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Authors: Jacqueline Baird

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BOOK: Picture of Innocence
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He caught her wrist, his eyes tender and passionate as they met hers. ‘Oh, I think I can arrange that,’ he said, knowing exactly what she meant. ‘But first there is something else,’ he said in a husky, unsteady tone.

Lucy tensed, wondering what was coming next.

‘I don’t expect you to love me, but I want to take care of you—keep you. I know I can make you happy in bed, and maybe in time you will grow to love me if only you will let me try. Lucy, will you marry me?’

Lucy felt her heart swell to overflowing. She saw the vulnerability in his eyes as he waited for her answer—her proud, arrogant lover was unsure … nervous. Taking a deep breath, she said, ‘You won’t have to try—I do love you.’ She saw the confusion, then the growing hope in his eyes. ‘I have from the first time we made love. And, yes—I will marry you.’

‘You do? You will?’ Lorenzo looked shocked, then his dark eyes blazed with emotion and a hint of tears as he wrapped his arms around her, crushing her against his broad chest, and buried his face in the fragrant silken mass of her hair. ‘You are sure?’ he queried, and then his lips sought hers and he kissed her with achingly sweet tenderness and a love that stole her breath away.
He lifted his head. ‘When?’ he asked, and his dark eyes watched warily as he waited for her answer.

She realised her confident, powerful man was still uncertain. ‘Whenever you like.’ She smiled, all the love in her heart shining in her brilliant green eyes. ‘The sooner the better,’ she said, and finally let go of the coverlet and looped her arm around his neck. ‘Do we
have
to wait for the wedding?’ she teased.

‘Dio,
no—I can’t wait,’ Lorenzo groaned, his voice thick with emotion and a hunger that Lucy felt herself.

Taking her arm from his neck, he stripped off his shirt, his pants. Lucy’s eyes followed his every move. This was what she wanted—what she yearned for—and as he gathered her in his arms she met the smouldering darkness of his gaze and arched into the hard warmth of his great body, her small hands caressing, her lips parting.

They melded together—heart to heart, mouth to mouth—in a kiss like no other, full of tenderness and longing, passion and love.

‘Lorenzo … ‘ she breathed, as his hands slid sensuously over her body and her own caressed his satin smooth skin. He filled up her senses, and with murmured words of love and groans of fervent need their bodies joined in the primeval dance of love, finally fusing together in surge after surge of pure ecstasy, two halves of a whole in perfect love.

‘I can’t find the words to tell you how you make me feel,’ Lorenzo husked as they lay satiated in each other’s arms. But he tried, with softly whispered endearments. He eased his weight away, but held her close to his long body, his hands gently stroking her back. ‘I don’t deserve you, Lucy, but I will never let you go—you are the colour in my life. You are beautiful inside and out.’
A long finger found the scar near the base of her spine. ‘I can’t believe you did this for your brother.’

‘Yes, you can,’ Lucy murmured. ‘You would have done the same for yours if he’d needed it,’ she said lazily as she surfaced from the sensual haze that surrounded her.

‘You have more faith in me than I do myself.’

‘Ah, but then I love you.’ She pressed a kiss on his chest and he rolled over on his back, carrying her with him. And as the dawn of the new day crept through the windows the dance of love started all over again.

‘What the hell?’ Lorenzo swore as a loud crashing noise woke him. Keeping Lucy safe in the curve of his arm, he sat up.

The maid was standing three feet into the room, and she had dropped the coffee tray she had been carrying. Her face was scarlet, and Lorenzo could understand why as Lucy opened her eyes and smiled up at him, stroking her small hand across his stomach.

‘I just need to feel you are real, Lorenzo, and know I wasn’t dreaming last night.’

Then to add to the confusion his mother appeared in the doorway, fully dressed.

‘What on earth has happened?’ she demanded of the maid, and then looked across at the bed. ‘Oh, Lorenzo—how could you?’

Lucy heard the voice and snatched her hand away from his stomach, blushing redder than the maid and trying to burrow down beneath the coverlet.

Lorenzo pulled her gently back up. ‘Trust me, Lucy—that will look worse.’ He grinned and tucked the coverlet under her, putting his arm around her shoulders before looking back across the room.

‘Good morning, Mother,’ he said, with all the confidence and panache a thirty-eight-year-old man could muster when for the first time in his life he had been caught in bed with a woman by his
mother …
‘I want you to be the first to know Lucy and I are getting married.’

His mother gasped, and then smiled, and was about to rush over.

‘But can you save the congratulations and the cleanup until later? Lucy is a little shy right now.’

‘Yes—yes, of course.’

The two women backed out of the room.

‘As embarrassing moments go, that has to be the worst,’ Lucy said.

‘Not really. I should have expected something like that. From being a highly successful, staid and arrogant banker, in control of billions, who has never had any trouble with women in his life, this summer has seen women running rings around me. But, on the plus side, I have found the love of my life.’ And, laughing out loud, he tipped Lucy back in his arms and kissed her soundly.

EPILOGUE

L
ORENZO
guided the car through the gates and up the drive, a smile on his face. Lucy had married him in the cathedral in Verona on a fine October day—a vision in white and a picture he would carry in his mind for ever. And eight months later their son Antonio had been born—conceived, Lucy was sure, on the night he’d proposed to her. Lorenzo had his doubts, but didn’t argue with his wife. She had filled his life with laughter and love, and she collected friends as other people collected stamps. Last week had been Antonio’s first birthday, and they had thrown a party for their friends, and his little friends and their families, with a funfair set up in the garden.

Today was Lorenzo’s birthday. He had spent the last four days in New York and could not wait to get home and get Lucy alone. He loved his family, but sometimes a man just needed his wife—and he was hard with anticipation. He had it all planned. He was going to surprise Lucy and fly her to Venice, take her to the Hotel Cipriani, where he had booked a suite for the night. They could share an intimate dinner … just the two of them.

* * *

Lucy combed Antonio’s soft black hair. He had woken from his afternoon nap an hour ago, and was now dressed and ready for the party. She kissed his cheek and handed him to the nanny to take downstairs. She had not wanted a nanny but Lorenzo had insisted, saying if she wanted to continue with her art it made sense.

He was right. He had arranged for one of the tower rooms to be converted into a studio for her, but she still had the gallery and visited regularly and showed her work there. Elaine now ran it, with Miss Carr the temp—who, having gone full-time, had ended up marrying the woodcarver in residence, confirmed bachelor Leon. In fact all four of them were here now, and downstairs with Anna.

Lucy walked along to the master suite and quickly showered and dressed. Sometimes she had to pinch herself to believe how lucky she was. Lorenzo had made her the happiest woman in the world. She knew he loved her—he showed it in myriad ways—and he had given her a wonderful son she worshipped and adored. He was a great father. How she had ever thought he was staid and boring was inconceivable to her now.

When they’d married he had asked her where she wanted to live, saying he would buy or build her a house anywhere she chose. She’d chosen to live in the house by the lake with his mother. He’d been surprised, but had agreed. They stayed at the villa in Santa Margherita a lot of weekends, and already he was trying to teach Antonio to sail on a specially built boat in the swimming pool. She’d told him he was crazy—the baby had only just learnt to walk—but he’d just laughed and made love to her by the pool.

He still worked hard, and commuted to Verona daily. Sometimes he drove, but he had a new toy—a helicopter
which he piloted himself. Tonight he was driving home, thank heaven, otherwise he would be back too soon and ruin her surprise.

Three months ago he had surprised
her.
They had gone to Dessington for the grand opening of the new development, and she had discovered he had bought her old home. She had auctioned it off and converted it into a hotel with James Morgan. Not an ordinary hotel, but a centre where cancer sufferers and their families could have a holiday. Lorenzo knew her mum had died of cancer, and James had done it for Samantha.

They two were arriving any minute, with their son Thomas, and with one last look at her reflection in the mirror Lucy dashed downstairs just in time to welcome them.

Lorenzo stopped the car under the portico, leapt out and dashed into the house—and stopped dead. A huge banner was strung around the balcony, with ‘Happy Fortieth Birthday’ written on it, and the hall was full of people. His dark eyes went unerringly to Lucy.

She was walking towards him, a brilliant smile on her face, her eyes sparkling with love and laughter. The gown she wore should have been censored, was his second thought. His first was wow … A shimmering gold, the dress had a halter-neck and no back, he noted, as she turned for a second to speak to someone, and the bodice plunged between her breasts—slightly larger now, since she had breastfed their son. It nipped in at her tiny waist, then fell smoothly over hips to her feet. And he was in danger of embarrassing himself—but then Lucy always had that effect on him.

She reached up and looped her arms around his
neck. ‘Surprise, surprise—happy birthday, Lorenzo darling.’

He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her as the crowd started cheering. ‘You will pay for this,’ he murmured in her ear. ‘I had plans for an intimate dinner for two in Venice. We have to communicate better—starting now.’

And then Antonio came, hurtling to his feet, and he picked his son up and spun him around, and kissed his mother on the cheek. Then he was shaking hands and greeting people, but he put a hand around Lucy’s waist and kept her by his side as he made for the stairs, telling Gianni and various others that he needed to get changed. And huskily telling Lucy
she
was going to help him.

‘Lorenzo, we can’t,’ Lucy said, eyeing him with loving amusement as he shed his suit and shirt, dropping them on the bed room floor as usual.

Wearing only boxers, he caught her to him. ‘Yes, we can, Lucy. I love you more and more each day. You have given me a wonderful son and you have made me the happiest man in the world. But it has been four days, and right now I ache to be inside you.’ And gathering her close, a hand curving around her nape, he kissed her long and deep, his fingers deftly loosening the haltertop.

Lucy closed her eyes. He was right. She could feel the passion, the desire vibrating between them, and when he slipped her dress down to pool at her feet and carried her to the bed she wanted him with a hunger that could not be denied. She always did and always would.

Later, she slipped off the bed and told Lorenzo to wait. She crossed to the dressing room and, taking the parcel she had hidden there, returned to the bed. ‘Happy birthday,’ she said, and handed him her gift.

Grinning, he ripped off the paper—and stopped, his dark eyes fixed on the painting. He stared for so long in silence, she began to worry.

‘I thought it was time there was a portrait of you above the fireplace in the lounge, and your father’s was relegated to the hall,’ she said. ‘But if it’s not good enough.’

He turned his head, and she saw the moisture in his eyes. ‘Good enough? It is magnificent—the best gift, after our son, you could possibly give me. The days. the hours you must have spent … I am humbled and flattered that you see me so well.’ And, slipping the painting gently to the floor, he reached for her.

Lorenzo Zanelli’s surprise fortieth birthday party was talked about for months afterwards in the homes of Verona—mainly because it had taken him three hours to get changed for the party, particularly as his wife was helping him!

All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author, and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all the incidents are pure invention.

All Rights Reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This edition is published by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises II BV/S.à.r.l. The text of this publication or any part thereof may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, storage in an information retrieval system, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the prior consent of the publisher in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

® and TM are trademarks owned and used by the trademark owner and/or its licensee. Trademarks marked with ® are registered with the United Kingdom Patent Office and/or the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market and in other countries.

First published in Great Britain 2011
Harlequin Mills & Boon Limited,
Eton House, 18-24 Paradise Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1SR

© Jacqueline Baird 2011

ISBN: 978-1-408-92558-4

BOOK: Picture of Innocence
12.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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