barrister Ransom Shaw. But, forced to marry
another man, she had to convince Ransom
she'd never loved him.
Six years later, Sam is widowed and unexpectedly
reunited with Ransom. Now he believes her to be
a selfish gold digger. But the sexual pull between
them is still so strong! Ransom proposes a redhot affair to get her out of his system.
However, Ransom's desire is not so
easily satisfied .
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
SAM LOMBARDI knew, without the shadow of a doubt, that she couldn't possibly be any happier. It was early morning, the time of day she most enjoyed, and she was lying in the arms of the man she loved. Ransom Shaw. Just thinking his name gave her an enormous sense of well-being. Sighing with satisfaction, she smiled, cuddling closer, taking in the scent of him as his chest rose and fell whilst he slept.
She might be just a little biased, but she thought he was perfect. Simply looking at him turned her heart over. He was ruggedly handsome, with a shock of black hair that just curled over his collar, contrary to current fashion, and dancing grey eyes set in a tanned face. Right now that tanned face bore a night's growth of stubble, which just made him look sexier so far as she was concerned.
She toyed with the idea of waking him and initiating the lovemaking that would surely follow, but decided he could do with the sleep. He was a struggling junior barrister in a prestigious law firm, and had been working hard on his latest case. He was hoping to progress to being a senior barrister, and to one day take silk. It was going to take hard work, but he had the ability to get what he wanted.
Sam had actually met Ransom when she had been called in to act as interpreter in connection with his current case. There had been instant attraction. She had never experienced anything like it. They had been drawn to each other been lovers, and nothing had ever seemed so right. For her it wasn't an affair, it was for ever. A for ever kind of love.
She had no doubts. This was it. He was the one. She had fallen fathoms deep in love with him, and was sure it was true for Ransom too.
The days had turned into weeks. Now weeks were slipping into months, and their feelings had simply gone from strength to strength. They were soul mates, destined to be together...
Beneath her cheek his chest expanded as he breathed in deeply. Sam glanced up to find his enticing grey eyes looking down at her. Ransom smiled slowly.
"Hey," he greeted softly, running his hand over the silky undulations of her back.
Sam moved so that she was resting on his chest and could look down at him. "Hi. Did I disturb you?" she asked equally gently, and his smile took on a rakish curve.
"You always disturb me, I'm happy to say," Ransom re beneath her thigh.
Sam laughed softly and pressed a chain of kisses from shoulder to shoulder. "You shouldn't be doing this. You need your sleep."
Ransom's answer to that was to fold his arms around her and roll over so their positions were reversed. "I need you more," he told her huskily, no longer smiling, and the heat in his gaze was enough to set her blood boiling. "God, I'm totally crazy about you."
"How can I resist you when you say something like that?" Sam murmured on a sigh, and then his head lowered, blocking out the light, and all sensible thought was forgotten in the heat of passion.
Much later, having taken a leisurely shower before dressing, they sat facing each other across the breakfast bar in Ransom's flat. Sam buttered a hot piece of toast and hastily plopped it onto his plate before it could burn her. She did another for herself and spread it with marmalade.
"Are you in court today?" she queried, wondering if they could manage to snatch a quick lunch together. It wasn't always easy fitting in with his gruelling schedule.
Ransom nodded as he sipped at a steaming cup of coffee. "Closing arguments. It's probably going to be a long day. How about you?"
Sam worked for a company that supplied translators for every possible occasion or event. She was fluent in half a dozen languages, and could get by in a handful of others. Which kept her busy and was never boring.
"I'll call the office from home to find out what's lined up for me." She had to go to her own bedsit to change her clothes and check her mail.
Having finished his breakfast, Ransom carried his dirty crocks to the sink, then shrugged into the jacket of his pinstripe suit. "Dinner tonight?"
Regretfully, Sam shook her head. "Can't, I'm afraid. I'm having dinner with my family." It had been her custom ever since she had moved into her own place, and she had never felt torn about where she wanted to be until now.
"When am I going to meet this family of yours?" Ransom wanted to know. He had asked more than once recently and Sam wasn't quite sure why she was putting it off.
"Soon," she promised. She supposed she just wanted to keep him to herself for a while longer. If she took him home, the speculation would start. She loved her family dearly, but sometimes she felt she could be smothered under their natural interest in all her doings.
Ransom quirked an eyebrow at her. "Are you ashamed of me or something?"
That brought her to her feet in a hurry. "No, of course not!" The fact was she had never taken a man home, and her family would know the significance when she did. "I just don't want to share you yet." Ransom would get the third degree, and she needed to prepare him for it first.
He smiled lazily. "That's OK, just so long as you remember I'm going to have to meet them one day."
Smiling with relief, Sam went and slipped her arms around his neck. "One day. We're OK just the two of us till then, aren't we?"
His hands settled on her waist and drew her closer. "Two is good. Forget I mentioned it. I'm just an old-fashioned kind of guy about some things. It'll keep," he reassured her, just before pressing a scintillating kiss on her lips.
It was over much too soon for Sam, who sighed when he released her to go in search of his briefcase. Still, what he had said gave her a warm feeling. There really was only one reason for an old-fashioned kind of man to want to meet a woman's parents: to show his intentions were honourable. She smiled to herself. There was nothing she wanted more than to marry Ransom Shaw and spend the rest of their lives together. Maybe she would take him home soon after all.
"What are you dreaming about?" Ransom asked laughingly, jerking her out of her reverie, and Sam felt colour wash into her cheeks.
She could hardly tell him that she was thinking wistfully of the idea that he might be going to propose. "Oh, just that you're one heck of a kisser!" she retorted lightly, gathering up the tiny handbag she had brought with her last night. "Did you get a lot of practice?"
Grey eyes glittered. "It only feels this good because you're kissing the right person."
"And you know this because...?" she prompted and he laughed huskily.
"OK, OK. I know it because I've kissed a lot of wrong ones. Happy now?"
She laughed as her inner happiness overflowed. "Ecstatically happy. I go around with a permanent grin on my face these days. People will begin to think I'm crazy."
"Just tell them you're crazy about me. That will explain everything."
As they left the flat Sam silently agreed that it certainly would.
The rest of the day was boringly normal. After Ransom dropped her off, Sam changed into her work clothes, rang the office to check the jobs she had to do, then drove herself to her first appointment. From that moment she barely stopped to breathe, so it was a surprise to glance at her watch and see how late it was. So she abandoned the idea of going home to change, and instead drove directly to her parents" house.
She knew something was wrong the instant she walked inside the front door. Usually her family would be gathered round the large dining table, noisily passing on their bits and pieces of news. This time, however, her brothers and sisters were in the sitting room, talking in hushed voices. They all glanced up when she entered, and Sam could see there were notable absences. The other halves and their children were missing. Something unheard of for family night. sisters began sobbing whilst her brothers looked grim. "What's going on?" she added, dropping her things in the nearest chair.
Her eldest brother Tom had clearly been appointed spokesman. "We've been waiting for you to get here. Mum and Dad are in the kitchen. They'll tell you everything."
Sam frowned. "Why can't you tell me? And where's Tony?" she added, having realised her second-eldest brother was missing too.
"Go see the parents, Sam. You should hear it from them,"
Tom insisted, and, feeling as if a lump of lead had settled in her stomach, Sam headed for the kitchen.
Her parents were seated at the kitchen table. Her mother had clearly been crying, and was tearing a tissue to shreds in silent anguish. Her father, by contrast, was silent, but his complexion was so pale he looked ill. They, too, looked up when she walked in, but when neither rose to greet her she knew the situation was serious.
"What is it? What's wrong?" she asked with a sick feeling of dread growing inside her.
Her mother stifled a sob behind the mutilated tissue and rose to her feet, walking to the sink and gripping the edge till her knuckles grew white. Sam looked from one to the other, seeking answers. Finally her father swallowed hard and turned to her.
"Sit down, Sam. We've got a problem. A very serious one," he admitted in a broken voice, and Sam sat down opposite him, pressing a hand over his as they lay on the tabletop.
"What kind of problem? Has Tony done something?" Her brother was the wild one of the family. Trouble was his middle name. Over the years he had given his parents more grief than the rest of them put together.
The question produced a wail of anguish from her mother, who instantly stifled it behind both hands.
Her father took a deep breath before revealing the truth. "Your brother Tony has been caught stealing."
Sam's heart plummeted. "What was he stealing?" she asked uneasily, though she had a good idea. Tony was a gambler—an unlucky one.
As if he read her mind, her father nodded. "Money. A very great deal of money."
"Can we pay it back?" Sam queried immediately. They had done it before. Surely they could do it again.
"Would that we could, but it's too much this time. Even if I sold the house and the business, it wouldn't come close to enough. How can we find this kind of money? Tony will go to prison and the scandal will kill your mother and ruin the business," her father declared in despair.
"Is there nothing we can do?" she asked, appalled to see her father look so anguished. "Who does he owe it to?"
Her mother spun round from the sink. "Don't tell her. You can't tell her!"
Sam's gaze flickered from one to the other. "Why not?" "Because I know what you'll do, and I won't let you! Why should you have to pay for what Tony has done?" her mother declared angrily, and Sam's blood ran cold.
"Who did he take the money from, Dad?" she insisted tensely. "You might as well tell me. You will in the end."
Her parents exchanged a look fraught with helplessness. Finally, though, her mother nodded and her father revealed the final twist in the tale.
Sam caught her breath, for to say the name was to say all. The Grimaldis were seriously rich, with fingers in many pies. They had helped her father set up his business many years ago, and at his request had employed Tony in their wine import/export business—and he had paid them back by stealing money to cover his gambling debts. This time he had screwed up big-time. A bubble of anger surged inside her at the thought that he could do this to his family.
She shot to her feet. "Where's Tony hiding? I'm going to kill him for this!" she cried furiously.
Her father caught her hand. "Sit down, Sam. Tony is at the Grimaldi house. Nothing has been decided yet."
Sam subsided, frowning her confusion. "What is he doing there? Have the police been called in?"
It took a while for her father to summon the right words, and when he spoke his voice was scratchy. "Not yet, and perhaps never. You see, Sam, the...problem can be made to vanish without trace, but there is a condition," he said, keeping his eyes on his clenched fists. "Leno Grimaldi will replace the money from his personal account...providing you agree to marry him." With those words her father finally looked at her.
Sam sat back in shock as the words sank in. There was a way out of the terrible mess, but only if she married Leno Grimaldi. She summoned up a mental picture of the man. Leno Grimaldi was some years older than her father. A widower who had had his eye on her ever since she'd turned eighteen. Whilst she knew he had feelings for her, she had never been able to reciprocate. Oh, he was a nice enough man, but way too old for her. She had been careful to keep him at arm's length, and had refused all his attempts to ask her out. Now, thanks to her brother's stupidity, he had the means to get what he wanted. He knew how close their family was, and he was banking on her not being able to let her brother go to gaol, no matter how much Tony deserved it.
Which left Sam in the middle of her worst nightmare. She could save her family from scandal, but only by turning her back on the man that really mattered to her. He was her world, her life. How could she bear to give him up? How could she give up all her hopes and dreams for her brother's indiscretion? Yet how could she do anything else? How could she selfishly put her own needs before those of her family, knowing they were teetering on the brink of ruin and she was the only one who could save them?
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