Authors: Jacqueline Baird
‘Why?’ Lucy asked. ‘Why are you behaving like an immoral jerk?’
‘Oh, please—don’t pretend you are Miss Morality, Lucy. You enjoyed the sex as much as I did,’ he informed her, with an arrogantly inclined head, his glittering dark eyes looking down at her contemptuously. ‘You are exactly like your brother—up for anything at any cost. And
brother cost mine his life.’
‘But it was an accident,’ she said, confused by the change of subject.
‘So the coroner said—but I believe what your brother did was contemptible … tantamount to manslaughter,’ Lorenzo stated, but he saw no reason to prolong the conversation by getting into the details with Lucy. It was over and done with, and he was finished with her. ‘So now you know why I have no desire to do business with Steadman’s. I will
forgive and forget—is that plain enough for you?’
Lucy was stunned by the antagonism in his voice. She had not been mistaken when they’d met in his office and she had the thought his refusal was personal … it
been. Her face paled as the full weight of his contempt hit her, and anger almost choked her.
‘Yes,’ she said coldly. ‘I always knew, but I forgot for a while.’ Her slender hands clenched at her sides to prevent the urge to claw his devious eyes out. She’d had no chance from the start, she realised bitterly. If the only reason Lorenzo had had sex with her was some perverted form of revenge or payback for her brother’s perceived behaviour, she didn’t know—and cared less. All she
know was she was not taking it lying down.
‘Damien told me what you said to him after the inquest, blaming him for what happened, but foolishly—knowing how it feels to lose someone you love—when I met you I decided anger and grief had maybe made you act out of character. I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but now I see how wrong I was. You really are a ruthless devil. But I
holding you to your promise of two months’ reprieve. As you so succinctly put it, I have paid for it—with sex.’ And, spinning on her heel, she walked into the house, slamming the door behind her.
Lorenzo was stunned for a moment. The fact she
knew about his confrontation with her brother had shocked him—though it was not really so surprising when he thought about it. Not that it mattered any more. He was never going to see her again. He got in the car and left.
Quivering with rage and humiliation, Lucy threw her keys down on the table in the entrance hall and dashed up the stairs to her flat, trying to ignore Lorenzo’s hateful insults. But every time she thought of him—thought of what she had done with him—she felt cheap and dirty.
She ripped off her clothes and headed straight for the shower, ashamed and angry. Lorenzo had as good as called her a whore, and she wanted to wash every trace of him off her body. But perversely that same body remembered every touch, every caress.
Maybe she was fated to be ashamed every time she had sex, she thought hysterically, and finally she crawled into bed and let the tears fall, crying until she had no tears left.
Monday morning Lucy woke from a brief tormented sleep, hugging her pillow. For a second she inhaled the scent of Lorenzo, and smiled. Then reality hit, and she dragged herself out of bed, telling herself she must change the sheets. She staggered into the bathroom and groaned when she looked in the mirror. Her eyes were red and swollen from the tears she had shed over Lorenzo Zanelli, and however much she tried to convince herself he wasn’t worth a second thought her body ached for him with every breath she took.
Showered, and dressed in cotton pants and a tee shirt, she stood in the gallery, a cup of coffee in her hand, and glanced around. Usually it gave her pleasure, looking
over her little kingdom before anyone arrived. She was proud of what she had accomplished. But today she didn’t get the same thrill.
Lucy drained her coffee cup and tried to smile as Elaine walked in with a spring in her step, ready to start the working week—before she took in her friend’s face.
‘My God, that must have been some night. I know you rarely drink, but you look like you have a one hell of a hangover.’
‘No, nothing like that,’ Lucy said. ‘Much worse.’
‘Do tell all.’ Elaine tilted Lucy’s head up with a finger and really stared at her. ‘You look different, and you have been crying. That can only mean one thing—man trouble. I thought yesterday you looked remarkably happy, but we were so busy I never got to ask you why. What happened last night? Discovered he was married, did you?’
‘Discovered he was only interested in a dirty weekend,’ Lucy said bitterly, but couldn’t bring herself to tell Elaine the whole story.
‘Lucy, you are far too naïve where men are concerned. Stop beating yourself up because you were finally tempted by sex—you’ve never had a lover as long as I’ve known you, and it was way past time you did. Put it down to experience and get over it. You are not the first and won’t be the last. Weddings are notorious for causing brief affairs. Too much champagne and the best man gets off with the bridesmaid, the guests get off with each other. One wedding Sid and I went to the
actually got off with the bridesmaid—needless to say the marriage only lasted the length of
the honeymoon, when the happy couple returned home and the bride found out.’
‘I don’t believe it.’ Lucy actually managed a weak smile.
‘Ask Sid—the groom was an acquaintance of his. He told me the man was a serial womaniser and I didn’t believe him, but he was right.’
‘Okay, you’ve made your point. Actually, when I first met Lorenzo I didn’t like him, and my original impression was he was no gentleman. I should have trusted my instincts and steered clear. He certainly proved me right.’
‘Good—you are seeing him for the rat he obviously is, and that is the first step to recovery. Now, put the experience behind you and get on with your life. I’ll take over here and you can spend the day in your studio, creating your next great masterpiece or making a start on your latest commission. If you stay here you will scare the customers.’
Lucy agreed—not that she felt like painting. All she wanted to do was forget the weekend had ever happened. She took out her sketchbook and began to draw, but to her dismay found the small boy’s face she was copying had morphed into a remarkable likeness of Lorenzo.
She looked at it for a long time and then, turning the page of her sketchpad, began again. Art had always been her release valve from any pressure in life, and before long she was totally immersed in her work.
The next day her lawyer called and confirmed that the sale of Steadman’s had been postponed for two months. So Lorenzo had done what he promised. He was a cynical devil to pay for her favours in such a way, but at least it gave her some time to figure something out for the factory. On the sketch she had started yesterday she
coloured the eyes red and added horns, whiskers and a tail.
Somehow it was cathartic, thinking of him that way. Whenever Lucy felt really down, her body hot and aching, her mind tormented by images of him making love to her, she would only have to look at the sketch to remind herself what a devil … a love-rat … he really was.
‘At last you look more like yourself,’ Elaine declared, walking into the gallery on Saturday morning three weeks later and eyeing Lucy up and down. ‘That turquoise dress Leon brought back from India is gorgeous—the colour really suits you, and the beading is perfect. But go upstairs and take that braid out of your hair and leave it loose. Remember you are a beautiful, highly talented artist, and when you try you can sell anything and everything. I have a feeling we are going to have a great day today.’
Lucy laughed. ‘I’m not sure that is a compliment to my paintings.’ But she did as Elaine said, and went upstairs and unbraided her hair. She stood in front of the mirror, brushing her hair back from her brow and fastening it with a silver clip, then brushed the long length down to tumble over her shoulders in gentle waves. Slowly it dawned on her that Elaine was right. The pale, sad-eyed reflection of the last few weeks was gradually fading.
Last night she had taken a walk down into the centre of Looe, and as she’d strolled along the harbour through the crowd of happy holidaymakers she’d been reminded of how much she had loved the place from the very first time her parents had brought her here. How much she still loved the place. She’d felt her heart lift a little.
This morning, on a whim, she had put on the brightly coloured dress, and she looked more like her old self again. Picking up a lipstick, she applied it to her full lips and, smiling, added a touch of mascara to her long lashes and clipped on an earring. Business was going well, and she had enough commissions to keep her busy for a while. Life was good.
Even the trip two weeks ago she had been dreading, to clear out the family home in Dessington before putting the house on the market, had turned out to be inspirational.
Meeting old friends from school, visiting the factory and talking to the workers, being greeted by shopkeepers and reminded how much everyone had respected her grandfather, who had started the business, and her parents, who had been socially active in the town until her mum died, had all reminded Lucy what a happy childhood she had.
The memories had helped concentrate her mind on the problem of the factory, and standing looking around the huge garden of her family home she’d had a
moment … She had come up with a brilliant idea that could save the factory and help the community.
She had spoken to her lawyer, arranging to meet Richard Johnson—the third partner in Steadman’s—and had pitched her proposition to him. He was not the ogre she had imagined, and after a productive meeting with him and his architect, and subject to the approval of the town council, they had agreed on a very different deal. Lucy had made the necessary arrangements with her bank, and also a telephone call from her new partner yesterday it was virtually a done deal. What gave her the most satisfaction was the fact she had achieved everything without any help from the despicable Zanelli.
Deep down Lucy had always known Lorenzo was not for her. In every respect they were poles apart—in temperament and aspiration, and in culture … He was a billionaire banker, devoted to making more money, with centuries of tradition behind him making him the arrogant, cynical man he was. Her life was her art and her friends. Money didn’t bother her so long as the bills were paid and her conscience was clear.
Unlike Lorenzo, who didn’t
a conscience, she thought. And later she was to be proved absolutely right.
had extended his stay in New York to three weeks, and had on his return to Italy last night found, as expected, the Olivia Paglia rumours had faded away—problem solved. This morning he had agreed to his mother’s request to have dinner with her tonight, as he had not visited in over a month. And now he had an even bigger problem that was a hell of a lot harder to solve.
He glanced at his mother across the dining table. He hadn’t seen her so animated in years, but the reason for it exasperated him. He glanced down again at the handful of photographs spread on the table. Teresa Lanza had presented them to his mother, along with the information that the girl in the picture was none other than Lucy Steadman. How had he hoped to keep that quiet, with the Lanza family in attendance? He must have been out of his mind.
‘Why did you not tell me, Lorenzo? You let me scold you about that Paglia woman and all this time you had a lovely girlfriend—a talented artist, no less. Was it because you thought I might be upset because of her relationship to Damien? You need not have worried. I remember Antonio telling me about Damien’s sister—he thought she was a lovely girl. Antonio and Damien were such great friends, and I never blamed Damien for
the tragic accident. As the coroner said, he did the right thing to try and save Antonio’s life.’ She sighed. ‘It was just a pity the rescue services were too late.’
Lorenzo stiffened in his chair, his lips twisting in a cynical smile. He didn’t agree, but there was no point arguing so he ignored her last comment. ‘I do not have girlfriends, Mother. I have female partners occasionally, and Lucy Steadman is neither. I barely know her, so drop the subject.’
‘Oh, dear!’ she said, and he caught a slightly guilty look on her face before she continued. ‘Well, that is not the impression Teresa got. She showed me all the photos they took of you and Lucy together at the wedding, and it was very good of her to make these copies for me. Teresa said you seemed very close, and you told her you had known Lucy for quite a while. She also told me that Lucy has no family left—her father died, and then her brother last year. She is all alone in the world. You could have told me, Lorenzo.’
He picked up his wine glass and drained it in one gulp. ‘I did not know myself until recently,’ he said, appalled at the way the conversation was going. ‘As for Teresa Lanza, she must have misunderstood me. I never said I had known Lucy for quite a while. I said I had known
for a while. I have met her twice—once at the wedding, and once before that on business.’ Thinking fast, he saw an opportunity to rid himself of at least one problem and explain to his mother why it made sense to sell the shares in Steadman’s.
‘As you apparently know, Lucy Steadman is an artist. She has no interest in plastics whatsoever. She was in Verona recently, to deliver a painting, and at her request we had a meeting at the bank to discuss the sale of Steadman Industrial Plastics. I didn’t mention it to
you in case it upset you. I know how pleased you were about Antonio investing in the firm, planning for the future, and you may have wanted the bank to hang on to Steadman’s for sentimental reasons that make no financial sense to the other partners.’
‘Oh! You’re right—I would have liked to keep the link to Antonio, so I can understand your reasoning. But I see now selling is the obvious thing to do. Tying an artist to a plastics factory is laughable. In fact I want you to ask her here for a visit.’