The Ultimate Risk

By: Chantelle Shaw

CHAPTER ONE


Did every woman remember her first lover? Gina wondered.

Surely she was not the only woman to have felt her heart slam against her ribs when she had glanced across a crowded room and caught sight of the man she had once been madly in love with?

 It was definitely Lanzo. Their brief affair had taken place ten years ago, but he was regarded as one of Europe’s most sought-after bachelors. Photographs of him regularly featured in celebrity gossip magazines and he was instantly recognisable. She couldn’t help staring at him, conscious of that same swooping sensatioAn in the pit of her stomach that she had felt when she had been eighteen and utterly in awe of him.

Perhaps he felt her scrutiny? Her breath caught in her throat when he turned his head in her direction. For a few seconds their eyes met and held, before Gina quickly looked away and pretended to idly scan the other guests at the party.

The tranquillity of Poole Harbour, on England’s south coast, had been shattered over the weekend by the staging of the international offshore powerboat racing championships. Generally regarded as the most extreme and dangerous of all watersports, powerboat racing had been going on all day far out in the bay. But this evening the engines were silent, and dozens of sleek, futuristic-looking powerboats were moored in the harbour, bobbing gently on the swell.

It was certainly a sport that attracted the beautiful people, Gina noted, as she glanced around the restaurant where the after-race party was being held. Glamorous promotional models—uniformly tanned, blonde, and sporting unnaturally large breasts and very short skirts—flocked around bronzed, over-loud male boat crews, the drivers and throttle-men, who between them sent their boats skimming over the waves at death-defying speeds.

She had never understood why anyone would choose to risk their life for fun, and she had taken no interest in the racing. The party was definitely not her scene, and she had only come because her old schoolfriend Alex had recently taken over as manager of the exclusive Di Cosimo restaurant, and had requested her moral support on his first big event.

Instead, it was she who was in need of support, Gina reflected ruefully. Her legs felt like jelly and her head was spinning—but she could not blame either on the one glass of champagne she had drunk.

She was so shocked to see Lanzo again. She hadn’t realised he was still involved in powerboat racing, and it had not crossed her mind that he might attend the party. True, he owned the restaurant, but it was one of many around the world belonging to the Di Cosimo chain, and she had not expected Lanzo to be in Poole. She was unprepared for her reaction to him, for the way her stomach muscles clenched and the tiny hairs on her arms prickled when she studied his achingly familiar profile.

With his striking looks—olive-gold skin, classically sculpted features, and silky jet-black hair that showed no signs of grey, even though he must be in his mid-thirties by now—Lanzo di Cosimo looked like one of those impossibly handsome male models who featured in fashion magazines. Tall and powerfully built, his tailored black trousers emphasised his height, and his white shirt was of such fine silk that the hard ridges of his abdominal muscles and the shadow of his dark chest hairs were visible beneath the material.

But it was more than just looks, Gina thought, as she stared down at her empty glass and dragged oxygen into her lungs. Lanzo possessed a simmering sensual magnetism that demanded attention. Supremely self-assured and devastatingly sexy, he was impossible to ignore, and the women who thronged around him made no attempt to hide their fascination with him.

He was a billionaire playboy whose passion for dangerous sports matched his passion for leggy blondes—none of whom remained in his life for long before he exchanged them for another model. Ten years ago, Gina had never really understood what he had seen in her—an averagely attractive brunette. But at eighteen she had been too overwhelmed by his interest to question it, and only later had realised that her attraction had probably been her embarrassingly puppy-like eagerness. Lanzo had not had to try very hard to persuade her into his bed, she acknowledged ruefully. For him she had been a convenient bedmate that summer he had spent in Poole, and no doubt he hadn’t meant to break her heart—she only had herself to blame for that.


But time and maturity had healed the wounds of first love, she reminded herself. She was no longer the rather naïve girl with a massive crush on him she had been a decade ago. Resisting the urge to glance over at Lanzo again, she turned her back on him and strolled over to the huge wall of windows that ran the length of the restaurant and offered wonderful views over the harbour.

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