Italian Boss, Proud Miss Prim. Susan Stephens
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Katie’s swift intake of breath sounded unnaturally loud. ‘It is very warm in here…’ She gazed about in a pathetic attempt to distract him.
Rigo’s low voice pulsed with intent. ‘I don’t think it’s that sort of heat I can feel. Well, signorina?’ he pressed. ‘There must be something other than my swimming technique that kept you fascinated…’
Mutely, she shook her head. It was blood heat in the leisure suite, and almost dark. Just the pool lights shimmering behind her like dots of moonlight on a lake. She felt cornered by a powerful predator—a predator she had sought out—and now her reward was to be wrapped in a cloak of arousal as she waited to see what would happen next.
Susan Stephens was a professional singer before meeting her husband on the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta. In true Modern™ Romance style they met on Monday, became engaged on Friday and were married three months after that. Almost thirty years and three children later, they are still in love. (Susan does not advise her children to return home one day with a similar story, as she may not take the news with the same fortitude as her own mother!)
Susan had written several non-fiction books when fate took a hand. At a charity costume ball there was an afterdinner auction. One of the lots, ‘Spend a Day with an Author’, had been donated by Mills & Boon® author Penny Jordan. Susan’s husband bought this lot, and Penny was to become not just a great friend but a wonderful mentor, who encouraged Susan to write romance.
Susan loves her family, her pets, her friends and her writing. She enjoys entertaining, travel, and going to the theatre. She reads, cooks, and plays the piano to relax, and can occasionally be found throwing herself off mountains on a pair of skis or galloping through the countryside. Visit Susan’s website: www.susanstephens.net—she loves to hear from her readers all around the world!
Recent books by the same author:
Modern™ Romance COUNT MAXIME’S VIRGIN DESERT KING, PREGNANT MISTRESS BOUGHT: ONE ISLAND, ONE BRIDE
The Royal House of Niroli EXPECTING HIS ROYAL BABY—Book 5
Modern Heat™ HOUSEKEEPER AT HIS BECK AND CALL
ITALIAN BOSS, PROUD MISS PRIM
For Jenny, who is both inspired and inspiring.
SIX hours, fifteen minutes in the same hard chair at the same desk, in the same cold office, in the same northern town…
She’d lost the will to live.
Arranging a telephone conference with Signor Rigo Ruggiero in Rome was a pain, even for a young lawyer as tenacious as Katie Bannister, because first she had to get past Ruggiero’s army of snooty retainers.
Let me speak to him in person, screeched inner Katie, whilst outwardly Katie was calm. Well, she had to be—she was a respected professional.
With no inner life at all.
No inner life? Hmm, wouldn’t that make things easy? Unfortunately, Katie was blessed with a vivid imagination and an active fantasy life, and it was always getting her into trouble. Dumpy, plain and unprepossessing became sharp and confident in the blink of an eye—especially over the phone.
In her junior position at the small solicitor’s firm, Katie wouldn’t normally be expected to deal with such a highprofile client, but this was a trivial matter, according to the senior partner, and if she wanted to work her way up the profession it would be good for Katie to cut her teeth on—
At last. At last! ‘Signor Ruggiero?’
The deep-pitched voice speared a shiver down her spine. But gut instinct wasn’t enough. Did it prove the identity of the speaker? Spoken Italian was sexy; distractingly so. Quickly gathering her thoughts, Katie picked up her notes and went through the security checks she had drawn up.
To his credit, Signor Ruggiero answered them all accurately and politely. To her dismay her imagination insisted on working overtime as she nursed the phone—tall, dark and handsome didn’t begin to cover it. Still, this was going better than she had expected after her run-in with his staff. Now it was simply a matter of informing the Italian tycoon that he was the chief beneficiary in his late brother’s will.
‘My late stepbrother’s will,’ he corrected her.
The honey-rich baritone had acquired an edge of steel. He sounded stern, cold, uninterested.
A man who was so hard to contact would hardly want chitchat, Katie reminded herself, moving up a gear. ‘My apologies, Signor Ruggiero, your late stepbrother’s will…’
As the conversation continued Katie picked up more clues. If there was one thing she was good at it was reading people’s voices. Time spent training to be an opera singer at one of the world’s foremost music conservatoires had allowed her welltuned ear to instantly evaluate a voice, and this one had both practised charm and a killer edge.
‘Can we cut to the chase, Signorina Bannister?’
And cut out print yards of legalese? ‘Certainly…’
Katie’s reputation at the firm was founded on dogged persistence along with her ability to calm even the most fractious of clients, but after a long day in a cheap suit in a cold office, she was at the end of her tether. It wasn’t as if she was trying to serve a writ, for goodness’ sake; rather she was trying to inform Signor Ruggiero that he had come into money.
More money, Katie qualified, glancing at the magazine the girls in the office had so helpfully placed on her desk. It featured a devastatingly handsome Rigo Ruggiero on the front cover. Not that she was interested. Firming her jaw, she continued to explain to one of the richest men in Italy why she must come to see him in person. To Rome, where she had thought of going as a singer, once…
‘Well, I haven’t got the time to come over there—’
Katie snapped back to the present. ‘Your stepbrother anticipated this…’ Her heart picked up pace as she went on to read out the letter of instruction that came with the will. She was normally unflappable, but office tittle-tattle had unsettled her where Rigo Ruggiero was concerned. He was not just a successful tycoon, but a high-profile playboy who lived life in the fast lane. To say that Katie Bannister and Rigo Ruggiero were worlds apart was a massive understatement.
Everyone in the office had thought it highly amusing that the official office virgin had been appointed to deal with Italy’s most notorious playboy. Katie’s public face had remained unmoved through all this teasing banter, but her imagination had run riot. After her initial trepidation, she had thought, bring it on. What did she have to worry about? Rigo Ruggiero would take one look at dull little Katie Bannister and she’d be safe.
‘No, I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘I’m afraid your late stepbrother’s personal effects cannot be sent to you through the post, Signor Ruggiero.’
‘Because…’ She took a deep, steadying breath. Forget the letter of intentions—shouldn’t he care a little more? And did he have to snap like that? His stepbrother had just died, for goodness’ sake. Surely he