‘When children are banned from first class, then I’ll consider commercial flights.’
Raul liked his privacy, as well as his own staff.
Inside the plane was just as luxurious as the hotel they had come from, and very soon there was take-off and she looked out of the window and watched Rome disappear beneath them.
Lydia felt free.
Excited, nervous, but finally free.
‘I travel a lot.’ Raul explained the real reason for his plane. ‘And, as you saw this morning, my schedule is prone to change. Having my own jet shaves hours off my working week.’
‘How did you do all this?’ Lydia asked.
‘I received an inheritance when my mother died.’
‘Your family was rich?’
He thought back to Casta. They had been comfortable financially, compared to some, but it had been dirty money and always quickly spent.
Neither the Di Savo nor the Conti wineries had ever really taken off.
And then he thought of him and Bastiano, drinking the wine together and laughing at how disgusting it tasted.
They had been such good friends.
In the anger and hate that had fuelled him for years, Raul had forgotten that part.
It would serve him better not to remember it now.
Bastiano was the enemy, and he reminded himself of that when he spoke next.
‘My mother had some money from her brother. She left half to her lover and half to me. It was enough for me to buy the flat I was renting. Then I took out a mortgage on one across the floor and rented it out. I kept going like that. You were right—developers did come in, and they made me an offer that I should not have been able to refuse.’
‘But you did?’
‘Yes. If they could see the potential, then so could I. One of the owners upstairs had done some refurbishing, and I watched and learnt. By then I had four studio apartments, and I turned them into two more luxurious ones... It had always been an amazing location, but now it was a desirable address. A few years later the other owner and I got the backing to turn it into a hotel. I bought him out in the end. I wanted it for myself. That was always the end game.’
‘You used him?’
‘Of course,’ Raul said. ‘That’s what I do.’
He didn’t care if that put him in an unflattering light.
Better that she know.
‘Do you go back often?’ Lydia asked. ‘To Sicily?’
Raul shook his head. ‘I haven’t been back since my mother’s funeral.
‘Don’t you miss it?’ Lydia pushed.
‘There is nothing there for me to miss.’
‘You didn’t go back for your father’s funeral?’ Lydia checked.
‘No. He was already dead to me.’
‘But even so—’
‘Should I pretend to care?’ Raul interrupted.
Lydia didn’t know how to answer that. In her family appearances were everything, and there was a constant demand to be seen to do the right thing.
Raul lived by rules of his own.
‘No,’ she answered finally.
Her response was the truth—she could think of nothing worse than Raul pretending to care and her believing in his lies.
Better to know from the start that this was just temporary, for when he removed her from his life she really would be gone for good.
‘Do you want to change for dinner?’
‘Dinner?’ Lydia checked, and then she looked at the sun, too low in the sky. The day was running away from them already.
And soon, Lydia knew, it would be her turn to be the one left behind.
LYDIA HAD BEEN in two different bedrooms belonging to Raul.
One at the hotel.
The other on his plane.
Tonight would make it three.
Raul was wearing black pants and a white shirt—dressed for anything, she guessed.
Lydia opened her case, and there was the red dress she had bought with Raul on her mind.
It was too much, surely?
Yet she would never get the chance again. She thought of where she’d be tomorrow—rowing with her mother and no doubt packing a lifetime of stuff into trunks and preparing to move out of the castle.
A bell buzzed, and Lydia knew she had to move a little more quickly.
Simple, yet elegant, there was nothing that should scream ‘warning’ in the dress, and yet it hugged her curves, and the slight ruching of the fabric over her stomach seemed to indicate the shiver she felt inside.
On sight he had triggered something.
Those dark eyes seemed to see far beyond the rather brittle façade she wore.
She didn’t know how to be sexy, yet around him she was.
More than that—she wanted to be.
She added lipstick and wished she’d worn the neutral shoes.
Except Lydia felt far from neutral about tonight.
It was too much.