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At The Boss's Beck And Call(8)

By:Anna Cleary


The Marquis of the Minor Venetian Isles. So thrilling. So-scary.

He’d added, ‘We would be-a couple.’

This was it, she’d thought in the first wild lurching moments of shooting stars and ecstasy. Unbelievably, she’d found her man, and such a beautiful, fantastic man. A cultured, civilised, gentle man. A man she could talk to. A man with whom she could share the secrets of her soul.

But, some rational part of her had squeaked, how much of a commitment was he actually offering? How well did she know him, really?

What did couple mean? Lovers? Partners?

And what about her job? Her family?

‘Wow,’ she’d said, scrabbling for the words while her brain reeled from the possibilities like a woman with vertigo on the roof edge of a fifty-storey tower block. ‘That would be-fantastic. I’m-overwhelmed, honestly, Alessandro. Honoured.’ Perhaps some part of her uncertainty had shown on her face, because he’d made a small grimace.#p#分页标题#e#

‘Honoured,’ he’d echoed, lilting his brows in some bemusement. Then she’d seen a flicker in his eyes she hadn’t seen there before, and it wrung her heart to think she might have hurt him.

He’d said very quietly, such gentle dignity in his deep, masculine tones, ‘Is this your way of saying no, tesoro?’

‘No, no,’ she’d hastened to reassure him. ‘Not at all. It’s just that…Well, you know it’s so-so sudden…I might just need a minute to draw breath.’ She’d beamed at him, though her heart was pounding like mad, and everything in her was screaming to her to slam on the brakes. ‘Wait, though, hang on. I’ve had a thought. I don’t have a passport.’

She’d been so relieved to have that perfectly good reason to put forward, but he’d frowned and shaken his head, as if, in the civilised world he came from, minor obstacles like that could be brushed away.

‘I can change my flight again,’ he said. ‘Added to all the others, what’s another day? Twenty-four hours should be long enough for us to organise your passport.’

There’d been a further desperate moment while the offer still hung in the balance, and that was when she’d had the inspiration of the pact. The love test.

‘All right. No, wait, look, I know. I have an idea-Alessandro, darling…’ She’d never dared call him that before, and she could see it registered with him. It had given her the courage to go on. ‘It’s all been so fast. Maybe-maybe we should give ourselves a chance to be certain we’re doing the right thing.’

For a second his thick black lashes had swept down to screen his eyes. ‘You’re not sure you want to be with me?’

She’d drawn a sharp breath, then said quickly, ‘I do. Of course I do. But I’d just like some time to get organised. You know, I’ll have to say goodbye to Mum and Dad-and give notice at work. And you might need to think about it too. If we-just give ourselves a little bit of time to think. We could do something like they did in that movie. Did you ever see An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr?’

He hadn’t seen the old movie classic, and, in truth, he hadn’t been so keen on her idea of delaying a few weeks. He’d gone rather scarily still and inscrutable, like a marchese whose pride had taken a hit. As if she should have been able to make up her mind to go with him on the spot. As if she should have just left her life behind her, not taken a moment to think and give her parents a chance to get used to the idea, to weigh up all the pros and cons.

He had agreed at last, although with reservations.

She’d been so young, she’d truly believed it was the right thing to do. The wise thing. Alessandro had swept her along with him on a giddy, emotional ride and she’d barely had time to snatch a breath. And while the top of the Centrepoint Tower in Sydney didn’t have quite the same romantic cachet as the Empire State building in New York, if he had met her there again in six weeks’ time, to her it would have been close enough to heaven.

Sadly, as it had turned out, her instinct had been the right one.

Even if she had been able to make it to the Centrepoint Tower at four p.m. that fateful Wednesday, Alessandro wouldn’t have met her there. She knew now that he wouldn’t, because all the time he’d been wining and dining and seducing her in Sydney, his fiancée had been back home in Italy preparing for the wedding.

She’d found that all out later. And when she’d discovered the devastating truth, she’d come to the miserable realisation that, like the practised seduction artist he was, he’d probably pretended to agree to the pact so he could leave her on an up-note.#p#分页标题#e#