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Excerpt: An Inheritance of Shame

The lift doors opened directly into the suite, and Lucia took a step into the silent foyer. She couldn't see or hear Angelo anywhere.

She glanced cautiously towards the living area before she decided to just head for the bathroom, deposit the towels, and get out of there as quickly as possible. Taking a deep breath, she hurried down the hall and had her hand on the doorknob of the bathroom when the door swung open and Angelo stood there, dressed only in a pair of dress slacks, his chest bare, droplets of water clinging to his golden skin.

Lucia stood as if rooted to the spot, the towels clutched to her chest, every thought evaporating from her brain. Finally she moistened her lips and managed, 'You wanted towels—‘

'Towels?' He frowned, glancing at the towels still clutched against her chest. 'I didn't ask for any towels.'

Lucia felt colour rush to her face. 'You—you didn't?' Which meant Emilia had been mistaken—or lying. Had the other maid set her up for more gossip? Now she could whisper to everyone how Lucia had sneaked up to the penthouse suite late at night? Lucia knew what it would look like. And from Angelo's narrowed gaze, she had a feeling he knew what it looked like too.

Angelo gazed at Lucia, her cheeks touched with colour but her eyes still frustratingly blank. Once he'd been able to see so much clear emotion in those blue, blue eyes of hers. He'd read her so easily because she'd never tried to hide what she felt. How much she felt. He'd taken for granted, he saw now, the hero-worship she'd had for him when they were children. He'd always known it wasn't real, couldn't be, and yet he missed it. He missed, if not the childish adoration she'd once had for him, then at least the affection. The regard.

She looked now as if she didn't care for him at all. As if he were a stranger of no importance. Anger or even hatred would have been easier to accept. Considering how he'd left her seven years ago, it would have been understandable.

But this cold indifference in her eyes—it chilled him. Reminded him of Carlo Corretti's uncaring stare when he'd confronted the man who had fathered him with the hard truth of his identity.         

All you were meant to be was a stain on the sheets.

He couldn't stand for Lucia to look at him that way, as if he didn't matter. Didn't exist.

'I didn't order any towels,' he said again, wondering if she had possibly used it as an excuse to see him. But no--she looked like she'd rather be anywhere else. With anyone else.

'It must have been a mistake,' Lucia said stiffly. 'I'll go.'

She turned and started down the hall, and some insane impulse had Angelo springing forward, reaching for her wrist. 'No—‘

She stilled, his fingers still wrapped around her wrist. 'Angelo,' she said in a low voice. 'Don't.'

He could feel the pulse in her wrist hammering hard, and it gratified him. Underneath that cold indifference she felt something. Just as he did. 'Don't what?' he asked softly.

'Don't do this,' she said helplessly. 'What happened between us is over. I know that. It's fine.'

'It is not fine.'

She turned back to him, genuine confusion clouding her eyes to a stormy grey. 'Why? Why do you ever care what I think or feel?'

'Because--' He heard his voice rise in frustration. Because I can't stop thinking about you. Because when I finally fall asleep at night I dream of your eyes, your mouth, your softness. What would it take to stop thinking about this woman? To get her out of his head completely?

Lucia's gaze swept over him and then she angled her head away, hiding her face. Her eyes. 'I must go.' She turned towards the lift, extended one hand towards the button.

Without thinking about what he was doing Angelo lunged forward, trapped her hand with his against the panel of buttons. 'Don't.'

She stilled, and he realised how close he was to her, his body pressing hers against the wall next to the lift. He could feel the heat coming off her lithe, athletic frame, and also the awareness. It coiled and snapped between them like a live wire, an attraction he'd felt--and surrendered to—seven years before. An attraction he still felt now—and with a thrill of satisfaction he knew she felt it too. It wasn't over.

He lowered his head so his lips brushed the dark softness of her hair, inhaled the clean, warm scent of her.

'Lucia,' he murmured, and he felt her tense even more.

'Let me go, Angelo.' Her voice trembled and broke on the note of his name and he felt a savage surge of triumph at knowing how affected she was. How attracted.            

His lips brushed her hair again and with one hand he drew her own away from the lift button. A shudder wracked her body at his touch, and Angelo felt another thrill surge through him at her blatant response.  

He laced his fingers with her own and put his other hand on her shoulder, gently turning her around so her back was against the lift, her body towards him.

He pressed against her and although she remained tense he could still feel her response, her body arching helplessly towards his. This was what he'd wanted all along, he acknowledged with a sudden, primal certainty. This was what he couldn't forget. What he wouldn't forget.

Excerpt From: AN INHERITANCE OF SHAME by Kate Hewitt
Copyright © 2013 by Kate Hewitt
Permission granted by Harlequin Books S.A. All rights reserved.

January 2008