Now sprawled on the sofa, long legs stretched out, he just about took her breath away. His white linen shirt was open, framing the golden skin of his chest. The black pants lay low on his hips so she could clearly see the ridged muscles of his flat stomach, and her fingers itched with the need to reach out and stroke him. She sat on her hands.
“Does that line normally work for you?” she asked.
He grinned. “Oh, yeah. You have no idea.”
Lia could well believe it. It would probably have worked if he drove a Mini, never mind a Ferrari. She studied him, her head tilted to one side. “Hmm. Well, I suppose it would depend on where you were taking me.” He opened his mouth to answer, and she interrupted before he could speak. “I have to warn you, if you say ‘heaven and back’ I might just heave.”
He laughed. “You think I couldn’t take you to heaven?”
Oh, she knew he could. He already had. And she had no immediate plans to make a return journey with him.
“I’ll call Mike,” she said. “Tell him we’ll be over this afternoon.”
It was a perfect summer day, and Lia felt her spirits lift as the car sped out of London. Luc was an excellent driver, keeping within the speed limits, and soon they’d left the city behind and were driving through open country.
Lia studied his sure grip on the steering wheel—he had beautiful hands, with long elegant fingers. Clever fingers, and a wave of heat washed through her at the memory of how those fingers had felt, on her, in her.
She squirmed in her seat, and he cast her a quick sideways glance. Time to get her mind onto other things. “So, this party next week—is it something special? Your birthday, maybe?”
“No, not my birthday.”
“How old are you anyway?”
“I thought you were older.” If she’d had to guess, she would have said somewhere in his mid-thirties, apart from those rare smiles when he looked younger. “So if it’s not your birthday, what are we celebrating?”
“It’s a charity event.”
“That’s it? You know, getting information out of you is like pulling teeth.”
He flashed her a smile. “Okay. It’s to raise money for a charity I set up. It helps street kids.”
“Young people who, for whatever reasons, have slipped through the system. They end up living rough on the streets. Some of them will do anything for food, shelter, maybe just to belong somewhere, and most end up on the wrong side of the law. We’re trying to offer them alternatives, but they don’t trust the authorities. That’s where people like Harley come in—the kids know him, respect him.”
“And he’s willing to help.”
“Yeah, Harley’s been there. He knows what it’s like.”
She fell silent as she considered the information. Luc was such a complex mixture. How was she supposed to reconcile this—the charity stuff, taking Mike for a drive—with the monster he was supposed to be?
As they drew up in front of the house, Lia rested a hand on his arm. “Don’t mention my father to Mike.”
A startled expression crossed his face. “I hadn’t intended to. What does he know about Jimmy?”
“Not a lot. Just that he left a long time ago.” She thought for a moment. “Maybe more. I don’t know how much the village children have said, but it’s common knowledge what our father was and Mike never asks questions about him.”
“Maybe you should talk to him then. If he’s hearing stuff anyway.”
Lia opened her mouth to answer, but clamped her lips shut as the front door opened and Mike hurled himself down the stone steps.
“I’ll sit in the back,” Lia said and scrambled over the seat.
Luc leaned across and opened the passenger door. “Hi, Mike.” He helped him fasten the seat belt. “So, this is your trip—where do you want to go?”
“The park,” Mike said promptly.
Lia smiled; she could have predicted that one—it was Mike’s favorite place. “It’s a couple of miles away,” she said. “I’ll give you directions.”
She sat back in her seat and listened to Mike’s constant chatter interspersed with Luc’s occasional answer. It was wonderful to see Mike so animated. He needed a man in his life—poor boy had grown up surrounded by women, but Luc was hardly a father figure. Maybe, when this was all over, she should find herself a nice steady man and settle down. Somehow, she couldn’t see it happening.
For once, Mike didn’t want to get out of the car at the park, so they left him sitting in the driver’s seat, small hands gripped on the steering wheel. Lia got out to stretch her legs and then stood under the shade of an oak tree, keeping an eye on the car, while Luc went to get ice creams. The place smelled of sunshine and freshly cut grass, and a sense of peace stole over her. She watched as Luc strolled over, moving with an easy grace of a thoroughbred racehorse, lean and long-legged. He handed Mike a cone through the window and came to stand beside her.
“You’re not worried about getting ice cream all over your car?” she asked
“No.” He handed her the second cone.
“You not having one?”
“I’ll share yours.”
“I might want it all myself.” She licked the cold ice cream, peering up at him from under her lashes. He was watching her intently, and she swirled her tongue over the top, then sucked the sweetness into her mouth. She was teasing him, but somehow it felt safe out here, with Mike only feet away.
He stepped up close, pushed her gently back against the tree, and she didn’t feel so safe anymore. Then he leaned in and swiped his tongue across her lips.
“Later,” he whispered against her mouth, and she wasn’t sure whether it was a threat or a promise.
Back at the house, Lia sat on the steps and watched as Luc showed Mike the engine and explained how it worked. They were far enough away that the murmured words washed over her. Resting her chin on her hand, she relaxed in the afternoon sunshine, only glancing away as Sally came out of the house and sat down beside her. “You okay?” Sally asked.
“I was worried about you. This”—she nodded in Luc’s direction—“all seemed too sudden. But he seems like a nice guy.”
Lia considered him for a moment. He was laughing at something Mike had said, and he looked utterly gorgeous. But nice people didn’t use blackmail or keep secrets.