A night of unsurpassable passion...
Penniless and widowed, Sienna has caught the eye of the one man who can save her--Italian tycoon Garett Lazlo, who can't resist her beauty. But cold-hearted Garett doesn't do anything for nothing, no matter how desirable the prospect. He offers Sienna a ruthless deal: he will help her, but she must play by his rules--by giving herself to him totally for one night of unsurpassable passion....
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January 31, 2008
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Excerpt from One Night in His Bed by Christina Hollis
'Superstitious old Enrica saw a black cat this morning.
She told me it means there are pirates in town. You had better put on something sexier than that black shroud and try to catch yourself a rich one, Sienna!' Imelda Basso jeered out of an upstairs window. Down in the courtyard, her stepdaughter Sienna gritted her teeth and smiled. She said nothing. Sometimes, silence was her only weapon against Imelda.
Sienna loaded a last box into the local Co-operative's van and escaped to market. Working on the stall got her out of the house, but freedom was a mixed blessing. It made her feel like a hen released from a broody coop. The noise and dazzling colour of Portofino always came as a shock to her. It was such a contrast with her daily life that all Sienna wanted to do when she got there was to retreat back into herself, to concentrate on her knitting and take up as little space as possible. But that was no good. Nobody would buy from a mouse. The Piccia Co-operative needed sales. Its members relied on this stall. They intended to increase their contribution to local charities this year, too. That meant everyone had to do their bit--Sienna included. She had to push herself.
She was developing a coping strategy. She kept her head down, and made sure she always looked busy. It was the perfect way to avoid having to talk to anybody until the exact moment they were ready to buy.
Sienna recognised a lot of familiar faces around the market, although she had never been brave enough to strike up a conversation with any of them. Yet today was different. Someone new caught her eye--and held it. A tall stranger was moving through the chaos of deliveries and conversations on the other side of the square. Sienna had to look away, fast. He was so different from the market men that her stomach contracted. A single glance was enough to tell her that this was someone special. He was really well dressed, and the quiet confidence of his movements set him apart from the brash, swaggering pitchers around him. Sienna risked a couple of direct looks at the stranger, as well as more covert glances from beneath her lashes. She reassured herself that no one would suspect a shy widow of anything more than curiosity.
The new arrival was certainly worth examining. His determined attitude, coupled with that neat dark hair and the clean, strong lines of his jaw, marked him out as someone very special indeed. He moved from stall to stall with all the style of a Roman emperor on a tour of inspection. Sienna wondered what it was like to be so self-assured. This man obviously expected to go anywhere and do anything. She watched as he sampled olives, tasted walnuts, or accepted a spoonful of goats' cheese spread on a biscuit. He did not stop anywhere long enough to buy, but moved on in a restless search for the next novelty. Sienna would never have dared to try something at a stall and then leave without purchasing. She wondered how he could have the nerve. His easy manner showed it was not a problem for him.
Hypnotised by watching him idle along from place to place, she suddenly realised it was almost time for her stall to come under his scrutiny. Her mind dissolved in horror. What would she say? Here was a gorgeous man--with plenty of money to spend, judging by his appearance. He would be an ideal customer. If only she could succeed in getting him to buy where everyone else in the market had failed...
With difficulty, she kept her gaze away from the approaching stranger. If she didn't look at him directly, he might pass on by. She screwed her hands into balls of nerves. Why did this have to happen when she was working alone? Anna Maria or any one of the other co-op members would have leapt forward and made a sale. All Sienna could do was blush and shrink and turn aside, hoping that the handsome newcomer would pass straight by.
She counted the change in the pouch at her waist. Then she switched her attention back to her table, making sure the goods were still neatly displayed, touching everything as though for luck. She repeated her little rituals until she was sure he must have passed by. Even so, it was quite a while before she felt brave enough to glance around the market again.
There was no sign of the stranger. With a huge sigh of relief Sienna relaxed. It was all too much for her. She hadn't wanted to be seen blushing, as she knew she would have done if she'd spoken to the handsome stranger. In Piccia, where she lived, good reputations took a lifetime to forge. And people expected to see a certain standard of behaviour from a widow. One word or action out of place could destroy her reputation in an instant. Sienna thought of the local woman whose husband had divorced her in order to marry his mistress. The wife had been the innocent party, but looks and whispers had followed her everywhere.