‘A dress would be better.’ Vito turned to open the huge fitted-wardrobe on her side of the room. ‘Preferably— something with a bit of colour—to brighten my grandfather’s morning.’
‘But…’ Lily stared into the wardrobe in obvious surprise. ‘All my clothes.’
‘You didn’t take them with you.’
Vito selected a soft peach-coloured silk dress he had bought for her in Milan. Lily was always drawn towards natural, pale colours—her favourites were cream and ivory—and, despite the fact he knew they suited her, he’d— always had the urge to liven up her choices. ‘I had to assume none of the items I bought for you were to your taste after all,’ he added.
‘I didn’t pay for any of them,’ Lily said. ‘They were all so expensive—I didn’t think they were mine to take.’
‘Of course they were.’ Vito suddenly felt annoyed. He’d enjoyed buying things for her, and when he’d seen she’d left them behind it had been a brutal reminder of how she’d duped him—like a spiteful smack on the cheek, on top of her shameless infidelity. ‘What did you think I was going to do with them?’
‘I don’t know,’ Lily said, smoothing her hand over her hair in a gesture that revealed how unsettled she felt. ‘Maybe sell them. Or give them away. I never expected to find them still in the wardrobe.’
Vito turned and looked at her, deliberately keeping his expression bland as he laid the peach dress out on the bed. He wouldn’t let himself think too closely about why he’d never got rid of all the things she’d left in his room.
Over the years he had invited very few women to share his home. And, once he had decided it was over, it was over—completely. For the most part they had taken everything with them, especially anything of value, like designer clothes and jewellery. Then any remaining— items had been disposed of quickly, eradicating— any evidence that anyone had ever been in his home.
But when his housekeeper had enquired about Lily’s belongings, he had barked at her to leave them. After that the poor woman hadn’t mentioned them again—and— had left them well alone. Out of sight in wardrobes and cupboards. But not entirely out of mind.
‘You left the clothes and the jewellery,’ he said. ‘But you were quick enough to take every last piece of the lingerie I bought for you.’
‘The clothes, the jewellery—they cost so much,’ Lily said. A pretty flush had risen to her heart-shaped face, making the blood flow faster around Vito’s body.
‘The lingerie was expensive too.’ He took a step closer to her, getting a kick of satisfaction as she refused to back away, even though he had clearly invaded her personal space. ‘You knew that.’
‘What would you want with my lingerie?’ A spark in her hazel eyes and a defiant lift to her chin challenged him. ‘Even you wouldn’t sell second-hand underclothes.’
‘I didn’t want to sell them,’ Vito said, deliberately letting his voice drop to a seductive purr. ‘I wanted them for myself. You were gone, the nights were long…’
Lily gasped, suddenly speechless as she stared at his handsome face. ‘Don’t be so…so…’
‘Don’t looked shocked. It’s a natural desire. You know how good we were together…physically,’ Vito said. ‘There’s nothing wrong with wanting something to remember you by.’
‘Stop it,’ Lily said, hearing an edge of panic in her tone. But Vito’s voice was rumbling through her, making— her remember what it had been like to make love with him.
‘I wanted to hold the flimsy little things in my hand as I thought about the good times we’d spent together,’ he— drawled, with blatant come-to-bed eyes locked onto hers from under sultry, half-closed lids. ‘I longed to smooth the silky fabric against my skin—thinking about the feel of your skin against mine.’
‘Stop it.’ Lily’s cheeks were starting to burn. ‘You could have gone out and bought some more lingerie if you were so desperate.’
‘It wouldn’t have been the same,’ Vito replied, with a meaningful smile on his full, sensual lips. ‘It was knowing that the silk had been next to your body, pressing close to your most intimate places…’
Lily bit her lip, trying to think of a suitably cutting remark to put a stop to this line of discussion. She wasn’t used toVito talking like this, but although it was unsettling there was also something strangely exciting about it.
A wave of warmth was washing through her body, putting her senses onto full alert in a way that hadn’t happened since she’d left Venice, until yesterday in Vito’s empty penthouse.
‘Are you wearing something I bought you now?’ Vito’s eyes were running over her, as if with his X-ray vision he could see through her linen suit to discover what underwear she had chosen. ‘Or have you discarded it all—along with the sanctity of our relationship?’
‘It’s none of your business what I’m wearing under my suit,’ Lily said, appalled by how her breath was catching in her throat.
‘It used to be my business.’ Vito dropped to his knees beside her and placed his large, warm hands on her hips. He tugged her gently towards him so that his cheek was resting on her stomach. ‘You used to like me to come home from work, take you in my arms and hold you close. You loved it when I ran my hands up your legs, slipped them under your skirt, and traced my fingers over the silk and lace that covered the most sensitive— part of your body.’
‘That’s over now.’ Lily struggled to keep her voice level as Vito’s words set off an alarming chain-reaction of sensation through her. It was true that she had loved the touch of his hands on her body, had revelled in the way that he made her feel. ‘That was before you treated me so horribly.’
‘Yes,’ Vito said, letting his hands start to slide slowly down over her hips and thighs. ‘That time is over. But now we are starting a different stage in our relationship. We are soon to be man and wife.’
Lily stood absolutely still, acutely aware of the movement of his hands. The familiarity of his touch was triggering a mass of conflicting feelings in her. Her body knew him, knew what exquisite pleasure he could give her.
But her heart felt betrayed. How could she be responding— to him after he had treated her so unforgivably?
‘It won’t be the same,’ she said, thinking how special it had been to make love to him when she’d believed he cared about her. She’d always thought it was more than just sex.
‘It will be better.’ Suddenly his fingers were unzipping— her skirt. ‘It will be the cement that holds our marriage together. Neither of us wants this marriage to fail—there is too much at stake.’
Lily’s heart skipped a beat as her skirt slipped to the floor. Part of her wanted to flee to the en suite and cover up with a warm, fluffy robe. But most of her was shamelessly— enjoying the feel of Vito’s eyes as he ran his gaze over the French lace-knickers she was wearing.
‘Are you wearing the matching bra?’ He stood up and started unbuttoning the front of her jacket.
It was almost impossible for Lily to stand still. Liquid desire was running through her veins, making her feel more alive than she could remember. It was as if she had merely been existing, waiting to be back in Vito’s arms.
Since he had stormed back into her life, demanding that she marry him, she’d known that this moment was inevitable. He was a red-blooded male, with a powerful libido. Celibacy was not in his nature. If this marriage was to succeed, then sex would play an important part.
But his hands were moving so slowly. It was taking him too long to remove her clothes. She yearned to feel his hands on her body, to feel his naked skin next to hers. She ached for him to make love to her, because that was surely what was to follow. And then she could let herself pretend that things were back to normal—that he had never thrown her out, and the last six weeks had never happened.
At last her jacket fell away to reveal a plain stretchlace— camisole. He took hold of the hem and pulled it over her head. Then he stepped back and let his gaze slide all over her.
Lily stood in her lacy bra and French knickers, still wearing her hold-up stockings and high-heeled shoes. Hot anticipation pooled deep inside her. Her breasts felt heavy, and her nipples were diamond-hard points straining— against the flimsy covering of lace.
He’d hardly touched her, yet a sensual tingle moved through her body, settling in her most intimate place, making her need for him almost unbearable. She could feel her exposed skin flushing, betraying her sexual readiness to him.
His blue eyes grew darker as he looked at her, and she knew exactly how the sight of her was affecting him. She could hear the change in his breathing, recognise the expression on his face that meant he wanted to make love to her. But he made no move towards her.
Suddenly a shuttered look descended over his features and he turned to pick up the peach dress from the bed.
‘You’ve lost weight,’ he said. ‘But this style should be forgiving.’