Heat flared through her at that potent memory and she whirled away from the window, pacing the room to the bathroom and back. At this rate she’d wear out the thick pile carpet.

A knock sounded on the door and she stilled, every muscle tense, every sense on high-octane alert. ‘Yes?’

‘Your clothes have arrived.’

She couldn’t tell anything from Cristiano’s tone. Warily Laurel opened the door. He stood there, one hand outstretched with several luxury shopping bags dangling from his long, lean fingers.

‘Thank you,’ Laurel said stiffly, taking the bags. ‘You didn’t have to get so much.’

‘Who knows how long you will be here, bella?’ Cristiano answered lazily.

‘Not very long, if I can help it,’ Laurel retorted. ‘I’m going to get dressed and then we need to talk.’

‘Excellent. I’ve ordered some food, so we can talk as we eat.’

It all suddenly seemed so civilised, Laurel thought with a savage twist of humour as she closed the door. Almost as if Cristiano wasn’t keeping her captive, intending for her to be his mistress. To keep her here for sex. It seemed ridiculous, laughable, yet she felt the seriousness of the situation all the way through her body, right down to her toes.

She emptied the bags on the bed, blinking at the sight of the elegant clothes, which included several outfits, including undergarments. How on earth had he managed to know her bra size? she wondered as she picked up a push-up bra in nude lace and coffee-coloured satin. Although, on second thoughts, Cristiano no doubt could gauge a woman’s bra size from across a crowded room.

She chose the most conservative outfit, a swishy knee-length skirt in pale blue and a matching silk T-shirt top. Now that she was finally dressed in something that was neither revealing nor inappropriate, she felt a little more restored to herself. Almost as if the last seventy hours had never happened. Almost, but not quite.

In addition to the clothes, Cristiano had thoughtfully provided a bag of luxury toiletries, and Laurel took advantage of them, putting on a little discreet make-up, brushing her hair and twisting it up into a knot.

Taking a deep breath, she headed out of the bedroom. She found Cristiano in the dining area on the far side of the living room setting out food on a table that looked as if it had been carved from a single piece of ebony.

Laurel inhaled the tantalising scents of basil and lemon, and realised she hadn’t eaten anything since lunch. All evening Bavasso had plied her with cocktails she’d tried not to drink and no food.

Her stomach growled audibly and Cristiano looked up, humour glinting in those silvery eyes. Laurel managed a little laugh. ‘I’m hungry.’

‘So I hear.’ He gestured to one of the chairs, made of gleaming black wood. ‘Come sit down.’

Laurel hesitated, discomfited by this apparently new normal. Then she decided she would take what civility Cristiano offered, and she slid a chair out and sat down as he lifted the silver domes off several dishes.

‘What would you like?’ Cristiano asked as he lifted a plate. Laurel glanced at all the different dishes of Italian specialities, from fiore di zucca, a Roman dish of courgette fritters, to pasta carbonara and several delicious-looking salads.

‘It all looks good to me.’

‘Then I shall give you a bit of everything.’

Laurel watched as he ladled the different dishes onto her plate, feeling as if she’d fallen down yet another rabbit hole. Why had Cristiano changed his tune so drastically? Why was he being so nice?

‘Thank you,’ she murmured as she took her plate from him. Cristiano filled up his own and sat down on the opposite end of the table.

‘Dig in,’ he said in the same mild tone he’d been using since she’d emerged from the bedroom. ‘I’m glad the clothes fit,’ he said with a nod to her skirt and top. ‘That colour of blue was a good choice. It brings out your eyes.’

‘Um, thank you?’

He arched a dark eyebrow. ‘Can you not accept a compliment?’

‘It just sounded…’ Laurel hesitated, wondering if she was being hypersensitive. ‘Proprietary.’

‘Proprietary?’ His smile and eyes both gleamed. ‘About you or the clothes?’

Source: www.StudyNovels.com