Authors: Cathy Williams
If it had just been about fulfilling an inappropriate youthful fantasy then she would be able to fully enjoy this moment and move on, but she could already feel a knot of anxiety beginning to form in the pit of her stomach. She wanted so much more than just a romp in the sack. But James was a man who moved on. It was his trademark.
So where, she wondered, did they go from here when they were positioned at opposite ends of the spectrum? Where exactly was the meeting point between a woman who wanted everything and a man whose relationships with women rarely lasted more than a handful of months?
is originally from Trinidad, but has lived in England for a number of years. She currently has a house in Warwickshire, which she shares with her husband Richard, her three daughters, Charlotte, Olivia and Emma, and their pet cat, Salem. She adores writing romantic fiction, and would love one of her girls to become a writer—although at the moment she is happy enough if they do their homework and agree not to bicker with one another!
Recent titles by the same author:
THE TRUTH BEHIND HIS TOUCH
THE SECRET SINCLAIR
HER IMPOSSIBLE BOSS
IN WANT OF A WIFE?
Did you know these are also available as eBooks?
The Girl He’d
looked at her reflection in the mirror. She had died and gone to heaven! Fantastic restaurant, fantastic food, even the ladies’ room was fantastic. Beige marble everywhere and delicate little hand towels, a basket of them, to be picked, used and discarded. Could things get any better? Her cheeks were pink, her eyes were glowing.
She leaned forward and for the first time her physical shortcomings did not rush towards her in a wave of disappointment. She was no longer the too tall, too big-boned girl with the hair that was slightly too unruly and a mouth that was too wide. She was a sexy woman on the brink of the rest of her life and, best of all, James was out there, waiting for her. James,
Jennifer Edwards had known James Rocchi all her life. From the small window of her bedroom in the cottage that she had shared with her father, she could daily look out to the distant splendour of his family home—The Big House, as she and her father had always called the Rocchi mansion, with its sweeping drive and imposing acres of stunning Victorian architecture.
As a kid, she had worshipped him and had trotted behind him and his friends as they had enjoyed themselves in the acres and acres of grounds surrounding the house. As a teenager, she had developed a healthy crush on him, blushing
and awkward whenever he returned from boarding school, although, several years older than her, he couldn’t have been more oblivious. But she was no longer a teenager. She was now twenty-one years old, with a degree in French firmly behind her and a secondment to the Parisian office of the law firm in which she had spent every summer vacation working only days away.
She was a woman and life couldn’t have felt any better than it did right now, right here.
With a little sigh of pleasure, she applied a top up of her lip gloss, patted her hair, which she had spent ages trying to straighten and mostly succeeded, and headed back out to the restaurant.
He was gazing out of the window and she took a few seconds to drink him in.
James Rocchi was a stunning example of the sort of aggressively good-looking alpha male that could turn heads from streets away. Like his father, who had been an Italian diplomat, James was black-haired and bronze-skinned, only inheriting his English mother’s navy-blue eyes. Everything about him oozed lethal sex appeal, from the arrogant tilt of his head to the muscled perfection of his body. Jennifer had seen the way other women, usually small blonde things he had brought back with him from university, had followed him with their eyes as if they couldn’t get enough of him.
She was still finding it hard to believe that she was actually here with him and she took a deep breath and reminded herself that
he had asked her on a date.
It gave her just the surge of confidence she needed to walk towards him and she blushed furiously as he turned to look at her with a slow smile on his face.
‘So… I’ve arranged a little surprise for you…’
Jennifer could barely contain her breathless excitement. ‘You haven’t! What is it?’
‘You’ll have to wait and see,’ he told her with a grin. He leaned back, angling his body so that he could stretch his legs out. ‘I still can’t believe that you’ve finished university and are heading off to foreign shores…’
‘I know, but the offer of a job in Paris was just too good to pass up. You know what it’s like here.’
‘I know,’ he agreed, understanding what she meant without her having to explain. Wasn’t this one of the great things about her? he thought. They had known each other for so long that there was hardly any need to explain references or, frankly, sometimes, to finish sentences. Of course, Paris for a year was going to be brilliant for her. Aside from her stint at university, which, in Canterbury, had hardly been a million miles away, he couldn’t think of a time that she had ever left here and, however beautiful and peaceful this slice of Kent was, she should be champing at the bit to spread her wings and fly farther afield. But he didn’t mind admitting to himself that he was going to miss her easy companionship.
Jennifer helped herself to another glass of wine and giggled. ‘Three shops, a bank, two offices, a post office and no jobs! Well, I guess I could have thought about travelling into Canterbury… seeing what I could land there but…’
‘But that would have been a waste of your French degree. I guess John will miss having you around.’
Jennifer wanted to ask if
would miss having her around. He worked in London, had taken over the running of his father’s company when, in the wake of his father’s death six years previously, the vultures had been circling, waiting to snap it up at a knock-down price. At the time he had barely been out of university but he had skipped the gap year he had planned and returned to take
the reins of the company and haul it into the twenty-first century. London was his base but he travelled out to the country regularly. Would he miss having her around on those weekends? Bank holidays?
‘I won’t be gone for the rest of my life.’ Jennifer smiled, thinking of her father. ‘I think he’ll manage. He has his little landscaping business and, of course, overseeing your grounds. I’ve been working to get him computer literate so that we can Skype each other.’ She cupped her face in her hands and looked at him. He was only just twenty-seven but he looked older. Was that because he had been thrown into a life of responsibility at the highest possible level from a very young age? He had had little to do with his father’s company before his father had died. Silvio Rocchi had barely had anything to do with it himself. While he had carried out his diplomatic duties, he had delegated the running of the company to his right-hand men which, as it turned out, had not been the best idea in the world. When he died, James had been the young upstart whose job it had been to sack the dead wood. Had that forged a vein of steel inside him that had turned the boy quickly into the man?
She could have spent a few minutes chewing over the conundrum but he was saying something, talking about her father.
‘And it’s just a thought but he might even enjoy having the place to himself, who knows?’
‘Well, he’ll get
used to it
.’ But enjoy? No, she couldn’t really see that happening. Her earliest memories were of her and her dad as a unit. They had weathered the storm of her mother’s death together and had been everything to each other ever since.
‘I think,’ James murmured, glancing over her shoulder
and leaning towards her to cover her hand with his, ‘your little surprise is on its way…’
Jennifer spun around to see two of the waiters walking towards her and felt a stab of sudden disappointment. They were holding a cake with a sparkler and huge bowl of ice cream liberally covered with chocolate sauce and coloured sweets. It was the sort of thing a child would have been thrilled by, not a grown woman. She glanced over her shoulder to James, and saw that he was lounging back, hands clasped behind his head, smiling with an expression of satisfaction so she smiled too and held the smile as she blew out the sparkler to an audience of clapping diners.
‘Really, James, you shouldn’t have.’ She stared down at more dessert than anyone could hope to consume in a single sitting, even someone of her proportions. The awkward girl she had left behind threatened to return as she gazed down at his special gesture.
‘You deserve it, Jen.’ He rested his elbows on the table and carefully removed the sparkler from the cake. ‘You did brilliantly at university and you’ve done brilliantly to accept the Paris job.’
about accepting a job.’
‘But Paris… when my mother told me that you’d been offered it, I wasn’t sure whether you had it in you to take it.’
‘What do you mean?’ It seemed rude to leave the melting ice cream and the slab of cake untouched, so she had a mouthful and looked away from him.
‘You know what I mean. You haven’t strayed far from the family home… university just around the corner so that you could pop in and check on John several times a week, even though you were living out…’
‘Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s not. The world would be a better place if there were more people like you in it. We
certainly would be reading far fewer stories in the newspapers of care homes where ageing relatives get shoved and forgotten about.’
‘You make me sound like a saint,’ Jennifer said, stabbing some cake and dipping it into the bowl of ice cream.
‘You always do that.’
‘Somehow manage to turn cake and ice cream into slush. And you always manage to do…
‘What?’ She could feel her irritation levels rising.
‘Get ice cream round your mouth.’ He reached over to brush some ice cream off and the fleeting touch of his finger by her mouth almost made her gasp. He licked the ice cream from his finger and raised his eyebrows with appreciation.
‘Very nice. Bring that bowl closer and let’s share.’
Jennifer relaxed. This was more like it. Three glasses of wine had relaxed her but she hadn’t been able to banish all her inhibitions. His treating her like a kid was probably going to bring them all back but clinking spoons as they dipped into the same bowl, exchanging mouthfuls of ice cream and laughing…
Once again she felt intoxicated with anticipation.
She made sure to lean forward so that he could see her cleavage, which was daringly on display. Normally, she wore much plainer clothes, big jumpers in winter and loose dresses in summer. But, for this date, she had splashed out on a calf-length skirt and although the silky top was still fairly baggy, its neckline was more risqué.
It was strange but, although she had no qualms about wearing tight jeans and tight tops at university, the standard uniform for students, the thought of wearing anything tight in front of James had always brought on a mild panic attack. The feel of those lazy blue eyes resting on her had
always resulted in an acute bout of self-consciousness. His girlfriends were always so petite and so slim. In her head, she had always been able to hear his comparisons whenever he looked at her. Loose clothes had been one way of deflecting those comparisons.
‘So,’ he murmured, ‘will you be leaving any broken hearts behind?’
It was the first time he had ever asked her such a directly personal question and she shivered pleasurably as she shook her head, not wanting,
under any circumstances
, to let him get the impression that she wasn’t available.
‘Absolutely no one.’
‘You surprise me. What’s wrong with those lads at university? They should have been forming a queue to ask you out.’
Jennifer blushed. ‘I went on a couple of dates, but the boys all seemed so young, getting drunk at clubs and spending entire days in front of their computer games. None of them seemed to take life seriously.’
‘At eighteen and nineteen, life is something not to be taken seriously.’
did when you were barely older than that.’
‘As you may recall, I had no choice.’ Jennifer was the only woman who could get away with bringing his private life into the conversation. She was, in actual fact, the only woman who knew anything at all about his private life and, even with her, there was still a great deal of which she was unaware.
‘I know that and I know it must have been tough, but I honestly can’t think of anyone who would have risen to the occasion the way you did. I mean, you had no real experience and yet you went in there and turned it all around.’
‘I’ll make sure that you’re the first on the guest list when I get knighted.’
Jennifer laughed and pushed the plate of melting ice cream away from her, choosing instead to have a bit more wine and ignoring James’s raised eyebrows.
‘I’m being serious,’ she insisted. ‘I can’t think of a single guy I knew at university who would have been capable of doing what you did.’
‘You’re young. Life shouldn’t be about looking for a guy who can take the world on his shoulders. In fact, it should be about the guy who hasn’t grown up yet. Believe me there’s plenty of time to buckle down and realise that life’s no picnic…’
‘I’m not young!’ Jennifer said lightly. ‘I’m twenty-one. Not that much younger than you, in actual fact.’
James laughed and signalled to the waiter for the bill. ‘You haven’t done justice to those desserts.’ He changed the topic when she would have had him pursue this tantalising personal conversation. ‘I’ve always admired your sweet tooth. So refreshing after some of the girls I’ve dated in the past, who think that swallowing a mouthful of dessert constitutes an offence punishable by death.’
‘That’s why they’re so skinny and I’m not,’ she said, fishing hopefully for a compliment, but his attention was on the approaching waiter and on the bill being placed in front of him.
Now that the evening was drawing to a close, she could feel her nerves begin to get the better of her, although the copious amounts of wine had helped. When she stood up, she swayed ever so slightly and James reached for her with a concerned expression.
‘Tell me you haven’t had too much to drink,’ he murmured. ‘Hang onto me. I’ll make sure you don’t topple over.’
‘Of course I’m not going to topple over! I’m a big girl. I need more than a few glasses of wine to topple over!’ She
loved the feel of his arm around her waist as they strolled out of the restaurant. It was August and still balmy outside. The fading light cast everything into shadow but the street lights had not yet come on and the atmosphere was wonderfully mellow and intimate. She surreptitiously nestled a little closer to him and tentatively put her arm around his waist. Her heart skipped a beat.
She was five ten and in heels, easily six foot, but at six foot three he still made her feel gloriously small and feminine.
She could have stayed like this in silence but he began asking her about Paris, quizzing her about the details of her job, asking her what her apartment would be like and reassuring her that, if it wasn’t up to scratch, she was to remember that his company had several apartments in Paris and that he would be more than happy to arrange for her to stay in one of them.