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Beautiful distraction, p.36
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       Beautiful Distraction, p.36

           J. C. Reed
 

  “I need you to go through my correspondence and cancel any meetings, physical or otherwise, I might have this week,” Jett said. “Then clear my schedule.”

  “Sure.” I frowned but knew better than to ask questions.

  “Good.” He pushed a thick file across the desk. “I trust you’re accustomed with the Lucazzone estate by now?”

  The telltale heat of a blush rushed to my cheeks. Oh, I was accustomed with the Lucazzone estate all right, though not the way I’d initially thought. Jett’s lips curved into his panty-dropping grin.

  “I thought so. Anyway, I want you to take care of it. Look through each and every note, find a loophole and then get us the estate.”

  “But—” I almost choked on my breath. This was a multi-million dollar deal.

  Jett pushed back his chair and walked around the desk. Stopping in front of me, he sank into a crouch so I could feel his hot breath on my skin. “James said you were the best. Was he lying?”

  God, he was beautiful. His eyes...his face...his lips. I leaned back, as if the little distance could protect me from his magnetism, and shook my head. “No. But this is huge and I—” Didn’t have the experience, I wanted to add when Jett cut me off.

  “I believe in you,” he said slowly. “Don’t disappoint me.”

  Jett Mayfield was huge and he believed in my skills. For a moment I just stared at him, unable to utter the two words I desperately wanted to communicate.

  Thank you.

  The air charged between us. My gaze lowered to his open lips, so close to mine, and moisture gathered between my legs, soaking the sheer material of my panties. Clearing his throat, Jett stood and returned to his seat, but not fast enough to hide his own shallow breath and the lust in his eyes. He wasn’t as unaffected as he pretended to be. A sense of pride and victory grabbed hold of my heart. I crossed my arms over my chest, amused.

  “Lunch should be waiting for you in the kitchen,” he said coolly, avoiding my gaze. “I’ll be in Malpesa for the rest of the day.”

  “Why?” The word slipped out before I could stop myself. His gaze shot up, brows raised.

  “Meeting with a client.”

  “There’s nothing on your schedule.”

  He leaned back in his chair and regarded me for a few seconds. “Not everything’s noted in my schedule, Brooke. Like our little stroll this morning. Do you think the Lucazzone household had an enjoyable view?” A devilish grin lit up his face, sending me into yet another blushing frenzy.

  “What? You said—” I stumbled over my words, not able to finish the sentence.

  “No. I said no one is living there...literally, on the shoreline. I didn’t say no one is living inside the house.” His grin widened. My cheeks caught fire from yet another wave of sheer mortification.

  Dammit, the ball was in his court again.

  I had just lost another battle.

  “Do you think anyone saw us?” I whispered.

  He shrugged. “Does it matter?”

  It did because I wasn’t the kind who had sex in a public place where everyone could gawk at me.

  “Relax, Brooke,” Jett said softly. “The house’s been standing empty for months.” His finger brushed my flaming cheek. “But you liked the danger of being caught, didn’t you?”

  I nodded even though it wasn’t just the chance of being caught that had made my blood boil.

  “Good, because there are so many other things I plan to do with you,” he whispered in that deep, sexy voice layered with intrigue.

  My breath hitched. Oh, I definitely couldn’t wait.

  The phone rang, interrupting our moment. Jett groaned and turned to check the caller ID.

  “Fuck!” Letting go of me, he grabbed the phone and pressed his hand against the microphone. His dusky eyes were on me, leaving no doubt his words were meant for my ears only. “I want you so badly but, unfortunately, work’s calling.” His mouth moved to mine in a quick but heated kiss, and then he was back in his no-nonsense work mojo.

  “Mayfield,” he said into his phone. His voice was hard and determined, showing none of the passion I could sure as hell still feel rushing through my veins.

  Straightening my back, I mustered all my poise and forced myself to walk out of the room slowly, minding each step so I wouldn’t trip over my own two feet.

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  As Jett had announced, lunch was waiting for me in the kitchen. I lifted the lid off the serving plate and inhaled the aroma of some Italian pasta and meat dish I had never tried before. It smelled deliciously of herbs and fresh tomatoes. My stomach rumbled in response, reminding me that it was already well past lunchtime, and I hadn’t eaten since last night. With the Lucazzone file still clutched to my chest, I grabbed my plate and sat down at the expensive mahogany table overlooking the lake. From up here, I had a grand view over the entire east side. Unlike the day we arrived, the lake seemed to have attracted visitors. I couldn’t see as far as the shore, but I could make out the colorful flagpoles of two private boats sailing at a leisurely speed. According to Jett, most of the lake was privately owned, which led me to believe the owners had decided to fly over for a quick spring trip.

  Popping a spoonful of delicious pasta into my mouth, I wondered what it must be like to be as rich as these people, and not have to worry about paying the bills or putting food on the table. Even when my mother lost my father and had to make end’s meet by taking a minimum wage job stocking shelves in a local supermarket, I never felt like I lacked anything. But being with Jett in a villa that probably cost more than I’d make in a lifetime, I couldn’t help but feel out of place.

  I worked for him but wasn’t part of his world. And I harbored no false hope that I’d ever be.

  You don’t want him, Stewart. So get those ‘what ifs’ out of your damn system.

  “Damn straight,” I mumbled, opening the Lucazzone file. To my surprise, it wasn’t the same one Jett had left on my desk this morning. I finished my lunch quickly so I could engross myself in Mayfield’s strange work ethic. By the time I leaned back in my chair, I couldn’t help but admire his dedication.

  Jett Mayfield knew what he wanted, and he wasn’t afraid to take it, no matter how dirty he had to play.

  ***

  The private detective had been following the Lucazzone family for ten years, sifting through family trees, tragedies, secret bank accounts, and visitors with hidden motives. As it turned out, throughout generations the Lucazzone men had played away, taking their pleasure wherever and from whomever they could get it. Alessandro Lucazzone was no different, except that he played for the other team. He had wed his rich wife because he needed her money, which explained why he never fathered an heir. At some point, one of his lovers moved in, and they began to flaunt their romance until his wife put a stop to it by threatening to divorce him.

  I wondered why she never carried out her threat. Any woman in her right mind would, and yet Henrietta Lucazzone stayed with Alessandro until she drew her last breath, her body destroyed by a mysterious disease she contracted while vacationing in India. Maybe it was her Catholic upbringing that made her value her vows more than her freedom or a life with someone who truly loved her. Or maybe Alessandro had an iron grip on her, forcing her into obedience. He was well known for his charm and good looks, and it was said that he could even persuade a cobra to hold back her venom at the sight of him.

  Obviously, I didn’t believe a word they said. The stories dated back to his youth, when the effects of WWI had made people poor and trusting of the high society that offered a free daily meal and gifted their children clothes to wear. Maybe it was the reason why Henrietta thought Alessandro Lucazzone got away with murder.

  According to Jett’s file, it was the first Sunday in December 1953. Henrietta Lucazzone had just returned from yet another shopping spree, of which she was so fond, only to find her husband in bed with another man. While this had happened before, this time the lover next to Alessandro was dead. His torso had be
en slit open from the throat all the way down to his abdomen. According to her diary, Henrietta never called the police and the body was later found buried in the woods, naked, the torso torn open.

  No one ever asked questions, no one pointed fingers. Around the time the body was found, Alessandro gave money away to charity, and he was praised for his generosity. The man was identified as a former soldier in WWII, hooked on the bottle and in desperate need of cash to finance his next drink. Mayfield’s private detective only stumbled upon Lucazzone’s secret when he wasn’t granted a visit entrance to Lucazzone’s home, and he stumbled upon Henrietta’s diary in the chapel behind the gardens, hidden beneath the kneeling pad facing the altar.

  Although the diary was never sent to the police, the fact that a body was found inside the villa should have been proof enough that someone in the Lucazzone house was a murderer. And yet, the family’s good reputation and wealth protected whoever committed the crime. In his correspondence with the detective, Mayfield had claimed the man was old and sick. If he was indeed the murderer, any justice would reach him after his death. I wondered why Jett wouldn’t just hand the diary to the local authorities. If Alessandro was found guilty, the Italian government would auction the estate and sell it to the highest bidder, in which case I doubted anyone would make an offer in excess of twenty million. It would have been so easy, and yet Jett seemed to want to take the hard road for reasons unfathomable to me.

  Closing the file, I placed my empty plate in the dishwasher and headed upstairs for the privacy of my office. Without Jett, the house seemed unusually quiet. As I booted up my MacBook from sleeping mode, I found myself easing slowly into work mode. I looked through the file from front to back cover, twice, without finding anything that could possibly help. The tax records were fine. The estate had financial troubles, but they weren’t severe enough to push Lucazzone into selling. I had no idea what else to look for and was about to close the file when the tiny number printed at the bottom of each page caught my eye. The last page was numbered 147 of 148, meaning one page was missing.

  Had it been filed with the others? I couldn’t remember having seen it, but I searched the file twice nonetheless, then my desk and finally the kitchen, without much success. In the end, I decided to ask Jett about it and commenced my administrative tasks. By the time I finished answering his principal business correspondence and postponed each and every meeting as per Jett’s request, it was early evening, and the sound of crunching pebbles beneath tires told me it was time to call it a day.

  ***

  Jett’s business meeting hadn’t gone well. I could tell by the way he slammed the door shut, sending a reverberating quake through the floor and walls. I had no idea what to make of it, so I stayed glued to the spot, inches away from the clothes hanging in my closet, wondering what to wear tonight. Until now it had always been one business suit after another, intermingled with the occasional jeans at night. Tonight I felt a need for a change, maybe something risky like a skirt or a dress. Something to entice the man who hadn’t touched me since our outing to the beach. Why? Because I wanted to get it over and done with.

  Anticipation or patience had never been my virtues. I didn’t like this waiting game, spending hours a day in his presence with his sultry eyes on me. Every time he looked at me, it felt as though his heated gaze was undressing me while sending delicious trembles through my lower body. Ever since he touched me down there, I could think of nothing but his lips on my skin, teasing, sucking, sending me over the edge. I wanted to feel that electrifying cascade of emotions again, but I also intended to repay his efforts this time. The tell-tale tingling of arousal rushed through my belly, descending into a sensual pull just below my abdomen.

  But now wasn’t the time.

  Pushing Jett to the back of my mind, I dressed in a pencil skirt that fell just below the knees and a soft Cashmere top with a plunging V neck line. I kept my makeup understated—a bit of mascara, blusher, and a touch of lipstick—and eased my ponytail. My hair cascaded down my shoulders in countless soft ringlets. Pleased, I inspected myself in the mirror.

  Not too bad, Stewart.

  Okay, I admit I was nowhere near model material, but I had a few things going for me—like my luminous, brown eyes, my round hips, and my thin waist. Besides, Jett had made no secret about wanting me, so for once the fact that my legs weren’t long enough and my cup size could use the boost of a padded bra didn’t bother me.

  Biting my lip nervously, I shot the image in the mirror another look and ventured out in search of my boss.

  I found Jett in the living room, standing near the open balcony door with his cell phone pressed to his ear, and the evening wind ruffling his hair. His back was turned to me, so I had a few short moments to regard him before he noticed my presence.

  He was clad in jeans that hugged his strong thighs and a black tee that accentuated his biceps; the moisture in his hair shimmered in the light of the chandelier, making me want to run my fingers through it to test whether it was as soft and luscious as it seemed. He looked so yummy I could have died on the spot and gone straight to heaven. I groaned against the sudden need pooling between my legs.

  Seriously? He didn’t even need to say a word, and I was already considering begging him to take me. I couldn’t be more obvious.

  Easy lay.

  Knocking lightly on the already open door, I stepped into the living room, my eyes fixed on anything but Jett. And then he turned and a panty-dropping smile jerked his lips upward. My gaze was drawn to him magnetically, and everything else was sucked out of my vision.

  He was so hot it was unreal.

  No, he was a sex god.

  My breath hitched in my throat for the umpteenth time since I’d met him.

  “Hey. Had a good day?” he asked in a low and throaty tone, sexy as hell.

  I swallowed hard, forgetting my voice. He strolled toward me and bent down to place a soft kiss on my cheek as his hand moved to my lower back, barely touching the soft material of my shirt.

  Too close for comfort, too electrifying.

  I couldn’t breathe. He was so confident it scared the living crap out of me.

  Smiling bravely, I took two steps back, forcing myself not to dash for the nearest exit.

  “It was good. What about you?” My voice barely found its way out of my throat.

  “It’s getting better now that I’m here with you.” Jett’s eyes descended into mine, sending my insides into upheaval. His thumb brushed my lower lip and a frown crossed his features, as though he couldn’t decide whether to kiss it. I wanted to make that decision easy for him so I gently pressed my mouth against his thumb while my eyes remained connected with him. His breathing became shallow as I started to suck his finger into my mouth, pulling it in and out.

  “You’re playing with fire, Brooke,” Jett said huskily. “I don’t want you to get burned.”

  “You promised fire. I don’t mind a little pain,” I whispered against his hand. This was about the most obvious invitation I had ever spoken to a man. My heart began to beat wildly against my ribcage, reminding me of a fragile bird in desperate search for a way out of a cage. And in some way I was a bird, and my life was a cage. While I’d never let Jett or any other man inside, I figured I could safely venture outside for a change, in the hope that I might just forget my past. Be someone else for a while.

  We stared at each other for a few moments during which I barely breathed…and then his cell phone rang, jerking him out of our moment.

  Urgh.

  Someone had to call at the most unfortunate time again.

  Jett peered at the caller ID and pressed the response button, muttering something like, “Hold on.” Covering the microphone with one hand, his lips crushed mine in a fleeting kiss. “Sorry, I have to take this.”

  I shrugged. His gaze darkened, and for a moment I couldn’t tell whether with desire or annoyance.

  “I hope you like barbecue,” he said.

  “Who doesn’t?


  “Meet you in the kitchen in ten?”

  I nodded, even though he couldn’t see it because he had turned his back on me, his phone glued to his ear.

  ***

  As I entered the kitchen, the grill was already set up and covered with a steel lid. Jett lifted it to reveal two servings of ribs the size of Alabama. The aroma of meat and grilled vegetables made my stomach rumble and mellowed out my annoyance. Maybe he didn’t take me up on the offer because he didn’t want to burn dinner?

  His loss, right?

  I shrugged and forced myself not to roll my eyes again like a petulant child.

  “Your business meeting didn’t go so well,” I started, ready to steer the conversation onto known terrain. After all, he was my boss and we were supposed to discuss things that affected the company.

  Jett smirked. “How could you tell?”

  “By the way you slammed the door.”

  “Sorry about that.”

  “No worries.”

  I watched him as he piled up two plates in silence and headed out the balcony door into the backyard. I took the red wine bottle and two empty wine glasses, then followed him out.

  The air was warm and thick with the aroma of wood and flowers in bloom. The garden table and chairs were situated just around the corner where the light from the kitchen barely penetrated the darkness. Jett had already lit up what looked like a huge golden lantern that shed a soft glow on the white porcelain and tablecloth. The lit tea candles arranged in a zigzag pattern flickered in the soft breeze and cast moving shadows across the whitewashed wall.

  The whole atmosphere was chic yet relaxed, not too romantic but not casual either. Where I came from, we never lit candles unless we celebrated a birthday, or someone had died.

 
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