JUST at this precise moment in time, life seemed very good to Riccardo di Napoli indeed. He knew, of course, that the feeling wouldn’t last. Even at the young age of twenty-six, he was already keenly aware that disappointment was the shadow forever lurking round the corner, but just right now…
He had a feeling of perfect satisfaction as he briefly considered where he was. Metaphorically. The golden and only child of a couple whose name in Italy was a byword for wealth. From the moment of his birth—and probably, he thought with wry amusement, from the instant of conception—he had been lavished with everything vast sums of money could offer. He had been a child doted upon by his parents and reared to inherit the mantle of his father’s massive business concerns. It was a legacy which had sat easily on his shoulders. He was bright, and to the deep and lasting approval of his father had refused to accept his birthright without earning it.
He had spent the past eight years adding credentials to his title, first from Oxford University, then Harvard, and then had come his working stint in London which had been fulfilling and hugely successful.
He had felt his first real taste of power, had noted and rather enjoyed the reluctantly won admiration from men far older than him. He had witnessed the sharpening of knives behind backs, had tasted the heady rush that comes with the making of money, and had thrilled to it.
And now here he was, poised and ready for the invigorating and cut-throat career that lay ahead of him. This little break in the Tuscan hills, as he dipped his toes into the one area of his family businesses which he had so far ignored, was proving to be as educational as it was enjoyable.
He had always been happy to drink the wine but it was interesting to get a taste for its production.
Nothing too involved, of course. His area of expertise would always be primarily in the financial arena. Still, he never suspected that the brief interruption to his pre-destined and rapid upward climb would prove as fruitful as it now was.
His eyes slid to the woman lying next to him, who was basking in the night-time warmth where the air was alive with the sounds of tiny creatures, and the sultry stirring of the trees and undergrowth in the gentle breeze.
It was too dark to make out her features, but he didn’t have to. He had spent the past seven weeks almost exclusively in her company and her face and body were imprinted in his head. He would have been able to trace every small contour of her fabulous body with his eyes shut.
Oh yes. Life felt very good indeed.
As if on cue, Charlie turned onto her side and propped herself up on one elbow. She couldn’t help herself. She reached out and splayed her fingers through his hair. Dark, dark hair that was worn longer than the boys she knew in England, with their silly, prissy haircuts and their infantile behaviour.
‘I wish you weren’t going tomorrow,’ she repeated for the millionth time. ‘I know you probably think that I’m being clingy, but it’s just going to be so lonely here without you.’
Riccardo caught her hand and planted a kiss on the soft underside of her wrist. It made her squirm. It always did. Every time he touched her. They had just made love. Right here. With the night around them and only a blanket separating them from the prickly grass. Still she could feel her nipples hardening and every muscle in her body tensing in exquisite anticipation.
‘You are insatiable,’ Riccardo said huskily. He dropped his hand to her waist, running it up and under her tee-shirt, and felt the now familiar perfection of her rounded breast. He massaged it slowly, rubbing the hard nipple with his thumb.