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Authors: Sharon Kendrick

The Italian's Love-Child

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Winter will be over soon and we have new books guaranteed to put a spring in your step! Lose yourself in an absorbing read from Harlequin Presents….

Travel to sophisticated European locations and meet sexy foreign men. In
The Greek’s Chosen Wife
by Lynne Graham, see what happens when gorgeous Greek Nikolas Angelis decides to make his convenient marriage real.
The Mancini Marriage Bargain
by Trish Morey is the conclusion of her exciting duet, THE ARRANGED BRIDES—we brought you the first book,
Stolen by the Sheikh,
last month.

Fly to more distant lands for Sandra Marton’s UNCUT story,
The Desert Virgin.
Feel the heat as ruthless troubleshooter Cameron Knight rescues innocent ballerina Leanna DeMarco. If you haven’t read an UNCUT story before, watch out—they’re almost too hot to handle!

If you like strong men, you’ll love our new miniseries RUTHLESS. This month in
The Billionaire Boss’s Forbidden Mistress
by Miranda Lee, a boss expects his new receptionist to fall at his feet, and is surprised to find she’s more of a challenge than he thought. Lucy Monroe’s latest story,
Wedding Vow of Revenge,
promises scenes of searing passion and a gorgeous hero.

The Royal Marriage
by Fiona Hood-Stewart is a classic tale of a young woman who has been promised in marriage to a royal prince. Only she’s determined not to be ruled by him and her declaration of independence begins in the bedroom!

We hope you enjoy reading this month’s selection. Look out for brand-new books next month!

Sharon Kendrick
THE ITALIAN’S LOVE-CHILD

All about the author…
Sharon Kendrick

When I was told off as a child for making up stories, little did I know that one day I’d earn my living by writing them!

To the horror of my parents, I left school at sixteen and did a bewildering variety of jobs; I was a London DJ (in the now-trendy Primrose Hill!), a decorator and a singer. After that I became a cook, a photographer and, eventually, a nurse. I waitressed in the south of France and drove an ambulance in Australia. I saw lots of beautiful sights, but could never settle down. Everywhere I went I felt like a square peg—until one day I started writing again and then everything just fell into place. I felt like Cinderella must have when the glass slipper fit!

Today I have the best job in the world: writing passionate romances for Harlequin. I like writing stories that are sexy and fast-paced, yet packed full of emotion; stories readers will identify with and that will make them laugh and cry.

My interests are many and varied: chocolate, music, fresh flowers, bubble baths, films, cooking and trying to keep my home from looking as if someone’s burgled it! Simple pleasures—you can’t beat them!

I live in Winchester (one of the most stunning cities in the world, but don’t take my word for it—come see for yourself!), and regularly visit London and Paris. Oh, and I love hearing from my readers all over the world…so I think it’s over to you!

With warmest wishes,

Sharon Kendrick

www.sharonkendrick.com

For the
charmant
Laurent Droguet,
who not only has the most dazzling smile,
but also the most wonderful friends

CHAPTER ONE

E
VE
saw him across the other side of the room and her world stood still. It was like watching a film, where fantasy took over and made real life fade away and it had never happened to her before.

That click. That buzz. That glance across the room which held and hung on in glorious disbelief as you met the eyes of a man and somehow knew that he was ‘the one’. But of course it was fantasy, it must be—for how on earth could you see someone for a minute or a second and know that this total stranger was the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with?

Except that this man was not a total stranger, though maybe that was fantasy, too. After all, it had been a long time.

She quickly glanced down at her drink and pretended to examine it, before risking another look, only this time he had turned away, and although her heart lurched with disappointment that he obviously didn’t share her fascination, at least it gave her the chance to study him without embarrassment.

She was almost certain he was Luca, but he was certainly Italian; he couldn’t have been anything else. Jet-dark hair framed the head he held so proudly and she drank in his perfect features as if trying to memorise them. Or remember them. The hard, intelligent black eyes, the Roman nose and an autocratic mouth which was both luscious and cruel.

He was striking and innately sexy, with a careless confidence which drew the eye and made it stay. In a room full of rich, successful men he stood out like some beautiful, exotic creature—his golden-olive skin gleaming like softly oiled silk, his body all packed, tight muscle. He looked like the kind of man who would command without even trying—an arrogant aristocrat from another age, yet a man who was essentially modern.

Eve was used to assessing people quickly, but her eyes could have lingered on him all evening. He wore his clothes with elegant assurance—a creamy shirt which hinted at a sinewed body beneath and dark, tapered trousers emphasising legs which were long and hard and muscular. He was very still, but that did not mask some indefinable quality he had, some shimmering vibrancy, which made every other man in the room fade into dull insignificance.

He had slanted his head to one side, listening to a tiny blonde creature in a sparkling dress who was chatting to him with the kind of enthusiasm which suggested that Eve wasn’t alone in feeling a gut-wrenching awareness that she was in the presence of someone out of the ordinary. But why should that surprise her? A woman would have to be made out of stone not to have reacted to that package of unmistakable, simmering sensuality.

‘Eve?’

Her reverie punctured, Eve turned her head to see her host standing beside her, holding a bottle of champagne towards her almost-empty glass. ‘Can I tempt you with another drink?’

She hadn’t been planning to stay long and she had intended her first drink to be her last, but she nodded
gratefully, welcoming the diversion. ‘Thanks, Michael.’

The drink fizzed into the flute and she glanced around the room. The blinds had been left open, but with a view like that you would never want to draw them. Moonlight and starlight dipped and dazzled off the lapping water outside and the excited chatter, which had reached fever-pitch, gave all the indications of this being a very successful evening indeed.

She raised her glass. ‘Here’s to birthday parties—your wife is a very lucky woman!’

‘Ah, but not everyone likes surprises,’ he said.

Eve’s eyes strayed once more to Luca. ‘Oh, I don’t know,’ she said slowly as her heart began to bang against her ribcage. ‘Great party, anyway.’

Michael smiled. ‘Yeah. And great you could make it. Not everyone can boast that they have a television personality at their party!’

Eve laughed. ‘Michael Gore! You’ve known me since I was knee-high to a grasshopper! You’ve seen me with grazed knees in my school uniform.’ She gave him a wry smile. ‘And I hardly think that presenting the breakfast show on provincial television classifies me as anything as grand-sounding as “television personality”.’

Michael smiled back. ‘Ah, but the girl’s done good,’ he said.

Maybe the girl
had
, but right then she felt as vulnerable as that schoolgirl with grazed knees. And, to her horror, she realised that she had gulped most of the drink down and that Luca—if indeed it
was
Luca—was still listening to the animated blonde. And that the last thing she needed in her life was the complication of a charismatic, complicated kind of
man who was every woman’s dream. Eve had learnt early in life that it was important to have goals, just so long as you kept them realistic.

‘And the girl needs her sleep,’ she sighed. ‘Getting up at three-thirty every morning tends to have a negative effect on your long-term energy reserves. You won’t mind if I slip away in a while, Michael?’

‘I will mind very much,’ he teased. ‘But not if your legion of fans are going to blame us for deep, dark shadows under your eyes! Go when you like—but why not come back for lunch again tomorrow, when the show’s over? There will be stacks of stuff left and Lizzy and I have hardly had a chance to talk to you all evening.’

Eve smiled. It would give her the opportunity to play with her god-daughter who had been tucked up in the Land of Nod all evening. ‘Love to,’ she murmured. ‘About twelve?’

‘See you at twelve.’ He nodded.

She was tempted to ask him what Luca was doing there, but she was not a guileless teenager now—and what could she say, even if she was being her most casual and sophisticated? Who’s the man talking to the blonde? Or, Who’s the tall, dark, handsome hunk? Or even if she plucked up courage to say, Is that Luca Cardelli, by any chance?—all those would make her sound like a simpering wannabe!

But maybe Michael had seen her eyes straying over to the dark, still figure.

‘You know Luca Cardelli, don’t you?’ he asked.

‘Vaguely.’ She gave it just the right amount of consideration and kept her voice casual. ‘He was here one summer, about ten years ago, right?’

‘Right. He sailed on a big white boat,’ said
Michael, and sighed. ‘Absolutely beautiful. Wonderful sailor—he put the rest of us to shame.’

Eve nodded. ‘I didn’t know he was a friend of yours?’

Michael shrugged. ‘We were mates that summer and we’ve kept in touch, though I haven’t seen him for years. But he emailed to tell me he was in London on business, and so I invited him down.’

She wondered how long he was staying, but she didn’t ask. It was none of her business and it might send out the wrong message. There would be enough women here tonight fighting to get to know him, if the body language of the blonde was anything to go by.

‘Oh, look—someone’s setting off fireworks!’ she murmured instead as in the distance the sky exploded into fountains of scarlet and blue and golden rain, and luckily Michael went to refuel someone else’s glass, giving her the opportunity to go and stand by the window and watch the display, alone with her thoughts and her memories.

Luca watched her, at the way her bottom swayed against the silky green material of her dress as she walked towards the window. People were covertly watching her and he wondered why. But he had noticed her before that, even before she had started staring at him, and then pretending not to, but then, that was nothing new.

He had grown up used to the lavish attention of women right across the age spectrum ever since he could remember. He didn’t even have to try and sometimes he wondered what it would be like if he did. The most rewarding business deals he had pulled
off had been the ones he had really had to fight for—but women weren’t like business deals.

He had been born with something which attracted the opposite sex like bees to honey and, when he had reached the age of noticing women, had quickly discovered that he could have whoever he wanted, whenever he wanted and on whatever terms he wanted. Very early on, he had learned the meaning of the expression, ‘spoiled for choice’.

‘Luca!’

He narrowed his eyes. The tiny blonde was pouting. He raised a dark eyebrow. ‘Mmm?’

‘You haven’t been listening to a word I’ve been saying!’

She was right. ‘Sorry.’ He smiled, gave an expansive shrug of his broad shoulders. ‘I feel guilty. I have been monopolising you, when there are so many men here who would wish to speak to you.’

‘You’re the only man I want to talk to!’ she declared shamelessly.

‘But that is unfair,’ he responded softly.
‘Sì?’

The blonde wriggled her shoulders. ‘Oh, I just love it when you speak Italian,’ she confided.

He stared down into the widened blue eyes—deep and blue like a swimming pool and just begging him to dive in. Unconsciously, she snaked the tip of her tongue around her parted lips, so that they gleamed in invitation. It was almost too easy. She could be in his bed within the hour. At twenty-two, he would have been tempted. A decade later and he was simply jaded.

‘Will you excuse me?’ he murmured. ‘I must make a quick telephone call.’

‘To Italy?’

‘No, to New York.’

‘Gosh!’ she exclaimed, as if he had proposed communication with Mars itself.

He smiled again, his mouth quirking a touch wearily at the corners. ‘It was delightful to meet you.’

He made his escape before she asked the inevitable. How long was he staying? Would he like her to show him around? Unless she was bold enough to replicate the incredible time he had met a woman and within two minutes she had asked him to take her to bed!

The woman in green was still gazing out of the window and there was something intriguing about her stillness, the way she stood alone, part of the party and yet apart from it. Like a woman secure in her own skin. He made his way across the room and stood beside her, his eyes taking in the last rainbow spangles of the fireworks, set against the incomparable beauty of the sea.

‘Spectacular, isn’t it?’ he murmured, after a moment.

She didn’t answer straight away. Her heart was beating hard. Very hard. Funny how you could react to someone, even if you told yourself you didn’t want to. ‘Utterly,’ she agreed, but she didn’t move, didn’t turn her head to look at him.

Now he was a little intrigued. ‘You aren’t enjoying the party?’

She did turn then, for it would have been sheer rudeness to have done otherwise, mentally preparing herself for the impact up close of the dark, glittering eyes and the sensual lips and it was as devastating as she remembered, maybe even more so. At seventeen you knew nothing of the world, nor of men—
you thought that men like Luca Cardelli might exist in droves. It took a long time to realise that they didn’t, and that maybe that was a blessing in disguise. ‘Why on earth should you think that?’

‘You’re here all on your own,’ he murmured.

‘Not any more,’ she responded drily.

His dark eyes glittered at the unspoken challenge. ‘You want me to go away?’

‘Of course not,’ she said lightly. ‘The view is for free, for everyone to enjoy—I shouldn’t dream of claiming a monopoly on it!’

Now he was very intrigued. ‘You were staring at me,
cara
,’ he observed softly.

So he had noticed! But of course he had noticed—it was probably as much a part of his life as breathing itself to have women staring at him.

‘Guilty as charged! Why, has that never happened to you before?’ she challenged mockingly.

‘I don’t remember,’ he mocked back.

She opened her mouth to say something spiky in response, and then pulled herself together. He had been sweet and kind to her once, and just because a girl on the brink of womanhood hadn’t found that particularly flattering, you certainly couldn’t blame
him
. It wasn’t
his
fault that he was so blindingly gorgeous and that she had cherished a schoolgirl crush on him which hadn’t been reciprocated. And neither was it his fault that he was still so gorgeous that a normally calm and sensible woman had started behaving like a spitting kitten. She smiled. ‘So what do you think of the Hamble?’

‘It isn’t my first visit,’ he mused.

‘I know.’

‘You
know
?’

‘You don’t remember me, do you?’

He studied her. She was not his type. Tall and narrow-hipped where he liked his women curvy, and soft and small. Her face was not beautiful either, but it was interesting. A strong face—with its intelligent grey-green eyes and a determined mouth and soft shadows cast by her high cheekbones.

It was difficult to tell what colour her hair was, and whether its colour was natural, since she had caught it back severely from her face, and tied it so that it fell into a soft, silken coil on the base of her long neck. Her dress was almost severe too, a simple sheath of green silk which fell to her knees, showing something of the brown toned legs beneath. The only truly decorous thing about her was a pair of sparkly, sequinned sandals which showed toenails painted a surprisingly flirtatious pink, which matched her perfect fingernails.

He shook his head. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I don’t remember you. Should I?’

Of course he shouldn’t. ‘Not really.’

She gave a little shrug and turned her head to the view once more, but he put his hand on her bare arm and sensation shivered over her.

‘Tell me,’ he murmured.

She laughed. ‘But there’s nothing to tell!’

‘Tell me anyway.’

Eve sighed. Why the hell had she even brought it up? Because she liked things straightforward? Because the probing nature of her job made her explore people’s feelings and reactions?

‘You came here one summer, a long time ago. We met then. We hardly knew each other, really.’

Luca frowned for a moment, and then his face
cleared. So it had not been a woman he had bedded and forgotten. There had been only one woman during that long, hot summer and she had been the very antithesis of this keen-eyed woman with her scraped-back hair. ‘Unfortunately,
cara
, I am still none the wiser. Remind me.’

It had been a summer of making money, which had never really been in abundance in Eve’s life. Ever since her father had died, her mother had gone out to work to make sure that Eve never went without, but there had never been any surplus to buy the things that seventeen-year-old girls valued so much in life. Dresses and shoes and music and make-up. Silly, frivolous things.

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