Alex had visited out of curiosity when the resort hotel he had commissioned was being built on the mainland just a few minutes away by boat. Emma, who had come with him, had been fascinated by the romance of the place. They had always planned to build a house there but the plans had been put on hold when she’d become ill and had been shelved permanently after the diagnosis.
He had gone back to Saronia for the first time a few months after her death, camping on the beach for a few days that had stretched into several weeks. Later that year he had commissioned a house, not the family house that he had planned with Emma but a small place, minimalist, no frills—though not the monk’s cell his sister had called it. It was his own retreat; he went there once or twice a year to recharge his batteries.... God knew there were few places where he could guarantee there were no photographers lurking around the corner, no phones, no news—he was off the grid when he was there.
As much as he admired his nephew’s enterprise he would sooner have invited cameras into his own bathroom than allow a film crew to invade this precious private sanctuary.
‘Louise,’ the younger man said suddenly as he took a seat on the edge of the big desk. ‘She had a really tough upbringing and she thinks I’m...spoilt.’
‘This is your soap star?’
‘And you want to impress her.’ Alex, who had been idly scrolling through the tablet, stopped. ‘Who is that?’ The lack of inflection in his voice might have made those who knew him better wonder...but Nico’s attention was on his own troubled love life, not the sudden tension in his uncle’s body language.
His nephew bent over, scanning the inverted image that filled the screen. It was a studio shot of an extremely beautiful young woman pouting provocatively at the camera with lips that were glossy and scarlet. Everything about her was provocative, from the swathe of dark wavy hair that fell artistically across one half of her face to the smile in her heavily lidded eyes, a smile that seemed to invite you to share a secret that gleamed in the shimmering emerald depths as she leaned forward displaying a large amount of cleavage in a gold sheath dress that clung like a second skin.
‘Angel. She’s a model.’
Angel... Angelina? ‘A model.’
It did not surprise him. What did surprise him was the instant effect of a face he had last seen six years ago.... An incident that had not been his finest hour, but one he had consigned to the past. The instant surge of sexual hunger that tightened in his belly had a very present feel to it.
His nephew nodded and looked amazed by his uncle’s ignorance. ‘You must have seen her in that underwear campaign last year. She was everywhere.’
‘I must have missed that one,’ he mused, seeing the beautiful sleek brunette not in underwear...not in anything. He went to stand but, not wanting to draw attention to the testosterone that had suddenly pooled in his groin, he sat back down again like some hormonal teenager, resenting his lack of control—or at least the cause of it.
‘Gorgeous, isn’t she?’ the young man continued, oblivious to any undercurrents in the air. ‘All that hair and those green eyes. They are going to build the campaign around her. It’s a calculated risk, they said, not to choose a big celebrity to be the new face for a perfume, but they want to build the campaign around someone who—’
Alex tuned out the explanation of the thinking behind employing a relative unknown—she was not unknown to him. Seeing that face, those eyes, remembering the sleek, sinuous body, the undulating curves, the golden toned skin, brought that night back so clearly that he could smell the scent of her shampoo.
Lust slammed through him again like an iron fist. With it came the guilt...always the guilt. Emma dead how many weeks...? And he had jumped into bed with the first available woman. She had led but he had followed.
His lips curled in self-disgust. He had moved on since then, when he’d felt ready. Not one-night stands, that was not his thing, but he had enjoyed a series of satisfying relationships with women who enjoyed sex but not drama, and none had been tainted with guilt. If that required he maintain a certain emotional distance it was a price worth paying.
He had no desire to revisit that place of agonising guilt but to recapture that...? It was not so much a thing he was trying to recapture but an absence that he was trying to fill. He gave his head a tiny shake, aware that he was guilty of the sin of overanalysing. She had been the best sex of his life, so why not make a push to sample it and her again?