There was another issue that existed between them.
She was turned on.
So was he.
They had been on sight.
From her slow walk across the dining room and for every moment since they had been aware of each other at the basest of levels.
‘Come for breakfast,’ he said, and then he remembered how she liked manners. ‘Per favore.’
Lydia realised then that every word she had uttered in the restaurant had been noted.
It should feel intrusive.
And it did.
But in the most delightful of ways.
Her breath felt hot in her lungs and the warm feeling from the brief touch of his hand on her arm was still present.
She wanted to say yes—to accept this dark stranger’s invitation and follow this dangerous lead.
But that would be reckless at best, and Lydia was far from that.
There was something about him that she could not quite define, and every cell in her body recognised it and screamed danger. He was polished and poised—immaculate, in fact. And yet despite the calm demeanour there was a restless edge. Beneath the smooth jaw was a blue hue that hinted at the unshaven, decadent beauty of him. Even his scent clamoured for attention, subtle and at the same time overwhelming.
Raul had her on the edge of panic—an unfamiliar one.
He was potent—so potent that she wanted to say yes. To simply throw caution to the wind and have breakfast with this beautiful man.
She didn’t even know his name.
‘Do you always ask complete strangers for breakfast?’ Lydia asked.
‘No,’ he admitted, and then he lowered his head just a fraction and lowered his voice an octave more. ‘But then you defy the hour.’
THEY DEFIED THE HOUR, Lydia thought. Because as they stepped outside the hotel surely the moon should be hanging in a dark sky.
It was just breakfast, she told herself as his hand took her elbow and guided her across the busy street.
Yet it felt like a date.
But it wasn’t a romantic Italian evening, for the sun shone brightly and Rome was at its busy rush hour best.
Yet he made it so.
The restaurant he steered her to had a roped-off section and the tables were clearly reserved, yet the greeter unclipped the rope and they breezed through as if they were expected guests.
‘Did you have a reservation?’ Lydia asked, more than a little confused as they took their seats.
‘Then...’ Lydia stopped, for she had answered her own question—the best seats were permanently reserved for the likes of him. He had a confident air that demanded, without words, only the best.
Coffee was brought and sparkling water was poured. They were handed the heavy menus, but as the waiter started to explain the choices he waved him away.
Lydia was grateful that he had, for there was a real need for the two of them to be left alone.
He was an absolute stranger.
A black-eyed stranger who had led and she had followed.
‘I don’t know your name,’ Lydia said, and found she was worried a little that it might disappoint.
He rolled the R just a little, and then she found herself repeating it, ‘Rau—el...’ Though it did not roll easily from her tongue.
She waited for his surname.
It didn’t come.
‘I had worked that out.’ He glanced down at the menu. He never wasted time with small talk, unless it suited him. ‘What would you like?’
She should be hungry. Lydia hadn’t eaten since the plane, and even then she had just toyed with her meal.
She had been sick with nerves last night, but now, though still nervous, the feeling was pleasant.
‘I’d like...’ Lydia peered at the menu.
Really she ought to eat something, given that breakfast was the reason she was here.
But then she blushed while reading the menu, because food was the furthest thing from her mind.
‘It’s in Italian,’ Lydia said, and could immediately have kicked herself, for it was such a stupid thing to say—and so rude to assume it should be otherwise.
But he did not chide her, and he did not score a point by stating that Italy was, in fact, where they were.
He just waited patiently as she stumbled her way through the selections till she came upon something she knew. But she frowned. ‘Tiramisu for breakfast?’
Perhaps he hadn’t heard the question in her voice, because Lydia had assumed it was served only as a dessert, but Raul was right—it sounded good.
The waiter complimented their choice as he took their orders, and very soon she tasted bliss.
‘Oh...’ It was light and not too sweet, and the liquor made it decadent. It really had been an accidental perfect choice.
‘Nice,’ Raul said, and watched her hurriedly swallow and clear her mouth before speaking.