The Italian's Deal for I Do(7)

By: Jennifer Hayward


She frowned. Was he a model she’d worked with? Had he recognized her? But even as she thought it, she knew she would have remembered him. How would you ever forget that specimen of manliness? Impossible. His utter virility and overt confidence were of the jaw-dropping variety.

Violetta yawned, threw her hair over her shoulder and drained her wineglass. “I need to go home and study. And since he,” she lamented, giving the gorgeous stranger a long look, “is eating you up, I might as well go home and pout.”

“That’s because Olivia is stunning.” Sophia sighed. “She is blonde and exotic.”

“I wish I had your olive skin,” Olivia pointed out.

“We trade,” Sophia said teasingly, reaching for her bags. “I bet the minute we leave, he’s over here, Liv. And about time, too. You haven’t even looked at a man since we met.”

Because she’d been treasuring her stress-free escape from reality... Because she was only just now feeling like herself again...forging a new identity. Because getting close to a man had meant he might recognize her, and she didn’t want to be Olivia Fitzgerald right now.

Also, because none of them had made her pulse flutter like it was at this moment.

Violetta got to her feet and threw some euros on the table. Sophia followed suit.

“You can’t leave me here,” Olivia protested.

“We live on the opposite side of town,” Violetta countered cheerfully. “And honestly, Liv, if we don’t go soon, he’s going to glare the table down.”

“He could be a criminal,” Olivia muttered. “I’ll only leave.”

“A criminal who wears a twenty-five-thousand-euro Rolex,” Violetta whispered in her ear. “I don’t think so. Enjoy yourself, Liv. Call with the juicy details.”

Olivia had no intention of offering up any details, because she wasn’t staying. The only reason she was out tonight was to take her mind off Giovanni and how much she missed him. She felt completely adrift without the one person who had been her anchor in this new life, where she was truly alone. Without the mentor who had spent the past year working on her fashion line with her, teaching her. And now that the girls had lifted her spirits a bit, it was time to go.

Violetta and Sophia ambled off in the direction of the metro. Olivia fumbled in her bag for money, the meager amount in there reminding her how desperate her situation was. Her job at the café paid for her spending money, but it would never be enough to afford her own place, let alone the stunning apartment Giovanni had lent her.

Biting her lip, she dug around her change purse for coins. She would figure it out. She always did.

A shadow fell over the table. She registered the rich gleam of the handsome stranger’s impeccably shone shoes on the pavement before she lifted her head to take him in.

“Ciao.”

He was even better looking up close, his deep brown eyes laced with a rich amber the candlelight picked up and caressed. Big. Six foot two or three, she’d venture with her model’s eye. Well built—with more hard-packed muscle than the average Italian she’d seen on the streets. Heavenly.

“May I sit down?” he asked in perfectly accented English, taking advantage of her apparent inability to speak.

“Actually,” she muttered, “I was just on my way home.”

“Surely you can stay for one more drink?” He flashed a bright, perfectly white smile that drew her attention back to his amazing lips. “I stopped to enjoy the lights and a drink and found myself staring at you instead. A far worthier pursuit, I would say.”

Her chest heated, the flush that started there traveling slowly up to her cheeks. It was a line, to be sure, but the best she’d ever been handed. And somehow in her vulnerable state, because he was just that attractive, it was difficult to say the words she knew she should.

She forced herself. “I really should go... It’s getting late.”

“You really should stay,” he murmured, his sultry brown eyes holding hers. “Nine o’clock is early in Italy. One drink, that’s all.”

Perhaps it was the way he stayed on his feet and gave her the space to say no. Or maybe it was the fact she just so very much wanted to say yes, but she found herself nodding slowly and gesturing toward the seat across from her.