Although the diary was never sent to the police, the fact that a body was found inside the villa should have been proof enough that someone in the Lucazzone house was a murderer. And yet, the family’s good reputation and wealth protected whoever committed the crime. In his correspondence with the detective, Mayfield had claimed the man was old and sick. If he was indeed the murderer, any justice would reach him after his death. I wondered why Jett wouldn’t just hand the diary to the local authorities. If Alessandro was found guilty, the Italian government would auction the estate and sell it to the highest bidder, in which case I doubted anyone would make an offer in excess of twenty million. It would have been so easy, and yet Jett seemed to want to take the hard road for reasons unfathomable to me.
Closing the file, I placed my empty plate in the dishwasher and headed upstairs for the privacy of my office. Without Jett, the house seemed unusually quiet. As I booted up my MacBook from sleeping mode, I found myself easing slowly into work mode. I looked through the file from front to back cover, twice, without finding anything that could possibly help. The tax records were fine. The estate had financial troubles, but they weren’t severe enough to push Lucazzone into selling. I had no idea what else to look for and was about to close the file when the tiny number printed at the bottom of each page caught my eye. The last page was numbered 147 of 148, meaning one page was missing.
Had it been filed with the others? I couldn’t remember having seen it, but I searched the file twice nonetheless, then my desk and finally the kitchen, without much success. In the end, I decided to ask Jett about it and commenced my administrative tasks. By the time I finished answering his principal business correspondence and postponed each and every meeting as per Jett’s request, it was early evening, and the sound of crunching pebbles beneath tires told me it was time to call it a day.
Jett’s business meeting hadn’t gone well. I could tell by the way he slammed the door shut, sending a reverberating quake through the floor and walls. I had no idea what to make of it, so I stayed glued to the spot, inches away from the clothes hanging in my closet, wondering what to wear tonight. Until now it had always been one business suit after another, intermingled with the occasional jeans at night. Tonight I felt a need for a change, maybe something risky like a skirt or a dress. Something to entice the man who hadn’t touched me since our outing to the beach. Why? Because I wanted to get it over and done with.
Anticipation or patience had never been my virtues. I didn’t like this waiting game, spending hours a day in his presence with his sultry eyes on me. Every time he looked at me, it felt as though his heated gaze was undressing me while sending delicious trembles through my lower body. Ever since he touched me down there, I could think of nothing but his lips on my skin, teasing, sucking, sending me over the edge. I wanted to feel that electrifying cascade of emotions again, but I also intended to repay his efforts this time. The tell-tale tingling of arousal rushed through my belly, descending into a sensual pull just below my abdomen.
But now wasn’t the time.
Pushing Jett to the back of my mind, I dressed in a pencil skirt that fell just below the knees and a soft Cashmere top with a plunging V neck line. I kept my makeup understated—a bit of mascara, blusher, and a touch of lipstick—and eased my ponytail. My hair cascaded down my shoulders in countless soft ringlets. Pleased, I inspected myself in the mirror.
Not too bad, Stewart.
Okay, I admit I was nowhere near model material, but I had a few things going for me—like my luminous, brown eyes, my round hips, and my thin waist. Besides, Jett had made no secret about wanting me, so for once the fact that my legs weren’t long enough and my cup size could use the boost of a padded bra didn’t bother me.
Biting my lip nervously, I shot the image in the mirror another look and ventured out in search of my boss.
I found Jett in the living room, standing near the open balcony door with his cell phone pressed to his ear, and the evening wind ruffling his hair. His back was turned to me, so I had a few short moments to regard him before he noticed my presence.
He was clad in jeans that hugged his strong thighs and a black tee that accentuated his biceps; the moisture in his hair shimmered in the light of the chandelier, making me want to run my fingers through it to test whether it was as soft and luscious as it seemed. He looked so yummy I could have died on the spot and gone straight to heaven. I groaned against the sudden need pooling between my legs.
Seriously? He didn’t even need to say a word, and I was already considering begging him to take me. I couldn’t be more obvious.
Knocking lightly on the already open door, I stepped into the living room, my eyes fixed on anything but Jett. And then he turned and a panty-dropping smile jerked his lips upward. My gaze was drawn to him magnetically, and everything else was sucked out of my vision.
He was so hot it was unreal.
No, he was a sex god.
My breath hitched in my throat for the umpteenth time since I’d met him.
“Hey. Had a good day?” he asked in a low and throaty tone, sexy as hell.
I swallowed hard, forgetting my voice. He strolled toward me and bent down to place a soft kiss on my cheek as his hand moved to my lower back, barely touching the soft material of my shirt.
Too close for comfort, too electrifying.
I couldn’t breathe. He was so confident it scared the living crap out of me.
Smiling bravely, I took two steps back, forcing myself not to dash for the nearest exit.
“It was good. What about you?” My voice barely found its way out of my throat.
“It’s getting better now that I’m here with you.” Jett’s eyes descended into mine, sending my insides into upheaval. His thumb brushed my lower lip and a frown crossed his features, as though he couldn’t decide whether to kiss it. I wanted to make that decision easy for him so I gently pressed my mouth against his thumb while my eyes remained connected with him. His breathing became shallow as I started to suck his finger into my mouth, pulling it in and out.
“You’re playing with fire, Brooke,” Jett said huskily. “I don’t want you to get burned.”
“You promised fire. I don’t mind a little pain,” I whispered against his hand. This was about the most obvious invitation I had ever spoken to a man. My heart began to beat wildly against my ribcage, reminding me of a fragile bird in desperate search for a way out of a cage. And in some way I was a bird, and my life was a cage. While I’d never let Jett or any other man inside, I figured I could safely venture outside for a change, in the hope that I might just forget my past. Be someone else for a while.
We stared at each other for a few moments during which I barely breathed…and then his cell phone rang, jerking him out of our moment.
Someone had to call at the most unfortunate time again.
Jett peered at the caller ID and pressed the response button, muttering something like, “Hold on.” Covering the microphone with one hand, his lips crushed mine in a fleeting kiss. “Sorry, I have to take this.”
I shrugged. His gaze darkened, and for a moment I couldn’t tell whether with desire or annoyance.
“I hope you like barbecue,” he said.
“Meet you in the kitchen in ten?”
I nodded, even though he couldn’t see it because he had turned his back on me, his phone glued to his ear.
As I entered the kitchen, the grill was already set up and covered with a steel lid. Jett lifted it to reveal two servings of ribs the size of Alabama. The aroma of meat and grilled vegetables made my stomach rumble and mellowed out my annoyance. Maybe he didn’t take me up on the offer because he didn’t want to burn dinner?
His loss, right?
I shrugged and forced myself not to roll my eyes again like a petulant child.
“Your business meeting didn’t go so well,” I started, ready to steer the conversation onto known terrain. After all, he was my boss and we were supposed to discuss things that affected the company.
Jett smirked. “How could you tell?”
“By the way you slammed the door.”
“Sorry about that.”
I watched him as he piled up two plates in silence and headed out the balcony door into the backyard. I took the red wine bottle and two empty wine glasses, then followed him out.
The air was warm and thick with the aroma of wood and flowers in bloom. The garden table and chairs were situated just around the corner where the light from the kitchen barely penetrated the darkness. Jett had already lit up what looked like a huge golden lantern that shed a soft glow on the white porcelain and tablecloth. The lit tea candles arranged in a zigzag pattern flickered in the soft breeze and cast moving shadows across the whitewashed wall.
The whole atmosphere was chic yet relaxed, not too romantic but not casual either. Where I came from, we never lit candles unless we celebrated a birthday, or someone had died.
Placing the wine bottle and glasses on the table next to a set of cutlery and the two plates, I sat down on the chair opposite from Jett. My gaze shifted around, looking at anything but him.
“Are you cold? If you are, I can bring you a sweater or we can eat inside.” The concern in his voice made me peer up in surprise.
He regarded me for a moment, as though not quite believing me. The candlelight reflected in his eyes and made them shimmer like gemstones. In the soft light, his skin had a golden glow to it and his stubble was more pronounced, giving him a dark and menacing flair. I had never liked stubble on a man, but I found it sexy on him. It suited his character—rough but at the same time soft, strange but also familiar. He looks so yummy, I wanted to bury myself in his strong arms. I ignored the urge to lean over the table and draw his face to mine to feel the scratchy sensation on my skin.
“Wine?” His voice broke the silence, jerking me out of my thoughts.
I smiled hesitantly and reached for the half-full glass.
“To us,” Jett said, chinking our glasses, his gaze never leaving mine.
Swallowing hard, I nodded because something in his tone—maybe the slightest hint of a promise—ignited a raging fire in me.
I took a sip of the delicious wine, then another, to calm my suddenly racing heart. It didn’t really help, so I focused on the contents of my plate, all the while keeping the conversation light and casual.
“Did you find anything in the Lucazzone file?” he asked me, handing me a basket of bread as I tucked into my spare ribs.
I shook my head and finished chewing before answering. “No, but there’s something I meant to ask you. How many times have you and your lawyers looked through it?”
He shrugged, signaling that either he didn’t care or he couldn’t be bothered counting.
“Exactly,” I mumbled under my breath.
He gave me a strange look. “I brought it so you could take a look at it. I thought getting a fresh opinion wouldn’t hurt.”
“Look, I—” I put my cutlery down and hesitated as I prepared my words carefully so he wouldn’t think I was lecturing him. We might share sizzling sexual chemistry, but Jett was still my boss. As most of them come, they tend to have an oversized ego and an unwillingness to take ‘no’ or ‘not possible’ for an answer. “I can see the potential of this estate, but with the taxes and everything else in order, there’s no way you’ll get it unless the old man sells or you turn him in.”