Authors: Sharon Kendrick
It fell to her ankles immediately, and she stepped over it.
Suddenly they were turning and touching like a pair of demented dancers, clothes falling free as they frantically kissed their way out of the sitting room.
He scooped her up into his arms.
“Giovanniâ” she gasped.
His blue-black eyes glittered. “What?”
“Where are you taking me?” As she spoke the words, she knew that it was a foolish and redundant sentence, and his abstract and almost cynical smile told her that he felt exactly the same way.
“To bed.” He ground out the words as he kicked the door open.
When I was told off as a child for making up stories, little did I know that one day I'd earn my living by writing them!
To the horror of my parents I left school at sixteen and did a bewildering variety of jobs. I was a London DJ (in the now-trendy Primrose Hill!), a decorator and a singer. After that I became a cook, a photographer and eventually a nurse. I waitressed in the south of France, drove an ambulance in Australia, saw lots of beautiful sights but could never settle down. Everywhere I went I felt like a square pegâuntil one day I started writing again, and then everything just fell into place. I felt the way Cinderella must have done when the glass slipper fitted!
Today I have the best job in the worldâwriting passionate romances for Harlequin Books. I like writing stories that are sexy and fast paced, yet packed full of emotionâstories that readers will identify with, that will make them laugh and cry.
My interests are many and variedâchocolate and music, fresh flowers and bubble baths, films and cooking, and trying to keep my home from looking as if someone's burgled it! Simple pleasuresâyou can't beat them!
I live in Winchester, England (one of the most stunning cities in the world; but don't take my word for itâcome see for yourself!), and regularly visit London and Paris. Oh, and I love hearing from my readers all over the worldâ¦so I think it's over to you!
With warmest wishes,
With special thanks to Mary D'Angelo
of the Italian Cultural Institute
and Sarah Locke (of Winchester!) and Victoria
and Alexandra and, of course, dear old Goethe.
probably the sexiest car Kate had ever seen. Black and sleek and gleaming, it positively
testosterone! And it looked all wrong on the forecourt of such an imposing mansion.
Kate smiled. In her experience, only dull little men drove around in cars like thatâas if compensating for their own inadequacies with an excess of horsepower!
She squinted at it curiously. Lady St John, her client, was a very wealthy woman, yesâbut in a restrained rather than an over-the-top way. Since when had she taken to entertaining people who owned such outrageously powerful cars?
Unless she had taken to driving one herself, thought Kate, her mouth quirking in amusement. It wouldn't surprise her.
She studied the car again. Maybe not. Lady St John had an abundance of energyâbut you would need to be pretty agile to gain access to
long, low and mean machine!
She took one last glance in the driving mirror before she presented herself and looped back a stray strand of fiery hair. Considering that she had been up since six that morning she didn't look
bad! And appearances, as she knew, were everything. Particularly in her business.
Kate Connors; interior designer to the rich andâsometimesâfamous. And, as jobs went, it wasâ¦ Well, as she often reminded herself, it was pretty cool. It paid well, it had
variety, and what was moreâit enabled her to meet all kinds of interesting people.
Like Lady St Johnâan intrepid aristocrat who had travelled to all corners of the globe and then produced excitingâif somewhat under-readâbooks all about her journeys.
The St John house was as rugged as the magnificent sweep of coastline which lay to the front of it, and as Kate jangled the old-fashioned doorbell, she could hear the thunder of the sea as it crashed and foamed against the craggy grey rocks.
Such an elemental place, she thought, wishing that her job was not almost at an end, as the door was opened by the housekeeper.
âHello, Mrs Herley,' smiled Kate. âLady St John is expecting me, I believe?'
The woman gave a brief smile as she pulled the door open to usher Kate inside. âI think that your appointment may have slipped her mind,' she confided. âLady St John is a littleâ¦erâ¦distracted today.'
Kate knew better than to ask why. It hadn't taken her long in the job to discover that domestic employees never gave away information about their employerâand particularly not one as naturally autocratic as the rather formidable Elisabeth St John, who was nearly eighty, and yet Kate had never met a woman of such advanced years who could exude such beauty and such grace. Who could still wear clothes with the style of the fashion model she had once briefly been. If
look like that at her age, she had thought at their very first meeting, then I would be a very happy bunny indeed!
Mrs Herley shut the door again. âIf you would like to wait in the Blue Drawing Room, Miss Connors, then I will tell Lady St John that you are here.'
âThanks,' murmured Kate rather wryly.
Her early appeal to Mrs Herley that she âcall me Kate' had fallen on polite but deaf earsâand she had remained Miss Connors ever since! Some people's worlds were built on different structures from her own. But such formality suited this
beautiful old house, she decided dreamily, making her way to the enormous room which she was almost through with decorating.
Kate let out a sigh as she looked around. She would be sad to let it goâbut then, that happened with nearly all her jobs. They were her babies, in a way, and the final parting always proved more of a wrench than she expected, even after nearly nine years in the business.
The floor-to-ceiling windows were filled with the image of sea and skyâa breathtaking view and one with which the room had needed to compete so that it didn't fade into complete insignificance.
Kate had chosen the colours carefully, and now the walls were bright with an unusual shade of blue. A deep and stunning and startling blue, and one which made the most of the Gothic mouldings which adorned the cornices.
And if she said so herselfâit did look pretty good!
She turned around to find Lady St John walking into the room, in a cashmere cardigan and matching ankle-skimming skirt.
âHello, Lady St John! Almost my last visit to you, sadly! And Iâ¦Iâ¦' Kate's words faltered and then died completely, stuck in her throat like an insult one had thought better of saying.
For Lady St John was not alone, and insult was the very last word you would associate with the man who had quietly entered the room behind her. For who could possibly criticise pure perfection on two such long, muscular legs? This must be the owner of the car, she realised, and her heart began to race. Had she thought that only dull little men drove cars like that? Because she had been totally and foolishly wrong.
Lady St John performed a seamless introduction, waving her hand in the direction of the man who stood like a dark, silent statue behind her. âKateâthis is my godson.'
?' echoed Kate, in breathless bemusement.
Lady St John smiled. âMmm! I met his mother on my youthful travels to Europe and she became one of my closest friends. I'd like you to meet Giovanni Calverri.' She turned to the man at her side. âGiovanni, this is Kate Connors, who has just been turning her rather spectacular talents to this room.'
As he glanced around the room, Kate couldn't take her eyes off him. His name implied Latin blood, as did the jet-dark hair, though the eyes wereârather disconcertinglyâa bright, dazzling blue. But the term Latin implied warmth and passion, and wasn't there something awfully
and aloof about this tall, striking man who was eyeing her with a face that was closed and shuttered?
She matched his look with one of her own. Men in suits that looked as if they had only just left the designer's showroom the previous day were simply not her type.
âHello,' she said coolly.
Giovanni froze. He had never seen a woman quite so tall or so slim, nor with hair of such a bright, beaten fireâand her very unexpectedness beat a deep, inevitable path into his consciousness. He felt the muscles of his thighs clench, as if his body was instinctively telling him that he wanted toâ¦wanted toâ¦ His mouth hardened as he acknowledged the rampant flurry of his thoughts.
He forced himself to make his introduction as bland as possible, although the moist gleam of her mouth filled him with an overwhelming urge to crush its soft pinkness beneath his.
âGiovanni?' prompted his godmother, looking at the forbidding set of his shoulders in mild perplexity.
He pulled himself together. âI am delighted to meet you,' he said, in the most beautiful accent Kate had ever heardârich and dark and overlaid with the slightest and sexiest transatlantic drawl.
Say that again like you meant it, thought Kate indignantly. But she didn't stop staring, because, even though he was not
her type, he was still remarkable, and men who looked like this one were few and far between. Even in the rarefied circles in which she mixed.
Olive skin, an aquiline nose and a hard, sensual mouth. Combine those attributes with a body which was tall and lithe and didn't possess even the tiniest bit of excess flesh, and you had a man who was most women's fantasy come true in living, breathing form.
âDelighted to meet you, too,' she murmured, tempted to echo his own lack of enthusiasm, but good manners brought her up short and she gave him a polite smile. âYou're Italian, are you?'
âItalian?' His mouth twisted with a derision which made it look very sexy indeed, and Kate felt her heart race again. What on earth had she said to make him glare at her so?
!' he uttered softly, a warning glitter lighting up the depths of his blue eyes, as if she had inflicted some silent blow on him. âI am a Sicilian, not an Italian!'
He made the claim as if he owned the world itself! âYou mean there's a difference?' she questioned lightly and batted her eyelashes playfully at him.
âOh, dear,' murmured Lady St John.
Giovanni felt his muscles tense once more as he met the flirtatious challenge which had suddenly made her eyes look very green indeed. Eyes which were almost on a level with his own. It was a new and unsettling sensation not to be looking down on a womanâfrom a purely physical point of view. Disturbingly, he found himself wondering how their bodies would feel if they were touching head to toe, horizontal.
He swallowed the thought down and sublimated his desire, preferring instead to dwell on her ignorance.
âYou mean you don't know the difference between Sicily and Italy?' he demanded.
âI wouldn't have to ask if I
, would I?' she returned, though his rudeness was doing nothing to dampen down the heat in her blood.
Giovanni bit back his irritation, for why should this pale and unknown Englishwoman know anything about the deep, secret place which was his home? The place in love with its own silence, which shaped the impenetrable character of all Sicilians.
âThe difference is almost incalculable,' he told her coldly. âAnd would take far more time to explain than I have at my disposal.'
âI see,' said Kate faintly, thinking how well he spoke Englishâwhilst at the same time acknowledging that she could not ever remember anyone being
so rude to her!
âGiovanni!' said Lady St John, with a mild air of reproval. âMuch more of that severity and you'll have Kate leaving!'
He turned then, and a sudden brief flash of warmth transformed the chilly face as he looked down at his godmother. âForgive me,' he murmured, âbut it has been a very long week. You must make allowances for me if I am not up to giving a history of Sicily this close to lunch!'
Kate was furious. Was he going out of his way to make her feel as though she was something he had found squashed beneath the sole of his delicious, handmade shoe?
âOh, don't worry about
, Lady St John,' she declared airily. âIt would take a lot more than
to make me cut and run!'
Giovanni observed the fire which was spitting from eyes as perfectly shaped as bay leaves. For a brief moment he wondered what it would be like to see those same eyes sleepy and satiated in the aftermath of passion, and then hardened his heart against their emerald appeal, astonished to find his body stubbornly attempting to disobey his will.
And yet he had had a lifetime's practice of seeing beautiful, intelligent women looking at him with open invitation in their eyes. It happened with such monotonous regularity that he was nothing more than bored by it. Usually.
He told himself that she was a predatorâthat she must
put out for every man she wanted, in just this wayâand thankfully the fire began to leave his loins.
Confused, Kate turned away from that beautiful, condemning face and tried to pretend that he wasn't there. âI have the curtains in the van, Lady St John,' she said, gleaming a small smile of pleasure at her client. âAnd I'd like to begin hanging them, if I may.'
âI can't wait to see them!' enthused Lady St John. âShall we ask Giovanni to help you carry them in? They must be very heavy indeed.'
Ask for help from the cold-faced man who had been so rude to her? Like hell! Kate shook her head, and the red hair shimmered like a windblown wheat-field all the way down her back. âThat won't be necessary!' She gave him a defiant smile. âI'm used to managing on my own!'
âHow admirably independent!' His blue eyes mocked her as did the smile which hovered around his lips. âBut I am afraid that consideration for the weaker sex is inborn in all Sicilian men. I insist on helping you.'
Had he deliberately said that just to inflame her? The weaker sex indeed! And how could he insist against her wishes? Kate opened her mouth to snap back some suitable retort, until she realised that it wouldn't make very good business sense to be rude to her client's godson. Even if he did need a few lessons in manners! And the curtains really
of you,' she emphasised deliberately.
Giovanni silently registered the affront, with another stab of heat to his belly. Sweet was not a description which most red-blooded men strove for. Was she hoping to goad him into some kind of reaction, perhaps? His smile grew even colder. Women were notoriously predictable and he was in grave danger of giving her back just the response she wanted. âWhy, you are much too kind!' he murmured back.
Kate felt more than a little out of her depth as she led
the way out of the house towards her van. Not a feeling she was used toâand certainly not one with which she was comfortable.
She was sunny and enthusiasticâqualities which were normally contagious. When you worked closely alongside people in their own homes, you had to get along with them. And normally she didn't have a problem getting along with anyone.
So what was the problem here? Or was Giovanni the problem?
It's not his home, she reminded herself as she pointed to her van. It belongs to his godmother. He's obviously just into all that macho stuffâmaybe he thinks it turns women on. Well, she should let him know loud and clear that it didn't! âAll the stuff's in there!' she said, pointing rather frustratedly at the van.
âYes,' he said, narrowing his eyes to look at her as she unlocked the back of a van only a little more flamboyant than she was, and began to climb inside.
She wore a pair of slim-fitting trousers in a soft green as vibrant as the newest buds of springâstretched closely over a bottom which was high and taut. She half turned, and Giovanni swallowed as his eyes flickered over a tangerine Lycra T-shirt which clung to the lush swell of her breasts.