Lisa braced herself as the jet took off, soaring high above the clouds over Stellamaris.
On the journey to the airport she had seen the flower- laden carts with children sitting on the buckboards tossing handfuls of blooms to crowds lining the streets. The car had been forced to slow, so she hadn’t missed a single detail of the procession. Everyone had been in such high spirits and she had longed to be part of it… with Tino.
To make matters worse, when she’d said goodbye to Maria before leaving the villa she had learned that Tino had been up before anyone else that morning choosing flowers for her in the garden. He had carried the arrangements up to her room while she was having breakfast with Stella, not trusting anyone else to do it; that was the important matter that had delayed him.
It was as well she was leaving. She damaged everyone she cared about. Her mother had sacrificed everything for her, and Jack Bond—a man she still found it hard to call her father—had looked for a love she could never give him. She could see it all now with agonising clarity, and knew she couldn’t risk causing any more harm. She cared too much for Tino to stay.. and, even had she wanted to stay, he had made it very clear that he didn’t want her in his life. Business was her forte. She was good at that. She had done the deal she had set out to do. She had to be satisfied. She had to accept there were some things in life she would never master, and love was just one of them.
Seated in his study, Tino grimaced. The suspicion that he had been tricked was only boosted by the sound of Lisa’s jet passing overhead.
Emotions had no part to play in business and he had made a fundamental error allowing her in. He only had to think of the flowers to know she had made a fool of him… Had she used him for sex? Or had she used sex to secure the deal? Either way this wasn’t over. He couldn’t just let her walk away…
This time he didn’t ring the bell and wait patiently for her housekeeper to answer it, he thundered on her door with his fist, and then shouted her name through the letterbox.
‘All right, all—’ Lisa pressed back against the wall as Tino stalked past her. ‘Nice to see you too,’ she added under her breath as she followed him into her den. ‘Would you like a drink?’ She glanced down at her own flute of champagne, feeling the world had gone mad, or that she had fallen asleep and had to be dreaming.
The tone of Tino’s voice soon brought her round. She had never seen him like this before. ‘Could you snarl a little louder? I didn’t quite hear you.’
‘I said, are you celebrating, Lisa?’
It was Vera’s night off, and Tino’s visit seemed so unreal. It was hard to believe how much he affected her. She had to keep staring at him just to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. She felt exhilarated briefly, but then caution took over, and now the expression on his face hardly invited enthusiasm. Maybe she would do better to feel intimidated… but instead of that she felt sad—sad for both of them. They were both so enmeshed in the past, so emotionally scarred, they didn’t know how to express themselves other than through business. They both had so much, but where things that really mattered were concerned they had nothing.
The only way forward was to keep everything on an impersonal level, Lisa decided, as if they were in a business meeting. But first she had some apologising to do. ‘I’m glad you’ve come.’ She held open the door of her den for him. ‘I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to say how sorry I am about the flowers.’
As Tino frowned Lisa realised her mistake. He couldn’t have cared less about the flowers. He had something a lot more important on his mind—his pride, perhaps? And then she realised that she was still holding the glass of champagne in her hand, and that he was staring at it. She felt bound to explain. ‘I was just drinking a toast to my new life.’
‘Your new life?’ He cut across her. His eyes narrowed with suspicion. ‘The last time we spoke you mentioned changes. You move fast.’
His tone was hostile, but one of them had to keep calm. ‘So many questions, Tino,’ she said lightly. ‘Why don’t you join me in a glass of champagne?’