Authors: Emily Jane Trent
GIANNI AND LEAH
LEAH’S SEDUCTION 7
A Rinaldi Romance
Emily Jane Trent
In her former job, Leah didn’t have a window in her office, but now she did. It seemed like such a small thing, yet it made such a difference. Gazing out over the city was so much better than staring at a dingy wall barely two feet away. And her office was a lot bigger.
Many things about working for GR Showroom were better. Gianni was certainly a highlight. Instead of having to wait each day, wondering if she would see him, Leah saw him daily. And she saw him in a different light. Observing him handling the affairs of his international operation, she realized how efficient he was.
And that was sexy. Not that Leah needed him to be hotter than he already was. But seeing him in business attire, commanding his team, was a definite distraction. Somehow she managed to focus enough to get her job done. Although she didn’t pass up any opportunities to drink in the sight of Gianni in motion.
Aida proved to be invaluable, as Leah had known she would. She had management experience, and during her career in fashion had held a variety of positions. This was all useful, and it became clear that she was top notch as an assistant.
Aida stood in the doorway. Her red hair was back to its formerly spiky style. The softer curly look had just been an experiment. She wore a pale copper suit that made her blue eyes stand out. “I’m going to pop out for some lunch,” she said. “Would you like to join me, or can I bring you something?”
“That’s okay. I’m going with Gianni later.” Leah noted her assistant’s relaxed demeanor. “Has everything still been all right? I mean, nothing more from Vadim?”
“No, I’m sure one clerk is as good as another to him,” she said. “If he is still in business, anyway.”
Leah laughed. “He’s struggling at best.”
“Yes, I’m sure he is. But since I dropped off my resignation, there has been no word. And that’s just as well with me.” Aida looked thoughtful. “You know security still keeps an eye on me.”
“Yes, Gianni arranged that. It is unlikely any harm will come to you,” Leah said. “But then it hasn’t been that long since the blowup. It’s better to take precautions.”
Aida shrugged. “I don’t mind. It does make me feel safer. Although I’m pretty sure I’m under the radar, if you know what I mean.”
“Well, you were. Until you started working for me.” Leah frowned. “Now you are consorting with the enemy. That makes you more of a target.”
Aida sighed. “If we are lucky, it’s all over.”
Leah nodded. “I sure hope so.”
“Did you press charges? I know you talked about it.”
Leah shook her head. “It would have been justified. But I doubt much would have happened to Vadim even if I had. And I decided to just move on. Having to deal with him at all is distasteful, so I’d rather not start some legal action.”
Aida had been filled in on the role Leah played in supporting Gianni against Barrington. And she had heard the whole story about what happened in Vadim’s office that day. “I think that is smart. You have him backed off. I’m sure he is still wondering what you know and what you don’t. Vadim won’t be so quick to attack.”
“Exactly my thoughts. And what good would it do? It’s over. He has enough to deal with. Coming after me wouldn’t benefit him.”
Aida frowned. “Do you think Mason has given up on his vendetta against Gianni?”
“Gianni thinks so,” Leah said. “He is pretty certain they don’t want to tangle with him again.”
“Okay then, I’m off. I’ll be back shortly.”
Aida left, and, gazing out the window, Leah pondered how her life had changed. Freedom from Vadim and the oppressive job had brightened her days. She could fully express her passion for her work, and be properly recognized for it.
The fast-fashion division in Chicago was running smoothly, and Leah had a marketing campaign underway. It looked like Gianni was right that affordable designer fashions would sell well. Plus, she liked the idea of more women having access to new styles. And she geared her strategy around making every woman feel elegant without having to pay a fortune.
Sometimes she wondered if they were truly free of Mason and Vadim. Considering their vengefulness, she couldn’t be sure. Gianni had assured her that retaliation was unlikely, given his last conversation with him. But he erred on the side of caution, and kept security on the alert. At least until the financial disaster absorbing the attention of his enemies played out.
Pressing charges—and seeing Vadim squirm—would have been satisfying. But Leah had assured him that if he let her leave unharmed, she wouldn’t take action. She intended to keep her word, even though she doubted honesty meant anything to a man like him. It was safer not to stir the hornet’s nest. She was confident she had made the right decision.
Daniela had discovered afternoon tea, or high tea as it was called in New York. One Saturday, Leah and Kyra met her for a five-course tea at Lady Mendl’s. The establishment served a classic English afternoon tea in a brownstone on Irving Place. The décor included embroidered couches by the fireplace, and elegantly set tables.
“Don’t you just love this place?” she said, hugging her friends when they arrived.
Leah noted that Gianni’s sister wore very little makeup, despite her career. She didn’t need it. In her soft cream blouse and matching skirt, Daniela looked as Victorian as the setting. “Yes, I adore this style, the furnishings, the architecture…all of it.”
“I can just imagine a lady at the turn of the century entertaining guests here,” Kyra said, then slid gracefully into her chair. “It’s so charming.”
A waitress came by to attend to them. Since it was their first time at the tea salon, she explained that they would be served a variety of classic finger sandwiches, fresh-baked scones with clotted cream and jams, and a choice of fine teas.
They each made their tea choice, and then took a minute to gaze at the softly lit room with white linens, delicate china, and a vase of pink roses on each table. The tea arrived promptly, along with a plate of single-bite appetizers.
They chatted while they nibbled and drank. As soon as the plate was empty, finger sandwiches were served. “Let’s see,” Kyra said, scanning the menu beside her plate. “We have smoked salmon with crème fraîche on brioche, butternut squash and arugula on a crispy baguette, and curried chicken on pumpernickel.”
“How exotic,” Leah said, then lifted one of the tiny sandwiches and tasted it. “Yum, try the butternut squash one.”
Daniela took a nibble. “I wouldn’t have thought of butternut squash on a sandwich.” She took another bite. “It’s delicious.”
Kyra sipped her tea, then looked across at Daniela. “So are all your brothers older than you?”
Daniela nodded. “Yep. I’m the baby sister.” She chose another sandwich. “Gianni is the oldest. Then Jacob, Stephano, and Micah.”
“Guess you don’t have to worry about anyone messing with you,” Kyra said. “With that many brothers.”
“So true.” Daniela lifted her china teacup with her little finger raised, and took a sip.
“Is Stephano ever in New York?” Kyra said.
Daniela smiled. “Oh sure, but not often. He works internationally as a fashion photographer.” She looked at Kyra. “Do I detect an interest?”
Kyra laughed. “I might be. If he is as cool as Gianni.”
“All my brothers are pretty cool.” Daniela dabbed at her mouth with a lace napkin. “You might be in luck. I don’t think Stephano is with anyone now.” She looked at Kyra. “But…I have no idea when he will come to visit.”
“Just my luck,” Kyra said.
“But if he does, I’ll introduce you,” Daniela said. “He is tall and handsome.” She grinned. “Like all my brothers.”
“Tall is good,” Kyra said. “I’ve tried to date shorter men, but it doesn’t work. I tower over them, and it’s awkward.”
“Well, Stephano is over six feet, so no worries there.”
The scones arrived, and the conversation shifted to other topics. Leah bought a bottle of champagne for them to share. “Might as well have fun,” she said. The alcohol gave Leah just a bit of a buzz. She was having a good time.
Leah spread some blackberry preserves over a scone, and took a bite. “I saw your bodyguard outside,” she said to Daniela.
“Yes, I’m getting used to him. Although he doesn’t talk much.”
Leah laughed. “I’m sure you won’t need him much longer. There’s been no sign Vadim will show up again.”
Daniela shuddered. “He better not. He creeps me out.”
Kyra took a sip of champagne. “I might have some new job opportunities.”
“Oh yeah?” Leah said.
“I got a call from the owner of a modeling agency. She says she has seen my work, and wants to meet. It could be good.”
Daniela raised a brow. “Who was it?”
“Hmm, I have her card at home. I can’t think of her name right now. But her agency is called Catwalk Stardom.” Kyra shrugged. “I’m surprised I hadn’t heard that name before. But I’ll meet with her anyway, to see what she has to say.”
“Can’t hurt,” Leah said. “More work is always good, right?”
By the time dessert arrived they were all fairly full, although the cake did look tasty. Each took a bite just to see. It was yummy, but the consensus was to save room for the chocolate-covered strawberries coming next.
They had managed to make the courses last for hours, and once the food was cleared, they stayed longer to finish their champagne. “I’m up for shopping. Maybe I can burn off some of these calories,” Kyra said as she drained her glass. “How about you two?”
“I’m in,” Daniela said.
Leah smiled. “You don’t know what you are getting into.”
Daniela laughed. “I’m sure. Okay then, why don’t you both ride with me? My bodyguard will keep an eye on all of us.”
“That works,” Leah said. “I’ll tell the limo you will take us home later.”
Starting at the north end of Fifth Avenue, they worked their way south through Manhattan. They shopped the big department stores, and some luxury boutiques. Kyra was in her element choosing things for Leah and Daniela to try on.
And there was plenty to choose from at Bergdorf Goodman, Gucci, Banana Republic, and Prada. Loaded with bags, they made their way back to Daniela’s car. “Good thing I have a big trunk,” she said. The bodyguard helped stuff everything in.
They slid into the back seat. “I’m pooped,” Daniela said.
“I warned you about shopping with Kyra. She’s relentless,” Leah said.
Kyra nudged her knee and laughed. “Oh, you love it. Look at all the great stuff you got.”
“True,” Leah said. “Do you have any extra closet space? I don’t know where to fit more clothes.”
“Leave some at Gianni’s. He won’t mind,” Daniela said.
Leah laughed. “I already have stuff there. If I keep bringing more clothes over, he’s going to think I’m moving in.”
Daniela raised an eyebrow. “Not a bad idea.”
“Um, well, he has to ask first, you know,” Leah said.
“Well, if he doesn’t,” his sister said, “he’s making a big mistake.”
“He will when he’s ready,” Kyra said. “But it will happen.”
“I’m glad both of you know so much,” Leah said. “I’m not so sure. There’s been no sign that Gianni plans for us to be permanent.”
Daniela and Kyra looked at each other and smiled.
“What?” Leah said.
“Gianni will come around,” Daniela said. “You’ll see.”
Leah wished she had as much faith in that as his sister did. It was what she wanted. But she just wasn’t so sure if Gianni did. She’d been as patient as she possibly could. Yet Gianni seemed satisfied with how things were. Making a move toward permanency would only happen if he fell in love. Leah knew that much. But she was too timid to tell her friends that he had yet to say the words she longed to hear.
Leah found time to write in her journal on the nights when she was alone. The contrast between her postage-stamp-sized apartment and Gianni’s luxury condo was stark. Just when she got used to his lifestyle, she found herself back in her loft bed, alone.
Gianni had an overnight business trip, so she likely wouldn’t see him for a day or so. She missed him, and after a quiet dinner Leah snuggled into her bed early. Pulling the journal out of the drawer, she opened it to write, hoping to lift her mood.
I haven’t written since we returned from Buenos Aires. It was odd. Gianni held my journal in his hands, and I thought he was going to ask to read it. But he didn’t. I suppose he knows I have a right to my privacy.
Not that I wouldn’t share it. I’ve grown accustomed to confiding intimate feelings to Gianni. It’s part of our relationship, and he encourages me to do so. In fact, he wants me to tell him more. I’m puzzled that he didn’t broach the subject of reading my journal. But I was unable to read his expression. His eyes gave away nothing.
I’m not sure why, but it is so much easier to write everything down. To speak it out loud is completely different. And it’s a lot harder. Maybe someday I will be able to do that. I know Gianni wants me to. But I’m just not sure it will ever be easy to do.
After Gianni found my journal, he didn’t say anything. That caught me off guard, because I didn’t know how he felt about it. I soaked in the tub for a while getting up my nerve, because I expected him to ask about what was written in my journal. It would have been difficult to let him read it. And I couldn’t decide how I would respond if he wanted me to share it.
But he didn’t ask. Maybe he was being respectful. Yet that seemed out of character. Gianni is more inclined to have me bare my soul. He does in the playroom, anyway. I’m thinking he was surprised that I wrote in a journal. He didn’t know about it before. It never occurred to me that he would want to know.
It’s likely he will ask me about it later. Or wait for the right time to ask me to let him read it. But even so, it doesn’t make me want to stop writing. I love Gianni, and would share anything he needed me too. I don’t feel awkward pouring my emotions onto the page.
I’ll just have to see if I ever have to deal with Gianni’s request to see what is in my private journal. I doubt he would be shocked at what I say. Even some of the most private things I’ve written don’t compare to what we have actually done in the bedroom, and the playroom.
Even so, my most lurid fantasies are so much better when played out with Gianni. He makes everything better. It’s like he takes my emotion and need, then adds to it. He knows how to do it right, to give me what I need. Often he knows better than I do.
Lately, I have seen him looking at me differently. It’s as though he wants to say something, but doesn’t. I cannot figure it out. I don’t know if I will be able to understand Gianni, no matter how hard I try. He remains a mystery.
Despite our closeness, he is still emotionally distant. He has told me that he feels responsible for me. For my pleasure, my safety, and so much more. To be strong, Gianni must feel that he has to bury his own emotion. Would it weaken him if he felt love?
That is hard to envision. I think love makes you stronger. But as a man, Gianni may view it another way. He may see being in love as a weakness. I certainly hope not, because my dream is for him to love me. Truly love me.
What we have together is everything I want. Almost. It should be enough as it is. But I admit that I long to hear Gianni say he loves me. In my mind, he would be stronger than ever, not weaker because of it.
Love is a bond that can survive any storm. I know it. But then, I am a romantic, and Gianni is not. He is so sexy, and creates scenes with me that I couldn’t put into words even if I wanted to. They are so hot. But it’s not all roses.
He challenges me, and edges me toward pain. Gianni presses, and leads me into unforeseen pleasures. But he is not a romantic. Not in that way. But many of the things we do together outside the bedroom are very romantic.
So you can see how I cannot understand him. Gianni is a contradiction. While he says he doesn’t want to be emotionally close, everything he does brings me near. It makes me want him more. And the intimacy I’ve shared with him is more than I ever hoped to with any man.
I am doing my best not to press him, or demand more than he is prepared to give. I hope that my patience will pay off. And that eventually Gianni will give in to love. He is a caring man, and an amazing person. He’s too good to live his life without falling in love. I refuse to believe it won’t happen.
Leah put aside the journal and turned out the light. These days she didn’t sleep as well when Gianni wasn’t by her side. Closing her eyes, she tried to relax. But thoughts of Gianni haunted her, and kept her awake long into the night.
The following day, Leah was relieved to see Gianni in the office. His trip had gone well, and he was home sooner than expected. He came into her office, definitely swoon-worthy in his tailored charcoal slacks and pale blue shirt.
She flew into his open arms. “You’re back. You didn’t call me.”
He hugged her. “I thought I’d surprise you.” Gianni kissed her, and his lips lingered against hers. “Has everything been okay?”
“Yes,” she said, “but better now that you’re back.”
Gianni smiled. “Are you free for lunch?”
“Okay, let me see what fires I have to put out at my desk, then we’ll take a long lunch,” Gianni said. “We can spend some time together.”
Leah focused on a project she wanted to finish, and Gianni got caught up in business. It was after one o’clock before they left for lunch. She chose a new French bistro she had heard about. It had a sleek interior, and the menu offered many classic dishes.
They ordered drinks and studied the menu. Leah was tired from her restless night, but energized by having Gianni back. He looked well rested, and as handsome as ever. He smiled at her. “I missed you too, by the way.”
Leah grinned. “You better.”
The meals were ordered, and Gianni gave her his full attention. “So what did I miss?”
“Nothing too much. I did talk to my mom the other day for quite a while. I hadn’t had a chance to fill her in on the details of our trip to Argentina. She loved hearing about it.”
“I bet she did.” Gianni took Leah’s hand in his. “And your sisters?”
“Well, I’ve had a few emails from Jena. She is still traveling, and not sure when she will be home.” Leah smiled. “I think she likes traveling even more than I do.”
“You enjoy traveling?”
“You know I do,” Leah said. “Especially with you.”
Gianni’s eyes gleamed. “I’ll make note of that.”
“And Aubrey is in love. I can hear it in her voice. But she’s so private about it.” Leah took a sip of her drink. “I can understand that, though. She’s the youngest of us, and it’s all new. So special. I know how she feels.”
Gianni nodded. “And your father’s business is good?”
“It seems so. He works so hard, but I think he likes it that way.” Leah squeezed Gianni’s hand. “And now he is delivering to some of the local restaurants. He has hired a deliveryman. But that means he has to expand his production. There was a time when he did all the baking personally. Not now. He has to have help.”
“That’s good. I’m glad his business is growing.”
“So am I.” Leah leaned forward. “And it was great talking with my mom. She’s healthy now, and doing well. That means everything.”
“It does,” Gianni said.
“And I think my mom always wanted to travel, but didn’t have the opportunity. So when I share places I’ve seen, and different food, cultures…she could listen for hours.” Leah looked into Gianni’s gorgeous blue eyes. “You’ll have to meet them sometime.”
“I will,” he said, “for sure.”
Leah took that as a good sign. He didn’t seem hesitant about going to see her family. She could only hope that meant she was more to him than Gianni had voiced. He didn’t have to say it yet, as long as he felt it. “My family would love to meet you. And you’d like them. I know you would.”
Gianni smiled. He leaned back as the waiter arrived with their lunches. He put the plates before them.
Leah cut into her salmon. “And your trip? How did it go?”
“Good. I need to expand my team, and met with someone that can help. With the way business is growing, I am understaffed.” Gianni looked at her. “Even with you and Aida.”
“We are all right in the Chicago division, but I need more management skill over the international operations.” He lifted his fork. “It looks like I’ll be traveling more and more. I need staff at several of GR’s locations, so I don’t have to be concerned when I’m away.”
“That makes sense.”
Gianni ate for a few minutes, and Leah focused on her own meal. She liked talking business. It made her feel a part of Gianni’s life, and she hoped he knew that he could share with her. That he could trust her. It seemed they had reached that stage in their relationship.
“Did you see the latest sales figures for the Chicago division?” Leah knew he monitored the numbers daily, but she wanted to hear him say it.
Gianni nodded. “Yes, you know I did. And you are getting the results I knew you would.” He looked up from his meal. “I predict that division will grow fast. It already is. I’m considering opening some new locations just for the fast-fashion line.”
“That’s a good idea.”
“Yes, you know, it used to be that fashions were sold for several seasons.” Gianni leaned back. “Not anymore. There is such a demand for new designs, not just every year but each season. If we can keep up with the pace, I think we can turn over a lot of merchandise.”
“I’ll rework some strategies I have in mind,” Leah said. “I think they can be scaled up to handle the expansion.”
Gianni took a bite, and looked thoughtful. “Fashion Week in Rio is coming up,” he said. “And we could schedule staff to go, if you feel like you are traveling too much.”
Leah couldn’t imagine. “No, not really. I’m kind of getting into it.” She thought of how exciting her life was with Gianni.
His eyes sparkled, but he didn’t say anything for a minute.
Leah laughed. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m imagining you in the samba dress, the one I gave you on the boat.”
She knew where he was going with that. “When you promised to take me to Rio to samba and give me a chance to wear my special dress?”
“You haven’t forgotten.”
“I’m not likely to forget an offer like that.”
“Then I’ll let Joshua know that he doesn’t have to cover the Rio show. I’ll be attending with you.” Gianni lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles. He could be just so damn romantic. It was impossible to resist him.