An Invitation to Sin(9)

By: Sarah Morgan

‘That person? What person? You mean the woman who embraced her life without apology?’

‘The woman who screwed up her life by trusting men like you,’ Taylor snapped, ‘and I’m not doing it again so stay away. I mean it, Luca. If you want to live up to your reputation then go ahead, but I’m not going to let you take me down with you.’

‘Why are you so ashamed of yourself?’

‘I’m not ashamed—’ she spoke so quickly she stumbled over the words ‘—but I’ve grown up.’

‘Grown-ups accept their mistakes instead of running from them.’

Hers haunted her.

The threatening messages never ended.

Her heart was pumping as she backed away from him. ‘Good luck with your future. I hope you manage to convince the board to trust you before you give in to the worst part of yourself and blow it completely.’

‘Ah, but that’s the difference between us, angelo mia.’ Reaching for the bottle of champagne again, he leaned his hips against the fountain, effortlessly sophisticated and insanely sexy. ‘I consider it to be the best part of myself. The fact that no one else appreciates it is their problem, not mine.’

For a brief moment she felt a flash of envy that he was so indifferent to what people thought and then the urgency of her situation propelled her into action and she jammed her feet into her shoes, the movement parting the seam of her dress as far as the waist. Gripping it with her hand, she held the two sides together and hurried through the shadowed corridors of the maze, grateful for the high hedges that concealed her from prying eyes.

If a photographer had been hiding in the maze, or even another guest—one of Luca’s disgruntled women—it would have looked awful and no amount of explaining would have worked.

She would have ruined everything before she’d even started filming.

The thought of how close she’d come to doing just that made her feel sick.

Weak with relief that her reputation was still intact, she pulled her phone out of her bag and texted the designer one-handed.

Ready to be sewn back into my dress. Meet me by the maze.

Luca let her go, that exercise in self-restraint costing him dearly in terms of physical discomfort. He shifted slightly and decided he didn’t dare leave the maze until his hormones had settled down.

Lifting the champagne to his lips, he paused as he spotted a woman approaching down another greenlined tunnel.

‘Luca, there you are!’

Cursing under his breath, he lowered the bottle of champagne. ‘Paula!’

‘It’s Portia.’

‘That’s what I said. The maze distorts sound.’

Her eyes were a little less warm than they’d been earlier. ‘Were you hiding from me?’

‘I didn’t trust myself around you,’ Luca said smoothly. With the taste of Taylor still on his lips, he felt no inclination to take her up on her less than subtle invitation. ‘Last night should not have happened. You’re a beautiful woman but I need to behave myself.’

Her eyes narrowed and she stared down the path where Taylor had recently disappeared. ‘Really? So you’re telling me women are off the agenda today?’

Something in her tone made Luca wonder if she’d seen Taylor but he decided that wasn’t possible. No one could have sneaked up on them without him noticing.

‘Sadly, yes. What we shared was very special—’ he pulled out one of his stock phrases ‘—but I can’t risk anything else at this point which is killing me because last night was one of the best of my life.’

‘All right. If that’s the way it has to be then so be it.’ She looked at him for a long moment, as if she were working something out. ‘You’re never going to forget me, Luca Corretti.’

‘Of course I’m not.’

‘And you’ll never again forget my name.’

‘It’s your own fault for being beautiful—I take one look at your face and my memory goes.’

Three minutes, Luca thought idly, glancing to the place he’d last seen Taylor and missing the jealous glint in the woman’s eye. That was how long it would take him to forget her.

Forty-eight hours later Taylor sat in the back of a limo as she was driven to the docklands for filming to begin. She’d spent the entire previous day locked in her hotel room checking every online newspaper and gossip column for pictures, terrified that her momentary lapse with Luca might have been captured on camera. When she realised she’d got away with it she’d been weak with relief.

From now on she was going to keep well away from men like Luca Corretti.

Never again would she do something that gave a man power over her.