The Italian's Deal for I Do(6)

By: Jennifer Hayward

Close enough to observe the self-conscious look she threw back at his stare.

And wasn’t that amazing? Surely a woman of such world-renowned beauty knew the reaction she elicited in men? Surely she’d been well aware of it when she’d ensnared Giovanni and had him purchase a three-million-euro luxury apartment for her in the hopes of continuing within the style to which she’d become accustomed?

Surely she knew the combined effect of it all was somewhat like a sucker punch to the solar plexus of just about every man on this planet, which he, to his chagrin, was also not immune to.

His mouth twisted into that familiar scowl of late. Olivia Fitzgerald—the Helen of Troy of her time.

Her girlfriends, two beautiful dark-haired Italian girls, giggled and glanced his way. He pulled his gaze back to the menu, sighed and ordered a glass of wine from the cameriera. The private investigator who’d helped Adamo uncover who was living in the apartment in Corso Venezia had been a gold mine of information on Olivia Campbell, as she’d been calling herself. She didn’t socialize much, spent most of her days holed up in her luxury abode, but she did have a faithful yoga date with her girlfriends on Thursday nights, followed by drinks at this popular spot on the canals in Navigli.

It had been a stroke of luck that the café that sat on the water of the picturesque canals was owned by an old family friend of the Mondellis... No problem obtaining a prime location to study the flaxen-haired sycophant.

He had thought of waiting until she was at the apartment to confront her, but in his current black mood, he wanted the woman who’d taken his grandfather for a ride out on the street. Yesterday.

He sat back and crossed one long leg over the other. Watched as the three women engaged in animated conversation. She hadn’t, he observed grimly, been struck down with grief at the loss of her lover. Was she even now out hunting her next conquest before her life of luxury was unceremoniously cut off? Was that what the self-conscious looks were about?

A wave of hostility spread through him, firing his blood. He forced out a smile as the cameriera set his drink down in front of him, wrapped his fingers around the glass and took a long swallow. Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea, hunting Olivia Fitzgerald down when his emotions were so high. His meeting with Renzo Rialto had not gone well. The arrogant bastard was convinced Rocco was a loose cannon without a guiding force now that Giovanni was gone, and had suggested exactly what Adamo had anticipated. “Settle down, Rocco,” he’d encouraged. “Show me you are ready to take on the full responsibility of Mondelli and I will give it to you.”

He growled and slapped the glass back down on the table. It was going to take more than an overblown bag of wind to make him say, “I do.” Hadn’t the Columbia Four vowed “single forever?” Weren’t women the source of every great man’s downfall? Wasn’t it far more rewarding to have your fill of a female when you craved it, then leave her behind when you were done?

He thought so.

In a salute to the missing three, he lifted his glass and downed a healthy gulp of the dark, plum-infused wine. His gaze moved over Olivia Fitzgerald, registering the rosy glow of attraction in her perfect, lightly tanned skin as she stole another look at him.

A plan started to form in his head. He liked it. He liked it a lot. It was perfect for his reckless, messy mood.

* * *

He was watching her. Flirting with her.

Olivia tried to smother the butterflies negotiating wide, swooping paths through her stomach, but it was impossible to remain unaffected by the Italian’s stare. It was like being singed by a human torch. Hot. Focused. On her. And why? He was undoubtedly the most attractive man she’d ever seen in her life, and given she’d traveled the world working with beautiful men of all backgrounds, that was saying something. She, on the other hand, was dressed in jeans, a scrappy T-shirt with a zip-up sweatshirt over it, had no makeup on and had thrown her sweat-dampened hair into a ponytail after her yoga class—virtually unrecognizable as the top model she’d once been.

She averted her gaze from his rather petulant pout, sure women threw themselves at his feet at the slightest hint of it. For the whole package, really. But the impression he made lingered. He seemed familiar, somehow, the broad sweep of his high cheekbones framing lush, beautifully shaped lips, a square jaw and an intense dark gaze.