One Night In His Bed
Sienna almost felt she might be about to relax, but the arrival of their wine and first course put a stop to that. Her stomach contracted to the size of a split pea again. As usual, Garett took the attentions of the staff in his stride. Even before they swept away he leaned over his dish and inhaled appreciatively.
‘Ah—so cacciucco must be fish soup, Signora di Imperia?’
‘That’s right. I don’t know how much you picked up from the menu, but it said all the restaurant’s raw materials are brought in fresh each morning. They come from a few kilometres away at the coast, or from local farms and smallholdings.’
He paused while breaking his bread, and leaned towards her with an enigmatic look on his face.
‘I saw that. It made me realise that the ordinary people around here have to make things, as you do, or wrestle produce out of their surroundings. The menu really brought it home to me.’ He paused again, considering what a strange word ‘home’ was in his circumstances. He tried to laugh again, but it came out as a harsh, dry sound. ‘I ate nothing but junk until I managed to make a better life for myself. The chance to eat fresh local food in a place like this is a luxury.’
Sipping at a spoonful of her soup, Sienna regarded him. His mouth was a grim line now, and his eyes were hard as he stared past her into space.
‘Perhaps it is all this home-grown fresh food in Liguria that keeps us so good-tempered?’ she risked, testing his mood.
That broke Garett’s trance. A puzzled frown flickered across his features, and he looked down at his clenched hand as though it belonged to someone else. Sienna noticed that it took him a conscious effort to relax his fingers. She went on watching him from beneath her lashes, and as she did so he began to lose the hunched tension that made him look like a prizefighter. He picked up his spoon, but to Sienna’s relief did not actually attack his meal. He skimmed the cacciucco with graceful, economical movements.
Relieved, she concentrated on her own lunch. Even so, he had completely finished before she dared to speak again.
‘I wish I had more of the killer instinct,’ she said, almost making it sound casual. ‘It would make an event like this less of an ordeal for me.’ She tried to laugh, but it did not work.
‘Fine dining is supposed to be a pleasurable experience.’ Tipping his bowl away from him, he finished the last of his soup. Then he laid down the spoon. His every movement seemed measured to Sienna, as though he was unable to relax for a moment.
‘Do you enjoy it, signor?’
‘In the right company, yes.’
‘Then it is a shame your friends are not here.’
‘Oh, I’m doing fine, signora.’
He smiled, and the richness of his tone made Sienna wonder if he was only talking about lunch…
FOR once in his life, seduction was not on Garett’s agenda. He was visiting Europe for a rest, not more of the same. He glanced across at her, the smile still teasing his lips. Seduction might be too much hassle at the moment, but fantasies…they were another thing altogether. He would find time for those instead.
As though reading his mind, the girl blushed and lowered her head. Amused, Garett went back to his meal. He did not anticipate any trouble from a casual lunch guest like this. She was intended as nothing more than visual entertainment for him. He liked to furnish his world with beautiful things, but, while he looked on works of art as investments to be studied as well as displayed, his women were different. They were like butterflies. They flitted into his life through one window of opportunity and out through the next. This one would be no different. If anything, she would make less impact on him than his usual pick-ups. Signora di Imperia was safe from everything but his active imagination—although he intended to let that run as free as it liked.
Garett went on watching her covertly. He was savouring the idea of stripping away her inhibitions one by one, as her shock and confusion melted into desire. It awakened in him a feeling that he thought would be hard to better—and then something happened that improved on it. She looked up as their main course arrived, and in a reflex action her tongue darted out to moisten her lips. Her anticipation fired Garett’s—but for something far more pleasurable than mere food. He imagined her using that neat little pink tip to caress him all the way to paradise. As the waiter moved to his side of the table, Garett had to pull his chair in closer to the table to hide the most obvious sign of his arousal. Trying to distract himself, he stared down into the white porcelain dish of ravioli that had been placed before him. It was still bubbling, as hot as his thoughts.
A squeak from the other side of the table made him jerk his head up again. An eruption of sauce had splashed out and burned Signora di Imperia’s hand. As he watched, she sucked her finger to cool the heat. But it did nothing to quell Garett’s desire.
Then her gaze flew to his. Her blue eyes opened wide. Instantly she withdrew her finger and hid it in her lap.
‘Oh—I am so sorry, signor! What can I say? It’s just that…I’m so nervous. Coming to a place like this is such a novelty for me—I’ve never been anywhere so wonderful—’
‘Don’t mention it,’ he murmured, his mind on something else entirely.
‘Be careful—the dish is very hot. I hope you like it.’
‘I’m sure I shall.’ He smiled with complete conviction.
While waiting for his food to cool a little, Garett took a sip of wine and congratulated himself on his choice. This Moscato was a light, yet aromatic example of its type. It perfectly complemented both their soup and now their main course. He counted himself lucky to be able to experience it. No, I’ve earned the right to do this, he corrected himself quickly. Garett was a strong believer in making his own luck. Anybody could do what he had done if they wanted success badly enough. When would people learn that all it took was hard work?
Then Garett realised his companion was dissecting her dish of pasta pillows in their velvety sauce in a particular way. It was a delaying tactic he recognised from his life on the streets. She had already told him that dining like this was out of her league. Now he sensed she was trying to make the experience last for as long as possible.
He could only hope there was not another, darker reason for her time-wasting. Watching her slender wrists and delicate hands as she toyed with her food, he wondered when she would next see a decent meal. An unlikely interest in some people’s habits was another legacy of his deprived childhood.
Garett’s frown of concern was enough to bring their waiter scurrying to his side.
‘I wonder, could you bring me some more of this, please? And another serving of garlic bread?’
Sienna was so amazed, words burst from her before she could stop them.
‘But you haven’t touched what is in front of you yet, signor!’
‘Good grief—that isn’t the sort of reaction I’m used to from my dinner guests.’ He laughed.
Sienna paused, and then shot a glance across at him.
He had turned on a particularly winning smile, aimed at the restaurant staff scurrying up with his additional order.
‘It’s all for you, signora,’ he whispered. ‘Enjoy!’
Plates were juggled and the table rearranged to make space for the extra dishes. Sienna was speechless, but at least the shock gave her time to consider her reply.
‘This is very kind of you, Signor Lazlo,’ she murmured as soon as all the waiters were out of earshot, ‘but I’m sure I shall never manage all this. What made you think my own meal wasn’t big enough?’
He shrugged. ‘You’re as thin as a rail, and white as paper. Eat up. The servings here may not be American-sized, but they’ll still put some roses in your cheeks.’
‘So…does that mean your own meal is too small?’
He began making great inroads into his own ravioli, with evident satisfaction.
‘Not at all. I can never stand to see good food go to waste, so I always eat everything that is put in front of me.’
‘It seems to do you good.’
The words were out before Sienna could stop them. She gasped, desperate to take them back, but Garett had heard too many empty compliments in his life to take much notice of hers. And he chuckled at her innocent remark.
‘What I meant was…I mean, you look perfectly—that is…’
He let her flounder about, watching with amusement as she got more and more flustered, and more and more embarrassed. It pleased him to see a woman struggling over compliments. The girls who slinked up to him at parties all read from the same script. They had their patter worked out. This Signora di Imperia was anything but practised. She was obviously attracted to him, but trying not to show it. This made a refreshing change for Garett. Though of course he would never respond to any come-on from a mousy little innocent like her! It was all he could do not to laugh out loud at the idea of it. What sort of attraction could she possibly hold for him?
The lure of the forbidden: the most powerful one in the world, his body told him suddenly, with an alarming jolt.
Disturbed, he looked up from his meal. Their eyes met across the table and he found himself looking temptation straight in the face. Suddenly the innocence in her large, clear eyes began to inflame rather than quell his feelings. The urge to stir those Mediterranean depths with desire—desire for him and him alone—was almost overwhelming…
But he wouldn’t let that distract him now. He smiled lazily in her direction. ‘Forget it, signora—I already have. Now, let’s enjoy our delicious lunch!’