Christina Hollis
One Night In His Bed

One Night In His Bed
Christina Hollis

A night of unsurpassable passion. . . Penniless and widowed, Sienna has caught the eye of the one man who can save her–Italian tycoon Garett Lazlo, who can't resist her beauty. But cold-hearted Garett doesn't do anything for nothing, no matter how desirable the prospect.He offers Sienna a ruthless deal: he will help her, but she must play by his rules–by giving herself to him totally for one night of unsurpassable passion. . . .

Christina Hollis

ONE NIGHT IN HIS BED

TORONTO • NEW YORK • LONDON

AMSTERDAM • PARIS • SYDNEY • HAMBURG

STOCKHOLM • ATHENS • TOKYO • MILAN • MADRID

PRAGUE • WARSAW • BUDAPEST • AUCKLAND

To Jenny, whose enthusiasm

really keeps me going!

CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER ONE

‘SUPERSTITIOUS old Enrica saw a black cat this morning. She told me it means there are pirates in town. You had better put on something sexier than that black shroud and try to catch yourself a rich one, Sienna!’ Imelda Basso jeered out of an upstairs window. Down in the courtyard, her stepdaughter Sienna gritted her teeth and smiled. She said nothing. Sometimes, silence was her only weapon against Imelda.

Sienna loaded a last box into the local Co-operative’s van and escaped to market. Working on the stall got her out of the house, but freedom was a mixed blessing. It made her feel like a hen released from a broody coop. The noise and dazzling colour of Portofino always came as a shock to her. It was such a contrast with her daily life that all Sienna wanted to do when she got there was to retreat back into herself, to concentrate on her knitting and take up as little space as possible. But that was no good. Nobody would buy from a mouse. The Piccia Co-operative needed sales. Its members relied on this stall. They intended to increase their contribution to local charities this year, too. That meant everyone had to do their bit—Sienna included. She had to push herself.

She was developing a coping strategy. She kept her head down, and made sure she always looked busy. It was the perfect way to avoid having to talk to anybody until the exact moment they were ready to buy.

Sienna recognised a lot of familiar faces around the market, although she had never been brave enough to strike up a conversation with any of them. Yet today was different. Someone new caught her eye—and held it. A tall stranger was moving through the chaos of deliveries and conversations on the other side of the square. Sienna had to look away, fast. He was so different from the market men that her stomach contracted. A single glance was enough to tell her that this was someone special. He was really well dressed, and the quiet confidence of his movements set him apart from the brash, swaggering pitchers around him. Sienna risked a couple of direct looks at the stranger, as well as more covert glances from beneath her lashes. She reassured herself that no one would suspect a shy widow of anything more than curiosity.

The new arrival was certainly worth examining. His determined attitude, coupled with that neat dark hair and the clean, strong lines of his jaw, marked him out as someone very special indeed. He moved from stall to stall with all the style of a Roman emperor on a tour of inspection. Sienna wondered what it was like to be so self-assured. This man obviously expected to go anywhere and do anything. She watched as he sampled olives, tasted walnuts, or accepted a spoonful of goats’ cheese spread on a biscuit. He did not stop anywhere long enough to buy, but moved on in a restless search for the next novelty. Sienna would never have dared to try something at a stall and then leave without purchasing. She wondered how he could have the nerve. His easy manner showed it was not a problem for him.

Hypnotised by watching him idle along from place to place, she suddenly realised it was almost time for her stall to come under his scrutiny. Her mind dissolved in horror. What would she say? Here was a gorgeous man—with plenty of money to spend, judging by his appearance. He would be an ideal customer. If only she could succeed in getting him to buy where everyone else in the market had failed…

With difficulty, she kept her gaze away from the approaching stranger. If she didn’t look at him directly, he might pass on by. She screwed her hands into balls of nerves. Why did this have to happen when she was working alone? Anna Maria or any one of the other co-op members would have leapt forward and made a sale. All Sienna could do was blush and shrink and turn aside, hoping that the handsome newcomer would pass straight by.

She counted the change in the pouch at her waist. Then she switched her attention back to her table, making sure the goods were still neatly displayed, touching everything as though for luck. She repeated her little rituals until she was sure he must have passed by. Even so, it was quite a while before she felt brave enough to glance around the market again.

There was no sign of the stranger. With a huge sigh of relief Sienna relaxed. It was all too much for her. She hadn’t wanted to be seen blushing, as she knew she would have done if she’d spoken to the handsome stranger. In Piccia, where she lived, good reputations took a lifetime to forge. And people expected to see a certain standard of behaviour from a widow. One word or action out of place could destroy her reputation in an instant. Sienna thought of the local woman whose husband had divorced her in order to marry his mistress. The wife had been the innocent party, but looks and whispers had followed her everywhere. Eventually she had been hounded out of her birthplace.

Sienna could not bear to think of being the subject of gossip. Her stepmother, Imelda, would never forgive her. And her anger frightened Sienna. Just the thought of Imelda’s displeasure was enough to keep Sienna on the straight and narrow—but then virtue was an easy path in Piccia. There was no temptation. All the boys left as soon as they could. Only men with private incomes or those too old to escape lived in Piccia now.

Sienna sighed. She liked the quiet village life, but it came at a huge price. Imelda was determined to marry her off to a rich man again as soon as it was decent. Sienna’s late husband had had only one blood relative, a distant cousin called Claudio di Imperia, and Imelda had him in mind as Sienna’s next suitor. One look at Claudio’s pinched, pale face had told Sienna that ‘fun’ was not a word with any meaning for him. If I have to be married, why can’t I choose who it’s going to be? she thought angrily.

The good-looking stranger was now bending over a stand on the far side of the market. He was concentrating on a display of everything imaginable that could be made from chestnuts. While he was busy, Sienna took the chance to study him again—but only while the other stallholders weren’t looking.

The visitor was dressed in Armani, she noticed, and his thick dark hair was neatly trimmed. What a contrast he made with her unwanted future husband. Claudio wore his frayed cuffs and bad haircut like medals for economy. But Imelda always said it didn’t matter what a man looked like as long as he had plenty of money in the bank. In Sienna’s house, Imelda Basso’s word was law. The only thing that woman feared was public opinion—which was why Sienna was determined to wear black for as long as possible. It was protection. No one in the village would forgive Imelda if she tried to marry off her stepdaughter when the ‘poor girl’ was still in mourning.

Snared away from her thoughts, Sienna realised in a panic that he was coming in her direction again. She looked down quickly, already worrying about what to say if he spoke to her. Then she remembered her stepmother’s mocking laughter. Who is going to be interested in Piccia’s homespun rubbish?

Sienna’s shoulders sagged. Was there no escape from the echo of that woman’s voice? It was even invading her daydreams.

Was Imelda right? Would anybody as rich as him be interested in her stall? The gorgeous stranger would probably buy some of those dark handmade chocolates wrapped in crackling cellophane and ribbon for his equally shrink-wrapped and sophisticated girlfriend. He’s bound to have one, Sienna thought, and I’ll bet she never wears black.

‘Excuse me, miss—I wonder if you could direct me to the Church of San Gregorio?’

A loud, cultured voice made her flush with confusion. She looked up—but it was not the person she had hoped it would be. Instead of her dashing hero, she found herself staring at the expectant faces of a couple of tourists.

All Sienna’s tension dissolved in a self-conscious giggle. She gave the directions, and even managed to exchange a few cheerful words. Then a cloud blotted out her relief. While she had been busy chatting, a presence had arrived beside her. That was the only way she could describe it. The tall, well-dressed stranger had materialised at her elbow.

All her worries flooded back, stifling her voice as soon as the tourists said goodbye. She was alone with him. Sienna had no option but to look up and smile. Straight away she made sure she could not be accused of flirting. It didn’t matter that she was twenty kilometres from home, Sienna knew that the moment she showed the slightest interest in any male over the age of ten, the news would reach her stepmother before you could say ‘torrid affair’.

The vision smiled back. Sienna gazed at him, at a loss. And then he spoke.

‘I heard you speaking English to that couple.’ He came straight to the point in a distinctive accent. It matched his frank, typically American expression. ‘I wonder—could you please direct me to the best restaurant around here?’

Was that all he needed? Sienna wanted to feel relief rush through her, but it didn’t happen. His steady gaze was too intense for that. His dark brown eyes mesmerised her, in the split second she allowed herself to look up into his face. Quickly, she looked down again. The very best place to eat was about twenty kilometres away, up in the hills. No one in Piccia could afford to eat in Il Pettirosso, where Anna Maria’s husband Angelo worked, but it was the restaurant Sienna always visited in her daydreams. As all the staff were local, and this visitor had chosen her for her ability to speak English, it might not be for him. But his confident yet relaxed stance told Sienna that this man would fit in anywhere. And he is exactly the sort who might try and turn my simplest reply into a conversation, she thought nervously.

Conversation was a risk Sienna could not take. She had enough grief in her life already, and didn’t want any more. This would never have happened if the man had bought something when he’d first walked into the market, she reflected. The other stallholders always spoke English when a customer showed real signs of spending money. She glanced sideways at the walnut-faced market men squinting through smoke from their roll-ups, and the nonnas sitting in judgement like black toads.

‘There are lots of good restaurants down by the sea, signor. Many of them have menus printed in French or English,’ she added helpfully.

‘I’ve heard that some places on the coast take advantage of the tourist dollar, and as I can actually speak a little Italian, signorina, the language won’t necessarily be a problem for me.’