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The Final Seduction

By:Sharon Kendrick

The Final Seduction
Sharon Kendrick


AS SOON as she heard him call her name she knew that something was wrong.

Very wrong.


Shelley frowned at the intercom. 'Yes, Marco?'

'Are you busy?' He spoke every word as if it were poetry. Sexy, deep,  strong, lyrical. The kind of voice that drove women crazy. Shelley had  seen it for herself, time after time.

Waitresses would go ga-ga for that voice. Female bank employees would  flutter their eyelashes-even women who were old enough to know better  started coming on to him like small-town hookers. Actually, they were  the worst. Rich, confident, bored middle-aged women who fancied the idea  of an Italian lover in their bed. And out of it!

Shelley wondered if he was being hounded by one of the more persistent  females. It happened. Maybe that was why he wanted to speak to her-to  ask her to let his pursuer know in the nicest possible way that he was  definitely not available!

'No, I'm not especially busy.' She glanced down at the glossy catalogue  she had been studying on his behalf. Marco was currently the hottest art  dealer on the international circuit, and Shelley made sure he kept his  crown by oiling the wheels of his life-so that it ran as smoothly as  possible. 'What's up?'

'We need to talk.'

'I'm all yours, Marco.' She closed the catalogue and pushed it to the front of her desk.

'Good.' Seconds later he appeared at her door, almost as if he had been  lingering outside in the corridor, like a person waiting to be  interviewed.

Shelley stared at him. Something was different. 'Is everything okay?'

He hesitated, thick black lashes shading the ebony glitter of his eyes. 'I'm not quite sure how to answer that.'

She watched while he came into the dazzling light-filled room which she  was lucky enough to call her office. Watched his air of distraction as  he walked over to the window to gaze out at the lake beyond. The morning  sun made the waters glitter and throw back the intense golden light-as  if someone had scattered the surface with sequins.

He turned back to face her and, as always, Shelley derived intense  pleasure just from looking at him. It was like looking at a beautiful  painting or a perfect sky. She knew how lucky she was and how many  people envied her-with her perfect job and her perfect boss.

'Shall I make us some coffee?'

He shook his head. 'No. Thanks.'

For the first time, she noticed the unfamiliar shadows beneath his eyes  and deep in her subconscious little warning bells began ringing sounds  of danger. Marco always slept like a baby. 'Something is wrong, isn't  it?' she said.

He sat down opposite her and spread his hands expansively, in a very  Italian way. 'Not wrong-just different. Something has changed.'

'Don't speak in riddles, Marco,' she implored. 'You know I can't stand  suspense! I'm the kind of person who reads the reviews of films before I  go to see them, just so I can find out the ending!'

'There is no easy way to say this, Shelley-'

And then she guessed. 'You've met someone?'


'And you've fallen in love.'

'Yes, again.'

'It's obviously serious.'

'It …  Yes,' he admitted, and for a moment his face looked almost severe. 'Yes, it's serious. Very serious.'

'Serious in that you've already shared breakfast in bed?'

'Shelley!' he protested, but he was smiling. 'How can you ask me such a question?'

'Because I'm a woman, and because I'm curious! Or did you imagine I'd find it painful?'

'I guess I did. Well, not painful exactly. Difficult.'

'Because I've lived with you for three years and every woman in Italy would like to scratch my eyes out because of that?'

'Shelley!' He hesitated. 'You know-if I could change things I would.'

'Fall out of love again, you mean?'

'No.' He shook his head. 'Rewrite history.'

'Well, you can't,' she said flatly. 'No one can.'

'But I took you away,' he said slowly, painfully. 'I took you from Drew.'


His name washed over her like the morning tide.

She had seen him in her dreams so often-especially at the beginning,  when everything was still so raw, and so painful. But it was a long time  since either she or Marco had spoken that name aloud and, oddly, it  hurt more than it should have done. Even after all this time.

Shelley shook her head, mainly to rid herself of the face which had swum  into her memory with pin-point clarity. Sapphire eyes and honey-tipped  hair. The body of a labourer, with the face of an angel.                       


'Please don't say that you "took" me, Marco!' she protested softly. 'It  makes me sound like a piece of merchandise to be picked up at the  supermarket-a can of beans!'

'But I did!' he gritted. 'You know I did!'

'And you certainly didn't take me from Drew!' she contradicted. 'That  would imply that he owned me. And he didn't-even if he thought that he  did. No one can own another human being, however much they try.'

'But you were engaged to him,' he pointed out gently. 'Weren't you?'

'I wore a cheap little ring on my finger!' she cried. 'A mark of  possession-that's all engagement rings ever are! A metal circle which  said "Keep off-she's mine! And I can do what I like with her because she  wears my ring!"'

She blinked back the sudden and mysterious tears which had made her eyes  go all blurry. She hadn't thought about that ring for a long time, but  now she had more important things to think about. Like doing the decent  thing and leaving as quickly as possible. Not standing in Marco's way.  The way they'd always agreed. 'Can you arrange an early flight for me,  Marco?'

'Of course. But where will you go?' he questioned quietly.

'Why, back to Milmouth, of course.' She gave him a gentle smile. 'Where else would I go?'

'It will be-painful?'

'Very probably,' she agreed. 'And difficult too, I expect. But Milmouth  is my home. It's where I grew up. More importantly, I have a house  there-and I'll need somewhere to live while I make up my mind what I  want to do next.'

'You'll go and live there?' he breathed in surprise.

'You find that so strange to imagine?' she asked. 'Why-because it's a  tiny little place compared to the near-palaces I've lived in with you?'

'I think you'll find that you've outgrown what you had there.'

'We'll see.'

'But more than that-aren't you forgetting the one big difficulty of going back there?'

She met his eyes, knowing what he meant, but needing to hear him say it. 'Like what?'

'Why, Drew of course. Drew still lives there, doesn't he?'

She shook her head. 'I don't know. I don't know what Drew does. I don't  know anything about his life. Which is hardly surprising really, is it,  Marco? I cut my ties with Milmouth a long time ago. And since my mother  died there's been no one there to keep me up to date with what's  happening. I'm too much of the bad girl and the black sheep for anyone  to want to bother with me.'

He hesitated. 'I'll give you a breathing space. A month or so-before I make any kind of announcement.'

Her face showed her surprise as she rose to her feet, smoothing her  sleek cream dress down over her narrow hips. 'You're going to make a  statement?'

'Yes, I am.' His face was calm and serious. He looked happier than she  had seen him look for a long time, but she was aware of the burden which  hovered over his shoulders. 'I no longer intend living a lie.'

'Good.' She nodded. 'Me, neither.'

'Shelley?' The voice was lower now. Honey and stone. Soft yet forceful.  Rich and deep. Once she had been unable to resist that voice, but she  had been weaker then. And foolish. Now she was a woman, and she had  grown. She had.


'I'm going to miss you.'

She gave him a smile which was more wistful than sad. 'I'm going to miss  you, too,' she said, and turned and walked out of the door, realising  as she did so that it was the only time she had spoken in English during  the entire conversation.


THE sleek grey car bumped over the dip in the road and Shelley craned her neck.

Just here. Here. If you looked really closely, you would catch your very  first glimpse of the sea. Every time she had ever travelled this road  it had been there to greet her, like an old friend.

She screwed her eyes up, making out the deep sapphire slash which  contrasted against the paler blue of the sky. Beautiful. Why did the sea  always look so blue from a distance even when up close it seemed murky  and dull? She put her foot down on the accelerator and drove on.

The car was new and unfamiliar, just as the roads seemed unfamiliar-even  though she knew them like the back of her hand. But it seemed strange  to be driving on the other side of the road after Italy, towards a place  which she had once called home. She hadn't been back since her mother's  funeral, and that had been almost two years ago.                       


Two years. And things would have changed. She knew that. She was prepared for that.