Nico, who had taken his ringing mobile phone from his pocket intending to turn it off, dropped it. It lay where it had fallen as, jaw slack with shock, he scanned the face of the man who sat behind the big desk, a pointless exercise because he never could read his uncle.
‘Whaddaya... Yes...?’ he said, unable to believe he was this lucky.
Behind the desk Alex brought his formidable mental control into play and pushed the increasingly erotic images from his head.
He raised one dark brow. ‘Yes.’
Nico surged to his feet, radiating the sort of youthful excitement that made Alex, who was all of what, twelve years his senior, feel old. ‘Seriously...? This isn’t a wind-up... No, you don’t—’
Alex quirked a dark brow and suggested, ‘Have a sense of humour?’
Maybe the boy was right; maybe he had eradicated that along with his conscience.
A conscience was an inconvenient thing, he thought, seeing the expression in those big eyes. He needed to draw a line under what had happened, and this was an unexpected opportunity to do just that. A girl who adopted a ‘jump into bed first and ask questions later’ policy should have expected a few surprises, yet innocence was an odd word to use with someone who had been so sexually uninhibited. But for some reason...? Again, he was overthinking this.
Take away the acrid taste of guilt and she remained the best sex he had ever had, and due to pressures of work it had been months since he had enjoyed any sex, which might go some way to explaining the strength of his physical response. He didn’t try to justify it. He didn’t just need sex, he needed a question mark in his life; he needed highs and lows, not a predictable flat-line monotony.
Wondering where that thought had come from, he was aware he sounded like a man who was not satisfied with his life. He was; of course he was. Alex got to his feet and picked up the jacket he had slung over the back of the chair.
‘You going to pick that up?’ He nodded towards the phone.
Looking dazed, his nephew nodded. ‘What...? Oh, sure...’
‘You will keep me up to speed?’
‘Me? You want me to... Great, of course... So should I run the details past...?’ Though tall and blessed with an athletic build, the younger man was forced to tilt his head back to look up at his uncle who, at six-five, was a couple of inches taller than him, and significantly more than a couple inches broader across the shoulders.
‘Me,’ Alex said, shrugging on a fine wool jacket that was tailored to fit across his broad shoulders so it fell into place without a crease.
‘You really mean this? You’ll actually let them film on Saronia?’
He’d made the pitch but in his wildest dreams Nico had never seriously expected it to work. Everyone knew how jealously Alex Arlov protected his privacy, even more so since someone had hacked into his wife’s medical records not long before she died. It was after the resulting tear-jerking newspaper article that he had gained the reputation of being ferociously litigious, someone prepared to go after perpetrators who crossed the line in the sand regardless of the cost. Some people suggested that this meant he had something to hide, and pointed out the lives he had ruined by taking legal retribution, but they did so in very small voices and only after taking extensive legal advice!
Nico, who was not averse to seeing his own picture on the pages of celebrity magazines, privately considered that Uncle Alex took it a bit far. The paparazzo who had ended up fully clothed in a swimming pool at his mother’s birthday bash last year, camera and all, might have agreed with him.
‘With certain restrictions obviously. They stay on the mainland and make the daily commute. I don’t want them anywhere near the house. I can leave the details with you?’
‘Wow... Yes, absolutely and, thanks, you won’t regret this.’
Alex watched the boy bounce from the room oozing enthusiasm and incredulous joy. If Alex had been the type to dwell on the motivations behind his decision he might have spent the next hour doing so with increasing frustration. But he wasn’t, so he spent the next hour running instead.
* * *
Angel poked her head around the door of the lounge where most of the people involved had congregated. Used to the handful involved in a fashion shoot, she thought there seemed to be an awful lot of them.
‘I think I’ll go for a walk. Anyone fancy some fresh air?’ She was an active person, and being cooped up in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the luxury hotel was getting to her.
Several astonished pairs of eyes turned her way. Someone whose name she had forgotten replied, his tone indulgent, ‘It’s raining, Angel, honey.’