Lia felt like she was missing something. “Why aren’t you more upset about this?”

“I’ve lived with the press for years and truthfully, unlike you, I really don’t give a damn what people I don’t know think of me.”

Lia blinked. This was all moving too fast. Luc didn’t want her out of his life. He wanted them to go away together? “I can’t leave Mike and Sally to cope with this alone.”

“I’ll send Gary over. He can make sure they’re okay, and if any reporters do turn up he can always take them over to Shellwood for a few days. Security there will make sure no one bothers them.”

“So is that where we’re going, Shellwood?”

“No. We’ll go to my place in Italy—it’s more private. Give it a few days, and this will all blow over, and we can come home.”

“I can’t go to Italy. I don’t have my passport.”

“Gary can pick that up as well.”

She frowned. “You’ve got this all worked out, haven’t you?”

He smiled blandly. “Planning is my forte, cara. Just leave it all to me. Now, drink your coffee, and I’ll organize everything. I’ll be in the office.” He bent down and gave her a soft kiss on her forehead.

Why was he taking this so well? She would have expected him to be furious. Then the truth of the situation hit her. She was going to Italy with Luc. She couldn’t believe it. It felt like a huge weight had lifted from her, and she realized with something approaching fear how much she had actually dreaded leaving him. This would only put it off, and that was as it should be; she didn’t want anything permanent, even if it was an option. But to have some time alone with Luc, in Italy, was beyond anything she could have imagined.


She finished her coffee and made some phone calls. Sally took it extremely well and said she would talk to Mike. She only appeared concerned when Lia mentioned she was going abroad with Luc, but Lia managed to put her mind at rest. She also called Kelly, who was bubbling over with excitement.

“Did you know all this about my father?” Lia asked.

“Of course I did. I just never talked about it because I presumed it was a bad subject. I’m sorry, Lia, but don’t let it upset you; it’s nothing to do with you and the person you are.”

“I can’t believe my mother kept it from me, told me all those lies.”

“Can’t you?” Kelly made no effort to hide her disbelief. “Knowing your mother, I would have found it stranger if she had told you the truth. You know how obsessed she was with keeping up appearances. She probably lived in constant fear of someone mentioning her husband, the bank robber.”

“Bank robber?”

“Oops. Is that something else you didn’t know? Honestly, Lia, sometimes I think you lived your whole life with your head in a hole.”

Kelly’s irreverent attitude did make her feel slightly better, but also made her reflect on what her mother’s life must have been like. If she ever loved a man like that, she wouldn’t be ashamed of anything he did. Which brought her back to Luc.

She drifted into the kitchen and poured herself another coffee, then took it up to the rooftop garden. She sat in her favorite chair with Murphy on her knee and tried to get her head around what was happening. On one level, she was devastated, but on another, it felt almost like a reprieve. She had thought she had reconciled herself to leaving, to never seeing Luc again, but now the tight band around her chest was loosening. She knew it couldn’t last forever, but at least she had a few more days with him. And she knew with clarity that she was going to make the most of those days—and nights.

Chapter Fifteen

Luc sat opposite, watching Lia sleep. She was obviously emotionally exhausted, and he knew that he was going to take advantage of that—he was going to sweep her off her feet.

He felt a slight twinge and recognized it as guilt, not an uncommon emotion for him these days. He tried to shake off the feeling; after all, how could he have known what a shock that newspaper article would be? He’d thought they had done an extremely good job. He and Gary had worked on it so it gave enough information without being too unpleasant. Then he had seen her face as she read it and knew he had made a mistake in his assumptions.

So he had miscalculated slightly; it had never occurred to him that she was unaware of exactly what her father was. It was inconceivable—although she had only been twelve when he disappeared.

He shook his head. The damage was done now. He hadn’t planned it, but he wasn’t above using it to his advantage.

Lia opened her eyes to find Luc studying her. She wriggled uncomfortably and sat up; she didn’t like the idea of someone watching her while she slept. He had a strange, almost pensive, expression on his face. When he saw she was awake, he picked up the phone by his seat and spoke a few words into it.

A flight attendant appeared almost immediately, carrying a tray with a bottle of champagne and two glasses. She put down the tray, expertly poured the wine, and disappeared with a slight smile.

Lia sat staring around at the sumptuous interior of Luc’s private jet and wondered how things could have moved so fast. She shook her head; this sort of wealth was beyond imagining. Three o’clock that same afternoon and they were 30,000 feet above the ground and well on their way to Rome.

Picking up her glass, she stared at it for a long moment. She had been so careful since she had moved into Luc’s place, so determined that she wasn’t going to do anything that might undermine her ability to withstand Luc, and alcohol had been on the top of her things-not-to-do list. Now, she watched the bubbles rise to the surface and accepted that she no longer had any wish to withstand Luc. She wanted whatever small part of him she could get and whatever memories she could take away from their time together. She swallowed the champagne in one gulp and held out her glass for more. Luc picked up the bottle and refilled her glass, a small smile playing across his features.

“This might seem commonplace to you, but I’ve never had champagne on a private jet before,” she said.

“May it be the first time of many.”

She sighed and put down her glass. “You must think me a naïve fool.”

Luc’s smile widened.

“What?” she asked.

“The first time I laid eyes on you, I thought you must be naïve, stupid, or a very good actress.”

“Brilliant. And what do you think now?”

His smile broadened. “Well, I know for a fact that you’re an extremely bad actress, and I’m pretty sure you’re not stupid.”

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