Glory’s fantasies became reality when the irresistible Rafaello Grazzini chose to embark on a passionate liaison with her.
Rafaello’s charms and social graces made Glory feel like a princess. But his father cast a disapproving eye over the relationship and used blackmail to bring the fairy tale to an abrupt end. Many years later, in desperate circumstances, Glory begs Rafaello for his help. As arrogant as he is handsome, Rafaello agrees to help Glory on one condition – that she become his mistress….
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WHEN Glory walked into the London headquarters of Grazzini Industries, every male head in the vicinity swivelled to watch her.
Her face was unforgettable: wide slanted cheekbones, bright eyes the colour of bluebells and a wide, full pink mouth. Even with her honey-blonde hair caught back, and clad in khaki combats and a casual top, she attracted attention. All the men stared: they couldn’t help themselves. That stunning face and lush figure endowed her with an extraordinary degree of sex appeal.
Impervious to the attention that she was receiving, Glory was engaged in frantically talking up her flagging courage. Rafaello would listen to her, of course he would listen. So what if it had been five years since they had last met? So what if they had parted on bad terms? He had hurt her so much that even now she could not bring herself to recall how she had felt back then but she knew she had not hurt him. Powerful, influential businessmen were not known for their sensitivity. Maybe she had dented his ego a little but then he had never suffered from any lack in that department. She wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that Rafaello barely recalled their painfully brief fling.
Yet she remembered every day, every hour, every minute. She remembered how naïve and trusting and stupid she had been. She remembered that last night she had hoped to spend with him and the resulting humiliation followed by the agony of loss and rejection. The oldest story in the book, she told herself, fighting to suppress those debilitating memories. She had wanted love but he had only wanted a temporary distraction. He might so easily have become her first lover but they had broken up before she trusted him enough to say yes.
Left alone in the steel-walled lift as it climbed higher and higher, Glory rested her hot, damp brow against the cooling metal surface. Pull yourself together, girl. Chin up, hold your head high. Never mind that her nerves were eating her alive. Or that her wardrobe did not run to a smart suit. Or that she felt horribly intimidated by Rafaello’s giant steel and glass office building. None of that mattered, she told herself. She was here to help her family: her dad, her kid brother, Sam.
Stepping out on to the top floor into an atmosphere of exclusive comfort and elegance, Glory approached the smart reception desk.
‘I have an appointment with Mr Grazzini…’ Her voice emerged all small and crushed by the sheer weight of her nervous tension.
The attractive brunette looked her up and down with a faint frownline etched between her perfect pencilled brows. ‘Your name, Miss…?’
‘Little. Glory Little,’ Glory supplied hurriedly.
‘Please take a seat…’ The cool ice-blue leather seating area was indicated.
Glory reached for a glossy women’s magazine. She flicked through fashion pages adorned by women wearing single garments that cost more than she earned in six months. Interest wandering, she glanced around herself, hugely impressed by her surroundings but anything but comfortable with them. Though it was certainly no surprise to her that Rafaello was doing extravagantly well in business. He had started out rich and would no doubt go on getting richer. Didn’t it run in his genes? He had once told her that the Grazzini clan had started coining it as merchants during the Middle Ages.
No wonder they hadn’t ended up together, she reflected, striving to see the humour of her own pitiful ignorance at the age of eighteen. Youthful bravado had persuaded her that things like different backgrounds and what some people called ‘breeding’ didn’t matter in a world approaching the second millennium. To think otherwise was incredibly old-fashioned, she had told a less naïve friend, who had implied that Rafaello could only be after ‘one thing’. When her father had tried to warn her off too, she had just laughed and pointed out that Rafaello didn’t give two hoots about silly stuff, like her having left school at sixteen!
Snatched from her teeming thoughts, Glory glanced up to see a young man in a smart suit studying her. Clutching her bag, she got up. ‘Yes?’
‘Mr Grazzini will see you now.’
Glory managed a rather strained version of her usual sunny smile and looked down at her watch. ‘Right on the dot of ten o’clock. Rafaello hasn’t changed a bit. He was always dead keen on punctuality.’
In receipt of that chatty response, the young man looked taken aback. Glory flushed, hot embarrassed colour drenching her peaches and cream complexion right to the roots of her hair. She had said more than was required and city people didn’t gush like that and offer up unnecessary facts at the drop of a hat. But nerves had always run away with Glory’s tongue and, given the chance, she tended to rush to fill every awkward silence. Not this time, however. She knew why he had looked momentarily astonished and knowing did nothing for her self-esteem. The guy just could not imagine someone as ordinary as her ever having been on first-name terms with his rich and sophisticated employer.
‘I’m Mr Grazzini’s executive assistant,’ he informed her. ‘The name’s Jon…Jon Lyons.’