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'Signor Capelli doesn't have an opening in his diary for five months.' The stunning blonde receptionist spoke faultless English and was clearly experienced in providing an impenetrable shield between her sexy billionaire boss and the public. 'You wouldn't believe the demand for divorce lawyers of his calibre. And anyway, his personal clients are all men.'
Lindsay dug her nails into her palms. 'I don't need a divorce lawyer. That isn't why I want to see him.'
And she knew his clients were men.
She knew everything about him. She knew that when a man instructed Alessio Capelli to handle his divorce, the wife in question might as well give up. The ruthless Sicilian lawyer had apparently made it his life's mission to ensure that women gained as little as possible from the end of a relationship. She also knew that his various business interests had made him a billionaire in his early thirties, which meant that he now worked purely for entertainment value.
And what sort of man found entertainment in crushing people's fragile marriages?
The girl tapped a perfectly manicured nail on the glass desk. 'I could call one of his team?'
'I need to speak to him.' Eaten up by worry, Lindsay tried to think clearly. She hadn't slept for three nights, the adrenaline was surging round her body and she felt physically sick as she contemplated what was unfolding before her. 'Please I've flown to Rome speciallyit's a personal matter. Something between myself and Signor Capelli.' A vision of her sister's pale face tormented her, but Lindsay had no intention of revealing her family secrets to this glacial beauty.
It was an unnerving experiencetrying to gain access to the last man in the world she wanted to see. A bit like stepping towards the edge of a very sheer, crumbling cliff face, knowing that there could be only one outcome.
She was going to fall
The receptionist raised her beautifully shaped eyebrows and it was obvious from her disbelieving gaze that she found it unlikely that someone like Lindsay would ever share anything personal with Alessio Capelli. 'Did he give you his mobile number?'
'Then clearly he doesn't want you to contact him. Women who have a special relationship' the receptionist paused for emphasis and gave a faintly patronising smile 'always have that number.'
Lindsay wanted to tell her that her taste in men didn't run to arrogant, heartless marriage wreckers, but she sensed that she wouldn't be believed.
Alessio Capelli was a magnet for women. His profession should have acted as a deterrent but instead it seemed to increase his appealas if every woman on the planet wanted to prove that they could win over this notorious cynic.
She stepped aside as another beautiful girl sauntered up to the bold curve of glass that formed the ultra-modern reception desk. 'The boss is in the gym, taking out his frustrations on a punchbag. If that file he is waiting for ever arrives, send it straight up to him on the sixteenth floor.'
As she listened in to the conversation Lindsay's gaze slid towards the bank of elevators at the back of the foyer. Could she? Her heart skipped a beat at the shear audacity of the idea. No, she couldn't possibly. She didn't break rules
But somehow her feet were walkingquickly.
Waiting to feel a hand on her shoulder at any moment, Lindsay shot through the open doors and slammed her shaking hand onto the button that said sixteen.
As the doors closed she felt nothing but relief and then realised that her respite was only temporary.
She still had to get to Alessio Capelli.
Her heart was pumping, her palms were clammy and she fumbled with the lock of her bag as she searched frantically through the work she'd brought to do on the plane. Work she'd been too worried to touch. Exactly what sort of file was Alessio Capelli waiting for? Something buff-coloured and formal? Thick? Thin? Something in a sealed envelope? Hands shaking, she pulled out a file and tucked it under her arm. It didn't look particularly official, but it would have to do.
Sick with nerves, she checked her appearance in the mirrored wall. Looking back at her was a serious young woman dressed in a crisp white shirt and a straight black skirt that stopped just above the knee. Her pale blonde hair was twisted into a severe knot at the back of her head and her make-up was discreet and professional. She lookedbusinesslike.
No wonder the receptionist hadn't thought she was the sort of woman likely to have attracted the attention of Alessio Capelli, a man renowned for being seen with extremely beautiful women.
Something stirred inside her. A tiny spark of female vanity that she tried almost instantly to suppress.
But she had attracted his attention, hadn't she?
Once, he'd noticed her. In fact he'd more than noticed her.
If she hadn't rejected him, they'd have
Lindsay put her hands on her skirt and slid it slowly up her thighs until it revealed the same amount of leg as the girl downstairs had been showing. She stared at herself for a moment. Then she gave a nervous start and let the skirt drop just as the lift doors opened.
For crying out loudwhat was she thinking?
Trying to look confident, she approached a set of glass doors manned by a muscular security guard.
Alessio Capelli certainly made sure he was well protected, she thought dryly, wondering whether it was because of his indecent wealth or the number of enemies he'd made in the pursuit of that wealth.
He was hard, cynical and ruthlessly ambitious. Unfortunately he was also sexier than any man had a right to be and Lindsay felt a moment of pure panic as the moment of confrontation grew closer.
She focused her mind on her sister.
Ruby. This was about Ruby, not her.
Ruby was her one and only priority.
'I'm here to see Alessio Capelli.' She smiled at the security guard. 'Sto cercando il Signor Capelli.'
The man looked at the file under her arm and immediately punched a number into a keypad. The doors opened, revealing a state-of-the-art gym offering an incredible view over the rooftops of Rome.
Despite the breathtaking architecture, it was an all-male domainthe atmosphere thickened by testosterone, the room a melting pot of male ego, pumped muscle and raw aggression.
The security guard took one look at her uncertain expression and gestured towards a man who was throwing hard, rhythmic punches at a bag.
'That's him. That's the boss.'
Lindsay was grateful for his help because, without it, she never would have been able to identify the infamous Sicilian.
It wasn't what she'd expected of a billionaire with a taste for the finer things in life. But perhaps it was symbolic, she thought wryly, that Alessio Capelli had chosen this particular method of keeping his body in top physical condition. Did he run or lift weights like the other men in the room? No. He chose to thump the living daylights out of something.
Which simply confirmed what she already knewthat he was a tough, ruthless, cold-hearted machine who knew nothing about emotion.
Several of the other men glanced in her direction and suddenly she felt as vulnerable as a lone gazelle finding itself in the middle of a pride of lions.
Gritting her teeth, Lindsay kept her own eyes forward and followed the security guard across the room.
Alessio Capelli hadn't seen her. He continued to pound his fists into the bag, the muscles of his arms and shoulders bunched in a display of physical force. His bronzed skin gleamed with sweat and his shorts and vest top displayed a physique honed to perfection by hard, punishing exercise. His shoulders were wide and powerful, his body athletic as he threw punch after punch with ruthless precision and impeccable timing.
Watching this display of brutal male aggression, Lindsay faltered, sure that the security guard had made a mistake.
This was the wrong man. It wasn't him.
It was six months since she'd seen him, but Alessio Capelli's smooth sophistication and startling good looks were still inconveniently lodged in her brain. Not that it had been looks alone that had drawn her attention. For her, the quality that had made him dangerously attractive was his astonishing intellect. He was a man who used his razor-sharp brain to twist legal precedent to his advantage. His weapon was words, and he used them with lethal skill to achieve the outcome he wanted, whether it was winning a case or seducing a woman into his bed. As a lawyer he was, she knew, the very best.
As a human being
Lindsay flinched as the man in front of her punched his fist hard into the bag. There was nothing smooth or suave about this particular man. On the contrary, he seemed to represent masculinity at its most basic level.
And then the angle of his body shifted and Lindsay drew in a sharp breath because she could now see the tiny scar above his left eye and the slight bump on his nose that blemished an otherwise faultlessly handsome face.
Once seen, never forgotten.
Every inch of his cold, hard features was etched into her memory for ever.
Horrified by the sudden flash of awareness that exploded through her body, Lindsay took a step backwards regretting the circumstances that had forced her into his path again.
Averting her eyes from his spectacular body, she suddenly wished he were dressed in a formal suit and standing on the other side of a very large desk.
How could she possibly have a serious conversation here?
He was half naked, for goodness' sake.
Half naked and angry, if the power behind those rhythmic punches was anything to go by.
That missing file had obviously been something important.
He still hadn't noticed her and it crossed her mind that she could still slink away and wait outside the door for him to finish his workout.
And then his gaze shifted and he stilled.
Dark, deep-set eyes connected with hers and in that single moment the world seemed to shrink. Nothing existed outside the square metre that contained the both of them.
They stared at each other in silence, exchanging a long, lingering glance that was wholly sexual. Trapped by the intimate
demands of his intense dark gaze, Lindsey felt the blood pound in her head and she ceased to breathe.
He'd had exactly the same effect on her the first time she'd seen him and it was as terrifying now as it had been then.
Even knowing who he was and what he did for a living had done nothing to lessen the sheer physical impact of the man. He was unashamedly and blatantly masculine, his Sicilian roots evident in every bold line and hard angle of his impossibly handsome face. Stripped virtually naked, he was even more breathtaking. Unlike most men, he had no need of clothes as a disguise for physical imperfections. Alessio Capelli looked even better undressed than he did dressed.
His eyes were dark and framed by such thick, long lashes that it was as if nature had decided to emphasise such an unusually striking feature with extra care. Other men might have used those lashes as an effective screen for his emotions, but not Alessio Capelli. His gaze was direct and unflinching and she suspected that the reason he never felt the need to conceal his emotions was because he'd never actually experienced an emotion of any sort in his life.
He dealt with facts and numbers. And they were big numbers if the rumours were correct.
Feeling eighteen rather than twenty-eight, Lindsay cleared her throat. 'Hello, Alessio.'
His fists dropped to his sides and his eyes didn't leave hers. Then he slowly removed each of his gloves and dropped them onto a nearby bench.
'You've chosen a romantic venue for a reunion, Lindsay.' He spoke in perfect English, but in every way that mattered he was pure Sicilian. The dark good looks, the arrogance, the simmering volatility barely held in check by the veneer of sophistication that surrounded him like another skinall products of his ancestry.
A wicked thrill of pleasure that he hadn't forgotten her was immediately replaced by dismay.
Flouting the powerful messages from her brain about not responding to him, her insides tumbled with excitement and her knees weakened. This was why she didn't trust herself around himevery second that she was in his company, her life became a battlefield. She was instantly trapped in a vicious conflict between what her body wanted and what her brain wanted.
The layers of protection she'd built around herself melted away in an explosive blast of raw chemistry. Her grip on the present slipped, and her mind twisted the highly charged sexual attraction into the ugly, destructive monster she knew it to be.
Terrified by the sudden glimpse into her own vulnerability, Lindsay reminded herself again that this was about Ruby. Ruby was the reason she was here.
'I'm surprised you haven't forgotten me, given the number of blonde women in your life. They must merge after a while.'
Amusement shimmered in his eyes as he reached for a towel. 'The unexpected is always memorable. You walked away from me.'
And she could tell from his tone that no woman had done that before.
'There was never the slightest possibility that I'd become involved with you. Unlike you, I think with my head.'
He laughed at that, and Lindsay frowned slightly because over the months she'd managed to forget that he had a sense of humour. And she knew whythat sense of humour made him seen more human and she didn't want to think of him in that way. It suddenly seemed vitally important to remember that he was cold, ruthless and unemotional. In her head he needed to be as unattractive as possible.
But the smile he gave her was anything but unattractive. 'So why are you standing in front of me now?'
'I'm here because I need to talk to you.' And that was true. But it didn't change the fact that she was painfully aware of him.
And he knew it.
Alessio Capelli had so much experience with women that it would have been impossible for him not to know and the slow lift of his brow confirmed it.
'You have flown all the way from England just to talk to me? I didn't realise you found my conversation so stimulating.'
Lindsay was trying hard to ignore his superior height and the width and power of his shoulders. She hadn't needed a display of his boxing prowess to be aware of his strength. Strength was woven through his very being; an essential part of the man. Everyone who came up against him crumbled. Physically and mentally he was a titan.
And he made his living from using that strength against others.
Suddenly she wished desperately that she could wind the clock back. If she could have done so, then she wouldn't have chosen Rome for a city break and she definitely would have paid more attention to where she was walking late at night.
Indirectly this whole situation was her fault.