An Invitation to Sin(3)

By: Sarah Morgan


‘It’s your first public appearance since you disappeared.’ His tone was hard. ‘Everyone is waiting for you to slip up, you know that, don’t you?’

‘Then I predict they’re going to have a very boring time.’

‘No drinking.’

‘Is that why you had me sewn into the dress? So I can’t use the bathroom?’

‘The dress shows your body. Your body is one of your assets.’

There had to be some benefit for being permanently starving. ‘And there was me hoping you wanted my acting skills.’ The bitterness leaked into her voice and he narrowed his eyes.

‘I do, but I’m not so naive as to think your looks don’t help. It’s all about the film, Carmichael. Don’t answer any questions about the past. You are the Mona Lisa. All they get is an enigmatic smile.’

‘I can tell you now there is no way Mona would have smiled if she were sewn into her dress. If she were forced to wear what I’m wearing she would have been the Moaning Lisa. And now we’ve established the ground rules, point me towards hell.’

‘Wait. You didn’t answer my question—’ He caught her arm. ‘What have you been doing with yourself for the past two years? You just disappeared. Were you in rehab or something?’

Rehab.

Of course they would think that. It never occurred to anyone that there could be any other explanation for her absence.

‘Sorry,’ Taylor murmured, disengaging her arm from his grip, ‘I’m absolutely not permitted to talk about my past. Your rules.’

‘You’re a beautiful woman. There won’t be any shortage of men interested, not in you but in the potential to make some money from selling a story. You screwed that up before.’

The pain was so intense he might as well have punched her. ‘I was young. Trusting. I’m not any more. And as for men—’ Taylor managed a careless shrug ‘—I can assure you there isn’t a man out there hot enough to tempt me.’

Luca Corretti downed another glass of champagne to numb the boredom of behaving well.

For the past twenty-four hours he’d driven under the speed limit for the first time in his life, declined seven party invitations and made it to bed before dawn. The fact that he hadn’t been alone at the time didn’t count. As far as the outside world was concerned, his behaviour had been impeccable. The only thing he hadn’t done in his quest for instant respectability was kissed a baby and even he wasn’t prepared to descend to those levels of hypocrisy just to impress the board of directors who’d decided his lifestyle wasn’t compatible with running another chunk of the family business. Apparently business flare counted for nothing, he thought savagely, wondering whether he could get away with swapping the champagne for whisky.

And now, to add insult to injury, he was expected to sit through his cousin’s wedding.

Was he the only person who hated weddings? All that happy-ever-after crap that everyone knew was a temporary illusion. Or maybe it was a delusion. Luca didn’t know and he didn’t intend to find out. He was going to be out of here at the first opportunity, preferably with the brunette bridesmaid he’d spotted on his way in.

‘Luca! I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Where have you been?’

Before he could react, Luca was enveloped in soft bosom and a choking cloud of perfume. At any other time he would have thought it wasn’t a bad way to die, but he was conscious that heads were turning and, when heads turned, disapproval was bound to follow. It irritated him that he had to care. ‘Where have I been?’ He disentangled himself. ‘Avoiding you, Penny.’

‘My name’s Portia.’

‘Seriously? No wonder I didn’t remember it.’

She giggled. ‘You are a wicked, wicked man.’

‘So people keep telling me.’ Luca put down his empty glass, trying to think of a method of stress reduction that didn’t involve sex or alcohol.

Portia lowered her eyelashes. ‘About last night—’

Aware that his one indiscretion was about to be made public, Luca removed the drink from her hand and swapped it for orange juice. ‘Last night? I have no idea what you’re talking about. Last night I went to bed with a book.’

She gave a snort of laughter. ‘Well, you certainly turned my pages. I’ll never forget it. How could I?’ Her eyes on his mouth, she leaned towards him. ‘You were amazing. It’s never been like that for me before. You’re a genius.’

‘So I keep telling the board,’ Luca said in a flat drawl. ‘Unfortunately my opinion doesn’t seem to count. For some reason they seem to think activity in the bedroom saps my mental abilities so for the time being I have to prove I can keep my pants zipped.’

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