“No, he’s not nice.”

At that moment, he leaned over the hood to point at something, the denim of his jeans stretching tight over his butt.

“Well, he’s got a nice ass,” Sally said.

Lia let out a shocked laugh. “Sally!”

“What? I’m not allowed to recognize a nice ass when I see one?” She leered. “I’m betting it’s not the only nice bit of him.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes. “Seriously, though,” Sally said, “I’m not sure what this is about, but if it’s not working, come home.”

Lia sighed. “It’s not that easy.”

But maybe it was. Did she really still believe Luc would go through with his blackmail threats? She could walk away. Take her chances. Trust him. Never see him again.

No, she wasn’t quite ready for that yet.

Lia watched him out of the corner of her eye as he threw the car keys onto the table by the door. She’d seen a whole new side to him today. Mike had loved the trip and seeing him happy made it worthwhile.


“Thank you,” she said. “You were good with him.”

“I’ve had a lot of practice.”

“You have?”

“I have a brother the same age as Mike.”

“No way.”

“Well, a half-brother and two sisters. My mother went back to Italy after my father died. She married an Italian. They live in Rome, but I spend as much time as I can with them.”

“I never imagined you with a family.”

“What, you think I materialized fully formed out of a puff of brimstone?”

“Something like that, though I suppose I knew you had a mother.” She frowned. She didn’t want to see him as human, with brothers and sisters.

He walked past her into the sitting room.

Lia loitered in the doorway. Common sense told her she should head straight to her room, but she didn’t want to. She didn’t know what she wanted. Or maybe it was more truthful to say she wasn’t willing to admit what she wanted.

How could she desire him when he still held those pictures over her head? When she knew that at any time, he could turn on her—post them for all to see and ruin her image. Those pictures would make things very difficult, especially with the sponsorship deal hovering on the brink of being signed. She was coming up to a crucial time in her career—she couldn’t afford any distractions. And what a distraction he was becoming!

Mike wouldn’t be happy when she and Luc went their separate ways. Her brother had managed to drag a promise of a repeat trip out of Luc, and she hadn’t had the heart to tell him that the relationship was temporary, that with luck, in the not-too-distant future, this would all be somehow resolved, and she and Luc would part ways forever.

Why did that thought not make her happy?

Still, she couldn’t make herself leave. Instead, she stepped into the room and looked out the window, her whole body tense, as though it knew something was about to happen.

Luc came up behind her, so close she could feel the heat from his body. A deep, burning craving awoke inside her. Her breasts felt heavy and swollen, and a pulse throbbed between her thighs. When his hands came to rest on her shoulders, she almost jumped. His fingers kneaded her tense muscles, then he lowered his head and his open lips brushed the side of her neck. Every nerve ending quivered as he licked the skin of her throat, then nipped the sensitive spot where her neck met her shoulder. His hands glided from her shoulders to her rib cage and she looked down.

As she watched, he undid the buttons of her shirt and spread the sides to reveal the swell of her slight breasts in the white bra, her nipples clearly visible, pushing against the lace. One hand splayed against her belly, the other brushed across one swollen peak, and she felt it like an arrow at the very core of her body.

Cupping her breast in his large hand, he squeezed. Lia rested back against him and let the amazing sensations roll through her body, feeling the hardness of his erection nudging at her bottom. She pushed back against him, and he groaned into her hair. The hand on her stomach slid down. He flicked open the button on her jeans and pushed inside, slipping his fingers beneath her panties. She held her breath, not daring to move in case he stopped.

He dipped inside her, then back up to stroke the swollen little bud between her thighs, pressing upward.

“Oh God.” The words were torn from her. The sensations were almost too much.

“Come to bed with me, Lia,” he whispered in her ear.

When she didn’t answer, he removed his hand, turned her around in his arms, and searched her face.

“You want me inside you,” he said. “Give in, give us both what we want.” As if to persuade her, he lowered his mouth. She’d expected a forceful kiss; instead she felt the lightest brush of his lips on hers. He kissed the curve of her chin, slid his tongue along her lower lip, sucked it into his mouth, and nibbled her with his teeth. No way could she move as his big hands came up to frame her face, his thumb stroking her cheeks. He kissed her full-on, slanting his mouth over hers in a hot scorching caress full of promised passion. His tongue parted her lips, thrusting into her, filling her with the taste of him, and hot wetness flooded between her thighs.

She clenched her fingers in the soft material of his shirt, but he took her hand, guiding it down his body, pressing her palm against the hardness of his erection where it pushed insistently against the fly of his jeans. Her fingers tightened instinctively, and he groaned then whispered against her lips.

“I want to make love to you, Lia. But this time, it has to be your choice, your decision. Forget your father, forget everything except the two of us.”

But at the mention of her father, the sensual spell shattered, and she went still. What he wanted was her total capitulation, but how could she give him that when he offered nothing of himself in return? She pulled out of his arms and stepped back.

“Give me those pictures, and I’ll think about it.”

Chapter Eleven

The night of the party, Maggie was true to her word. Claire and Debbie had turned up on the doorstep two hours before Lia was due to leave. Claire explained that when she wasn’t working for Maggie, she was a trained beautician. Debbie was a hairdresser. They had come armed with suitcases of equipment and immediately set about getting Lia prepared for what they assured her was going to be the most magical night of her life. Lia wasn’t convinced, but apparently Luc’s parties were famous; people would do absolutely anything to get an invite. Claire had sighed pointedly while telling her this.

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