And it was there again—the chance to tell her just who Bastiano was, here and now, in bed, during the most intimate conversation of his life—for Raul never usually discussed such things.

But he didn’t tell.


There was no need for that.

And anyway she would be gone soon. So Raul kissed her instead.

It was a different kiss from last night—they knew more about each other now than then—but it did not last for long.

Raul knew his own reputation, and that it wouldn’t be changing any time soon, and so he pulled back.

She was dismissed.

Yet still they lingered in bed.

‘What are you going to do with the rest of your day?’ he asked her.

‘I’m going to head home while I’ve still got one. I’ll see if I can transfer my flight to today,’ Lydia said. ‘I want to tell my mother—away from Maurice—that I’m moving out.’

‘Good,’ Raul said. ‘You need to...’ He halted. It was not his place to tell her what to do.

‘I know what I need to do, Raul.’

She closed her eyes for a moment and thought of the mountain in front of her that she was about to climb—walking out on the family business, forging a career of her own, finding somewhere to live with nothing.

Yet there was excitement there too.

It was time.

And that made her smile.

‘What will you do today?’ Lydia asked.

Raul thought for a moment—the weekend spread out before him, and really he could take his pick.


Allegra was waiting for Raul to call with his amended schedule.

There were parties and invitations galore—particularly as he was known to be in Rome. And yet whatever he chose Raul knew it could not top last night.

‘I’ll go home,’ Raul said.

‘And where’s that?’ Lydia asked.

‘Venezia.’

Venice.

Lydia gave a wistful sigh, but then, so contrary were her memories from there, she screwed up her nose just a fraction—and he saw that she did.

To cover herself, and because she could not take him delving deep this morning, she quickly chose laughter and gave him a dig in his ribs.

‘You never told me that you lived there.’


‘Why would I?’

‘When I was talking about it you never let on...’ And then she halted, remembering that Raul owed her no explanations—they danced on the edge of the other, revealing only what they chose. ‘I’m not very good at being a one-night stand.’

‘No,’ he agreed with a wry smile, ‘you’re not.’ And then his smile dimmed, but still his eyes held hers and Raul asked a question. ‘Would you have regretted it if we had slept together?’

‘No.’ Lydia shook her head. ‘Raul, you seem to have decided that just because I haven’t slept with anyone I’m looking for something permanent. By all accounts I could have had that with Bastiano, but I chose not to. He’s not...’ Lydia faltered and then, rather than finishing, swallowed her words down. Raul didn’t need to hear them. The truth was she had no feelings for Bastiano.

None.

Yet she did for Raul.

‘Not what?’ Raul asked.

He’s not you would be her honest response.

But rather than say that Lydia was far more evasive. ‘He’s not what I want.’

‘What do you want?’

‘I wanted what every woman wants, a bit of romance while I was here. I’m not shopping for a husband.’ She gave a shrug and pulled one of the tangled sheets from the bed to cover herself. ‘I’m going to have a shower.’

And it was in the shower, with space between them, that Lydia pondered what she had been about to say.

He’s not you.

With Bastiano there was no attraction. Had it been Raul whom her family were trying to match-make her with she’d have been embarrassed, yes, and annoyed, perhaps, and yet there would have been excitement and trepidation too.

She liked Raul far more than it was safe to let on.

* * *

And Raul liked Lydia.

A lot.

That feeling was rare.

Mornings were never his strong point—generally he preferred women who dressed in the dark and were gone. He wasn’t proud of that fact, just honest, as he examined his usual wants. Yet this morning he was lying listening to Lydia in the shower and trying to resist joining her.

And again she had surprised him.

Lydia was tough.

There had been no tears, no pleas for help or for him to get involved. In fact she had actively discouraged it when he had offered to step in and deal with Maurice.

There was a level of independence to her that he had seen in few and he did not want her to be gone.

And, more honestly, he wanted to be her first.

It had nothing to do with Bastiano.

In fact Raul wanted her well away from here.

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