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It was done.
Or at least it was as good as done.
The requisite phone calls had been made and instructions given. Gino had been despatched to collect the Marshall woman and bring her back here to the London headquarters of Da Silva Chocolate.
She had no idea what was about to hit her.
No doubt she thought her precious Joseph was behind her unexpected summons.
Instead he would be waiting for her.
Luca smiled grimly.
Within the hour it would all be over.
Within the hour Morgan Marshall would discover just how stupid she'd been to mess with the da Silva family.
Luca swung the black leather chair back to his borrowed desk and picked up the latest quarterly figures for the chocolate division of his vast empire, pushing the whole ugly incident with the Marshall woman to the back of his mind.
She would be here soon enough. He would say his piece and then throw her out on the street where she belonged.
She wouldn't bother him or his family again; he'd make sure of it.
Twenty minutes later Luca was still poring over the report, this time with a frown, when someone knocked on the door.
'Enter!' he said, without looking up.
He heard the door open, but continued circling some numbers he wasn't happy with. When he was done, Luca closed the folder, tossed down his pen and looked up.
His heart stopped.
The breath locked tight in his lungs.
Standing in front of the burly figure of Gino was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen. Tall and slender, with raven black hair swirling around her shoulders, she had an elegant face totally belied by the I'm-in-charge black leather boots encasing her calves.
Luca exhaled slowly, staring at her through narrowedeyes.
This was the she-devil threatening his sister's marriage?
This was the heartless and conniving witch who had seduced his brother-in-law?
She wasn't what he'd been expecting at all.
In Luca's opinion, a callous marriage-wrecker should look hard and calculating. Not young—she couldn't be more than twenty-two or three—and gifted with an intriguing mixture of innocence and sensuality that even he, a connoisseur of some of the most beautiful women in the world, couldn't help but appreciate.
Just by looking at her Luca could tell that Morgan Marshall was way, way out of Joseph's league.
He was much more her type.
He knew how to handle a beauty like this.
Luca put a brake on his thoughts. There was only one way he was going to handle Morgan Marshall—and that was by teaching her a lesson she'd never forget!
'You're Morgan Marshall?' he asked, needing to be sure.
The woman angled her chin into the air in a gesture Luca found vaguely familiar. 'Yes. I'm Morgan Marshall.' She looked around, then pinned him with the most incredible black eyes. 'Where's Joseph?'
The blood turned to ice in his veins. She was so eager to see her lover. Would she feel the same way after he'd finished with her? Somehow Luca doubted it.
Ignoring her question about Joseph's whereabouts, he asked, 'Do you know who I am?'
She nodded. 'You're Luca da Silva.'
'That's right. Joseph's brother-in-law.'
She didn't say anything to that.
He could imagine why.
'Are you aware of that?' he pressed.
Her eyes remained steady on his but Luca sensed her sudden tension. 'Yes. Joseph is married to your sister, Stefania.'
Although he'd half expected it, her answer still disappointed him. For a second—just one—he'd hoped there had been some terrible misunderstanding. That maybe she hadn't known Joseph was married. That perhaps Joseph had kept that information to himself.
Instead he had confirmation of her culpability.
Rather than re-igniting his anger, as it should have done, her response left him feeling strangely flat and out of sorts.
Because he wanted to pursue her himself?
The answer came quick as a flash: yes!
Given the right circumstances, that was exactly what he would do.
Only the right circumstances didn't exist—and never would.
He had to face the ugly truth.
Morgan Marshall had known exactly what she was doing when she'd slept with Joseph. She hadn't accidentally found herself in bed with a married man. She'd gone into the affair with her eyes open.
Now she had to face the consequences.
'Do you know why I brought you here?' he asked softly.
'No. I don't.' Eyes as dark as his own glinted with angry fire. She jerked her head to where Gino was standing squarely in the doorway behind her, barring any opportunity for her to escape. 'This… this… gorilla wouldn't tell me a damned thing. He barely speaks a word of English. Every time I asked him a question, he just grunted.'
'Did he, now?' Good on you, Gino, Luca thought, looking into Gino's impassive face. He'd instructed his head of security to say as little as possible when he collected her, wanting his involvement to come as a surprise. Judging by the wary look on Morgan Marshall's face he'd more than succeeded in that endeavour.
'Yes. He did.' She thrust her hands onto slender hips. 'I told him it wasn't convenient for me to come with him, but he ignored me. He marched me out to the car as if I was some kind of criminal.'
'Did he hurt you?' Luca felt compelled to ask. Although he detested Morgan Marshall for sleeping with Joseph—how could he not, when he'd experienced first-hand the pain and destruction caused by extramarital affairs?—he didn't condone violence against women under any circumstances. If she'd been a man a good beating would be no more than she deserved. But then, if she'd been a man the situation wouldn't have arisen in the first place!
'No. But that's not the point.'
'Then what is?'
She gave him a look down the chiselled length of her nose that suggested he was several brain cells short of the full quid. 'The point is my being here is totally inconvenient. I have—had—a full schedule of appointments lined up for today. I had to ask my secretary to cancel them at the last moment.'
Luca inclined his head. 'That's regrettable, but unavoidable.'
'Is it? Maybe it's time you told me what this is all about. And while you're at it, why don't you tell me where Joseph is? This is his office. You shouldn't be in here without him.'
Luca stared at her in amazement. She was like a miniature firecracker going off, eyes glittering, so much energy vibrating off her, he expected to see sparks fly from the ends of her hair at any moment.
Would she be as passionate in bed?
His eyes dropped to the thrusting swell of her breasts, clearly outlined beneath the black and white striped shirt she was wearing under her snappy black business suit.
She would be dynamite in bed.
How he knew that for certain he wasn't sure, but know it he did.
Heat drip-fed into his blood stream, warming him from the inside out. He imagined taking her right now.
On the desk. Naked except for those sexy black boots wrapped tightly around his hips.
His body surged on such a powerful wave of lust that Luca almost put thought into action. Instead, with a frown, he dragged his eyes back to her face, sucked in a lung full of much needed air and thrust the thought aside.
Morgan Marshall was the last woman on earth he should be thinking about in that way.
'I intend making a formal complaint,' Morgan continued, eyes still blazing.
'Do you, now?' Luca drawled.
'Yes, I do. Joseph will be very angry when he hears how you've treated me.'
No doubt Joseph would be—if he ever found out about this meeting.
Rising to his feet, Luca rounded the desk. 'Leave us,' he ordered Gino.
Gino backed out of the room and closed the door behind him with a soft click.
'Joseph isn't going to hear about this meeting because you're not going to tell him.'
She blinked up at him. 'Of course I'm going to tell him.'
Luca took her arm and urged her across the room. 'No, you're not.'
Her perfume, something soft and spicy with a hint of orange, closed around him.
She licked her lips. 'I'm… I'm not?'
'No, you're not.' He eased her down onto one of two leather visitors' chairs. Then, instead of resuming his own seat, he leant his hips against the edge of the desk. 'Not if you know what's good for you.'
His words, accompanied by underlying steel, made her eyes widen. 'What… what's this all about?'
He smiled his most charming smile and watched as she blinked under the impact. 'Come on, Ms Marshall. You're a bright young woman. Surely you must have some idea.'
She stared up at him, her eyes deep, dark pools of confusion then angled her chin into the air. The gesture once again struck him as familiar. 'No. I have no idea. Unless there's a business matter you want to discuss with me.'
His hands clenched. The only 'business' he wanted to discuss with her was the monkey business she'd been up to with Joseph!
'Not as such, no. My business interests are extensive. I don't have time to involve myself in the day-to-day running of my companies. I have competent managers to do that.'
'Then what do you want to talk to me about?' Morgan asked, in a voice that had the faintest tremor running through it.
'Can't you guess?'
Her chin angled back into the air. It was a look Luca was becoming increasingly familiar with and equally irritated by—because he couldn't figure out who she reminded him of.
'Why don't you spit it out, Mr da Silva? If you have something to say, just say it.'
Luca had to admire her spirit. She had guts. He'd say that for her.
It was just a shame she didn't have the morals to go with it.
He shifted position on the desk and was aware of her quick appraisal. He leaned forward, inhaling the tangy scent of citrus. 'I brought you here because I am terminating your employment with Enigma Marketing.'
She gasped. Swayed in her seat. Paled until even her mouth looked parchment white and her eyes blacker than black. 'You can't do that!'
'I certainly can.'
Normally such a blatant misuse of power would be abhorrent to him. But these were exceptional circumstances that required drastic action.
'You may own half the world, Mr da Silva, but you don't own Enigma Marketing. You have no say over who they employ or don't employ.'
He smiled with genuine amusement. 'Surely you can't be that naïve? One phone call was all it took to seal your fate.'
She gasped again, her eyes so wide they looked like saucers. 'I don't believe you. My boss wouldn't do that to me!'
'No?' He leaned closer. 'Not even if I threatened to take away the Da Silva Chocolate account from her agency?'
A deathly silence fell. The look on her face told him Morgan knew the answer to that question as well as he did.
Da Silva had done for chocolate what Versace had done for fashion. The brand had developed a cult following among chocoholics, connoisseurs and A-listers around the world, their exclusive lines de rigueur on the tables of the rich and famous.
Da Silva was the marketing agency's flagship account. Losing it meant losing jobs, not to mention reputation and the kudos that came from being associated with the brand.
And Enigma's CEO, Dawn Merchant, would do just about anything to stop that from happening.
He reached across to the corner of the desk and slid the phone towards her. 'Why don't you call her? I'm sure Dawn will be happy to confirm what I've told you.'
Morgan looked from the phone to his face and back again. 'OK. I believe you. But you'd better have a damned good reason for firing me or I'm going to sue the pants off you!'
Luca almost laughed in her face. Almost. Except there was nothing funny about the way she was trying to tear apart his sister's marriage—particularly at a time when Stefania was so vulnerable.
His sister was battling depression over her inability to conceive. Although she was trying to put on a brave face and maintain a positive attitude, her failure to fall pregnant after the last IVF treatment had really knocked the stuffing out of her.
The last thing she needed right now was to discover the husband she adored was having an affair!
Luca was determined she would never find out.
It was because of him that Stefania was in this predicament in the first place. If only he'd—
Luca slammed a lid shut on his thoughts. He'd been through enough what-ifs and if-onlys to last him a lifetime. He'd almost driven himself crazy imagining what he could have done differently to avert the accident that had changed their lives.
But that was in the past. It was the present and the future that concerned him now. While he couldn't do anything about Stefania's infertility, he sure as hell could do something about Morgan Marshall.
'I could say it's because you're incompetent… but I won't,' he bit out harshly.
'Good,' she said hotly, eyes glinting. 'Because you'd be wrong. I'm good at what I do. Very good! Dawn must have told you that.'
He inclined his head. 'If it's any consolation, she did.'
In fact Luca had been surprised by just how rigorously Dawn had defended her employee. When he'd first called her, he'd phrased his request as exactly that. A request. When she'd rattled off what seemed to him to be an inordinately long list of qualifications and skills, he'd turned the request into an order.
An order Dawn had continued to resist.
Morgan was a model employee.
She was an excellent team player.
Not to mention innovative and creative.
Luca had frowned at the phone as he'd listened.
Were they talking about the same woman? he'd wondered.
The paragon Dawn was describing hardly sounded like the type of woman to have an affair with a married man. But then, he'd reasoned, just because she was a capable professional it didn't mean she couldn't also have the morals of an alley-cat!
'It's no consolation and you know it!' Morgan glared up at him, her eyes glittering like black diamonds. 'Now, tell me why you fired me, and make it good—or I'll have my solicitor here before you can say Jack Robinson!'
Luca couldn't help but admire her spirit. At the same time her continued refusal to admit the truth hardened his heart, until it felt as if it was encased in a block of ice.
He put his face close to hers, watched her draw back in her chair. Then he said softly, 'I think your relationship with Joseph Langdon is reason enough, don't you?'