She chose not to stretch, or pull herself out of this slumberous lull. The mattress felt like a cloud, and the room was the perfect temperature, because even with the bedding around her waist she was warm.

Raul’s back did not make pleasant viewing.

Oh, it was muscled, and his shoulders were wide, and his black hair narrowed neatly into the nape of his neck. All was perfect except for the scars.

And there were a lot of them.

There was the ugly, thick vertical one that was untidy and jagged and ran from mid-shoulder to waist.

But there were others that ran across his back.

Thin white lines...row upon row.

She had asked him about his back last night.

Lydia lay there trying to recall his answer.

There hadn’t been one.

And she did not ask with words this time—instead with touch, for while she had been looking at his back her fingers had inadvertently gone there.


Raul felt the question in her touch and loathed the fact that he had fallen to sleep on his side, and he rolled onto his back.

‘I’m sorry I asked,’ Lydia said.

‘Then why did you?’

‘Because when I’m with you I seem to forget to be polite.’

A phone rang, and this time it wasn’t Lydia’s. The battery had finally given out.

Raul reached over and swore, even before he had answered the call and then he spoke for a few minutes and lay back down—but this time he faced her.

‘We overslept.’

‘What time is it?’


Lydia’s eyes widened in surprise. ‘Did you miss your plane?’

‘No, it is missing me. That’s why Allegra rang. She’s going to reschedule.’

He stared at her and Lydia found out then why she had thrown herself at him last night.

It was the correct response to those black eyes, Lydia realised, because her desire was still the same.

‘Sorry I didn’t tell you I was a virgin.’

‘It’s a miracle you still are.’

She didn’t want to be, though.

How heavenly to be made love to by him, Lydia thought, though she said not a word.

He reached out a hand and moved her hair back from her face, and still nothing was said. Lydia liked sharing this silent space with him.

No demands—just silence.

He thought again of all she’d told him—how she had sat at breakfast yesterday and given him that dark piece of her past.

And they were back in that place, together again, only this time it was Raul who spoke.

‘I got into a fight at my mother’s funeral. At the cemetery.’

‘Oh, dear.’

She smiled—not a happy one, just a little smile at their differences.

And he gave a thin smile too.

‘With whom?’ Lydia asked.

‘Her lover.’

And it was at that moment, when he didn’t name Bastiano, that Raul, for the first time, properly lied.

Oh, last night it had technically been a lie by omission. She had been angry and confused and there had been good reason for him not to disclose. But now they were in bed together, facing each other and talking as if they were lovers, and Raul knew at his base that he should at that moment have told her.

Yet he did not want her to turn away.

Which she would.

Of course she would.

‘When did you find out that your mother was having an affair?’ Lydia asked.

‘Right after she died,’ Raul said. ‘I didn’t believe it at first. My mother was very religious—when she was a girl, growing up she had hoped to be a nun...’

‘Why didn’t she?’

‘She got pregnant at sixteen.’

‘With you? By your father?’

‘Of course.’ Raul gave a nod. ‘It wasn’t a happy marriage, I knew that, but I was still surprised...’ He didn’t finish.

‘To find that she cheated?’ Lydia asked, and watched his eyes narrow at her choice of words.

‘I think my mother was the one who was cheated.’ He thought of Bastiano’s slick charm and the inheritance that he had ensured was signed over to his name.

‘Or,’ Lydia pondered out loud, ‘maybe she fell in love.’

‘Please!’ Raul’s voice was derisive, but more at Lydia’s suggestion than at her. And then he told her something. ‘She was used. I hate that man.’

‘Do you ever see him?’ Lydia asked. ‘Her lover?’

‘On occasion,’ Raul admitted. ‘I have made it my mission to take from him, to get there first, to beat him at everything...’ It was the reason he was here at the Hotel Grande Lucia. Usually he would be ringing Allegra, drafting an offer to put to Alim.

Yet he had slept until midday.

And that need to conquer had been the real reason for pulling back last night.

Lydia deserved far better than that.

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