Never Say No to a Caffarelli(9)

By: Melanie Milburne

Her gran had done her best to give Poppy a happy childhood. Growing up on the Dalrymple Estate had been a mostly happy but rather lonely existence. Lord Dalrymple rarely entertained and there were no children living close by. But it had gradually become home to her, and she had loved spending time with her gran in the kitchen at the manor.

The decision to study hospitality had been born out of Poppy’s desire to own and run her own tearoom in the village one day, so she could be close to her gran and all that was familiar. When she moved to London to do her training she felt like she was the odd one out in her peer group. She didn’t have much of a taste for alcohol and she had no interest in casual flings or partying all night in nightclubs. She’d studied hard and managed to land a great job in a hip new restaurant in Soho, but it had all turned sour when her boss had made it clear he wanted her in his bedroom as well as his kitchen.

Her gran’s severe bout of bronchitis during the winter two years ago had given Poppy the perfect excuse to move back home and follow her dream. Setting up the tearoom had been a way of bringing in a modest income whilst being able to keep an eye on her gran, and not for a day had she regretted doing it.

Poppy blew out a breath as she made her way inside the house. Maybe she did have a bias against successful men, as Raffaele Caffarelli had suggested. But why shouldn’t she resent him for thinking he could buy whatever or whoever he took a fancy to? He might be incredibly good-looking, with bucket loads of charm, but she was not going to be his next conquest.

She would stake money on it. Well, she would if she had any, of course.

* * *

Rafe strode into his London office on Monday morning. ‘Did you get that information for me?’

Margaret handed him a folder. ‘There’s not much, but what I’ve got is in there. So, how was your weekend?’

‘Average.’ He started flicking through the papers as he walked through to his office. ‘Hold my calls, will you?’

‘What if Miss Silverton calls?’

Rafe thought about it for a beat. ‘Make her wait.’

Margaret’s brows lifted. ‘Will do.’

He closed his office door and took the folder over to his desk. There wasn’t much he didn’t already know. Poppy Silverton had grown up with her grandmother in the dower house on the Dalrymple Estate and had been educated locally before moving to London in her late teens. She had trained as a chef and had worked in a restaurant in Soho he’d been to a couple of times. She’d been running the tearoom in the village for the last couple of years. Her grandmother, Beatrice, had died a few months ago, exactly six months after Lord Dalrymple, and the house he had left to Beatrice had subsequently passed to Poppy.

Rafe leaned back in his chair. There was nothing about her private life, about who she was dating or had dated. He couldn’t help a rueful smile. If a similar search had been done on him or one of his brothers, reams and reams of stuff would have come spilling out.

He’d driven away from the manor late on Saturday night but he hadn’t stopped thinking about her. It wasn’t just her house that was playing on his mind. He’d never met a more intriguing woman. She was so spirited and defiant. She must realise she hadn’t a hope of winning against him, but she stood up to him all the same. That was enormously attractive. He was so used to women tripping over themselves to please him.

But Poppy’s comment about him not knowing who genuinely cared for him had resonated a little too well with him. Apart from his brothers, who really gave a toss about him? His grandfather certainly didn’t. His members of staff were respectful and mostly loyal, but then he paid them generously to be so.

He frowned at where his thoughts were heading. He wasn’t interested in love and commitment. Losing his parents had taught him to keep a very tight lid on his emotions. Loving someone hurt like hell if you lost them. He never lost anything or anyone now. He did the hiring and the firing in all of his relationships.

They lasted as long as he wanted and no longer.

Rafe leaned forward to press the intercom on his desk. ‘Margaret? Find out who owns the building Miss Silverton operates her tearoom out of. Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Get them to sign a confidentiality agreement.’

‘Right away.’

‘Oh, and one other thing... Cancel all of my appointments for the next couple of weeks. I’m heading out of town.’

‘A holiday?’

Rafe smiled to himself. ‘You could call it that.’

                      CHAPTER THREE