He was wondering if he could give Lydia what she wanted.
The romantic trip to Italy she craved.
He could do that for a day, surely?
Raul didn’t look over at her when Lydia came out from the bathroom and went through to the lounge. There she found her case and pulled out an outfit.
Lydia chose the nice cream dress she had brought for sightseeing and some flat sandals.
Her hair was a bit of a disaster, but she had left her adaptor in her hotel room, so there was no point dragging out her straighteners.
Lydia made do and smoothed it as best she could. She could hear Raul making some calls on his phone and commencing his day.
She had been but a brief interlude, Lydia knew. And so she checked that her sunglasses were in her purse and then walked back into the bedroom—and there he lay. He was even more beautiful now than when she had met him.
Then Raul had been in a suit and clean-shaven.
Now he lay in bed with his hands behind his head, thinking. She knew, because she had lain beside him all night, that he was naked save the sheet that barely covered him. He was unshaven and his eyes seemed heavy from sleep as he turned and looked at her.
And the more that she knew, the more of a mystery he was.
This was regret, Lydia thought.
That he could so easily let her go.
And how did she walk away? Lydia wondered.
How did she go over and kiss that sulky mouth and say goodbye when really she wanted to climb back into bed?
How did she accept that she would never know how it felt to be made love to by him?
But rather than reveal her thoughts she flicked that internal default switch which had been permanently set to ‘polite’.
‘Thank you so much for last night.’
‘I haven’t finished being your tour guide yet.’
He stretched out his arm and held out his hand, but Lydia didn’t go over. She did not want to let in hope, so she just stood there as Raul spoke.
‘It would be remiss of me to let you go home without seeing Venice as it should be seen.’
Oh, she repeated his offer only because she was mystified. She’d been preparing to leave with her head held high, but then, when she had least expected it, he’d offered more.
So much more.
‘I like to call it by its other name—La Serenissima,’ Raul said. ‘It means the Most Serene.’
‘That’s not how I remember my time there.’
‘Then you have a chance to change that. I’m heading there today. Why don’t you come with me? Fly out of Marco Polo tomorrow instead.’
There was another night between now and then, and Lydia knew that even while he offered her an extension he made it clear there was a cut-off.
Time added on for good behaviour.
And Raul’s version of ‘good behaviour’ was that there would be no tears or drama as she walked away. Lydia knew that. If she were to accept his offer, then she had to remember that.
‘I’d like that.’ The calm of her voice belied the trembling she felt inside. ‘It sounds wonderful.’
‘Only if you’re sure,’ Raul added.
But how could she be sure of anything now she had set foot in Raul’s world?
He made her dizzy.
Not just her head, but every cell in her body seemed to be spinning as he hauled himself from the bed and unlike Lydia, with her sheet-covered dash to the bathroom, his body was hers to view.
And that blasted default switch was stuck, because Lydia did the right thing and averted her eyes.
Yet he didn’t walk past. Instead Raul walked right over to her and stood in front of her.
She could feel the heat—not just from his naked body but her own—and it felt as if her dress might disintegrate.
He put his fingers on her chin, tilted her head so that she met his eyes, and it killed that he did not kiss her, nor drag her back to his bed. Instead he checked again. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Of course,’ Lydia said, and tried to make light of it. ‘I never say no to a free trip.’
It was a joke—a teeny reference to the very reason she was here in Rome—but it put her in an unflattering light. She was about to correct herself, to say that it hadn’t come out as she had meant, but then she saw his slight smile and it spelt approval.
A gold-digger he could handle, Lydia realised.
Her emerging feelings for him—perhaps not.
At every turn her world changed, and she fought for a semblance of control. Fought to convince not just Raul but herself that she could handle this.
* * *
They were driven right up to his jet, and his pilot and crew were waiting on the runway to greet them.
‘Do you always have a jet on standby?’ Lydia asked.
‘What’s wrong with first class?’ Lydia asked, refusing to appear too impressed.