Never Underestimate a Caffarelli(4)

By: Melanie Milburne

The morning-room door opened and Rafe Caffarelli came in with a grim look on his face. ‘He’s in the library. Try not to be put off by his surly attitude. Hopefully he’ll improve a little on acquaintance. He’s just frustrated and angry about his situation.’

Lily rose to her feet, still clutching her handbag like a shield. ‘It’s fine...’ She moistened her paper-dry mouth. ‘It must be very difficult for him....’

‘It’s a nightmare, for him and for me. I don’t know how to reach him. He’s locked everyone out.’ He rubbed a hand over his face in a weary manner. ‘He refuses to cooperate. I’ve never seen him like this. I knew he could be stubborn, but this is taking it to a whole new level.’

‘It’s still early days,’ Lily said. ‘Some people take months to accept what’s happened to them. Others never accept it.’

‘I want him at my wedding,’ Rafe said with an implacable look. ‘I don’t care if we have to drag him or push him there kicking and screaming. I want him there.’

‘I’ll see what I can do,’ Lily said. ‘But I can’t make any promises.’

‘The housekeeper, Dominique, will assist you with anything you need,’ he said. ‘She will show you to your suite once you meet Raoul. There’s a young guy called Sebastien who comes in each morning to help my brother shower and dress. Have you any questions?’

Hundreds, but they could wait. ‘No, I think I’ve got it all under control.’

He gave her a brief nod and held the door open for her. ‘I’ll show you the way to the library but I think it’s best if I leave you to it.’ He twisted his mouth ruefully and added, ‘I’m not my brother’s favourite person right now.’

* * *

The library was on the same floor in the centuries-old château, but the sombre dark setting was in sharp contrast to the bright morning room where the sunlight had streamed in through a bank of windows that overlooked the rolling, verdant fields of the Normandy countryside. The library had only one window that let in limited light, and there were three walls of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that dominated the room, as well as a large leather-topped desk and an old-world globe positioned beside it. The smell of parchment and paper, leather and furniture polish gave Lily a sense of stepping back in time.

But her gaze was immediately drawn like a magnet to the silent figure seated in a wheelchair behind the desk. Raoul Caffarelli had the same breath-snatching good looks of his older brother, with glossy black hair, olive-toned skin and a rather stubborn, uncompromising-looking jaw. But his eyes were a green-flecked hazel instead of dark brown, and right now they were glittering at her in blistering anger.

‘You’ll forgive me for not rising.’ His tone was clipped and unfriendly, his expression stony.

‘I... Of course.’

‘Unless you are hard of hearing or a complete and utter fool, you must realise by now I don’t want you here.’

She lifted her chin, determined not to show him how intimidated she felt. ‘I’m neither hard of hearing nor a fool.’

He measured her with his gaze for a long, pulsing moment. Lily could see his French-Italian heritage in his features and in his bearing. There was a hint of the proud aristocrat in him; it was there in the broad set of his shoulders and the way he held himself in spite of being confined to a chair. He was taller than average—she estimated two or three inches over six feet—and was obviously a man who had been intensely physically active prior to his accident. She could see the well-formed muscles of his chest and arms through the fine cotton of the shirt he was wearing. His right arm was still in a plaster cast but his hands looked strong and capable. His face was cleanly shaven but the shadow of regrowth was evident, suggesting potent male hormones. His nose was a little more Roman than his brother’s, and there were lines about his mouth that gave him a slightly drawn look, as if he had lost weight recently. His mouth was set in an intractable line, flattened by his mood and temper, and she wondered what it would look like if he smiled.

Lily pulled back from her thoughts with a little start. She was not here to make him smile. She was here to see if she could make him walk, and the sooner she got on with the job, the sooner she could leave.

‘I suppose my brother has given you all the gory details of my condition?’ he said, still pinning her with that intimidating gaze.

‘I’ve seen your scans and read the doctors’ and physiotherapists’ reports.’

A dark brow lifted above his left eye, almost accusingly. ‘And?’