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'So, which look do you think is going to attract the attention of a heartbreaker like film producer Luc Gambrelli?' Darci prompted Kerry consideringly, as she threw open the door to her wardrobe and brought out a white dress. 'The demure virgin?'
She held the garment against her, its plain styling covering her tall slenderness from neck to knee. She pulled her heavy length of red hair away from the delicate lines of her heart-shaped face, at the same time lowering her head, her expression youthfully coy as she looked at Kerry with moss-green eyes through long dark lashes.
Her flatmate and long-term friend laughed softly as she sat on the bed, watching the display. 'Or ?' Kerry queried smilingly.
'Or sexy vamp?' Darci threw the white dress down on the bed and pulled out a slinky black gown, its ribbon shoulder straps, low neckline, body-hugging style and length—three inches above the knee—leaving very little to the imagination as she held it against her, releasing her hair to fluff its long, fiery length enticingly about her face and shoulders as she adopted a deliberately seductive pose.
'Hmm.' Kerry grimaced. 'Somewhere in between the two, I think. Grant once told me that every man's perfect fantasy woman is one who's as beautiful and charming as an angel in public and as sexy as a she-devil in his bed!'
Darci's brows rose. 'My big brother told you that?'
'Years ago, at university.' Kerry, a tiny brunette, laughed at Darci's surprised expression. 'I think we had all just come home from a party at the time, and he was bemoaning the fact that he doubted he was ever going to meet his perfect woman.'
'Well, he was right about that, anyway; attwenty-eight he's still a bachelor. In fact, just like me, there isn't a permanent relationship in sight,' Darci added with a slight frown. 'If there was, he wouldn't have asked me to accompany him to his latest film premiere!'
Exactly five minutes older than Darci, her twin brother was an extremely successful film director. He had scaled the heady heights to superstardom during the last four years, his last two films having been box office hits. Grant was hoping to add to his current run of success with the premiere of his latest film the following evening. A premiere where, as the producer of the film, Luc Gambrelli was also going to be in attendance.
A delicious coincidence too convenient to resist as far as Darci was concerned
She looked at the two dresses critically. 'So, somewhere in between, you think ? Of course it would probably help if I knew whether Luc Gambrelli preferred redheads to brunettes or blondes.'
'Depends on the day of the week, I expect,'Kerry dismissed sagely. 'Monday a blonde. Tuesday a brunette. Wednesday a redhead. Et cetera. From the gossip about him in the newspapers over the years, he appears to have a different woman for each day of the week,' she explained, at Darci's puzzled look.
Darci pondered her friend's words. 'Then we can only hope that it's redheads on a Thursday evening!'
Her friend gave her a rueful smile. 'You really intend going through with this ?'
'And hopefully giving Luc Gambrelli a taste of his own heartless medicine?' Darci said distractedly, as she began another search through her wardrobe for the perfect dress to wear tomorrow evening. 'He broke Mellie's heart, remember. Of course I'm going to get Grant to introduce the two of us at the premiere in the hope of attracting his attention—and then I shall have the pleasure of giving him one almighty set-down if he does show any interest. It's about time some woman let the arrogant Luc Gambrelli know that every female he meets isn't going to swoon at his feet!' she added with determination.
'Isn't being rude to someone as powerful as film producer Luc Gambrelli possibly going to have fall-out and damage Grant's career?' Kerry responded.
'That's the best part.' Darci grinned. 'My big brother is so much the golden boy movie director at the moment that he simply can't be touched!'
Kerry still looked worried. 'Yet from what I've read, the film world is a precarious one; someone can be the darling of the moment one minute and a total outcast the next!'
'Do you really think Luc Gambrelli would be petty enough to take his disappointment out on Grant?' Darci said disbelievingly.
'He might,' Kerry returned.
Darci laughed as she bent down to hug the other woman. 'You always were the worrier amongst us!' she told Kerry affectionately, knowing that if it weren't for her friend's caution in earlier years she would have got into many more scrapes than she had, her own nature—part of being a redhead, perhaps?—having been much more impetuous.
And Darci had no intention of backing off from Luc Gambrelli. Not after what he had done to Mellie
'You do realise that Luc Gambrelli will probably be with someone tomorrow evening ?' Kerry persisted.
'That's where you're wrong,' Darci announced with satisfaction. 'Grant told me that Luc Gambrelli is escorting the female lead, Jackie Tunbridge. She's new to all this, and a little nervous, and apparently Luc Gambrelli has been a little more circumspect in who he takes where recently.'She paused to consider for a moment, then continued, 'Grant says it's because he doesn't want to get caught in the marital trap, like his brother and his cousin. Count Wolf Gambrelli and Cesare Gambrelli,' she explained, as Kerry looked totally blank.
'Luc Gambrelli is related to those two?'Kerry gasped after a few seconds.
Darci nodded. 'His brother is the Count, no less,' she confirmed, still searching through her wardrobe for exactly the right dress to wear tomorrow evening. 'It's no good,' she conceded, as she turned back into the bedroom decisively. 'I'll have to go out tomorrow and look for something new.'
'But you hate shopping for new clothes,' her friend reminded her.
Darci scowled. 'For the chance to put the oh-I-think-I'mso-wonderful Luc Gambrelli firmly in his place I'll make an exception! Kerry, I know you don't think this is a good idea,' she said, as Kerry carried on looking doubtful. 'But the man really can't be allowed to just cold-heartedly break the heart of one of my very best friends without some sort of retaliation!'
Kerry, Mellie and Darci had been at school together, and then had stuck with each other while taking further education courses in London: Kerry had taken a degree in History, Mellie had gone to drama school and Darci had chosen Medicine. Grant, having known Darci's old friends well, and having attended university, too, had joined them in sharing a house during those years of studying.
The passing years had forged a bond between the four of them that was as close, if not closer, than family; if one of them was hurt, the others felt it, too.
And then, six weeks ago, Mellie's tender heart had been broken by the heartless Luc Gambrelli!
After university Grant had gone to Los Angeles, and the three women had taken another apartment together in London. Then, six months ago, Mellie—after some mild success on the London stage—had gone to Los Angeles, too, in order to look for acting roles.
Which was how she had met and fallen in love with the famous film producer Luc Gambrelli.
The two had got together at a party—Luc Gambrelli apparently dazzling Mellie completely when he'd assured her that she was perfect for a part in the film he was shortly going to put into production.
Kerry and Darci had followed the Italian film producer's seduction of Mellie via their friend's frequent telephone calls and e-mails, and she'd waxed lyrical about how wonderful he was, how he had swept her off her feet, pursuing her relentlessly as he showered her with flowers and gifts until his conquest was secure and Mellie was head-over-heels in love with him and more than eager to share his bed. An experience Mellie had related to her two friends in erotic detail.
After which the heartless pig had just disappeared out of Mellie's life, as had the prospective part in his film, leaving her broken-hearted as she realised she had fallen for the oldest trick in the book when it came to acting—the casting couch. Or, in this case, Luc Gambrelli's silk-sheeted bed!
If all Darci managed to do tomorrow evening was get Grant to introduce her to Luc Gambrelli, and then she succeeded in giving the man the knock to his super-ego that he so richly deserved, she would be happy.
All without telling him that she was a friend of Mellie's, of course; it would be just too humiliating for Mellie if Luc Gambrelli were to realise she had really fallen for him in a big way.
Of course an even better set-down would have been if Mellie herself had accompanied Grant to the premiere. But that would have involved telling Grant of Mellie's humiliation, and for Mellie's sake, Darci was trying to avoid doing that.
'I think you're mad to go within twenty feet of all that lethal charm, darling,' Kerry told her admiringly. 'And of course, there's always the possibility that it may just backfire on you,' she added.
'You mean, he really may not like redheads?' Darci replied.
'This redhead?'Kerry looked at Darci consideringly before responding loyally, 'Not a chance! You're incredibly beautiful and very sexy. As proven by the amount of hearts you've left broken along the wayside in the last few years!'
If Darci had, then it hadn't been deliberate. She had just been pretty single-minded about her career—to the point where relationships hadn't featured too strongly in her life, and certainly none of a permanent nature. There simply hadn't been the time for that, as well as her work.
'So what did you mean about it backfiring ?' she said slowly.
Kerry sighed. 'Has it ever occurred to you that once you've actually met the man, you might just find Luc Gambrelli as devastatingly irresistible as every other female on the planet has? That instead of taking delight in coldly shunning him you might just end up falling for all that Mediterranean charm yourself?' she warned wryly.
'No chance,' Darci assured her with certainty. 'Sicilian playboys with more money than morals hold absolutely no appeal for me!'
'Have you seen this Sicilian playboy?' Kerry teased.
Well, of course Darci had seen photographs of Luc Gambrelli; the man appeared in the gossip columns of newspapers and magazines all the time as he escorted one beautiful actress or another.
He was more than six feet tall, with overlong hair the colour of burnished gold, and his tanned face was all hard, sculptured angles that were enough to make a woman's pulse race just to look at him. Luc Gambrelli wasn't only one of the most elusive bachelors in the world, he was also one of the most arrogantly attractive.
Nevertheless, Luc Gambrelli, the multimillionaire Sicilian who changed his women as often as he changed the black silk sheets on his bed, was about to meet the one woman who had no intention of falling for his devastating charm or succumbing to his irresistible seduction.
He was about to meet the totally impervious and vengeful Darci .
'DID you see much of Mellie while you were in Los Angeles?' Darci prompted her brother lightly.
'Mellie?' Grant repeated, as he turned from surveying the crowded reception room at the glittering post-premiere party.
Darci gave him a coy smile. 'Yes, you know—Mellie. Old schoolfriend of mine. We all shared a flat together a few years ago.'
'Very funny,' her brother drawled. 'I just wondered at your interest, that's all.'
Darci's interest was in knowing whether or not Grant knew of Mellie's ill-fated involvement with Luc Gambrelli!
'Perhaps the exulted film director Grant Wilde is far too superior now to remember his old friends ?' she continued to tease her brother.
'Very funny!'Grant came back. 'And, yes, I did see Mellie a couple of times,' he confirmed. 'But I— Oh—hi there.' He turned to greet someone smilingly.
'Would you care to introduce me to your beautiful partner for the evening, Grant ?' Luc Gambrelli asked huskily, strolling over to join the young movie director and the entrancingly lovely woman who stood at his side, drinking a glass of the champagne that was flowing freely now that the after-party was in full swing.
The premiere had been a success as far as the critics invited to the party were concerned, although the newspapers tomorrow morning would probably be more revealing.
Luc had been aware of the striking redhead at Grant Wilde's side earlier this evening the moment she entered the theatre on the other man's arm. She was far too beautiful to be overlooked, even amongst this glittering crowd of celebrities. Her long red hair was like that of a woman in a pre-Raphaelite painting, her eyes a clear lucent green, her complexion creamy smooth, with a tiny smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, her lips a full sensual pout—and as for that body, shown to advantage in a clinging green gown!
She was very slender, with long shapely legs, narrow hips and a flat abdomen, but in contrast her breasts—bare beneath that clinging gown, Luc felt certain!—were full and pert, their creamy swell tantalisingly visible above the low neckline of her gown.
His curiosity had been piqued earlier, as her coolly dismissive gaze had swept over the crowded foyer. Those eyes the colour of moss—an exact match to the gown she wore, which clung so enticingly to that curvaceous body—had paused on him momentarily, before she had turned away, uninterested.
Enough to quicken the interest of any red-blooded man!
And especially one who had already found her so immediately attractive
There hadn't been time for any introductions before the film showing, but Luc had been determined to meet her once they moved on to the party afterwards.
She was even more beautiful close to: her skin satiny smooth, those green eyes mesmerizing through lowered dark lashes, a deep peach gloss on the pout of her lips, her hair hte most incredible shade of red as it tumbled over her bare shoulders down to her waist. And, being several inches taller than her, even in her high-heeled sandals, Luc had more than a glimpse of that amazing cleavage!
His gaze was heated as he looked at her from beneath hooded lids, his tongue moving across his lips as he imagined what it would be like to view that cleavage, that amazing body, without the benefit of the green gown, to kiss her, taste her, touch her
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