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At The Boss's Beck And Call(3)

By:Anna Cleary



He’d winced when she brought it up, but when she’d grilled him over it Alessandro had eventually admitted that in terms of family inheritance, he was the current marchese.

The Marchese d’Isole Veneziane Minori. After a bit of practice, the words had just rolled off her tongue. Marquis of the Minor Venetian Isles.

Oh, God, she’d been so impressed. She’d mocked him about it, teased him, but she’d been so utterly ravished Alessandro had laughed at her. It had been on that first golden afternoon at the beach.

She closed her eyes now to think of him stretched beside her, his lean, tanned body still glistening from the surf, his black hair gleaming, those deep, dark eyes, so sensual, so intent on her and her alone. That was when he’d kissed her for the first time. Afterwards, they’d had dinner, and then after that…

Even now, any mention of the Seasons hotel gave her a pang. If the walls of that suite had been able to talk…

His week had turned into two, then three, then stretched on through the summer until he could no longer put off going back for the start of his final semester at the Harvard Business School, where his firm was sending him. Her last glimpse of him before he boarded the plane had been so blurred with her tears she’d knocked over a small elderly woman, but the promise had kept her afloat.

The pact.

As always when she thought of it her stomach gave a churn. She’d have kept her side of it if she could, if only Fate hadn’t got in the way. Like a trusting fool, she’d have been there to meet him, just in case he had decided to come back. But there’d been the bushfires, her father, then her dreadful time in hospital. And afterwards…

Oh, God. Afterwards, a seismic shift in who and what she was.

But Alessandro didn’t know that. If she could just hang onto that fact…#p#分页标题#e#

She steeled her nerve, and gave the conference-room door a gentle inwards push.

The small room seemed crammed. Not that Stiletto had such a large staff, only six in editorial, plus two part-time assistants, but it was rare to see everyone assembled at the same time. With the publicity staff, and the sales and production people, the numbers swelled to the twenties. Grateful to see an empty chair not too far inside the door, Lara crept to it as noiselessly as she could.

All the organised people who’d managed to arrive on time were sitting silent and watchful, listening. In the absence of Bill, their dreamy, slightly slipshod ex-Managing Director, Cinta from Sales and Marketing had volunteered to stand up on behalf of the company. Looking as sinuous as ever in a dress that had been spray-painted to her bones, Cinta was delivering a flowery welcome speech for the takeover team in the sultry voice she assumed for really attractive men.

Alessandro.

Lara spotted him at once, her heart shaking like a quake zone. A glimpse only, a mere flash, but it was him all right, seated to one side of the lectern, right next to the terrifyingly groomed woman with the razor cut bob and the fantastic suit whom Cinta introduced as Donatuila Capelli, one of Scala’s top executives from the New York office. Lara could believe it. Every thread the woman wore screamed Fifth Avenue.

Lara sat down just as Donatuila got up to deliver a few bracing words in a fabulous deep, husky Manhattan accent, before embarking on a slick presentation of the latest on Scala’s product sales. Lara was thankful that, with so much going on, Alessandro wouldn’t have noticed her late arrival. She was so glad she’d decided to dress up, even if her boots were killers.

At the other end of the room, Alessandro sat frozen for seconds, then deliberately relaxed his muscles and concentrated on breathing until the roaring sensation in his blood eased. It was her. No doubt of it, that late arrival was Lara Meadows. The blonde hair he remembered, if quite a lot longer now, the distinctive tilt of her chin, her graceful, willowy form. No other woman entering a room had ever had that effect on him.

And neither would she, ever again. It had simply been the shock of the initial sighting. Understandable, considering he’d scanned the room and resigned himself to believing her absent. It had even occurred to him that she might have quit rather than face him. But no, she wasn’t lying low or fleeing for cover. Unlike the rest of her colleagues, she was merely late.

Late.

He had to hand it to her. That behaviour was nothing short of casual.

He made an infinitesimal lean to the right, and in a chink between the rows saw her cross her legs as she relaxed into her chair. The long, shapely legs he remembered were partially encased in long boots, drawing attention to silky, smooth knees. Sexy, but…Something like a hot needle pierced his professional composure and homed straight to that raw nerve. Insolente was the word that boiled up in him.

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