Conquer Your Love(Surrender Your Love 02)

By: J.C. Reed

Chapter 9





“SO LET ME get this straight. You want to go back to Bellagio and leave me all alone here?” Sylvie asked over a hearty breakfast consisting of egg omelet and orange juice. Apart from cereals and pre-made waffles, it was the only thing Sylvie and I knew how to prepare, so naturally, we indulged in it whenever we couldn’t make it to the nearest café.

Nodding, I put down my fork and pushed my empty plate aside. “I need to run some errands. You can do whatever you want. Go shopping, lounge by the pool, update your Twitter status.”

“It’s Facebook.” She grimaced, like I was an idiot for not remembering. “I know you’re supposed to do something for the old man. I thought I could come with you.”

“It’ll be boring.” I tried to sound convincing—and failed miserably. “ I’d rather you have a nice day because it’s supposed to be a vacation. Go enjoy yourself. Do what you feel like doing.”

“And that is?”

I shrugged. Normal people went on a sightseeing tour or lay on a sunbed, reading a book. Sylvie was a totally different species.

“Go to Milan, shopping. It’s not that far. I’ll be back around seven.” I had no idea what Jett had in mind. My best guess was lunch, in which case we’d be done by mid-afternoon, give or take a few hours.

“You know, I might just do that,” Sylvie said. “I’ve always wanted to visit Milan. It’s the shopping capital of Italy, and I can finally get one of those Italian silk scarfs and a new Prada bag.” Sylvie swooned and her eyes glazed over as she entered shopping heaven. I could almost see the Prada logo reflected in her blue eyes.

“Just do me the favor and don’t go home with a guy.”

“I’m not that stupid.”

I sighed. “I know.”

Hopefully I wasn’t the one making a mistake by going out with the hottest, most persuasive guy I knew. Sleeping with Jett when he was my boss was bad enough. But going out with him as my ex-boss, who also happened to be the best lover I ever had, might be worse. It spelled instant trouble.



***



The taxi driver parked in front of the spa. I paid and got out quickly, almost tripping over my two feet as I spotted Jett leaning relaxed against his Lamborghini. Dark shades hid his eyes, making it impossible to discern whether he was absorbed in the newspaper in his hands, or watching me approach.

My heart began to thump a little harder, and my tongue flicked over my suddenly dry lips as I stared at six foot two of toned muscles. He looked so damn sexy dressed in jeans and a black shirt. His thick dark hair was shiny and unruly. I wondered whether he’d taken a shower and didn’t bother to comb it before driving to pick me up. The picture of me running my hands through his hair, pulling him on top of me, made me blush so hard my skin was on fire. He was pure sin. Whoever invented the word must’ve done so with Jett in mind.

As if on cue, his head snapped in my direction and a devilish grin lit up his face. He folded the newspaper and tossed it through the open window into the car, then strolled toward me.

“Well, hello, I’m Jett Mayfield.” He grabbed my hand in a very intimate grip. “I’m the crazy guy who called last night.”

He had me at hello and crazy.

I forced a smile on my face, and prayed he’d mistake my blush for the beginning of a sunburn. Just thinking of yesterday’s phone conversation with him and knowing the sound of his voice was enough to make me give in, was not only awkward—it was embarrassing and agonizingly stupid. Now was the right time for earth to swallow me up whole and make me disappear forever. Maybe I was lucky enough, and Jett had been drunk and with no recollection of my lack of refusal.

Yeah, it was possible. Stranger things happened.

Don’t be stupid, Stewart. Just look at his grin. He knows it!

“What are you doing?” I asked, trying to sound as casual as possible.

“Establishing a clean slate.” He winked and interlaced his fingers with mine as he walked me to his car. “Starting all over again. With you.”

“Really?” I laughed, unable to look into his eyes. The serious undertones in his voice made me nervous.

“You look beautiful.” He kissed my cheek and lingered there a bit longer than necessary. A soft tingle ran down my spine. “In Italy you don’t really say I miss you. People say ‘mi manchi’, which means ‘you are missing from me.’ I feel that way, Brooke. Whenever you’re not around, I feel like a part of me is missing.”

A hot shudder ran through my body and every inch of me longed to touch him. That he was hot and sexy was bad enough. Did he have to be nice, too? I wanted to say something witty. But, as usual, I couldn’t think straight around him.

Smiling, Jett opened the door and I entered. The smell of expensive leather hit my nostrils. It didn’t surprise me in the least that people were staring at us. They probably thought we were celebrities, which couldn’t be further from the truth. At least in my case.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“It’s a surprise.” He started the engine and pointed at the newspaper before steering out of the parking lot. “Turn to page eight.”

The newspaper was older than I thought, folded and used many times, the front page torn in several places. I flicked straight to page eight. The main headline mentioned a gallery opening. Further down was something about a charity event and pictures of high society socialites in their evening gowns, holding champagne flutes. The last paragraph mentioned various art purchases made on that evening. The date read May 8th 1991.

“It’s an old newspaper.” I peered at Jett, confused, as I pointed out the obvious.

“If you look closely, you’ll see a younger version of Lucazzone standing next to my father. It’s the only picture of the two together.”

I scanned the pictures again. Although they were blurred, I recognized Alessandro. The photo must have been taken prior to his wife’s death, long before his health deteriorated. My gaze shifted from Alessandro to the middle-aged man towering over him, and I recognized Jett’s stubborn chin and confident smile. There was no caption—as though the two didn’t need an introduction. Just a random shot at some high society party.

“Where was this?”

“New York,” Jett said. “More than twenty years ago.”

“That’s a long time ago.”

“When I was a child we came here every summer. We stayed in hotels and holiday cottages in the area, until I purchased my property on Lake Como ten years ago. All those years my father never acknowledged knowing Lucazzone. And when I asked him a couple of weeks ago, he pretended to have met him only when he decided buying the Lucazzone estate might be a good investment.”

“What are you saying?”

“My father keeps pretending to have known Lucazzone for only ten years. This paper—” He pointed at the newspaper in my hand. “—shows they’ve known each other far longer than that. I’ve been asking myself why he’d lie about that.”

“When did you find this?”

He sighed. “I asked a guy I know to investigate a few weeks back, right after my father told me about the club and that any exposure of it could harm the company. I wanted to find out more. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to find.”

My gaze remained glued to him as I contemplated his words. Eventually I asked the one question I thought made the most sense.

“Did you confront your father about his lie?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t know enough, okay?” Jett said. “I need to know what I’m dealing with. Who those people are. What the club’s all about.”

Like me, he didn’t trust anyone. I bit my lip as I regarded Jett from the corner of my eye. The strong muscles of his arms were clearly displayed beneath his shirt. One hand held the steering wheel, the other rested against the window. He must’ve felt my gaze on him, because his attention snapped in my direction and he frowned.

“You still don’t believe me, do you?” He turned back to the road, but his expression didn’t soften. “Damn, Brooke. I told you I’m not the bad guy.”

I chose not to answer his question because he was right. Ever since I found out he had been keeping things from me, I had a hard time trusting him. Seeing him as the bad guy was the main excuse I used to get over him. It helped me to keep my distance. Without that excuse, my brain couldn’t keep my foolish heart under control.

“What do you think is going on?” I asked.

“I honestly don’t know.” He hesitated briefly. “My father doesn’t talk. Fact is, he and Lucazzone have known each other for a long time, but he won’t acknowledge it. I got him to talk about the club once, but apparently that happened a few years ago and he’s out now.”

“Maybe they’re all hiding something,” I said, matter-of-factly.

Jett nodded grimly. “That’s my best bet, too. I just don’t want this shit to affect you in any way.”

“Yeah, see that’s something I wanted to talk about.” I tapped my fingers on my thigh, considering my words as my heartbeat sped up at the countless thoughts running through my mind. “You keep saying I’m in danger. But you don’t have any proof.”

“I do, Brooke.”

Silence. I waited for him to continue. He didn’t.

“What proof?”

He shook his head. “I don’t want to scare you.”

Oh, come on!

“Are you kidding me?” I snorted. “You do realize your whole ‘I’m here to protect you’ crap is scary, right? It’s like warning me there’s something or someone inside my house, but you’re not telling me what it is and my imagination’s left roaming free in horror movie territory.”

“Okay. You know I told you about the murder victim found on the Lucazzone estate years ago?”

I nodded, thinking back to the horrendous story taking place decades ago. The victim was Alessandro’s lover—or at least that’s what Maria’s diary supposedly said. The crime was never investigated and consequently Alessandro never prosecuted.

“Yeah, that wasn’t the only weird thing happening,” Jett said, “My brother and I used to watch the house when we were kids.” I nodded because I remembered him telling me the story. He continued. “At times we’d see the old man leaving the house. We also noticed policemen regularly visiting the place. Laughing. Shaking hands. I have good reason to believe they were involved.”

I didn’t like this information. I figured in case of an emergency, I might just end up asking the wrong people for help.

I wet my dry lips and repeated the obvious because his words kept echoing inside my brain, and I needed to hear them out loud. “You think the police were involved—in the club.”

“No.” Jett shook his head slowly, his gaze darkening. “Thinking back, I’m pretty sure of it, considering that the murder on the estate was never investigated. With the right people covering for you, it’d be easy to kill someone and shrug it off as an accident. I think that’s what really happened.”

“Obviously, a man with an open throat and torso didn’t kill himself.”

“Exactly,” Jett muttered.

As the Lamborghini sped out of the city and up the narrow country road, I realized I still had no idea where we were heading.

“Where are we going?”

His mood lightened at my sudden change in topic. “Since I’m the one taking you out on a date, I have a right to keep the destination secret until we’re there.”

“I don’t really like surprises.”

“I know, baby, but believe me this one will blow your mind.”

My skin began to tingle from the sexual undertone in his voice. The temperature in the car rose a few degrees. Maybe because the early afternoon sun was shining with relentless heat. Or maybe because his right arm was so close to mine, I could almost feel his touch. Either way, I didn’t like the jolts of anticipation traveling through my abdomen and gathering between my legs.

Eventually the forest cleared. From our heightened road I could see lots of sparkling water and a shore. I straightened in my seat and craned my neck to get a better glimpse. In the distance the first rows of roofs began to emerge, gathering into a messy knot of narrow properties and winding streets running between them.

“Is that the Ligurian Sea?” My brain fought to recall the tiny bits of Italian geography I had picked up on my first trip to Italy.

“No, it’s still Lake Como. The sea is a two and half hour drive from here,” Jett said. “It’s quite nice. I’ll take us some day.”

Us.

My heart skipped a beat. He was making future plans—and they involved me.

He took a left turn and we came to a stop near a small port.

“Can you swim?” Jett asked as he helped me out his car and locked it behind us.

I looked up into his stunning green eyes. His impossibly long lashes shielded them from the bright light, making them appear a few shades darker than usual.

Mysterious. Dangerously hot.

“Yes. Why?” I asked, warily.

“Because we’re going on a boat.”

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