talking, Lindsay. You might say something you regret.’

‘Sorry. Forgot you don’t want women to like you.’ She winced as another bolt of pain shot through her head. ‘Well, this must be a first for you. Tucking a sick woman into your bed.’

‘Do you have tablets in your bag?’ He sounded cool and efficient and her eyes drifted shut, her teeth gritted against the pain.

‘Forgot them. Packed in a hurry.’ She snuggled deeper into the pillow. ‘I didn’t even know planes came with beds. I guess it’s an essential item for a man like you.’

‘Believe it or not, I don’t use it for seduction. Being able to sleep when I need to makes me more efficient,’ he said dryly, pulling a heavy silk cover over her. ‘So—what am I going to do with you?’

The pain was agonising and she winced as a shaft of light penetrated the window. ‘You’re going to pass me my phone. I need to try calling Ruby again—’

‘Stop thinking about your sister and think about yourself for once.’ A frown in his eyes, Alessio leaned across and closed the blinds, shutting out the beams of sunlight. ‘Better?’

She never would have believed him capable of being so thoughtful. But her stomach was still churning and she was terrified that she was going to be sick over his handmade shoes. ‘I think you’d better leave now—for your sake.’

It seemed as though he was following her advice because he rose to his feet and left the room. But he returned moments later with a bowl and placed it by the bed, apparently unfazed by the situation. ‘I’m going to fetch you a doctor.’

If she’d had more energy Lindsay would have laughed. They were in mid-air, for goodness’ sake. Where was he going to find a doctor?

Perhaps he meant that he was going to talk to a doctor on the phone, but what good would that do?

The pounding in her head was unbearable, but when she heard voices next to her she gingerly opened her eyes and saw a man standing with Alessio.

With a frown, he sat down on the bed, asked her a few questions and then opened his bag.

Dimly in the back of her mind Lindsay was wondering how Alessio had managed to produce a doctor in mid-air, but her head was hurting too much to care and she was almost sobbing with gratitude as the doctor gave her medication and then left the room. Moments later, something deliciously cool was placed gently against her throbbing head.

She opened her eyes a slit and saw Alessio sitting next to her. He’d removed his tie and the sleeves of his white shirt had been rolled back to reveal strong forearms shadowed with dark hairs. As always he looked strong and capable and, surprisingly perhaps, not the slightest bit put out by her sudden illness. ‘The doctor thought this might help.’

‘Thank you. That feels wonderful. Why are you still here?’ But she felt intensely vulnerable and pathetically grateful to him for not walking out and leaving her alone. ‘I suppose your ego won’t allow a woman to claim a headache when she’s in your bed.’ Her remark made him smile.

‘Be quiet and go to sleep, Lindsay.’

‘You really are impossibly good-looking,’ she muttered as the medication started to take effect and her eyes drifted shut. ‘It’s a shame you’re such a selfish bastard.’





CHAPTER FOUR




SHE woke to find the pain gone and Alessio sprawled on the bed next to her, his eyes closed.

Still sleepy, Lindsay gazed at his dense lashes and the hard lines of his perfect bone structure.

So this was what it felt like to wake up next to a really, really gorgeous man. Like not getting up, she thought dreamily. Like spending all day lying in bed staring at him; counting those incredible eyelashes, studying the blue-black stubble that darkened his jaw, following the sensuous curve of his firm mouth.

Even relaxed and asleep, he looked strong and hotly masculine.

She was still in the process of contemplating his mouth when his eyes opened and he looked at her. His gaze locked with hers and for a sizzling moment they shared something agonisingly intimate. The response of her body was instantaneous and without thinking what she was doing, Lindsay lifted a hand and touched his cheek.

She felt the roughness of his jaw against her sensitive palm—man against woman—and then she saw his eyes narrow slightly.

‘I gather you’re feeling better?’ His voice was roughened by sleep, but it was enough to pierce her dreamy state and return her to full consciousness.

Completely awake now, she snatched her hand away and stared at him in horror.

‘Oh—’ Skidding away from him, she quickly sat up and her hair slid over her shoulders. Only then did she realise that, not only had someone removed the clips from her hair, but they’d also undressed her down to her underwear. She was horribly embarrassed, and her first impulse was to leap from the bed and lock herself in the bathroom, but without clothes she was trapped. Clutching the satin quilt to her throat, she glared at him. ‘What are you doing in my bed?’

‘It’s my bed, tesoro.’ He closed his eyes again and a slight smile played around his firm mouth. That gorgeous mouth that she’d been examining in such detail. ‘My plane. My bed.’

‘But—’ she kept the covers up to her chin ‘—what I mean is—why are you lying next to me?’

‘Sorry to disappoint you, but this plane only comes with one bedroom. I don’t generally find that I need guest accommodation.’

‘You could have slept on the couch.’

‘I could have done, yes.’ Eyes still closed, he smiled. ‘But that would have made me thoughtful and caring, and I’m a selfish bastard, Lindsay. Remember?’

Lindsay tightened her fingers on the covers. ‘That was incredibly rude of me. I shouldn’t have said that—I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did.’

‘You were honest about how you felt,’ he said dryly, ‘I suspect for the first time in your life.’

Lindsay hesitated. ‘But I was wrong,’ she said quietly. Yes, he’d obviously sprawled next to her for a few hours’ sleep, but only after he’d brought a bowl, fetched a doctor and generally made sure that she was as comfortable as possible. ‘Who undressed me?’

‘I did. I must say, for a relationship counsellor you choose extremely seductive underwear.’ He gave a half smile. ‘You’re full of surprises.’

‘You shouldn’t have undressed me.’

‘I felt sorry for you strapped up in that starched suit. You couldn’t possibly get the rest you needed. Is the headache gone?’

She moved her head slightly to test it and then nodded gingerly. ‘Yes. Thank you. Where did you find a doctor in mid-air?’

‘In the cockpit of my plane.’ In no apparent hurry, Alessio sat up, suppressed a yawn and then sprang from the bed with unconscious grace. He strolled to the far side of the bedroom, yanked open a cupboard and removed a fresh shirt. ‘My copilot is medically trained.’

It didn’t matter what he was doing or what he was wearing, he was unfairly good-looking, Lindsay thought helplessly. Whether he was stripped to the waist and sweaty from exercise, sleek in a suit, or rumpled from a few hours’ rest on the bed, he still managed to look gorgeous.

With a moan of frustration, she closed her eyes, reminding herself that his looks concealed an ice-cold temperament and a complete lack of emotional intelligence.

But that wasn’t quite true, was it?

He could have walked away and left her to her agony, but he hadn’t. Nor had he been remotely fazed by the fact that she’d taken ill on his plane. Remembering the glass of water he’d held to her lips at one point, she turned her head into the pillow, terrified by her feelings.

It didn’t change a thing, she told herself desperately. All right, so perhaps he did have a human side. But that didn’t alter the fact that he didn’t believe in love, had no desire to sustain a relationship and made his living from ripping the guts from people’s marriages.

It didn’t change who he was.

And it didn’t change who she was, either. Didn’t change the way she felt inside.

She opened her eyes and found him looking at her.

‘Are you all right?’ He frowned. ‘Headache back?’

‘No. I’m fine.’

‘Good. We’ll be landing in another two hours. I’m going to take a shower and then make some calls. Help yourself to the bathroom.’

‘Wait.’ Scooping her hair away from her face, she raised herself on her elbow. ‘You haven’t even told me where we’re going. You just said it was the Caribbean.’

‘We’re going to Kingfisher Cay, west of Antigua. One hundred acres of isolated palm-fringed beaches and guaranteed isolation.’

‘I’ve never heard of it.’

‘The only people who have ever heard of it are the people who can afford to go there,’ he said dryly. ‘A holiday on Kingfisher Cay is by personal invitation of the owner.’

‘And your prospective client is holidaying there as we speak?’

‘He needed a rest from the publicity surrounding his disintegrating marriage. He’s treating himself to some rest and relaxation.’

‘And you’re taking advantage of his vulnerability by turning up and offering him legal counsel?’

Alessio gave a cool smile. ‘A good divorce lawyer is what makes him able to relax. Without me protecting his interests, he wouldn’t be able to risk turning his back on the scheming hussy he married.’

Lindsay’s mouth tightened and she gripped the quilt in her fingers. Clearly the thoughtfulness he’d displayed during the night had just been a blip.

‘Don’t you think the owner of the island might object to you using his exclusive Caribbean hideaway for your own commercial interests?’

‘No.’ Alessio looked as though something had amused him and she frowned.

‘Does he know you’re bringing me?’

‘Why does it matter?’ A dangerous light in his eyes, he strolled purposefully towards her, his smile widening as she retreated to the far side of the bed.

The closer he came, the harder it was to breathe and she felt as though her body were on fire. ‘There might not be enough accommodation.’

‘We can always share.’

Lindsay flattened herself against the bed head. ‘I’d rather sleep with the sharks.’

He stopped, his expression mocking as he registered her growing agitation. ‘Then you’d better hope that your little sister did at least one part of her job correctly and booked two suites.’ With that disconcerting observation, he turned and walked through to the bathroom, leaving her with a pounding heart and a guilty conscience.

Ruby.

She hadn’t even thought about her sister since she’d woken up and she knew why, of course. There had been no room in her brain for anything or anyone except Alessio Capelli.

She needed to call Ruby. She needed—

With a groan, Lindsay flopped back down onto the pillows. What she really needed was to be back in London living her life. Not trapped in a private jet, en route to a billionaire’s Caribbean hideaway.

* * *

The seaplane soared above a sparkling turquoise sea.

‘Oh, my goodness,’ Lindsay breathed softly, her gaze drawn to yet another emerald-green island surrounded by deserted sandy beaches. ‘It’s incredible. So beautiful. I had no idea. I’ve never before understood everyone’s obsession with accumulating wealth, but if wealth means seeing a place like this—’

It was idyllic. If it weren’t for her anxiety about Ruby, she might even have been able to relax.

Lindsay frowned, realising how ridiculous that was. If it hadn’t been for Ruby, she wouldn’t be here! And if she started thinking that this was a holiday, she’d be in trouble. The only way to survive a week with Alessio Capelli was to be businesslike.

Absorbed by the contents of the file on his lap, Alessio appeared unaware of her inner turmoil. ‘You’ve never been to the Caribbean?’

‘No, I—’ She broke off. She didn’t want to reveal anything about herself to this man. What would someone like him make of her disordered, disastrous childhood? He’d laugh or make one of his sharp, lawyerlike comments that always made her shrink. ‘I haven’t really travelled.’ Not wanting to think about her past, she peered down at the surf breaking on a beach below her. ‘Is that where we’re going?’

‘Yes.’ Unlike her, he hadn’t once glanced out of the window, instead concentrating on working his way through the thick sheaf of documents. Occasionally he scribbled a note in the margin, sometimes he underlined, rarely he frowned and crossed out a chunk of text with big, bold strokes of his black pen.

Did he ever relax? She studied his profile for a moment. He’d showered and shaved and was now dressed in lightweight trousers and a cool shirt.

‘Why do you work so hard? Is it all about the money?’ She blurted out the question and he lifted his head and looked at her.

‘Money is important up to a point. After that, the amount becomes irrelevant.’

Lindsay tried to imagine having so much money that the total became irrelevant. ‘Well, you’ve long passed that point,’ she muttered, ‘so why do you carry on?’

‘Because it entertains me.’ He slid his pen into his pocket and closed the file. ‘I enjoy the process.’

‘You mean you enjoy making people miserable.’

His eyes gleamed. ‘On the contrary, I free them from misery to begin a new life.’

‘Don’t you ever worry that you’ve taken apart something that could be fixed?’

‘Unlike you, I don’t feel the need to control everybody else’s actions. If someone comes to me seeking legal advice, I give it. I don’t try and persuade them that they’re wrong.’

‘But what if some of those marriages could be saved? Perhaps some of those poor children could be spared the misery of spending their lives shuttling backwards and forwards every other weekend.’

Alessio slipped the file into his briefcase and snapped it shut. ‘You’re extremely concerned about the children in every relationship.’

Her heart thudded against her chest. It really wouldn’t pay to underestimate this man. He was so astute. ‘Of course. Who wouldn’t be?’ She gave a humourless laugh. ‘Sorry—you’re not at all concerned, are you?’

‘I think a bad relationship can be every bit as damaging for children as a split family.’

‘But what if the bad relationship could be fixed?’

‘You’re ridiculously sentimental about everything and you take it far too personally.’ His gaze was suddenly thoughtful. ‘Or maybe it is personal. Is it personal, Lindsay? Or do you feel this strongly on every subject?’

Her mouth dried. ‘I care, that’s all.’

‘I know. I’m just wondering why.’

‘Because I’m a human being.’ Deeply regretting ever starting the conversation, Lindsay concentrated her attention on the Caribbean Sea, which sparkled beneath her in the dazzling sunlight. She’d forgotten that he was a lawyer. With a few simple words he’d turned everything around and suddenly she was the one in the dock.

She needed to be careful.

Really careful.

‘So what do you want me to do?’ Realising that they’d finally arrived, she turned to him. ‘I mean, I expect you were planning to brief me on the flight, but I was ill—do you have something I should read? What’s my role?’

He circled a word on the page in front of him and then looked up. ‘Your role, Lindsay, is to act as my assistant.’ His dark eyes held hers for a moment and she felt everything inside her grow warm.

Appalled by her extremely unwelcome reaction to him, she frowned and dragged her gaze from his. ‘I know that I’m your assistant, but I’m just not sure what you expect of me. Some details would be helpful.’

‘I expect you to make our client feel comfortable. We need to make him feel that we understand his situation and that we’re committed to representing his interests.’

‘All right.’

‘I don’t expect you to ask if he’s tried counselling.’

Lindsay swallowed. ‘Fine. Are you going to tell me about him?’

‘Not yet. His presence on the island is top secret. If his identity was leaked, it could cause a problem. The owner prides himself on guaranteeing the absolute discretion of everyone on the island.’

‘But he trusts you?’

‘Lindsay—’ his voice was gentle ‘—I am the owner. It’s my island.’

‘Yours?’ She looked at him stupidly and then out of the window at the sugar-soft sandy beach that stretched towards a stylish beachfront villa. Another villa was visible farther along the sand. ‘You own this? I thought you were a lawyer, not a property magnate.’

‘I have several business interests.’ He slid the file