‘When did that prospect ever inhibit me?’ Alessio flashed her a look of sudden vibrant amusement. ‘You ought to know by now that I relish a challenge.’
Without the smallest warning, Daisy’s heart turned a somersault and her mouth went dry.
A wolfish smile curved Alessio’s mobile mouth. ‘But you can relax. You’re safe for the moment. The staff are waiting to serve lunch.’
‘Lunch?’ Daisy echoed foolishly.
With difficulty, she tore her gaze from the intense lure of those entrapping golden eyes. All over again she was devastated by her inability to control or suppress her powerful sexual response to him.
‘Our unwelcome guests will be busy in the grounds. We’ll be alone,’ Alessio pointed out soothingly.
‘Unwelcome?’ Daisy queried tautly, uncertainly.
‘Dio...surely you don’t imagine that I wanted this three-act circus descending on us?’ Alessio’s mouth twisted with expressive incredulity. ‘But they’ll be gone soon enough.’
‘Why did Bianca need your permission to use the grounds?’ Daisy prompted on the way downstairs, her outrage at the situation ebbing a little as she appreciated that Alessio was no more pleased by the invasion than she was.
‘I own the villa now. When Vittorio decided to sell, I bought.’
‘So what has your sister got to do with a fashion shoot?’
‘Three months ago she became the owner of a photographic studio. She’s trying very hard to make a mark on the fashion world. Nina’s a top model,’ Alessio explained. ‘Bianca needs her star quality to sell this layout and as Nina is a friend of the family she agreed to help.’
Daisy reconsidered the view she had had of Nina and Alessio together, belatedly conceding that she had seen nothing that might not be described as an affectionate greeting. ‘Nina...is a family friend?’
‘Our parents move in the same social circles.’
‘I saw you with her,’ Daisy heard herself admit with shocking abruptness. ‘She was all over you like chickenpox!’
Alessio shifted a broad shoulder beneath Daisy’s piercing sideways scrutiny. ‘Nina is very demonstrative. Showbiz-type personalities usually are. And, to be frank, cara, she’s behaving generously. I was seeing her up until very recently.’ He delivered the reminder with a hint of reproof.
Horrified to be riven with a white-hot streak of jealousy, Daisy found herself surveying her meal with little appetite. Just knowing that the beautiful, generous Nina was around made her feel deeply insecure. Only this morning she had been telling herself that she could handle a marriage of convenience, but already she was drowning in an emotional morass of pain and confusion. Why was it that no other man had ever had the power to tear at her heart with one teasing smile and stop it beating altogether by the simple act of donning a pair of jeans?
Having dismissed the staff, Alessio replenished her wine with his own hand. Daisy watched those long, lean, denim-clad legs advancing and momentarily shut her eyes in despair, because every treacherous pulse in her body was pounding insanely fast.
‘You’re not eating,’ Alessio commented tautly.
‘Maybe what I want isn’t on the plate,’ Daisy said wildly, loathing herself for her own bodily weakness. She was turning into a sex-starved animal but she would leave him, stark naked if necessary, before she allowed him to find that out!
‘Just tell me what you want and I’ll order it for you.’
Daisy gave an agonised little quiver, her imagination leaving her suspended between heaven and hell. ‘I’m not hungry—’
‘You haven’t eaten since last night!’ Alessio grated. ‘Do you have a problem with food?’
‘What is this thing you have about my eating habits?’
Alessio shot her a look of exasperation ‘I knew a girl with anorexia nervosa at university. Sophia... Sophia Corsini, now, she—’
That particular name did grab Daisy’s full attention. ‘Your girlfriend was anorexic?’ she cut in sharply.
‘Sophia was in most of my classes but I never dated her,’ Alessio countered with a faint frown of distaste and surprise at the suggestion. ‘She was one very mixedup kid. She dropped out in the middle of our second year.’