Bought by Her Italian Boss(9)

By: Dani Collins

“Good,” Vittorio said as he opened the door, then settled his arm around her, tucking her shoulder under his armpit as his hand took possession of her waist.

She stiffened in surprise at the contact. A disconcerting rush of heat blanketed her, making her knees weaken.

He supported her, forcing her forward and keeping her on her feet when she would have stumbled. He matched their steps perfectly, as though they had walked as a couple many times before.

Two minutes, she repeated to herself, leaning into him despite how much she resented him. She’d never realized how long a minute was until she had to bear the rustle of heads turning and chairs squeaking, conversation stopping and keyboard tapping halting into a blanket of silence.

Vittorio’s aftershave, spicy and beguiling, enveloped her. It was dizzying. An assault to already overloaded senses. Were her legs going to hold her? Amazing how being escorted like this made you feel like a criminal as well as look like one.

Her eyes were seared blind. She couldn’t tell who was looking, couldn’t really see the rest of the open-plan office because Vittorio kept her on his side closest to the wall and stayed a quarter step ahead of her so his big shoulders blocked her vision of the rest of the floor.

Another man paced on his far side, broad and burly and carrying a file box that held a green travel cup that she thought might be hers. Had they also collected the snapshot of her with her mother and stepfather, she worried?

The elevator was being held open by another hitman type with a buzz cut. He couldn’t care less about her silly scandal, his watchful indifference seemed to say. He was here to bust heads if anyone stepped out of line.

The elevator closed and she let out her breath, but rather than dropping as she expected, the elevator climbed, making her stagger and clutch instinctively at Vittorio’s smooth jacket.

He cradled her closer, steadying her, fingers moving soothingly at her waist. Disturbing her with the intimacy of his touch.

“Why aren’t we going down?” she asked shakily.

“The helicopter will avoid the scrum.”

“Helicopter?” she choked out, mind scattering as she tried to make sense of this turn of events.

“Thirty seconds,” he warned, tone gruff, and nudged her a step forward as the elevator leveled out with a ding.

His arm remained firm across her back, urging her through the opening doors.

She trembled, trying not to fold into him, but he was the only solid thing in her world right now. She had to remember that despite his seeming solicitude, he wasn’t on her side. This was damage control. Nothing more.

The refinement at this height in the building was practically polished into the stillness of the air. Nevertheless, humans were humans. Heads came up. Eyes followed.

Vittorio addressed no one, only steered her down a hall in confident, unhurried steps, past a boardroom of men in suits and women with perfectly coiffed hair, past a lounge where a handful of people stood drinking coffee and into a glass receiving area beyond which a helicopter stood, rotors beginning to turn.

The security guard took her box of possessions ahead of them and tucked it into a bulkhead, then moved into the cockpit.

Wow. This wasn’t a helicopter like she’d seen on television, where people were crammed into three seats across the back wall, shoulder to shoulder, and had to put on headphones and shout to be heard.

This was an executive lounge that belonged on a yacht. She didn’t have to duck as she moved into it. The white leather seats were ten times plusher than the very expensive recliner she’d purchased for her stepfather two Christmases ago. The seats rotated, she realized, as Vittorio pointed her to one, then turned another so they would sit facing each other.

There was a door to the pilot’s cockpit, like on an airplane. An air hostess smiled a greeting and nodded at Vittorio, taking a silent order from him that he gave with the simple raising of two fingers. She arrived seconds later with two drinks that looked suspiciously like scotch, neat.

Vittorio lowered a small table between them with indents to hold their glasses.

Gwyn took a deep drink of her scotch, shivering as the burn chased down her throat, then replaced her glass into its holder with a dull thud. “Where are you taking me?”

“This isn’t a kidnapping,” he said dryly. “We’re going to Paolo’s home on Lake Como. It’s in his wife’s name and not on the paparazzi’s radar.”

“What? No,” she insisted, reaching to open her seatbelt. “My passport is in my apartment. I need it to get home.”

“To America? The press there is more relentless than ours. Even if you managed to drop out of sight, I would still have an ugly smudge on the bank’s reputation to erase.”

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