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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 birthand probably, he thought with wry amusement, from the instant of conceptionhe 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 aseducational 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.
She whimpered with gratifying eagerness, and with a smile of pleasure he pushed up the tee-shirt. The faint light from the moon showed her breasts in all their glory. True, she might be slightly built with almost no hips to speak of, but she had the breasts of a real woman. Full and rounded with big, pink nipples that were designed to be licked and teased.
As he proceeded to do now.
Charlie moaned and curled her fingers into his hair.
'No,' she gasped, not wanting the conversation to slip past, because she was so desperate to find out whether he would miss her as much as she knew she was going to miss him.
Riccardo ignored the protest. Actually, he was only vaguely aware that she had spoken at all. The rush of blood to his head and the fierce stirrings of his body cocooned him in a glorious bubble of pure sensation. The feel of her nipple against his tongue the touch of her thighs as he impatiently shoved up her thin cotton skirt and pulled down her underwear the dampness between her legs then as they obligingly parted for his questing hand the throbbing nub of her clitoris as he roused it with his fingers. He continued to bombard her breasts with his mouth, sucking hard on first one nipple, then the next, while his own body surged to heights he couldn't remember attaining.
'Riccardo stop ' she pleaded, making no effort to pull away from him. In fact, just the opposite. 'If you don't, I won't be able to stop myself ' She tugged his hand, and before he could return to his devastating caresses Charlie pushed him onto his back. Her near-climax was sending waves of sensation racing through her body, making her movements frantic as she did away with the clothes separating their feverish bodies. Then she slid onto him and flung her head back, eyes shut, her breasts bouncing as she controlled the rhythm of their lovemaking, until he shuddered under her just as she reached her body's nirvana.
She sagged forward, spent, and enjoyed the gentle touch of his hands on her breasts as he came down with her from his own personal peak of satisfaction.
'Have I told you that you have beautiful breasts?'
Riccardo asked, and Charlie subsided onto him with a smile.
'I believe you have. But please don't let that get in the way of repeating yourself.' She grinned and nuzzled him on his chin, loving the way the faint abrasive feel of his bristle felt against her smooth skin. She didn't think that any of the boys in her circle of university friends had bristle. Ever since she had become involved with Riccardo, she had blithely lumped all her male acquaintances into some indistinct category with the heading 'young and therefore immature'.
Of course, they would be, she thought guiltily. They were, after all, only eighteen. The same age as her. Not that Riccardo was aware of that little fact. She quickly shoved the thought to the back of her head and concentrated on the matter in handnamely trying to find out how he felt about her. And not just the lust bit.
She clasped her fingers together under her chin and surveyed him seriously.
'Will you miss me?' she asked.
With her breasts squashed against his chest, and in the languorous aftermath of unbridled passion, Riccardo didn't find it too hard to tell her that he would.
'Not that I would call three days a lifetime,' he teased, brushing back her hair.
'I know it's not a lifetime, but it's a long time. I mean, we've been in each other's company for weeks. It's just going to be a little odd, working here at the vineyard and not seeing you around and about.'
In my vineyard, Riccardo thought proudly, although she wasn't aware of that. As far as she was concerned, he was just bumming around, doing a bit of this and a bit of that on the production side. Since he had never in his life done any bumming around, he was quite charmed to be thought of in that light.
More realistically, there was no way he was going to give her any inkling as to what he was really all about. Gold-diggers swarmed around wealthy men like flies to a honey pot, and it was refreshing to spend his time with a woman without crazy suspicions proliferating in his head.
'It'll give you time to catch up with those friends of yours.'
'I guess it is only a few days,' Charlie sighed. She slid off him. 'There, you can breathe now that I'm off you.' She reached for her tee-shirt and he stopped her.
'Not yet. I like looking at you naked.'
'Just a shame most of it has to take place outdoors,' she said wistfully. 'Honestly, the amount of times I've tried to hint to Jayne and Simone that they should go spend a night somewhere so that we could have the place to ourselves '
'A night where?'
'Oh, I don't know.' She giggled. 'Wherever it is people go to when they want to give other people space in a cramped flat.'
'Ah, that mystery place. I suppose if they knew of its existence they might have been more obliging.' He linked his hands behind his head, comfortable in his own nudity, and appreciated the lines of her body. The sun had turned her skin a healthy golden colour, which suited her long, streaky blonde hair and wide blue eyes. He thought, not for the first time, how much younger she looked than her twenty-four years, but then that was probably because she wore next to no make-up, which was always ageing on a woman.
'And also,' Charlie ventured tentatively, 'I'm not going to be around for much longer. I have to get back to England.'
'Yes. And that will be exciting for you. Taking up a new job, meeting new people.'
'Um, yes,' she said indistinctly, thinking of the university life looming in front of her. Two months ago, she couldn't wait to get there. Now she was dreading it after her heady summer in the sun. And then you'll be off as well Do you realise you've never actually told me exactly where your next port of call is going to be?' Although, she now thought, she had told him practically everything about herself. About her dad dying when she was six, and being brought up by her mother who had worked her fingers to the bone so that her two daughters didn't have to do without. About her mother being the victim of a hit-and-run accident which had put Charlie off cars for a long time. About her sister now living in Australia, happily married and with a brand-new baby whom Charlie had never seen except on her computer.
Okay, so she had told a couple of white lies about her age, but instinct had told her that he would not have come near her if he had known that she was only a teenager. In the great scheme of things, a few white lies were easily justified.
Mostly they had been happy to be in each other's company, and that was fine.
'Who knows?' Riccardo gave a little shrug. 'The life of a wanderer '
'And what are you going to do when you're finished wandering?'
'Settle down, get married, have six children.'
Charlie laughed, but she felt a little frisson at the thought of his kids, all with his dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin.
'You don't mean that.'
'You're right.' Riccardo thought of the life that lay ahead of him. 'I don't. At least, not yet. I have too much living to do to even go near the thought of settling down with a woman and having a family. Now, are we going to go for that drink in Lucca or not?'
'I don't know if I can be bothered.' Charlie stretched. 'Besides, I don't feel too good about using Fabio's pool. I know he and Anna are out for the evening, but I shouldn't think they'd like the thought of one of the workers flapping around on their property.'
Fabio and Anna ran part of the vast vineyards and had their own little villa and pool. Charlie, Jayne and Simone shared a flat in the nearby village and biked in every day to do their work. The arrangement worked, and Charlie didn't want to ruin it by taking advantage of her employer's absence. But Riccardo was having none of it. Youth, arrogance and a certain desire to impress the delicious woman staring up at him raced through his blood like fire. The boy who was mature beyond his years in the world of finance was right now just a young man willing to indulge an under-used wild streak.
'It's either the pool or else break into his house and use their shower '
'Don't even say that!' But she was laughing, caught up in the energy of the moment.
'And we're here now, aren't we? In their grounds?' Or should I say my grounds, he thought realistically. 'In their grounds in their pool where's the difference?' Before she could say anything, he stood up and swiftly gathered up all their clothes, holding them high up and out of her reach as she scrambled to her feet, laughing.
'You're right, of course. We could always walk back to your place, but we'll have to do it wearing nothing.'
'You wouldn't dare!'
'Never challenge a man like me.' Riccardo grinned, dangling the bundle of clothes away from her frantic attempts to grab, until she subsided with a little 'humph' of mock disgruntlement.
The pool was really only a few minutes' walk through the vineyards which layered the hill in neat, orderly rows. And, once in the water, she had to admit that it was absolute bliss, beautifully cold and refreshing. And fun, touching him in the water, having him touch her. It was wicked, but how could she resist when he hoisted her to the side of the pool, lay her down with her legs dangling in the water and spread them wide apart so that he could lean at the side of the pool and taste her? A leisurely feasting with his tongue which flicked and darted, probed and squirmed. How could she resist something that felt so good?
This was what he had done to herturned her from an ordinary, pretty teenager with ordinary, controllable relationships into a woman who was willing and eager to try anything with him. A whole new world of experiences had opened up and she had soaked them up like a sponge, loving the way he made her feel, loving him.