Craving Her Enemy's Touch

By: Rachael Thomas

CHAPTER ONE

THE PURR OF a sports car broke the quietness of the afternoon, taking Charlie’s mind hurtling back to the past. To events she’d been hiding from for the last year.

She had grown up in the glamour of the racing world, but her brother’s death had sent her retreating to the country and the sanctuary of her cottage garden. It was a place that was safe, but instinct warned her that this safety was now under threat.

Unable to help herself, she listened to the unmistakable sound of the V8 engine as it slowed in the lane beyond her garden, appreciative of its throaty restraint. All thoughts of planting bulbs for next spring disappeared as memories were unleashed. Images of happier times filled her mind, colliding with those of the moment her world had fallen apart.

Kneeling on the grass in the corner of her garden, she couldn’t see the car on the other side of the hedge, but she knew it was powerful and expensive—and that it had stopped in the lane outside her cottage.

The engine fell silent and only birdsong disturbed the peace of the English countryside. She closed her eyes against the dread which rushed over her. She didn’t need visits from the past, however well meaning. This unexpected visitor had to be her father’s doing; he’d been pushing her to move on for weeks now.

The heavy clunk of the car door shutting was followed by purposeful footsteps on the road. A few seconds later they crunched on the gravel of her pathway and she knew that whoever it was would see her at any second.

‘Scusi.’ The deep male voice startled her more than the Italian he spoke and she jumped up as though she were a child with her hand caught in the sweet jar.

The six foot plus of dark Italian male which stood in her garden robbed her of the ability to think, let alone speak, and all she could do was look at him. Dressed in casual but very much designer jeans which hugged his thighs to perfection, he appeared totally out of place and yet vaguely familiar. Over a dark shirt he wore a leather jacket and was everything she’d expect an Italian man to be. Self-assured and confident, oozing undeniable sex appeal.

His dark collar-length hair was thick and gleamed in the sunshine, his tanned face showed a light growth of stubble, which only enhanced his handsome features. But it was the intense blackness of his eyes as they pierced into her which made breathing almost impossible.

‘I am looking for Charlotte Warrington.’ His accent was heavy and incredibly sexy, as was the way he said her name, caressing it until it sounded like a melody. She fought hard against the urge to allow it to wrap itself around her. She had to. She was out of practice in dealing with such men.

Slowly pulling off her gardening gloves, she became acutely aware she was wearing her oldest jeans and T-shirt and that her hair was scraped back in something which almost resembled a ponytail. Could she get away with not admitting who she was? But the arrogance in those dark eyes as they watched her made her want to shock him.

He was undoubtedly her brother’s business partner, the man who had whisked him deeper into the world of performance cars, so far that he’d almost forgotten his family’s existence. Indignation surfaced rapidly.

‘What can I do for you, Mr...?’ The question of his name hung in the warm air around them, testing and challenging him. She stood tall as his astonished gaze travelled down her body, taking in her dishevelled appearance. Her skin tingled as those eyes all but caressed every part of her, making her breath catch as if he’d actually touched her.

‘You are Sebastian’s sister?’ Accusation and disbelief laced through every word, but it was lost on her as the grief she’d thought she’d finally begun to get over hit her once more as he said her brother’s name.

The urge to defend herself rose up, but she had no idea where it came from. ‘Yes,’ she said curtly, hearing the irritation in her own voice. ‘And you are?’

She asked the question although she knew the answer and it was not one she wanted to hear. She curled her fingers into her palms, knowing that the one man she’d never wanted to meet, the man she held responsible, first for taking Seb away from her, then for his death, stood impudently in her garden. Looking for her.

If that wasn’t bad enough, there had been a spark of attraction in that first second she’d seen him. Already she hated herself for it. How could she feel anything other than contempt for the man who’d deprived her of her brother?

‘Roselli,’ he said and stepped off the path and onto her newly cut lawn, confirming her worst suspicions. He smiled at her as he walked closer, but it didn’t reach his eyes. ‘Alessandro Roselli.’

She glared at him and he stopped a few paces away from her. Had he felt the heat of her anger? She certainly hoped so. He deserved every bit of it and so much more.

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