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New Year at the Boss's Bidding(4)

By:Rachael Thomas

'Your surname is not Italian.' His accent had become more pronounced, but his tone was firm and controlled.

'No, my grandmother married an Englishman, which divided the family,  and my father was the only child of that love match. Then he married my  mother, an Englishwoman, and they moved to London.' She began to  explain, then realised he probably wasn't interested and that she'd  better concentrate on work, instead of divulging her family history.

He took a step towards her and instinctively she moved back, pressing  herself more firmly against the back of the chair, wishing he would  leave and give her space to think, room to breathe. The effect he was  having on her was unlike anything she'd ever known.

'In that case, I am looking forward to seeing your changes.' His  accented voice had a deep sensual undertone, which only intensified the  flutter of attraction she was finding hard to ignore.

'Thank you, I'm sure you will be more than pleased with them,' Tilly  rambled, still confused by the way her body reacted each time he spoke  or looked at her from those sexy black eyes. It certainly wasn't  professional but it made her feel alive.

He continued in fluid Italian and she blinked in shock. 'I'm sorry,'  she said, as the usual sadness washed over her. 'I don't remember much  of the language. Nonna died when I was only thirteen. My mother is  English and although we did use Italian in the home, it wasn't very  often.'

Sometimes she thought she must remember all those conversations with  Nonna, that deep inside her they were waiting to come out. She just  wasn't ready for that to happen yet, because that would mean going  through all the heartache and loneliness she'd experienced since her  father had died. She could see now that Jason had helped her even before  their childhood friendship had moved towards engagement. He'd filled  the large void in her life-until he'd found someone else.                       


Xavier shrugged in that sexy devil-may-care way he'd done as she'd  stood in the courtyard and her heart rate began to accelerate once more.  'It is sad, no? When you have Italian ancestors.'

'Maybe one day I'll take Italian classes, or even go to Italy,' she  said lightly, wanting to move on from this discussion. It made her think  of Jason, their broken engagement and the vows she'd made to herself  that day. That had been the beginning of her bucket list. Things to do  since she was no longer part of a couple. So far she'd only ticked off  one, to start up her business and to provide for herself. The remainder,  including finding her father's family, still called to her.

'Sì, you should do that.' He moved to the door and turned to look at  her, his tall body framed by the dark wood surround. 'You shouldn't deny  your past.'

'My past?' What did he know of her past? She'd always made sure her  private life never crossed into her business. She didn't want people  knowing about Jason jilting her hours before their wedding. It left her  feeling vulnerable and she'd had enough of other people's pity.

'Your Italian ancestry.' He frowned and she realised her immediate leap  to defensive mode had alerted him to something he hadn't even been  aware of.

'Yes, you're right,' she said, and pushed her body away from the chair  and walked towards him as he stood in the doorway. 'I will go to Italy  one day.' It was on her bucket list after all.

He nodded his approval at what she hoped was a light-hearted comment  and moved to leave the room. 'I have work to do before this evening and  I'm sure you have things you need to do but, please, feel free to make  yourself at home here.'

'Thank you, I will.' Shyness swept over her and she lowered her lashes.  The thought of making herself at home here, as if she were a guest,  made all sorts of improper images rush through her mind. She looked back  up at him and blushed. His handsome face was stern and etched with  control. It was hard to believe that only moments ago she'd thought he  might kiss her. Or had that just been her fanciful imagination?

'Mi scusi, Natalie.'

Before she had time to remind him nobody had ever called her Natalie,  except her grandmother, he was gone. She could hear him striding back  through the hall at a fast pace, obviously wanting to relinquish any  responsibility to her.

'Grazie, Xavier,' she whispered to the emptiness of the room, enjoying  the feeling of Italian on her tongue. Then she shook her head vigorously  against the longing to be kissed his look had ignited in her. Silly  girl, don't even go there. He hadn't been about to kiss you.

From what little she knew of him from the internet she guessed he would  be a playboy, a man who never dated a woman twice. He was not what she  wanted. She wanted to be loved and cherished and to find her  happy-ever-after. He was her client-nothing more.

But still her mind wandered back to the sexy Italian who'd just stalked  out of the room. She looked at her watch, hoping that soon her staff  and his guests would arrive. She wouldn't have any time for improper  thoughts then.

She forced her mind back to the job she was here for and the  preparations still to be made. The sooner she got them started the  sooner she could finish and leave for the bed and breakfast she'd  booked. Tomorrow she would go to Vanessa's family home, to a party that  would test her ability to have moved on from last year.

She couldn't allow herself to become distracted by Xavier Moretti. He  was not what she needed, no matter how charming and handsome he was.


TILLY DIDN'T DARE leave the dining room and wondered what had just  happened. She lingered, hoping that he would have gone to do his work if  she stayed for a while. She made more notes and plans for the dinner  party and tried not to remember the moment she'd thought he was going to  kiss her. It had terrified and excited her all at the same time.

Xavier Moretti was typical of men with wealth and power, using them to  get what he wanted. But he had the added advantage of more sex appeal  than was necessary. He must be used to just about every female he came  across falling at his feet. She knew he was toying with her, flirting  and using his charm just because he could, but she wouldn't succumb,  she'd had enough hurt recently. But somewhere deep inside she was  unnerved to realise she wanted to.

With this thought foremost in her mind, she knew she couldn't hide away  and made her way back in to the hall and towards the kitchen, smiling  as she passed the Christmas tree. Whatever Xavier Moretti's problem was  with it, she loved its bright cheerfulness. Moments before she entered  the kitchen the smell of fresh coffee alerted her to Xavier's presence.                       


He was stood against the range cooker, looking disturbingly sexy. Or was that just the aftermath of her daydreams?

'Problems?' His dark eyes seemed to mock her thoughts, as if he knew  she'd spent the last half an hour longing to know how it would feel to  be kissed by him.

'No,' she replied, deciding that if she got straight to work he would probably leave. 'Sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you.'

'You are not disturbing me, cara. I was just making coffee.' His  accent, together with the term of endearment, sent a tingle of awareness  zipping through her and she grappled for something neutral to focus her  mind on.

'It's still snowing.' The delight at the prospect of snow was now  beginning to be replaced by unease, scrambling her thoughts. Or was it  just being in Xavier's company?

'Sì,' he said, his attention focused firmly on her, unsettling her as  she opened her folder with the itinerary of all she needed to do ahead  of this evening. 'But I'm sure the roads are clear. It looks worse than  it is, with nothing but parkland surrounding us.'

'I certainly hope so,' she said quickly, trying to quell her panic over  his mention of clear roads, something she hadn't considered when  wrapped up in her newly created fantasy world. 'I have two members of  staff due to arrive from London in a few hours.'

He didn't reply, but the heavy look in his dark eyes as he studied her  left her in no doubt he'd heard her. She looked down at the pages in her  folder, trying to make sense of the words, which seemed to dance on the  page as her heart thumped hard. What was the matter with her? She'd  never behaved like this over a man but, then, Jason and his calm, safe  presence in her life was all she'd known. Since her early teens they'd  been inseparable.

The fizzing excitement as Xavier's gaze met hers was something she and  Jason had never shared. Could the lack of such intensity have been his  reason for calling a halt to the wedding?

She still recalled the painful blow of his words as he'd told her he  didn't love her, that he couldn't marry her because of a brief affair.  One that had made him realise there was more to life than waiting for  her to be ready, and in a moment of daring rebellion she'd added  romantic fling to her bucket list. Not only that, she'd told Vanessa,  who constantly reminded her of it.