‘Oh, my God, I’m so sorry. Really.’
‘Don’t apologise. I was scooped up by Giancarlo the day it happened and he looked after me ever since. I’ve been blessed beyond words to be part of this family, so you understand now why I don’t want the Di Visconti name to be tainted by this—
‘Charade,’ he said, watching her closely. ‘I want it stage-managed down to the last dusting of powder on Kyla’s cheeks.’
‘So you’re not really bothered about the art? This is all about making sure no one will kiss and tell or show your family in a bad light.’
‘I know that no one will kiss and tell because I would slap an injunction on them and on any publication stupid enough to print it. Have no doubt about that, signorina.’
‘I hope you’re not implying that I would do something like that? I’m here because I want a proper career as a photographer. I’m not in it for the fame.’
He stared at her, and for the first time some emotion flickered in his eyes. It was so intense she couldn’t hold his gaze. She looked down at her lap, at her crushed and crumpled dress, the scuffed peep-toe sandals, her shabby bag.
‘I’m only saying that I’ve got my principles too,’ she said quietly.
After a long moment he stood up, his hands on his hips.
He watched her, then nodded. ‘I think we understand each other. I suggest we get some lunch and then I’ll show you around. You can tell me a bit more about yourself and your ideas about fairytales. Let’s call it part two of the “interrogation”.’
She let out the long, slow breath she’d been holding in. Maybe things would turn out heavenly for her after all.
‘Sounds good,’ she said, swallowing the smile that was spreading from her chest. ‘Though maybe we could leave out the interrogation part? I respond better to the carrot than the stick.’
‘We’ll see,’ he said, and it was as if some kind of mask had suddenly slipped from his face.
He walked to the doors that opened onto the terrace and turned, fixing her with the most devastating smile.
‘If that’s what gets results, why not?’
She beamed back at him—a completely involuntary reaction, but the only one imaginable in the full glow of that smile.
He was so handsome it almost hurt to look at him. She could totally see why the team were falling over themselves to impress him. A date with ‘Raffa’ would be like dining on ambrosia. Everything else would taste like dust afterwards. Thank goodness theirs was definitely going to be a strictly professional relationship.
They walked across the terrace and took a short flight of steps side by side down to a beautiful dining area. Under an arbour planted with climbers, popping with bursts of pink and white, stood a long table draped in white linen, heaving under the weight of baskets and bowls of the most delicious-looking food.
‘This is amazing. What an incredible view.’
‘You know you’re not totally in the clear yet? I’m still waiting to hear something better than your seventies goddess idea.’
He pulled out a chair for her, waiting as she walked over.
‘The Greek Charlie’s Angels trope isn’t working for you?’
She glanced up at him as she sat down. His eyes crinkled as he smiled at her little joke and it quickened her heart.
‘You don’t really want me to get the thumbscrews out, do you?’
‘I don’t think I’d suit them, thanks all the same,’ she said, shifting slightly in her seat before she dared look up at him. ‘I can think of many more attractive accessories.’
‘Are you flirting with me, Miss Dahl?’
He was sitting down now, utterly relaxed, one arm on the back of his chair, head cocked, watching her. His eyes drew her gaze like twin blue magnets. His mouth was ever so slightly curved in a smile.
‘What?’ she said, flushing. ‘I’m sorry if I came across like that. I can assure you that I don’t even know how to flirt.’
She reached for her glass, which had just been filled by a server. Her fingers closed around the crystal, damp with condensation, and she stared at the pale golden liquid that sloshed inside, glad to have something to focus on other than the impenetrable, delectable Raffaele.
‘I find that hard to believe.’
She flicked her eyes to his in a determined stare and breathed deeply. ‘You can believe what you like. It’s not my way, and I wouldn’t have thought you’d be open to such an obvious approach.’
‘I wouldn’t have thought so either,’ he said, lifting his glass and toasting her. ‘But today seems to be full of surprises. I didn’t intend that you would make it off the Tarmac, and here we are having lunch.’