When want turns to love, it’s always dangerous.
Olivia Chapman has hidden her ugly childhood scars under a glamorous modeling career and hopes she can, one day, help teenagers as desperate as she was. But first she must care for a traumatized toddler, even though that means staying with a man she has to resist. Because if there’s one thing Olivia knows, it’s abandonment. No way will she put her heart in the hands of a man who’s sworn off commitment.
Investment banker Jonathan Davis has spent the last ten months renovating an Italian villa and getting over a nasty divorce from his supermodel wife. As a favor to a friend, he escorts Olivia to a medieval festival and battles an escalating attraction. After discovering she’s a model, his self-preservation senses tell him to bail. He’s never investing his heart in that stock again. But when his ex-wife abandons his previously unknown daughter at his door, it’s Olivia who helps ease little Hannah’s merger into his life.
Will love be strong enough to unite three lost souls into a family?
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Copyright © 2014 by Alexia Adams. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Excerpt From An Inconvenient Desire
Jonathan stared at the blinking light on his old-school answering machine. A chill swept through him despite the record-setting heat wave that currently engulfed Northern Italy. He pressed play.
“Jono, mate. When you coming back to work? Profits are down. We need you, man—”
He jabbed the stop button with his middle finger, cutting off his colleague’s message. He didn’t want to think about going back to his career. There were almost two months left of his sabbatical before he had to return to London and the mess he’d made of his life there. Until then, he was going to enjoy his freedom and finish the renovations on his house. The newly installed swimming pool beckoned in the sweltering heat.
The workers, who were helping him find the back garden after forty years of neglect, had gone for a riposo, the Italian version of a siesta. No one else was around. So he stripped off his clothes, ran out onto the terrace, and dove in. The frigid water knocked the breath from his body and he surfaced, gasping for air. Naked and dead of shock wasn’t the way he wanted his body to be found. He was about to haul his frozen arse out of the water when the click of heels on the side patio told him he was no longer alone.
“Jonathan, you there?” his friend Sophia’s familiar voice called out.
“Um, yeah,” he replied. “But...”
Before he could ask her to wait a minute while he retrieved his clothes, Sophia and another woman rounded the corner.
“You’ve got quite a bit done,” Sophia commented, surveying the bones of the kitchen garden that had been reclaimed from the vines that morning. “We stopped by to...” She finally looked at him and her face flamed red. Belatedly, she put her hands over her eyes.
Meanwhile, Sophia’s gorgeous companion stared at him, a smile lighting her face. She put her hands on her face, too, imitating Sophia, although she left a large gap between her fingers to see through. He couldn’t help laughing at her boldness.
“If you ladies would wait a moment, I’ll put some clothes on.”
“Yes, of course. Do you want us to wait out front?”
“No need. I’ll only be a second.”
Sophia turned around and then nudged her friend. “Olivia,” she whispered as the other woman continued to stare. He locked gazes with her and a challenge rose between them. Would she turn around or wait for the full monty?
Slowly Olivia turned her back to him and Jonathan pulled himself out of the pool. Any longer in the icy water and there wouldn’t’ve been much left to see. As he strode toward the house, he heard Sophia chastising her friend.
“Hey, you may be married. I’m not.” Olivia replied. “Besides, he’s not the first naked man I’ve seen. Although he does rank up there in the top ten.”
Jonathan bit his tongue and stopped himself from parading back outside now that he’d warmed up a bit. He wanted to up his ranking to at least the top five spot. Instead, he pulled his clothes back on as he checked out the profile of the unknown woman through the kitchen window.
Sophia’s friend was tall, with fabulous medium-brown legs showcased in a short, black skirt and red high heels. Her dark, curly hair was piled on top of her head, with a few tendrils breaking free in spiral abandon. She had magnificent breasts and full lips and certainly ranked in the top three most beautiful women he’d ever seen—clothes on or off. As he continued to stare, she turned and caught him. Her lips curved upwards in a smile of acknowledgment.
A spark of desire lit in his lower belly, sending a rush of heat through him. Maybe he’d keep the pool water frigid if Olivia stuck around. Never taking her eyes from him, she said something to Sophia. Then she sauntered around the corner of the house. Afraid his guests would leave before he had a chance to properly meet this woman, he rushed back out onto the terrace, his bare feet burning on the hot tiles.
“Sophia, why don’t you come inside out of the heat? I’ll make some lemonade. Unless you’d rather have a beer?”
“A glass of water is fine. I’m sorry if we’ve interrupted. I just picked up Olivia from the airport and wanted to stop and invite you to come with us to the medieval festival in Brisighella tomorrow, if you don’t have any plans. I should have called, but since we were driving right by...”
“No need to apologize; I’m glad you stopped. It’s just so hot I thought I’d test out the new pool, but it’s way too cold for a proper swim. Where’s your friend?” He tried for nonchalance, but judging by Sophia’s raised eyebrow, he hadn’t quite achieved that level of disinterest. Grabbing the jug of water from the fridge, he poured three glasses and handed one to Sophia.
“She just popped to the car to change shoes. Before she gets back, I want to warn you that Olivia may come across as bold and confident, but she’s been hurt a lot lately. Please don’t play her.”
He was about to reply that he had no intention of playing her friend when Olivia walked into the kitchen. His heart rate accelerated and his mouth went dry. He hadn’t had an immediate reaction like that to a woman in a very long time. And judging by the way her eyes widened slightly as they met his, she felt a similar response.
“Jonathan, this is my friend Olivia Chapman. She’s visiting for a couple of weeks. Olivia, this is Jonathan Davis. He’s the one who rescued me when I got lost on my first day in Italy.”
He shook hands with Olivia, surprised at her firm grip. “And then Sophia rescued me from bad taste,” he replied. He gestured around the room. “Everything you see is a product of her design skills.”
Olivia glanced around the rustic kitchen. “It’s beautiful. And you have a stunning view. Must be amazing to wake up to that every morning.”
Not as amazing as it would be to wake up next to you in the morning. God, he had to get a grip. Fast. He was behaving like a pubescent teenager. Not a man of thirty-one who’d already been to hell and back at the whim of a woman.
He cleared his throat. “Yes, very beautiful.” His gaze locked on hers.
“So, tomorrow? Do you want to join us?” Sophia’s voice broke through the fog of desire that held him captive. Even Olivia turned, as though surprised her friend was still there.
“Tomorrow?” He dragged his mind, kicking and screaming, back to the present.
Sophia laughed. “The medieval festival in Brisighella.”
The voice of reason in his head told him that spending time with Olivia would wreak havoc on his newly found peace of mind. A woman on the rebound and a guy who’d sworn never to marry again—it could only end in disaster. The sensible thing to do would be to decline and spend tomorrow working on the garden.
The rest of his anatomy overruled logic.
“That sounds great. What time are you leaving?” He forced his eyes away from Olivia, who was the opposite of Sophia in coloring. Sophia had blond hair and green eyes, her pale complexion sheltered by a large brimmed hat. Olivia was dark, sultry—her mixed race parentage had blended to create a potent combination of skin tone and luscious features. But both Sophia and Olivia had the same hint of laughter in their eyes.
“Seven a.m. okay with you? Luca suggested we leave early to make the most of the day,” Sophia said. Her mobile phone rang and she dug it out of her handbag. “Speak of the husband… I’ll take the call on the terrace so you two can talk without having to listen to my one-sided conversation.” She answered the phone as she wandered outside.
“Is this your first trip to Italy?” Jonathan asked. Keep it simple. Keep it casual.
“No, I’ve been to Rome and Milan several times. But it’s the first time I’ve been out in the country and, of course, my first visit to Sophia’s place.”
“I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Her villa is beautiful. How long do you plan to stay?”
Her answer was preempted by Sophia’s return, looking upset.
“What’s wrong, Sophia? Is everything okay with Luca?” Olivia put her arm around her friend’s shoulder.
“Luca’s fine. It’s that hotel project he’s working on. There’s been a hiccup with the contracts, and he needs to fly to New York right away.”
“Go with him.”
“I can’t, Livy. You just got here.” Sophia’s protests weren’t as adamant as she probably hoped.
“I can hang out at your place for a few days without you. If everything you tell me is true, there’s plenty to keep me busy. Go with your husband to the States—a place you’ve never been but have always dreamed of visiting.”
“No buts. I’ll be fine.”
“We were all set to go to Brisighella tomorrow,” Sophia reminded her.
“We can go when you get back.”
“The festival ends this weekend.”
“Then Olivia and I will go tomorrow and take lots of photos so you can see what you missed,” Jonathan responded. Why the hell did I suggest that? Has my dick learned to talk? Because obviously my brain is in my pants right now.
“I—” Olivia began. She clearly didn’t think it was a smart idea either.
“Oh, that’s wonderful. If you and Jonathan are together, I won’t feel so bad about leaving.” The beautiful smile that crossed Sophia’s face reassured him he’d done the right thing. Her interior design skills had turned his sterile renovation into a comfortable home. He owed her. And if taking her friend to a medieval festival would make her feel better, then he’d do it.
“Seven still okay for you?” he asked Olivia.
“I’ll be ready,” she confirmed.
“Thank you, Jonathan. I’d better get home and pack.” Sophia put her water glass into the sink and turned toward the door.
“Until tomorrow,” Olivia murmured as she handed him her empty glass. Their fingers touched briefly and he nearly dropped the tumbler. Her lips parted and her eyes scanned him once more before she followed her friend.
A bead of sweat slid down his spine. What had he just gotten himself into?