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Authors: Jacqueline Baird

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BOOK: Picture of Innocence
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‘If we had time I would show you I am not.’ He chuckled, and reached down to clasp her head between his strong hands and kiss her senseless. ‘Unfortunately we don’t have time.’ He straightened up. ‘But I’ll come back this evening and take you out to dinner. What time do you close?’

Breathless, Lucy said, ‘I close at four—but if we are going out.’

‘I’ll see you at seven,’ he husked and, planting a swift kiss on her head, he left.

Lucy watched him leave with a beaming smile on her face. Lorenzo didn’t just want sex. He was actually taking her on a date. That had to be a good sign.

CHAPTER FOUR

T
HE
doorbell rang, and Lucy, with one last glance at her reflection in the mirror, adjusted the spaghetti straps of the bright blue summer dress she wore, picked up her purse and ran downstairs to open the door.

‘You look fabulous,’ Lorenzo said, and Lucy simply looked.

She had never seen him wear anything but a perfectly tailored suit—the uniform of choice for a seriously powerful conservative male. But now, casually dressed in pale trousers and a white shirt, with a cashmere sweater draped across his wide shoulders, his black hair dishevelled by the breeze and with a smile of wickedly masculine appreciation curving his lips, he could have been a latter-day pirate. She tilted back her head to look into his eyes and saw banked-down desire in the dark depths. Her own widened in instant response.

‘Don’t look at me like that, Lucy, or we will never get to dinner,’ he said ruefully and, slipping an arm around her waist, he lowered his mouth down to hers as though he could not help himself.

At the first gentle brush of his lips Lucy’s parted eagerly beneath his and she melted against him, her knees going weak as he kissed her with a subtle promise of passion.

‘We have to go now,’ he said huskily, and, keeping a hand on her back, took her key and urged her out of the house, locking the door behind them.

Right at that moment Lucy realised she would quite happily go to the end of the earth with Lorenzo, and suddenly the confusion, the butterflies in her stomach whenever she saw him, and the incredible joy she had felt when they made love all made sense. For the first time in her adult life she was experiencing the magic of overwhelming sexual attraction to a man. She had only ever read about it before, and never been able even to imagine it, but now she could—and maybe more!

Later, sitting opposite him at the table in dining room of the country house hotel where he was staying, she fell even deeper under his spell if that was possible.

Over the meal, with some prompting from him, she told him more about her business and the three fellow artists who displayed their wares in her gallery. Leon was a brilliant woodcarver, Sid was a potter, and his wife Elaine—who worked in the gallery on a permanent basis—had a talent for tapestry and quilting. She was also the owner of the big black linen suit.

Lorenzo seemed impressed, and told her a little more about himself. He was an amusing and informative conversationalist. She learnt he worked between Italy and New York and occasionally London, where the bank kept an office dedicated to the UK stock market. He owned a villa in Santa Margherita, and liked to spend his leisure time sailing his yacht around the Mediterranean.

‘I’m sorry, Lucy, I must be boring you. Would you like to go on somewhere else? A club or casino maybe?’ he said earnestly.

‘You could never bore me, and I don’t think there is either of those around here,’ she informed him wryly.
And a casino wasn’t exactly where she had imagined their evening would end.

A vivid image of his naked body gloriously entwined with her own made a blush rise up her throat, and she glanced across at him. He read her mind, and a knowing sensual smile curved his firm lips. Their eyes met, and the air between them was suddenly heavy with sexual tension.

‘Let’s get out of here.’ Lorenzo abruptly stood up and, moving around the table, took her hand. He helped her to her feet and quickly out of the dining room, his hand gripping hers as he led her up the grand staircase to his first-floor suite.

She glanced around as he closed the door behind them. It was a sitting room with a fireplace—and she never saw the rest as Lorenzo swept her up in his arms.

Covering her mouth with his, kissing her with a hungry, driven passion, he carried her through to the bedroom. They fell on the bed in a tangle of arms and legs, mouths and hands. Lorenzo quickly divested her of the blue sundress she wore, and Lucy was no slouch in tearing at his shirt buttons. Within seconds they were both naked. There was no foreplay, just a frantic coupling, and they came together in an explosion of raw passion.

‘I needed that,’ Lorenzo groaned, and curved her into the hard heat of his body.

What followed was a lazy love-fest as he kissed her gently and explored every inch of her. Between talking nonsense and laughing, he trailed tender kisses down the length of her spine, asking about the scar he found there. Lucy chuckled, telling him it was just a cut, and
then, turning, explored equally thoroughly down the front of
his
great torso. The end result was ecstasy.

‘Wake up, Lucy.’

She opened her eyes and snuggled closer to his strong body. ‘You are insatiable,’ she murmured, wrapping her arm around his waist and lightly kissing his chest. They had made love twice already, but even so, pressed against him flesh on flesh, she felt the familiar quiver of desire snake through her body.

‘Sorry, Lucy, I hate to disappoint you, but it really is time I took you home. I have to leave at dawn to drive to London—I’m flying out to New York about noon.’ And, rolling off the bed, he shot her a brief smile and strolled across to the bathroom.

Lucy watched him go, admiring his bronzed body—the broad back, elegant spine, the firm buttocks and long legs—and feeling slightly disappointed. Silly, she knew, but she couldn’t help wondering if this was it.

She slid out of bed and, gathering up her underwear and dress from the floor, slipped them on. Her sandals were by the door, where they had fallen along with her purse, and after slipping her feet into the high heels she straightened up. She caught sight of her face in the dresser mirror and almost groaned. No make-up, and her hair all over the place. Taking a comb from her purse, she mechanically ran it through her hair, sweeping the long mass behind her ears. She didn’t want to think of Lorenzo’s departure.

He reappeared from the bathroom, wearing boxer shorts, and as she watched he slipped on trousers and pulled a sweater over his head. Then, glancing at her, he quipped, ‘You look ready for more … ‘ with a devilishly
suggestive arch of a black eyebrow. ‘Come on—before I change my mind.’

Not sure if that was a compliment or not, she smiled and they left.

Sitting in the car five minutes later, as he drove in silence through the country lanes, Lucy cast him a sidelong glance. She tried to tell herself she was worrying over nothing—Lorenzo was a busy man and of course he had to leave—it didn’t mean she would not see him again. She looked at him. His attention was centred on the road ahead, his hands resting lightly on the steering wheel as he manoeuvred the car through the narrow roads with ease and speed. At this rate she would be home in a few minutes, she realised.

‘So, when will I see you again?’ she asked, and without thinking rested her hand on his leg.

Lorenzo tensed. Originally he’d had no intention of seeing Lucy again. But as he looked down at her hand, her small soft fingers, then lower to her shapely legs curved towards him, suddenly a picture of those same legs locked around him and her cries of pleasure as he thrust into her hot, tight little body filled his mind. Somehow the weekend affair he had planned didn’t seem such a great idea after all.

He had been without a woman for months, he was a free agent, and the two nights he had spent with Lucy had been incredible. He could not remember ever having such great sex or such fun with a woman, and he was reluctant to give her up. In fact, he mused, keeping Lucy as a lover, quietly tucked away in a corner of England, held a lot of appeal. He visited London occasionally, usually flying in and out in a day, but that could be altered.

He decided to leave his options open.

‘Soon, I hope. But, like you, I do have to work, I’ll try and get back next weekend—if not the week after. But I’ll give you a call.’

Lucy sighed with relief as Lorenzo stopped the car and after walking around the bonnet helped her out. The summer dress she wore was no protection against the cool night air and she shivered. Lorenzo looped an arm around her shoulders and walked her to the front door. Taking the key from her purse she looked up at him. ‘Would you like to come in for a nightcap? ‘ she asked hopefully, reluctant to see him go.

‘I won’t, if you don’t mind,’ he said with a rueful smile. ‘Because if I do I’ll kiss you, and it won’t stop there.’

‘No … I don’t mind now I know you are coming back again,’ Lucy responded blithely.

‘Good.’ Dropping a brief kiss on the top of her head—he didn’t dare do anything more—he said, ‘Now, lock the door behind you.’

Lorenzo’s arm fell from her shoulders and she turned and put the key in the lock. Then she suddenly remembered why she had met him in the first place, and spun back.

‘Wait a minute, Lorenzo—we never got around to discussing Steadman’s, and we need to before Tuesday.’ Then she remembered something else. ‘You don’t have my number. I’ll give—’

‘No need. The bank will have it,’ Lorenzo stated.

Her words were a timely reminder. He had her number in more ways than one, he thought, his dark eyes narrowing cynically on her face. Her head was turned towards him, her green eyes incredibly large and luminous, the light of the moon making her pale skin almost translucent. Her long hair, swept back behind her
small ears, seemed to fall in a shimmering mass down her back. Beautiful, and temptation personified, but not to him … not any more.

‘Oh, yes—of course.’ She turned completely around and smiled up at him. ‘But about the factory … Tuesday is the deadline, and I need to know before I speak to my lawyer if you are going to reject the offer to sell and keep the factory open. Maybe later, if we ever do decide to redevelop,’ she continued, warming to her theme, ‘perhaps it could be shops and a recreation centre—something that could provide other work in the community. Dessington is in a pretty part of Norfolk—not far from the coast—and it could bring in tourists much like here.’

Lorenzo listened to her with deepening distaste as she rambled on about what ‘they’ might do if the factory eventually did close. Enthralled by her lush body, he had almost forgotten her hated name, and the business that had brought them together. But—typical female—Lucy had not, and though she took the high moral ground, wanting to save the workers, basically she was out for every penny she could get. He had learned his lesson years ago, when he’d lived in America and found the girl he had been going to surprise with an engagement ring in bed with another man—a man she’d imagined was wealthier than him—and it was not one he would ever forget.

Women always had an agenda, and Lucy was no exception. There was no denying sex with her was incredible, though she was not as adventurous as some women he had known—sometimes even seeming shocked—and she did have a tendency to blush, which was amazing given her lifestyle. Or maybe it was just a ploy to give the impression of innocence. He didn’t care, because
her last appeal had confirmed his original decision. The weekend affair was over, and he had no intention of seeing her again.

‘Your ideas sound admirable, Lucy, but totally misguided. There is no
we,’
he said with brutal frankness. ‘I told you the first time you asked I had no intention of doing business with a Steadman again, and that has not changed.’

Lucy couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She stared at him, tall, dark and remote, his eyes cold and hard, and felt as if she was looking at a stranger. ‘But you said … ‘ She stopped. It had been his suggestion they might keep the factory … She didn’t understand what was happening—didn’t want to. ‘I thought … ‘ What did she think? That they were friends? More than friends …? ‘We made love—’

‘We had sex,’ Lorenzo cut in, and she was silenced by his statement. ‘Something I consider more pleasure than business, but if you want to mix the two fair enough,’ he drawled with a shrug of his broad shoulders. ‘I will postpone selling for a month, to give you time to make other arrangements if you can.’ The light, conversational tone of his voice belied the cold black eyes looking down at her, devoid of any glimmer of light.

‘You will?’ she murmured, but inside her heart shrivelled as the import of his words sank in. To Lorenzo they’d had sex, nothing more. Whereas she, in her inexperience, had begun to imagine it was a whole lot more—something very special—and she was halfway to falling in love with him. How could she have been so wrong?

‘Yes. I don’t like weddings, and avoid them whenever possible, but thanks in the most part to you, Lucy, I have rather enjoyed the weekend. In fact I’ll delay the sale
of Steadman’s for
two
months,’ he offered. ‘You were really good, and cheap at the price.’

Lucy stared at him with wide, wounded eyes and dragged in a deep, agonising breath. His words sliced at her heart. She had never been so insulted in her life, and she fought back the pain that threatened to double her over. That he could actually think she had made love to him simply to get him to agree a deal over Steadman’s horrified her—but then she recalled Lorenzo had thought the same the first time he had kissed her in his office. His mindset had never altered. He was still a power-wielding, cynical banker, to whom money was everything and everything had a price—including her. His insinuation that he might hang onto the factory had been nothing more than a ploy to soften her up and get her into bed, but if he thought she would be grateful that he was postponing the sale he had got the wrong girl.

When not blinded by love—no, not love,
sex,
Lucy amended, she was a bright, intelligent woman. Suddenly the pain gave way to fury, and she started to raise her hand, wanting to lash out at him, then stopped. Violence was never an answer, but his insinuation that he was paying for her services had cut her to the bone. Lorenzo had used her, but it was her own dumb fault for letting him. He actually
was
the ruthless devil his brother had said, and yet she still could not quite believe it.

BOOK: Picture of Innocence
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