Never Underestimate a Caffarelli (Harlequin LP Presents Series #3180)

Never Underestimate a Caffarelli (Harlequin LP Presents Series #3180)

by Melanie Milburne

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Has this Caffarelli finally met his match?

Millionaire playboy Raoul Caffarelli has always lived life in the fast lane. But when an accident confines him to a wheelchair—and to the care of a woman whose beauty taunts him—he's consumed with rage and frustration.

Used to difficult patients, physical therapist Lily Archer won't be cowed by Raoul's arrogance or distracted by his Adonis-like physique. Carrying her own scars from the past, Lily has vowed never to relinquish her power to a man again.

Both underestimate the power of the shared passion between them. Their physical scars may heal, but some wounds run much deeper….

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373239504
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 09/17/2013
Series: Harlequin LP Presents Series , #3180
Edition description: Original Large Print
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Melanie Milburne read her first Harlequin at age seventeen in between studying for her final exams. After completing a Masters Degree in Education she decided to write a novel and thus her career as a romance author was born. Melanie is an ambassador for the Australian Childhood Foundation and is a keen dog lover and trainer and enjoys long walks in the Tasmanian bush. In 2015 Melanie won the HOLT Medallion, a prestigous award honouring outstanding literary talent.

Read an Excerpt

'But I never work with male clients,' Lily said to her boss at the south London physical therapies rehabilitation clinic. 'You know that.'

'I know but this is such an amazing opportunity,' Valerie said. 'Raoul Caffarelli is from serious money. This four-week live-in post in Normandy will be worth a year's work to you. I can't send anyone else. Anyway, his brother absolutely insisted on you.'

Lily frowned. 'His brother?'

Valerie gave her eyes a little roll. 'Yes, well, apparently Raoul isn't too keen on working with anyone just now. He's become a bit reclusive since coming out of hospital. His older brother Rafe read about your work with Sheikh Kaseem Al-Balawi's daughter. He wants you to help his brother. He's willing to pay you very handsomely. I got the impression from him when he called that you could just about name your price.'

Lily chewed at her lower lip. The money was certainly attractive, especially given her mother's desperate circumstances right now, after yet another failed relationship had drained her bank account dry. But a live-in post with a man—even one currently confined to a wheelchair—was the stuff of her nightmares.

She hadn't been anywhere near a man in five years.

'I'm not doing it,' Lily said, turning to put another patient's file away. 'It's out of the question. You'll have to find someone else.'

'I don't think saying no is a going to be an option,' Valerie said. 'The Caffarelli brothers are known for their ruthless determination. Rafe wants Raoul to be his best man at his wedding in September. He believes you're the best person to get his brother back on his feet.'

Lily closed the drawer, turned and looked at her boss. 'What does he think I am, a miracle worker? His brother might never get back on his feet, let alone in a matter of weeks.'

'I know, but the least you could do is agree to work with him to see if it's possible,' Valerie said. 'It's a dream job—all expenses paid while you get to stay in a centuries-old chateau in rural Normandy. Do it, Lily. You'll be doing me a huge favour. It will really lift the profile of the clinic. This is exactly what we need right now to build on the work you did with the Sheikh's daughter. We'll be known as the holistic clinic for the rich and famous. Everyone will want to come here.'

Lily swallowed a tight knot of panic in her throat. Her heart was thumping such a rapid and jerky tattoo it felt as if she had just run up a skyscraper's flight of stairs. Her skin was clammy and her head felt as tight as if a vice were pressing against her temples. She tried to think of an escape route but each time she thought of one it was immediately roadblocked by her need to help her mother and her loyalty to her employer.

Could she do it?

'I'll need to see Mr Caffarelli's scans and reports from his doctors. I might not be able to do much at all for him. It would be wrong to give him or his brother false hope.'

Valerie clicked the mouse at her computer. 'I have the scans and reports here. Rafe emailed them to me. I'll forward them to you.'

Lily looked at the reports a short time later in her office. Raoul Caffarelli had a spinal injury from a water-skiing accident. He had also sustained a badly broken right arm, although that was apparently healing. He had some feeling in his legs, but he was unable to stand upright without aid, and at this point in time he could not walk. The neurosurgical opinion was that he would be unlikely to regain full use of his legs, although they expected some minor improvement in his current mobility. But Lily had read similar reports before and tried not to let them influence her when dealing with a client.

Some spinal injuries could be devastatingly permanent, others relatively minor, and then there was everything in between. So much depended on the type of injury as well as a client's attitude and general state of health.

Lily liked to use a mix of therapies—the traditional things such as structured exercise, strength-training and massage, and some which were considered a little more on the alternative side, such as aromatherapy, dietary supplements and visualisation techniques.

The Sheikh's daughter, Halimah Al-Balawi, was one of her star clients. The young woman had been told by three neurosurgeons that she would never walk again. Lily had worked with her for three months; the improvement had been painstakingly slow at first, but finally Halimah had taken her first steps with the aid of parallel bars and she had continued to improve until she was able to walk unaided.

Lily sat back in her chair and chewed at a ragged end on her pinkie nail. For anyone else it would be a dream job to take on a man as rich and famous as Raoul Caf-farelli. To spend a month in the lap of luxury working closely with a man every single woman on the planet would give ten years of her life to have one day or night with, let alone thirty-one of them. They would grab the opportunity with both hands and relish every minute of it.

But for her it would be a form of torture.

Her stomach recoiled at the thought of putting her hands on a hard male body. Working with a client as a physical therapist meant physical contact—close physical contact. Hands on flesh. Hands on muscles and tendons, stroking and massaging… Touching.

Her mobile rang from where it was sitting on her desk. She saw her mother's face come up on the screen and pressed the answer button. 'Hi, Mum. Are you OK?'

'Darling, I hate to bother you when you're at work, but the bank's been on the phone to me again. They're going to foreclose on the house if I don't come up with the last three months' mortgage payments. I tried to explain that it was Martin who siphoned off my account but they wouldn't listen.'

Lily felt her blood boil at how her mother had been scammed by a man she had met through an online dating service. Never a great judge of character at the best of times—although she was hardly one to talk, given what had happened to her on the night of her twenty-first birthday—her mother had foolishly trusted her new partner and was now paying heavily for it. That lowlife pond-scum had hacked into her mother's accounts and stolen her life savings.

Was fate twisting Lily's arm? How could she knock back this job when her mother was in such desperate need of financial support? Her mother had stalwartly stood by her during her lowest point. Those terrible dark days after her twenty-first birthday had almost sent her to the edge of sanity. But her mother had stood by her, putting her own life on hold to help Lily come out of that black hole of despair and self-loathing. Didn't she owe this to her mother?

It was only for a month.

Four weeks.

Thirty-one days.

It would feel like a lifetime.

'It's all right, Mum.' She took a scratchy little breath. 'I'm taking on a new client. It'll mean I'll be away in France for the whole of August but I'll ask them to pay me up-front. That will sort out the bank. You're not going to lose the house. Not if I can help it.'

Raoul scowled at his brother. 'I thought I told you I want to be left alone.'

Rafe blew out a breath of frustration. 'You can't spend the rest of your life holed up here like a recluse. What is wrong with you? Can't you see this is your best chance—maybe your only chance—of a recovery?'

Raoul wheeled his chair with his one good arm so he didn't have to face his brother. He knew Rafe meant well but the thought of having some young Englishwoman fussing over him with her snake-oil remedies was anathema to him right now. 'The best doctors in Italy said this is as good as it's going to get. I don't need to have this Archer woman wasting my time and your money pretending it's going to be otherwise.'

'Look, I know you're still smarting about Clarissa breaking off your engagement, but you can't hold it against all women just because she—'

'This has nothing to do with Clarissa,' Raoul snapped as he wheeled back round.

Rafe gave him a look that spoke volumes. 'You weren't even in love with her. You just thought she ticked all the boxes. The accident showed you her true colours. The way I see it—and Poppy says the same—you had a very lucky escape.'

Raoul's left hand gripped the chair so tightly he thought his knuckles were going to explode through his skin. 'You think I've been lucky? Look at me, Rafe. I'm stuck in this chair! I can't even dress myself. Don't insult me by saying I'm lucky.'

Rafe rubbed a hand over the top of his head. 'Sorry. Bad choice of words.' He dropped his hand back by his side. 'Will you at least meet her? Give her a trial run for a week or even a couple of days? If it doesn't work out then you can call it quits. You'll be the one in control of whether she stays or goes.'

Raoul wheeled back over to the window to look at the view over the fields where some of his most prized thoroughbreds were grazing. He couldn't even go out to them and stroke their velvet noses. He couldn't walk over the soft springy grass. He was trapped in this chair, trapped in his own body, in the body that for the last thirty-four years had defined him as a person—as a man. The doctors had told him he was luckier than most; he still had feeling in his legs and full bladder and bowel function. He supposedly still had sexual function, but what woman would want him now?

Hadn't Clarissa made that starkly clear?

He wanted his body back. He wanted his life back.

Who was to say this Archer woman was the miracle worker Rafe suggested? She could be the biggest charlatan out there. He didn't want to be taken for a ride, to be given false hopes only to have them dashed in the end. He was slowly coming to terms with his situation. He needed this time at the chateau to get his head around how life was going to be from now on. He wasn't ready to face the world just yet. The thought of the paparazzi tailing him to get the best pity shot made him sick to his stomach.

He just wanted to be left alone.

'One month, Raoul,' Rafe said into the silence. 'Please. Just give it a try.'

Raoul knew both of his brothers were worried about him. Remy, his younger brother, had been there the day before, doing his best to jolly him along like a male version of Pollyanna. His grandfather, Vittorio, had been less supportive, but Raoul had come to expect that from him. Vittorio was not the sort of man to offer sympathy or support. His speciality was to blame and to castigate.

'I'd like a week or two to think about it.'

There was a loaded silence.

Raoul turned his chair around again, suspicion crawling up his damaged spine like sticky spider's legs as he met his brother's sheepish dark brown gaze. 'You haven't.'

'She's waiting in the morning room,' Rafe said. Raoul let out a string of colourful obscenities in French, Italian and English. Rage raced through his body like a fast-acting poison. He had never felt so powerless, so damned impotent, in his life. What did his brother think he was, a little child who couldn't make a sensible decision?

This was his sanctuary.

No one came here unless he invited them.

'Cool it,' Rafe said in an undertone. 'She'll hear you.'

'I don't care if she hears me! What the hell are you playing at?'

'I'm trying to help you, since you don't seem to want to help yourself,' Rafe said. 'I can't stand seeing you like this. Sitting around brooding, snapping everyone's head off if they so much as glance at you. You won't even go outside, for pity's sake. It's as if you've given up. You can't give up. You have to work through this.'

Raoul glared at his brother. 'I'll go outside when I can get out there under my own power. You had no right to bring that woman here without my permission. This is my house. Get her out of it.'

'She's staying,' Rafe said. 'I paid her up-front and I can't get a refund. It was part of her stipulation in accepting the post.'

Raoul flicked his eyes upwards in derision. 'Doesn't that tell you what sort of woman she is? For God's sake, Rafe, I thought you of all people would've had more sense. This is just a money grab. You wait and see—she'll walk out after a couple of days over something I said or did and do a happy dance all the way to the bank.'

'Miss Archer comes on very good recommendation,' Rafe said. 'She's highly trained and very experienced.'

Raoul gave a scoffing grunt. 'I just bet she is.'

'I'm going to leave you to get acquainted with her. I need to get back to Poppy; we have a wedding to organise. I want you there, Raoul, chair or no chair. Do you understand?'

Raoul let out a hiss. 'I'm not going to sit up there in front of everybody like some sort of freak show. Get Remy to be your best man.'

'You know what Remy is like. He'll fail to show up because something far more interesting has come across his radar. I want you to do it, and so does Poppy, and I don't want her disappointed.' Rafe moved to the door, holding it open as he added, 'I'll call you in a couple of weeks to see how you're doing. Ciao.'

Lily gripped her handbag on her lap with fingers that were ice cold in spite of the summer temperature. She'd heard shouting, and although she wasn't fluent in French or Italian she understood enough to know Raoul Caf-farelli was not happy about her being here. Which was ironic, since she wasn't all that happy about being here, either. But with the money safely in her mother's mortgage account at least one worry had been shelved.

But her biggest worry lay ahead.

Being left alone in this huge old chateau with a man she had never met before was like something out of a horror movie. Her pulse was racing and her heart was hammering. She could feel the stickiness of perspiration between her shoulder blades and on her palms. The floor of her stomach was crawling with prickly feet of panic and she had to press her knees together to stop them from knocking against each other.

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Never Underestimate a Caffarelli 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
sirchad More than 1 year ago
When you have the world in the palm of your hand, you don't think much about anything that could go wrong. Excitement, adventure, unlimited female companionship, and endless partying made the women envious if they weren't the current flavor and the men wanting to emulate the latest adventure. Such was the life of Raoul Caffarelli until a jet ski accident left him with a broken arm and spinal injury, and to add insult to injury, his fiance had broken their engagement. Now he spends his days in a wheelchair growing more angry and frustrated with each passing day. Fearing his life is completely over, he has become a recluse in his chateau and drinks himself into oblivion every night, alternately ignoring and berating his therapist and staff unmercifully. Even his brother's desire to have him stand up at his upcoming wedding is no incentive to at least try. As far as he was concerned his life was over. No more excitement and adventure ready to be done. No more beautiful women wanting to be in his bed. No more riding his beloved horses. The Caffarelli mantra of ...Goal...Focus...Win... seems to have been banished from his mind. When money is desperately needed, a person will do almost anything to get it. Sometimes even breaking your own rules and doing your best to overcome your most terrifying fear. This was the situation that Lily Archer found herself in. Her mother needed money and the clinic needed the exposure for their holistic approach to healing. Only the promise of money up front in order to help her mother could have possibly changed her mind about coming to this dark, drafty and cold chateau to help a man she had never even met. Difficult patients were her specialty, but only of the female variety. For more reasons than just one, men were taboo and she would not to be cowed or owned by a single one of them, but so the American saying went “if life gives you lemons, you make lemonade”. Or so they say. Above all else she would stick to her own mantra: And she intend to use all three. With such insurmountable odds against them, future successes looked very slim, but with adversity comes respect. Both Raoul and Lily had it in spades. And simmering in the background was the growing desire between them that she wanted to ignore and he wanted to explore. Once Raoul began to set the goal of seduction, he finally found a stride to use his mantra again: Goal...Focus...Win. The background story was superbly written to show why Lily had such a hangup about men. I wanted to cheer that Raoul was able to find the buttons he needed to push to bring her out of her shell. Lily found buttons of her own to push to make him desire to get better for himself and his brothers. Only was there any room in their lives for each other? Could they have the happily ever after? Or would her pride and his ruthlessness always keep them apart? Excellent book! Smooth writing of well developed characters interwoven into a well rounded and thought out plot. The descriptions of the scenery and the chateau made you feel you were there. Enjoyed this book tremendously. From the first page to the last, the story was completely engaging. I would recommend to all romance readers. I received an autographed copy from the author for an honest review. 5/5 stars Could they work through their scars, both visible and invisible?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
True love with highs and lows
HarlequinJunkie_ More than 1 year ago
Just as Rafe was about to start his life with the indomitable Poppy Silverton, he learns that his brother - Raoul, the family risk-taker - has been gravely injured in a speedboat accident. The fact that their parents were killed in a similar way made the pain even greater. However, he wasn't prepared to see his brother, usually lauded as the friendliest and most carefree of the trio - wallowing and lashing out. Rafe knew Raoul wouldn't recover if he continued on this destructive path, so he decided to do something about it. Lily Archer's employer probably didn't want to guilt her into taking such a difficult case. After helping a young woman in a high-profile case, working with a Caffarelli might just put them on the map in terms of cutting-edge healing techniques. Lily's reluctance was compounded by the fact that she stipulated she never wanted to work with male clients. But Lily was in a bad financial situation and being able to get the astounding amount delivered up-front made the decision for her. Rafe had no right to spring this woman on Raoul the way he had. After unleashing a string of multi-lingual obscenities at his brother he was almost glad that the woman was close enough to hear. Even if the news that she was brought here without his knowledge was unwelcome. He had absolutely no faith in someone who would most likely use hocus-pocus and get him to send her away - with a nice bulging purse she didn't have to return. Raoul wasn't prepared for the woman who had been summoned to help him. He didn't want her around him, but surprisingly, she seemed determined to stay and finish the job for which she'd been hired. Lily even managed to bite back despite her shrinking violet aura. Raoul was incredibly confused by his own reaction to the woman. Wanting to give in to her ministrations one minute, verbally attacking her the next, all while being incredibly attracted to her for no good reason. Lily had very good rationales for not wanting to work with men. First of all, men like Raoul absolutely never wanted to trust a woman when they were in a vulnerable position, and one couldn't be more vulnerable than in a wheelchair. Secondly, this man was also stinging after a woman dumped him because of his accident. And lastly, for much more personal reasons, Lily just didn't like to be around men full-stop. Raoul couldn't believe his bad luck when his world conspired against him this way. He felt utterly emasculated, but with only a month until Rafe's wedding, he truly did want to make an effort to get better. He'd never not been by his brothers' sides, and this time would be no different. Now if only he could get his body to cooperate. Both in healing and denying his growing feelings towards Lily. Ms. Milburne's books are what HQ presents are all about. Exotic locales, alpha males, women with fire, and a bit of angst thrown in for good measure. In this case, the locale was confined - it gave me the ability to empathize with the Hero & Heroine, and get the vibes of the trauma that both of them carry. There's no getting around the fact that Raoul is a jerk. But he admits how ashamed he is of himself quite early on, and has even more motivation to heal - all while helping Lily in return. I would've loved another chapter so their reconciliation could've been longer, but I'm hoping we'll see glimpses of their future in the next book, which takes on the third Caffarelli brother, Remy. I enjoyed the hints we got in that regard, it sounds like she's setting up a great wrap-up to the series. Highly recommended - and not just this part of the trio. Read all three. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful story. Very realistic ending. Loved both characters .