Read an Excerpt
His touch so sensually knowing and skilled, so male and powerfully demanding, sent excitement and desire spearing through her, leaping like wildfire from nerve ending to nerve ending, tightening the cord of longing he aroused in her until nothing else mattered other than his possession of her: swift and hot and now. It was always like this, his first single stroke of pleasure answering and inciting the desire for him within her that was as much a part of her as her breathing.
She'd known this would happen when she'd slid her naked body into the warm silky water of their private pool, with only the stars and the moon above them in the tropical night sky there to witness their erotic intimacy. She swam away from him, tormenting herself by her denial perhaps even more than she was tormenting him, and her gasp of hot sweet pleasure when he caught up with her, swimming with her and then under her, to suckle fiercely on her nipples, was accompanied by a shudder of wild pleasure. His hand slid between her legs, covering her sex as he kicked out, the strong movement of his body carrying them both through the water. Hunger and need pierced her in lava-hot waves that surged through her and set her body moving to the same rhythm as the caress of his fingers. She moaned softly, reaching for him, filled with the wildness that wanting him brought her.
They had reached the edge of the pool. Dizzy with desire, she let him lift her out and carry her to a wide poolside lounger with a mattress and towelling cover. He lay her there, her body soft and boneless, open to his gaze and his touch.
His gaze and then his hand stroked her naked body, cupping her breast. Her heart lurched into her ribs, the muscles in her stomach tightening with the same need that had brought her nipples into such an erect ache of eager longing. His gaze registered the sensual message of her taut nipples but his hand stroked on to cup her hipbone. Automatically her legs opened, the sweet wet heat of her desire pulsing through her. He bent his head, his thick, dark, still-wet hair sending droplets of cool water falling onto her desire-heated skin. His tongue-tip circled her navel, drawing deliberately delicate patterns against her flesh, drawing from her an agonised gasp of his name.
'Saul. My love. My only for ever love.'
She was possessed, engulfed, burning up in the need he had aroused.
He looked up at her and she gave a small helpless moan, her body arching up to his, to him, a sensual sacrifice.
She saw his chest lift and then fall, and then he was holding her, kissing her, entering her. She cried out her pleasure to him, wrapping herself around him, moving with him, until their bodies took hold of their desire and their pleasure, carrying them swiftly to the summit of their arousal and then beyond that summit to the shared freefall into release and satisfaction.
She'd closed her eyes, but now she opened them to find him smiling down at her, a possessive, tender, loving male smile.
'Happy anniversary, Mrs. Parenti,' he said softly.
Giselle smiled back at her husband, happiness filling her. She was so lucky. Their life together was perfect, the burden of guilt she had carried for so long a dragon slain by his fight to free her from it. There was no need in this moment of bliss and harmony for her to torment herself with the memory of that other truth she had withheld from him. It had no power over her now, no relevance in the wonderful life they shareda life of fulfilling artistic ambition for her, working as she did as chief architect on Saul's worldwide luxury hotel developments, whilst the love they shared had created a private world of happiness for the two of them that neither needed nor wanted anyone else within its magic protective circle. They themselves were all they needed. Theirs was not a marriage that would ever include children. That had been the promise and the commitment they had made to one another when they had married twelve months ago. That was the foundation on which their marriage and with it her complete trust in Saul was built.
For both of them the causes of their determination to be childless lay in their own childhood and were understood and accepted by both of them. Just as Saul had healed so much of the pain of her childhood, with his love for her and his acceptance of her as she was, so Giselle had helped Saul to make his peace with his pastand more especially with the mother he believed had cared more for the orphans of the disasters of the world than she had for him.
It had been a very special and poignant moment for both of them when they had opened the first of what they planned to be a worldwide structure of teaching orphanages that incorporated both a home and a school in Saul's late mother's name.
Financed by Saul, designed by Giselle herself and built by Saul's company, the orphanages were to be Saul's gift of peace and acceptance to his late mother.
Their lovemaking the night after the official opening had been so emotionally and physically intense that the memory of it still brought tears to Giselle's eyes.
Theirs had not been an easy path to happiness and commitment. Both of them had fought hard against the fierce tide of desire for one another that had pulled them from their protected comfort zone into a combat zone in which they had both fought desperately against their feelings for one another, clinging to the wreckage of the security of their old beliefs. It had been Saul who had made the first move and reached out to her, and she, fathoms deep in love with him by that stage, had given in to her longing for him. After all, she had learned by then that Saul did not want children either.
As a billionaire businessman who thrived on the cut and thrust of competition, Saul had made a vow not to have children who, like him, would have to be left behind whilst he travelled the world. Unlike his cousin Aldo, the ruler of the small European state their family had ruled for countless generations, Saul did not have to marry and produce a legitimate heir.
And so she had put aside the principles by which she had lived as an adultnamely that she would never allow herself to fall in love, because she did not want children and she did not want to deprive any man she might love of the right to have those children. She had already, after all, broken the first vow she had made to herself in loving Saul, and he had promised her that she was all and everything he wanted and needed. But even on their wedding day she had felt the shadow of her past chilling her happiness. Guilt was such a heavy burden to bear. A solitary and lonely burden too. Giselle shivered despite the velvet warmth of the tropical night.
Saul smiled at her, getting up off the lounger and picking up the bathrobe she had discarded earlier to wrap it tenderly around her. He must have noticed her small involuntary shiver and, so typical of him, moved to protect her. She always cherished these special moments in the aftermath of their lovemaking, and the last thing she wanted was for them to be overshadowed by the shadows of her past. Surely now fate had released her from the burden of her guilt? Surely now she did not need to remember that she was still held hostage to a part of her past about which Saul knew nothing? There was no need for her to exhume the raw and rotting corpse of her guilt. The cause of it did not matter any longer. She was safeprotected by Saul's love and by the life they shared that meant so much to them both.
'Hungry?' Saul asked.
Giselle looked up at him. He had the physique and the good looks of a Greek god, the courage of a Roman warrior, the mind of a master tactician allied to that of a Greek philosopher, and a social conscience that came from true altruism. She loved him with a passion and an intensity that filled her senses and her emotions. He was her worlda world he created and made safe with his love for her.
She nodded her head in answer to his question.
Their personal butler had arranged for a delicious supper to be delivered to their villa shortly after their arrival on this private tropical island that was home to a luxurious and exclusive development in which Saul had a financial interest, but then Giselle's appetite had been for her husband. They'd spent three days of the previous week apart, whilst Saul visited a new site he was thinking of buying and Giselle had gone to the Yorkshire Dales to spend some time with the great-aunt who had brought her up after the deaths of her parents and her baby brother. Three days without Saul had been three days and three nights too long.
Now, though, she was hungry for food, so she raised herself up on tiptoe to kiss Saul lovingly before he reached for his own discarded robe. The night air around them was languid with soft heat and the sounds of the tropics, and the fine gauzy layers of beige and black silk curtains they had to step through added a romantic intimacy to their suite. The decor of the villa was both modern and sensual, a palette of toning, layered off-whites and soft beiges and taupes, broken up here and there with the subtle use of pieces of black furniture.
Woven rugs in creams and off-whites softened the stark modernity of the granite floors.
A covered chilled trolley held their supper of hors d'oeuvres, mouthwateringly exotic salads, shellfish dishes and fresh fruit. A bottle of champagne rested in a bucket of ice.
'To us,' Saul toasted them after he had opened the champagne and filled their glasses.
'To us,' Giselle agreed, laughing and shaking her head in mock complaint when Saul put down his glass to hand feed her one of the elegantly arranged hors d'oeuvres.
Saul had the most beautifully male hands she had ever seen. Leonardo, she was sure, would have wanted to paint their image and Michelangelo to sculpt it. The familiar sight of their tanned sensual strength made her body tighten with pleasure.
He had fed her like this the first night of their honeymoon, teasing and tantalising her with tiny delicious morsels of food, until her hunger for them and for him had had her licking the savour of them from his fingers, just as he had later licked the juice of the fruit they had shared from her naked skin.
They had been married a year, and he could still excite and arouse her as swiftly and overwhelmingly as he had done when she had first known him. The fierce intensity of her desire was as fresh and consuming as it had been the first time he had made love to her, but now there was an added depth to their intimacy that came not just from their shared love but from her trust in him and her belief that he would always keep her safe. Safe enough to give herself to him without restraint, knowing that she could trust him utterly and completely.
'I want it always to be like this for us, Saul,' she told him passionately.
'It always will be,' Saul assured her. 'How could it not?'
Giselle shivered again, casting a glance toward the movement of the silk curtains as though half afraid of some unknown presence concealed by them. 'Don't tempt fate,' she begged him.
Saul laughed and teased her. 'I think it would be far more enjoyable to tempt you instead.'
They might already have made love, but their desire for one another was to Giselle like a pure clear spring of life-giving water, always there to fill and then refill the pitcher of their shared intimacy. It was the final few minutes she had spent with her great-aunt before leaving for London and the conversation they had exchanged then that was casting the unwanted shadow over her happiness now and making her feel vulnerable. She loved her great-aunt, and she knew that she loved herjust as she knew that her great-aunt's parting words to her had been meant to please her.
'It is wonderful to see you so happy, Giselle,' her great-aunt had said. 'There was a time when I worried that you would deny yourself the happiness of loving and being loved in return, and I can't tell you how much it means to me to see you so loved and so loving. I am proud of you, my dear, for all that you have had to overcome. When I asked you on your wedding day if you had told Saul everything I was so relieved, I can admit to you now, when you said that you had.'
Giselle had smiled and kissed her great-aunt but, like a thorn in soft flesh, her guilt had festered inside her as she drove home to London. It hadn't been necessary to tell Saul the 'everything' her great-aunt had referred to; there had been no point in releasing the private fear she had locked away. It wasn't relevant any more, and she'd been afraid of what Saul might think, of it changing things between them, stealing her happiness from her as it had done all those years ago.
She hadn't truly deceived Saul. He loved her as she was. And, secure in his love and his promise to her, she was never going to change. She would always be as she was now. She would always be safe.
'Come back. I hate it when you close down on me and go wherever it is that you won't let me go with you.'
Saul's soft words shocked her, prompting her to deny it immediately. 'I wasn't closing down on you, and there's nowhere I would want to go without you.'
Saul watched her. He loved her so much that the force of his love for her still sometimes stunned him and caught him off guard. Perhaps it was the intensity of that love that made him so acutely aware of even the most minor changes in her mood.
'You were thinking about your parents, your family,' he told her. 'I can always tell, because when you do your eyes change colour and darken to the intensity of those green malachite columns we saw in the royal palaces of St Petersburg.'
'My great-aunt said how happy she was for me
because I have you in my life,' Giselle told him truthfully, adding emotionally, 'I think I would die of the pain if I was ever to lose you. It would be more than I could bear.'