He only hoped that he would be able to live out his days at home. Certainly his fortune would cover the necessary costs of medical professionals to attend him.
‘Everything will be all right, Nonno,’ he’d said, turning to place an affectionate kiss on the old man’s cheek. How could Vito break his heart by telling him that the Salvatore line would stop with him?
He pushed the memory aside and continued to stride along the carpeted corridors of the executive floor, unaware of how his expression was scattering employees— in front of him. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with the directors of L&G Enterprises, but nevertheless he would attend the board meeting.
Suddenly he stopped in his tracks and stared through the glass wall of the meeting room. He could not believe his eyes.
Seeing her standing there felt like a sledgehammer blow to the guts. Her betrayal was still a fresh wound and, as he looked at her, he could almost feel her twisting the knife. His heart started to thud furiously beneath his ribs, and he clenched his fists at his sides.
No one betrayed Vito Salvatore and got away with it—but that was exactly what Lily Chase had managed to do. The night he’d discovered what she had done, he’d been so shocked that he had simply thrown her out. It was so much less than she’d deserved.
And now, as if to rub further salt into his wounds, it was obvious that she’d fallen on her feet. Because here she was, bold as brass, coolly making a presentation to his communications team—as if she didn’t have a care in the world. And as if she had nothing to fear from him.
He looked her up and down, automatically checking for signs of pregnancy, but there was no evidence of her condition yet. If anything she’d lost weight, making her look incredibly thin. The linen suit she was wearing was unflatteringly loose and baggy, and her hair was tied back in an uncompromisingly severe style.
But, even though she wasn’t looking her best, he simply couldn’t take his eyes off her. With her light-blonde— hair and her pale clothing she stood out like a beacon against the dark-suited executives in their dark and gloomy conference room.
Why had she done it?
The question thrust itself forcefully into his mind.
He gritted his teeth, trying not to let his thoughts continue down that path. He was always in control. He was the one who called the shots, in his private life as well as in business.
All the women in his life understood how it was. Nothing permanent. No strings attached. But always absolute fidelity on both sides while it lasted. Up until the blow Lily had dealt him, that had never been an issue. He was man enough for any woman. Or so he’d thought.
He stared at her through dangerously narrowed eyes, watching her behind the glass. It only took a moment to figure out she’d gone back to her old job, selling web-conferencing software.
Although she looked pale and tired, she appeared calm and in control of the meeting, but he knew she was punching above her weight with this lot. He didn’t like the head of Corporate Communications at L&G, and he knew he’d never invest in a new system, even though it was exactly what was needed to bring the company into the twenty-first century.
Why had Lily been unfaithful to him?
The question hammered persistently in his head.
Things had been good between them, both in and out of the bedroom. The time they’d spent together had been a wonderful counterpoint to the cut and thrust of his business life. And the sex…The sex had been nothing short of incredible.
She’d given him her virginity—something he’d considered— a truly special gift. But that just made it all the more shocking that she’d fallen into another man’s bed so quickly.
The thought of Lily with another man was unbearable. A vein throbbed in his temple and he surged forward, opening the door into the meeting room with a crash.
Lily looked up in shock.
Suddenly she couldn’t breathe.
Her worst nightmare had come true—Vito was here.
‘What…?’ D’Ambrosio started to bluster at the interruption,— but the second he realised it was his Venetian boss he fell silent.
Lily dragged a shallow breath into her lungs and felt her heart jolt back into life after the shock of seeing Vito. It began to beat painfully hard as she stared at him.
She’d missed him so much—but he’d hurt her so badly. Looking at him produced a physical ache in her chest. She longed to dash across the room and lose herself in the warm strength of his embrace—but she knew there was no warmth there any more. He’d made that clear when he’d thrown her away.
Despite the pain of seeing him, her eyes roamed urgently over his body as he stood in the doorway. He looked absolutely magnificent. His hand-tailored suit fit him to perfection, but did nothing to conceal his raw, masculine power. She recalled the athletic strength of his lean body only too well. Remembered exactly how it felt to be held close to his hard-muscled form.
But now she shuddered as she saw how intense his expression was. His bronzed skin was pulled taut across his high, slashing cheekbones, and a muscle was pulsing on his strong angular jawline.
And his blue eyes were fixed on her, in a way that made her blood run cold. She looked straight back, matching his gaze with her own. An icy shiver skittered down her spine as she recognised the steely anger in his eyes. Apart from her final day in Venice, he had never looked at her like that. It was a nasty reminder of how brutally he had ended things between them.
‘Tell me why L&G Enterprises should invest in your product.’ Vito spoke suddenly.
Lily gripped her shaking hands together tightly and stared at Vito in surprise. She hadn’t expected that. She’d thought he would throw her out, or perhaps call Security to do his dirty work for him. She didn’t know what game he was playing, but she had no choice but to play along. She certainly wasn’t going to turn tail and run from him.
Suddenly a strong smell of coffee assailed her nostrils— and a wave of nausea washed over her. She looked down to see a steaming lake of black coffee spreading across the smoked-glass table from D’Ambrosio towards— her laptop computer. Vito’s dramatic arrival had obviously startled him into spilling his drink, but he was making no move to clean it up.
He looked at her, and with a shock Lily realised he was expecting her to do it. God, he was arrogant! But now, with Vito standing there staring at her, she had more to worry about than D’Ambrosio’s spilt coffee.
She took a deep breath, inadvertently pulling the sickening smell of coffee deep into her lungs, and moved her laptop to one side. Then, looking straight at Vito, she began to speak.
Her voice rang out amazingly clear and steady in the ominous silence of the meeting room as she concentrated on delivering the presentation she had previously prepared.
‘…and so this new system will give you the very best in web conferencing, saving your business both time and money, not to mention freeing you from the annoyance— of using an outdated system that frequently fails to perform according to basic requirements.’
Lily finished her spiel and continued to match Vito’s gaze. She knew it was pointless. Mike had been right— L&G was a hard sell. But now Vito had arrived it was more than hard—it was impossible.
The room was deathly silent as everyone waited for Vito to speak and, out of nowhere, her thoughts suddenly— turned to her unborn baby. Vito’s child. It still hardly seemed real. Some of the time she almost forgot she was pregnant for a few minutes. But then, even if the nagging nausea wasn’t enough to remind her, the constant worry over getting a job so that she could provide for her baby slammed the reality home.
She remembered all the warnings her mother had given her about men, and now she was in exactly the same situation as her mother had once been—ruthlessly cast aside because she’d made the mistake of getting pregnant.
Lily’s father had refused to acknowledge her, and had even threatened her mother if she ever revealed their relationship. He had his own ‘real’ family to protect—a wife and two daughters living in a lovely suburban home.
Lily and her mother hadn’t been good enough. They’d been a potential embarrassment, always to remain hidden far away in the countryside where they couldn’t do any damage to his impeccable reputation.
Lily knew her father was a first-class hypocrite and, as she’d grown older, she’d told herself she’d been better off without him. But it had been tough growing up without a father. Her mother had found it hard to cope, and— that had made life difficult and unsettled for Lily.
‘We will take your web-conferencing system on three-months-trial basis.’ Vito broke the silence abruptly. ‘D’Ambrosio, clean up here. Then take Ms Chase’s equipment up to my office.’
‘But…’ For a second D’Ambrosio looked annoyed by his boss’s snap decision, but then he recovered himself and jumped to his feet. ‘Of course, it would be a pleasure to do business with you,’ he said, holding out his hand to Lily almost desperately. ‘Your company’s system really does sound very impressive. We’ll get it all arranged—my people will meet your people, and…’
In other circumstances, witnessing D’Ambrosio’s turnaround from obnoxious to obsequious might have been amusing, but at that moment Vito turned his eyes onto Lily with a penetrating look that made the breath catch in her throat.