‘I do not doubt it! But then I suspect that most of your bosses have been men, have they not?’

‘What exactly are you implying?’

‘You do not need me to spell it out for you, do you Katherine?’ Shifting in the luxurious leather chair so that it creaked with the movement, Luca leant forward and pierced her with the unsettling vivid glare of his sky-blue eyes. ‘Of course no healthy heterosexual male with hot red blood in his veins would voice a complaint about how you look! Privately they might find it somewhat of a challenge to have a girl with such—shall we say—distracting assets around. But I’m sure you realise I mean that in a complimentary way, and not as an insult.’

She didn’t want his compliments… Not when they were edged with such obvious underlying resentment towards her. Kate swallowed hard.

‘So. When are we leaving?’ Pushing to her feet, she was surprised when Luca followed suit. Again she felt at a disadvantage next to his imposing height, as well as from being the recipient of an arrogant glance that was surely meant to make her feel even smaller!

‘My car will be out front in ten minutes’ time,’ he told her, his flawless diamond gaze travelling almost insolently up and down her body.

She was wearing the smartest dress and jacket she possessed. Of course he would immediately see they were not of the same quality of his own expensive attire, Kate realised, but his glance was disturbing for another reason. Smart clothes were little protection from the inescapable idea that Luca’s knowledge of her body was already the most intimate possible, and her sense of vulnerability in his company increased uncomfortably.

Feeling heat prickle at the back of her neck and in the sensitive tips of her breasts, she self-consciously drew the edges of her jacket together, as if the neckline of her dress was too revealing. It wasn’t.

‘I’d better go and get ready, then.’

Just as she reached the door, Luca addressed her again. ‘Leave your hair. I have changed my mind about it. Do not trouble yourself tying it back. I will collect the necessary architectural plans and see you outside by the car.’

And with that he picked up the telephone receiver and snapped out an impatient order to the poor, unsuspecting receptionist at the desk on the ground floor…

Luca paused for a moment in mid-discussion of plans for a new, spectacularly modern hotel his friend Hassan was having built in his home city of Dubai. Although Luca was responsible for the initial design, there were two senior colleagues who had been with him in the original discussions who would be overseeing the build in the city itself. Right now they were both out of the country until the weekend, so naturally Hassan wanted to deal with the chief architect and his friend—Luca himself.

Luca had momentarily paused in what he was saying because the older man was none too discreetly staring at the woman who sat at the far end of the triangle of sumptuous armchairs in the floral-scented meeting room, taking notes. Observing the other man’s undoubted interest, Luca was unprepared for the scalding burn of jealousy that made the muscularly lean wall of his taut stomach harden like steel. Not that he could blame what he knew to be his friend’s notorious roving eye for alighting with such blatant speculation on Katherine. For just over three interminable months Luca had alternately been taunted and frustrated by the memory of her exquisite beauty, and had privately acknowledged that there had been something about her other than just an unforgettable face that made all men long to know her and possess her. But he had not allowed himself to speculate too deeply on the subject. All he knew right now was that no other woman could beguile so emphatically simply by wearing a shop-bought dress and jacket, the minimum of make-up and with no evidence of jewellery of any kind adorning her.

The admission did not help improve his mood. Frustration had been building in him ever since Katherine had walked into his office, and although his desire seemed to be acting independently of his will he was wary of being made a fool of by her a second time. He cleared his throat and Hassan glanced back at him, completely at ease and not at all abashed at being caught out ogling Luca’s PA.

‘You were saying, Luca?’ He smiled.

Briefly catching Katherine’s eye in silent rebuke, as if it were all her fault that the other man was so frankly appraising her, Luca seamlessly resumed from where he had left off. But he had to seriously tamp down an almost irresistible urge to wish the meeting at an end so he could whisk her back to the office, where he could at least be alone with her again.

Knowing he was feeling both predatory and possessive, he should have despised himself for a weakness that could only bring him more of the bitter pain he had been living with for too long—but his ego urged Luca not to let Katherine run out on him a second time before exacting some kind of payment in kind from her for her unexpected desertion that morning….

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