I nodded slowly, wondering where he was going with this. His thumb brushed my cheek a moment before he moved away from me.
“Go take a shower and meet me in my office. I need you to prepare some paperwork for me.”
What the hell?
He was playing mind games or how else could I explain his constant changes? My breath came in ragged heaps as I hurried past him and up the stairs to my room, eager to escape him, if only for a brief time.
The shower cleared my head a little. Unfortunately, it didn’t clear my confusion about Jett. I kept telling myself that I only knew him for a couple days, which wasn’t nearly enough to find out how a man ticked. My mother had taught me men were complex, but once you got to their core they weren’t that different from us. Based on my brief encounter with Jett, I begged to differ. In the end he was my boss and not some random guy I dated, I reminded myself. So I didn’t need to understand. All that mattered was doing my job well.
Figuring I had wasted enough time, I tied my long brown hair in a high ponytail, put on clean underwear, a new shirt and slacks, and headed for Jett’s office, not knowing what to expect next.
I found him sitting at his desk, engrossed in a mostly monosyllabic phone conversation with the prevalent words being ‘no’, ‘crap’, and ‘uh-huh’. He motioned for me to sit down on the padded chair opposite him and turned back to the notes in front of him, the frown on his forehead deepening. God, being serious suited him. I discarded the sudden memory flashes of his sexy mouth between my legs, and forced my mind back to reality. He didn’t even bother to look at me as he resumed his conversation. I sat there for a minute or two, trying hard not to tune in, but Jett’s anger was so palpable, it made focusing on anything else impossible.
“Next time, don’t let anyone string us along. Either they sign or they don’t. Have I made myself clear?” Jett said a moment before he slammed down the phone.
Bloody hell, he sure knew how to end a conversation. I definitely hoped I’d never have him on the other end of the line.
“Everything okay?” I asked hesitantly.
“Another f**ked-up deal,” Jett replied, massaging his temples. “I swear, at times I’m thinking I might just have to do everything myself if I want this company to stay afloat. It’s hard finding reliable people.” Looking up he smiled, and I knew he was about to change the subject, as though he’d already said too much.
“I need you to go through my correspondence and cancel any meetings, physical or otherwise, I might have this week,” Jett said. “Then clear my schedule.”
“Sure.” I frowned but knew better than to ask questions.
“Good.” He pushed a thick file across the desk. “I trust you’re accustomed with the Lucazzone estate by now?”
The telltale heat of a blush rushed to my cheeks. Oh, I was accustomed with the Lucazzone estate all right, though not the way I’d initially thought. Jett’s lips curved into his panty-dropping grin.
“I thought so. Anyway, I want you to take care of it. Look through each and every note, find a loophole and then get us the estate.”
“But—” I almost choked on my breath. This was a multi-million dollar deal.
Jett pushed back his chair and walked around the desk. Stopping in front of me, he sank into a crouch so I could feel his hot breath on my skin. “James said you were the best. Was he lying?”
God, he was beautiful. His eyes…his face…his lips. I leaned back, as if the little distance could protect me from his magnetism, and shook my head. “No. But this is huge and I—” Didn’t have the experience, I wanted to add when Jett cut me off.
“I believe in you,” he said slowly. “Don’t disappoint me.”
Jett Mayfield was huge and he believed in my skills. For a moment I just stared at him, unable to utter the two words I desperately wanted to communicate.
The air charged between us. My gaze lowered to his open lips, so close to mine, and moisture gathered between my legs, soaking the sheer material of my panties. Clearing his throat, Jett stood and returned to his seat, but not fast enough to hide his own shallow breath and the lust in his eyes. He wasn’t as unaffected as he pretended to be. A sense of pride and victory grabbed hold of my heart. I crossed my arms over my chest, amused.
“Lunch should be waiting for you in the kitchen,” he said coolly, avoiding my gaze. “I’ll be in Malpesa for the rest of the day.”
“Why?” The word slipped out before I could stop myself. His gaze shot up, brows raised.
“Meeting with a client.”
“There’s nothing on your schedule.”
He leaned back in his chair and regarded me for a few seconds. “Not everything’s noted in my schedule, Brooke. Like our little stroll this morning. Do you think the Lucazzone household had an enjoyable view?” A devilish grin lit up his face, sending me into yet another blushing frenzy.
“What? You said—” I stumbled over my words, not able to finish the sentence.
“No. I said no one is living there…literally, on the shoreline. I didn’t say no one is living inside the house.” His grin widened. My cheeks caught fire from yet another wave of sheer mortification.
Dammit, the ball was in his court again.
I had just lost another battle.
“Do you think anyone saw us?” I whispered.
He shrugged. “Does it matter?”
It did because I wasn’t the kind who had sex in a public place where everyone could gawk at me.
“Relax, Brooke,” Jett said softly. “The house’s been standing empty for months.” His finger brushed my flaming cheek. “But you liked the danger of being caught, didn’t you?”
I nodded even though it wasn’t just the chance of being caught that had made my blood boil.
“Good, because there are so many other things I plan to do with you,” he whispered in that deep, sexy voice layered with intrigue.
My breath hitched. Oh, I definitely couldn’t wait.
The phone rang, interrupting our moment. Jett groaned and turned to check the caller ID.
“Fuck!” Letting go of me, he grabbed the phone and pressed his hand against the microphone. His dusky eyes were on me, leaving no doubt his words were meant for my ears only. “I want you so badly but, unfortunately, work’s calling.” His mouth moved to mine in a quick but heated kiss, and then he was back in his no-nonsense work mojo.
“Mayfield,” he said into his phone. His voice was hard and determined, showing none of the passion I could sure as hell still feel rushing through my veins.
Straightening my back, I mustered all my poise and forced myself to walk out of the room slowly, minding each step so I wouldn’t trip over my own two feet.
As Jett had announced, lunch was waiting for me in the kitchen. I lifted the lid off the serving plate and inhaled the aroma of some Italian pasta and meat dish I had never tried before. It smelled deliciously of herbs and fresh tomatoes. My stomach rumbled in response, reminding me that it was already well past lunchtime, and I hadn’t eaten since last night. With the Lucazzone file still clutched to my chest, I grabbed my plate and sat down at the expensive mahogany table overlooking the lake. From up here, I had a grand view over the entire east side. Unlike the day we arrived, the lake seemed to have attracted visitors. I couldn’t see as far as the shore, but I could make out the colorful flagpoles of two private boats sailing at a leisurely speed. According to Jett, most of the lake was privately owned, which led me to believe the owners had decided to fly over for a quick spring trip.
Popping a spoonful of delicious pasta into my mouth, I wondered what it must be like to be as rich as these people, and not have to worry about paying the bills or putting food on the table. Even when my mother lost my father and had to make end’s meet by taking a minimum wage job stocking shelves in a local supermarket, I never felt like I lacked anything. But being with Jett in a villa that probably cost more than I’d make in a lifetime, I couldn’t help but feel out of place.
I worked for him but wasn’t part of his world. And I harbored no false hope that I’d ever be.
You don’t want him, Stewart. So get those ‘what ifs’ out of your damn system.
“Damn straight,” I mumbled, opening the Lucazzone file. To my surprise, it wasn’t the same one Jett had left on my desk this morning. I finished my lunch quickly so I could engross myself in Mayfield’s strange work ethic. By the time I leaned back in my chair, I couldn’t help but admire his dedication.
Jett Mayfield knew what he wanted, and he wasn’t afraid to take it, no matter how dirty he had to play.
The private detective had been following the Lucazzone family for ten years, sifting through family trees, tragedies, secret bank accounts, and visitors with hidden motives. As it turned out, throughout generations the Lucazzone men had played away, taking their pleasure wherever and from whomever they could get it. Alessandro Lucazzone was no different, except that he played for the other team. He had wed his rich wife because he needed her money, which explained why he never fathered an heir. At some point, one of his lovers moved in, and they began to flaunt their romance until his wife put a stop to it by threatening to divorce him.
I wondered why she never carried out her threat. Any woman in her right mind would, and yet Henrietta Lucazzone stayed with Alessandro until she drew her last breath, her body destroyed by a mysterious disease she contracted while vacationing in India. Maybe it was her Catholic upbringing that made her value her vows more than her freedom or a life with someone who truly loved her. Or maybe Alessandro had an iron grip on her, forcing her into obedience. He was well known for his charm and good looks, and it was said that he could even persuade a cobra to hold back her venom at the sight of him.
Obviously, I didn’t believe a word they said. The stories dated back to his youth, when the effects of WWI had made people poor and trusting of the high society that offered a free daily meal and gifted their children clothes to wear. Maybe it was the reason why Henrietta thought Alessandro Lucazzone got away with murder.
According to Jett’s file, it was the first Sunday in December 1953. Henrietta Lucazzone had just returned from yet another shopping spree, of which she was so fond, only to find her husband in bed with another man. While this had happened before, this time the lover next to Alessandro was dead. His torso had been slit open from the throat all the way down to his abdomen. According to her diary, Henrietta never called the police and the body was later found buried in the woods, nak*d, the torso torn open.
No one ever asked questions, no one pointed fingers. Around the time the body was found, Alessandro gave money away to charity, and he was praised for his generosity. The man was identified as a former soldier in WWII, hooked on the bottle and in desperate need of cash to finance his next drink. Mayfield’s private detective only stumbled upon Lucazzone’s secret when he wasn’t granted a visit entrance to Lucazzone’s home, and he stumbled upon Henrietta’s diary in the chapel behind the gardens, hidden beneath the kneeling pad facing the altar.