Married to Ben Carlton, a man she
hated, Elise had been released by his sudden death. At his funeral she
met Vincente Farnese, who’d been about to employ him in Rome. She
wondered what this assured, attractive Italian tycoon had wanted with
the useless Ben. Intrigued, she accepts his invitation to dinner, and
they spar verbally.
“Was Ben ever faithful to you?” Vincente asked.
“I doubt it. There were other women pretty soon after our marriage.”
“Does that surprise you?”
“Nothing I discover about Ben surprises me any more. Even the way he
“I heard some strange rumours about that.”
“You mean the woman he was with when he had the heart attack? She
vanished so nobody knows who she was.”
“A ship that passed in the night.”
She gave a wry smile. “There was a whole flotilla of those.”
“Surely you must have loved him at some point?”
“I never loved him,” she said simply, wondering why she was telling so
much to this man.
“That’s very interesting.”
“I see. You’re another who thinks I married Ben for what I took to be
his vast wealth. Give me patience!”
“I don’t – ”
“Listen, you said yourself, I don’t care what people say about me.
You’re right, and ‘people’ includes you. Think what you like.”
“I apologise,” he said quietly.
“No, I suppose I should apologise,” she said wryly.
“It’s natural that your nerves should be on edge after what you’ve been
“And stop being sympathetic and understanding. It doesn’t suit
“How shrewd of you to have spotted that!”
“Ben told me you’d be valuable to him in Rome. He said you’d been
there, and spoke Italian pretty well.”
“I studied fashion in Rome for three months.”
in that time you must have had many admirers.”
He spoke in a mischievous voice and she laughed in return.
“I had flirtations. After all, you know – Italian men – ”
“I know that no true Italian man could look at you without wanting to
become your lover.”
“Maybe it wasn’t just what they wanted. Perhaps my own wishes came
into it as well,” she said with a touch of irony.
“What do you plan to do now?” he asked.
“I’m not really sure.”
“Come back to Rome with me.”
“What for? Ben won’t be working for you now.”
“Can’t you simply treat yourself to a holiday?” When she hesitated he
said urgently, “When you were there as a young girl, did you ever visit
the Trevi Fountain?”
“Of course,” she murmured.
She had been to the great fountain in the company of a young man with a
bright face and a merry laugh.
“You must toss a coin in and make a wish to return to Rome,” he told
She tossed her coin into the water and cried aloud to the sky, “Bring
“Come back forever,” he urged.
“Forever and ever!” she cried ecstatically.
“Love me always,” he begged.
“Until my last moment.”
A month later she’d left Rome, left the young man, and never seen
either of them again.
“And like all visitors you tossed a coin in and wished to return to
Rome?” Vincente said now. “Now it’s time to make the wish come true.”
She shook her head. “Memories are never the same. You can’t go back.”
“Maybe the truth will be better than your fears?”
She shook her head. “That never happens,” she said with soft
“So you’ve discovered that, have you?” he asked sombrely.
The heaviness in his voice made her look up quickly, and for a moment
she caught an unguarded expression in his eyes. It vanished at once, but
it showed her something he was trying to keep hidden. Her interest grew.
She leaned back in her chair and considered him. The clubs lights were
low, constantly changing from green to blue to red. By chance it was red
that bathed him now, giving him the look of a handsome devil.
The musicians were in place, a young woman glided onto the stage and
began to sing in a soft, throaty voice. Suddenly the floor was alive with
gently swaying dancers.
Taking the hand he held out to her, letting him lead her onto the
floor. It would have been wiser to stay in her seat, but she was beyond
wisdom. She wanted to dance with him because she wanted to be held by
him, held against him. That was the plain truth. And tonight she was
going to please herself for the first time in years.
She braced herself for the feel of his hand in the small of her back,
but it was still a shock through the thin material. He drew her close so
that she could feel his body, his legs moving powerfully against hers, and
there was no protection against that.
Had she been crazy to agree to this? Four years ago she’d thrown Ben
out of her bed, and even before that her body had slept. She’d thought it
was the sleep of the dead, forgetting that the dead could awaken. Now
every part of her was becoming alive, and the pleasure was almost painful.
She resisted it, knowing that this was one man she had to confront on
equal terms. But she also sensed that she had the power to catch him off
guard, which could be the best way to face him down.
She felt his arm tighten, silently insisting that she look up, and when
she did so she found his mouth so dangerously close that for a moment they
were exchanging breath. The hot whisper across her lips strained her
control so that she almost reached up and kissed him.
In the event he made the first move. Or did he? His lips brushed hers
so lightly that she couldn’t be sure what was dream and what reality.
Wanting everything. It was almost indecent to want everything
with this stranger, but it was happening, despite her denials. His mouth
was on hers, pressing lightly, then more urgently. She closed her eyes,
yielding to the pure sensation, wanting more and more of it, shutting out
His hand moved slowly, upwards to caress the bare skin of her back,
sideways to feel the flare of her hips, lower to enjoy the soft swell of
her behind moving in the dance.
For too long she’d lived like a nun, knowing there was no place in her
life for desire. But now it came dancing out of the darkness, dazzling
and overwhelming her with the lure of the strange and almost unknown.
Inside she was aching to be returned to life after the long sleep that had
been more like a coma.
Why now? she wondered. With him?
Because he was made for seduction, her senses replied. His body was
designed for sex, long, lean, hard, pared down, subtly powerful. With
every touch it whispered what it could do for her, what they could do
together. His movements blended with hers so that they seemed to be
making love right there on the dance floor.
She felt a desire that was liberated from all feelings, raw, basic,
uncomplicated. She ached to be in his arms, in his bed. She wanted to
undress before his hungry gaze, making a delicious performance of it. But
she also wanted him to remove her clothes slowly, so slowly, heightening
her excitement with every leisurely movement.
She longed to join her nakedness to his, feeling his fingers explore
her gently, then urgently, with passionate desire ever mounting until at
last his control was destroyed and he claimed her with fierce abandon.
Yes, she thought with sudden understanding, that was what she wanted
most: to see this man, so sure of himself and his powers of command, lose
all control because of her. That would be satisfying as nothing else
Everything was there in her head, tingling along her nerves, the
anticipation of what he would do and what she would do. She tried to shut
off the thought, fearful lest he sense it. But, of course, he’d already
sensed it. That was what made him dangerous.
“Why deny us what we both want?” he asked, reading her thoughts again
in the way he did with such terrifying ease.
“I don’t always take what I want,” she said, slowly.
“That’s a mistake. You haven’t had enough pleasure and satisfaction in
your life. You should take it now that you’re free.”
“Is that how you live?”
“Always,” he said, turning to guide her off the dance floor. “Let’s
From the book
THE ITALIAN'S PASSIONATE
REVENGE by Lucy Gordon.
Copyright 2007 by Lucy
Copyright © 2008 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. ® and tm
are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
For more romance information surf to