The Final Seduction

By: Sharon Kendrick
CHAPTER ONE




AS SOON as she heard him call her name she knew that something was wrong.

Very wrong.

‘Shelley?’

Shelley frowned at the intercom. ‘Yes, Marco?’

‘Are you busy?’ He spoke every word as if it were poetry. Sexy, deep, strong, lyrical. The kind of voice that drove women crazy. Shelley had seen it for herself, time after time.

Waitresses would go ga-ga for that voice. Female bank employees would flutter their eyelashes—even women who were old enough to know better started coming on to him like small-town hookers. Actually, they were the worst. Rich, confident, bored middle-aged women who fancied the idea of an Italian lover in their bed. And out of it!

Shelley wondered if he was being hounded by one of the more persistent females. It happened. Maybe that was why he wanted to speak to her—to ask her to let his pursuer know in the nicest possible way that he was definitely not available!

‘No, I’m not especially busy.’ She glanced down at the glossy catalogue she had been studying on his behalf. Marco was currently the hottest art dealer on the international circuit, and Shelley made sure he kept his crown by oiling the wheels of his life—so that it ran as smoothly as possible. ‘What’s up?’

‘We need to talk.’

‘I’m all yours, Marco.’ She closed the catalogue and pushed it to the front of her desk.

‘Good.’ Seconds later he appeared at her door, almost as if he had been lingering outside in the corridor, like a person waiting to be interviewed.

Shelley stared at him. Something was different. ‘Is everything okay?’

He hesitated, thick black lashes shading the ebony glitter of his eyes. ‘I’m not quite sure how to answer that.’

She watched while he came into the dazzling light-filled room which she was lucky enough to call her office. Watched his air of distraction as he walked over to the window to gaze out at the lake beyond. The morning sun made the waters glitter and throw back the intense golden light—as if someone had scattered the surface with sequins.

He turned back to face her and, as always, Shelley derived intense pleasure just from looking at him. It was like looking at a beautiful painting or a perfect sky. She knew how lucky she was and how many people envied her—with her perfect job and her perfect boss.

‘Shall I make us some coffee?’

He shook his head. ‘No. Thanks.’

For the first time, she noticed the unfamiliar shadows beneath his eyes and deep in her subconscious little warning bells began ringing sounds of danger. Marco always slept like a baby. ‘Something is wrong, isn’t it?’ she said.

He sat down opposite her and spread his hands expansively, in a very Italian way. ‘Not wrong—just different. Something has changed.’

‘Don’t speak in riddles, Marco,’ she implored. ‘You know I can’t stand suspense! I’m the kind of person who reads the reviews of films before I go to see them, just so I can find out the ending!’

‘There is no easy way to say this, Shelley—’

And then she guessed. ‘You’ve met someone?’

‘Yes.’

‘And you’ve fallen in love.’

‘Yes, again.’

‘It’s obviously serious.’

‘It… Yes,’ he admitted, and for a moment his face looked almost severe. ‘Yes, it’s serious. Very serious.’

‘Serious in that you’ve already shared breakfast in bed?’

‘Shelley!’ he protested, but he was smiling. ‘How can you ask me such a question?’

‘Because I’m a woman, and because I’m curious! Or did you imagine I’d find it painful?’

‘I guess I did. Well, not painful exactly. Difficult.’

‘Because I’ve lived with you for three years and every woman in Italy would like to scratch my eyes out because of that?’

‘Shelley!’ He hesitated. ‘You know—if I could change things I would.’

‘Fall out of love again, you mean?’

‘No.’ He shook his head. ‘Rewrite history.’

‘Well, you can’t,’ she said flatly. ‘No one can.’

‘But I took you away,’ he said slowly, painfully. ‘I took you from Drew.’

Drew.

His name washed over her like the morning tide.

She had seen him in her dreams so often—especially at the beginning, when everything was still so raw, and so painful. But it was a long time since either she or Marco had spoken that name aloud and, oddly, it hurt more than it should have done. Even after all this time.

Shelley shook her head, mainly to rid herself of the face which had swum into her memory with pin-point clarity. Sapphire eyes and honey-tipped hair. The body of a labourer, with the face of an angel.

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