obdorwhithinkca.ml/if-life-were-that-simple-a-piper.php More important than any of that, though, washer need to keep on earning the money they all so desperately needed right now. She could not afford the luxury of pride, no matter how much it irked her.
The road began to climb up ahead of them, and on the hilltop, caught in the fullbeam of the rising moon, Charley could see the vast bulk of an imposing buildingdominating the landscape. In this? Her awed gaze took in the magnificence of the building in front of her. It lookedlike something that should have belonged to the National Trust, or whatever theItalian equivalent of that organisation was. Does that mean that you live with your sister and her husband? What did it matter to him who she lived with? The three of us—my eldest sister Lizzie, Ruby and I and thetwins—all live together.
She wanted to keep the familytogether after our parents died, so she gave up her career in London to come backto Cheshire. I have no intention of marrying—ever—and even less ofproducing a son or any child, for that matter. It seemed so out of character for thekind of man she had assumed he must be that he should not consider marriage andthe production of an heir as the prime reason for his own being. That, surely, washow the aristocracy thought?
It was the mindset that had made them what theywere—the need, the determination to continue their male line in order to secureand continue their right to enjoy the status and the wealth that had been built up byprevious generations. To hear one of their number state otherwise so unequivocallyseemed so strange that it immediately made Charley wonder why Raphael felt theway he did. Not, of course, that she was ever likely to get the opportunity to askhim.
That would require a degree of intimacy and trust between them that couldnever exist. He was obviously very angry with her—again—and as he took a steptowards her Charley took one step back, forgetting that she was standing on a stepand immediately losing her balance.
Not to protect her from any hurt or harm, Charley recognised, but toprotect himself from coming into unwanted contact with her. That knowledgeburned her pride and her heart, reminding her of all those other times when menhad dismissed her as being unworthy of their interest. He was still holding her, and once again out of nowhere she was having to fightagainst the shock of suddenly experiencing an awareness of him that was totallyalien to her nature. How could it have happened?
She had taught herself years ago not to be interested in men, because she hadalways known that they were not interested in her. Once she had realised it, though, she had quicklylearned to play up to the role of tomboy that they had given her, pretending not tomind when her mother bought pretty dresses for her sisters and jeans for her,pretending that being the family tomboy was what she actually wanted, tellingherself that it would be silly for her to try to mimic her sisters when she was somuch plainer than they were. Over the years she had learned that the best way to protect herself from commentsabout her own lack of femininity and prettiness when compared with her sisterswas to ensure that others believed she wanted to be what she was—that she wantedto be Charley and not Charlotte.
If she had been eitherher elder sister Lizzie, with her elegance and her classically beautiful features, orher younger sister Ruby, with her mop of thick tousled curls and the piquant beautyof her face, he would not be looking at her as he was—as though he wanted topush her away from him and reject her. Being so close to him was unnerving her—the sheer solid steel strength of his malebody brutally hard against her own unprepared softness. She wanted to lifther hand and touch him there on his face, to see if she could feel some slightroughness or if his skin was as smooth and polished as it looked.
That mouth alone said so much about him. It was hard andcruel, the top lip sharply cut. It was the woman, though, whose breath wasdragged into her lungs and whose awareness was not of the lines and structure offlesh and muscle, but instead of the openly sensual curve and fullness of his lips. What must it be like to be kissed by a man with such a mouth? Would he kiss withthe cruelty of that harshly cut top lip, demanding and taking his own pleasure?
Orwould he kiss with the sensual promise of that bottom lip, taking the woman hewas kissing to a place where pleasure was a foregone conclusion and all she wouldneed to measure it was the depth to which she allowed that pleasure to take her? She pulled back stiffly within hishold, causing Raphael to immediately want to keep her where she was. Because for a fraction of a second his body had reacted to her with physical desire? That meant nothing. It had been a momentary automatic reaction—that was all;nothing more.
Raphael purposely kept his dealings with women confined torelationships in which both people understood certain rules about their intimacybeing purely sexual and nothing more. He was committed to remaining single andchild-free as a matter of duty and honour, and nothing was ever going to changethat. Certainly not this woman. And yet beneath his grip Raphael could feel the slenderness of her arm, and justregistering that was enough to cause his thoughts to turn to how soft her skinwould be, how pale and tender, with delicate blue veins running up from her wrist,the pulse of her blood quickening in them as he touched her.
Her naked bodywould look as though it were carved from alabaster: milk-white and silkily warmto the touch. Furious with himself for the direction his thoughts had taken, Raphael pushed thetempting vision away, ignoring the eager hunger that was beginning to pulsethrough his body. It was irrational and impossible that he should desire her.
Even her name affrontedhis aesthetic senses and his love of beauty. She knew that he wanted to do so. What would it be like to bekissed by a man like him? To be held, and touched, caressed, wanted…? A small sound locked her throat, her eyes darkening to such a dense blue-greenthat the colour reminded Raphael of the deep, clean, untouched waters in the smallprivate bay below the villa he owned on the island of Sicily.
The sudden swifthardening of his body before he had time to check its reaction to her caught himoff guard, making him deride himself mentally for his reaction. It was unthinkable. He must be able to see,after all, that she did not have the kind of womanhood it was possible to take pridein. She was plain and lanky, unfeminine and undesirable—so much the completeopposite to the beauty her artistic senses admired and longed to create that it hurther to know how far short she fell of her own standards. Secretly, growing up, shehad believed that if she could not be beautiful then she could at least create beauty.
But even that had been denied her. It was a sacrifice she had made willingly, forthe sake of her sisters. They loved her as she was, and she loved them. That waswhat mattered—not this man. And yet when he released her and was no longer touching her, when he looked ather as though he despised her, it did matter, Charley recognised miserably. Following Raphael into the palazzo, Charley was conscious of how untidy andunattractive she must look, in cheap jeans that had never fitted properly, even whenshe had first bought them, and the bulky, out-of-shape navy jumper she hadthought she might need if she had to visit the site, which she had worn over her teeshirt to allow her more packing space in her backpack.
But then she forgot her awful clothes as she took in the magnificence ofthe large entrance hall, with its frescoed wall panels and ceiling, the colours surelyas rich and fresh today as they had been when they had first been painted, makingher want to reach out and touch them, to feel that richness beneath her fingertips. The scenes were allegorical—relating, she guessed, to Roman mythology ratherthan Christianity—and had obviously been painted by a master hand. Just lookingat them was a feast for her senses, overwhelming them and bringing emotionaltears to her eyes that she was quick to blink away, not wanting Raphael to seethem.
She tried to focus on something else, but even the marble staircase that roseup from the hallway was a work of art in its own right. Raphael, who had been watching her, saw her eyes widen and change colour, herface lifting towards the frescoes with an awed joy that illuminated her features andrevealed the true beauty of the delicate bone structure. His heart slammed into his ribs with a force for which he was totally unprepared.
The fresco was one of his personal favourites, and her silent but open homage to itechoed his own private feelings. But how could it be possible that this woman ofall people, whose behaviour said that she had no awareness of or respect for artisticbeauty, should look at the fresco and react to it with all that he felt for it himself? It should not have happened. But it had, and he hadwitnessed it. Raphael watched her lift her hand as she took a step towards thenearest fresco, as though unable to stop herself, and then let it fall back. If he looked at her now he knew he would seeher eyes had darkened to that stormy blue-green that had caught his attentionearlier, and her lips would be pressed together—soft, sensual pillows of flesh, toofull to form a flat line, tempting any man who looked at them to taste them…Raphael cursed himself under his breath.
He had been without a lover for too long. He could still remember how as a small child she had lifted him and held him sothat he could see the frescos at close quarters, her voice filled with emotion as shetalked to him about them. His life had been so happy then, so filled with love andsecurity—before he had known about his dark inheritance. So much beauty, Charley thought achingly. Her heart, indeed the very essence ofher had gone hungry for such beauty for so long.
Only of course the great masters had never taken on female pupils—not even tomboy female pupils.
He would never tell anyone the recipe heused for his famous blue paint, and the secret died with him. His wristswere muscular, and the dark hairs on his arm underlined his maleness, making herstomach muscles tighten into a slow ache that permeated the whole of her lowerbody. What would it be like to be touched, held by such a man? To know thepolished, controlled expertise of his stroke against her skin…?
It must be Italy that wasmaking her feel like this—Italy, and the knowledge that she was so close to thecities she had longed to visit and their wonderful art treasures, not Raphael himself. That could not be—must not be.
Start on. Using thedetermination with which he had always so ruthlessly crushed any challenge orresistance to his self-control, Raphael closed down his unwanted thoughts as firmlyas though he had trapped them behind an impregnable steel door. She was wearing her hair down, and the sight ofit, freshly washed, the delicately scented smell of it and of her reawakened thedesire he had felt earlier. The accident is very jarring. An Innocent's Surrender She had a school girl crush on him for years. Raphael took pride in the proper artistic maintenance of all the historicbuildings and art treasures that had come down to him through his family, and thethought of the garden to which his family was connected being given a makeovermore suited to an English suburban plot owned by people with dubious taste filledhim with an anger that was currently directed towards Charlotte Wareham—withher make-up-less face, her sun-streaked mud-brown hair, and her obvious lack ofinterest or pride in her appearance. It's kind of sweet how obviously thrilled he is to see her and I love it how the author was able to exclusively use the h's POV, yet successfully convey all the longing from the hero it all flew over the h's head, of course.
Slipping the band she used to tie her hair back off her face over her wrist, Charleypadded barefoot to the balcony in her strappy sleep top with matching shorts—aChristmas present from the twins. The outfit was loose on her, due to the weightshe had lost over these last anxious weeks.
It was wonderful to feel the warmth of the sun on her bare skin. Both men were dressed casually, in short-sleevedshirts and chinos, but it was to Raphael that her attention was drawn as the twomen shook hands and the older man began to walk away, leaving Raphael standingalone. The blue linen of his shirt emphasised the tanned flesh of his bare forearms.
A beam of sunlight touched the strong column of his throat. Charley had to curl herfingers in an attempt to quell the longing itching in them—not a desire to pick up apiece of charcoal and sketch his lean, erotically male lines, but instead a desire totouch him, to feel the warmth of the life force that lay beneath his flesh, toexperience how it felt to be free to physically explore such a man.
Beneath the thin cotton jersey of her top her nipples tightened, the small movementshe made instinctively in rejection of her arousal dragging the fabric against theirswollen sensitivity, conjuring up inside her head images of a male touch creating—indeed inciting—that sensitivity and then harvesting its sensuality, teasing her withskilled, tormenting caresses that played on her arousal, drawing it from her,making her want a closer intimacy. Behind her closed eyelids Charley could almostsee the dark male hands tormenting her, making her yearn for their possession ofher breasts.
Instinctively she stepped forward—and then gasped, her eyes openingas she came up against the balcony railing. Down below her Raphael looked up towards the balcony. It was too late for her tostep back out of sight. He had seen her, and he would know that she had seen him. When he bent to pick it up Charley could see the fabric of his linen shirt stretchacross his shoulders. Raphael was straightening up, putting her hairband in his pocket, looking up at her,at her hair, her mouth, her breasts.
A mobile phone began to ring. It was the warmth of the sun on her sunshinestarved body that had aroused her, notRaphael. He had just happened to be there at the same time—that was all, Charleyinsisted to herself as she stood under the shower, determinedly not thinking ofanything other than the reason she was here in Italy. Ten minutes later, having searched through her backpack three times, Charleydropped it onto the floor in defeat.
How could she not have put in a couple of sparehairbands? She never wore her hair loose. She preferred, needed to have ittied back and under control. His call over, Raphael looked down at the hairband he had removed from hispocket, his body hardening as he studied it. Inside his head he could see CharlotteWareham standing on the balcony, the bright morning sunshine turning the top andshorts she was wearing virtually transparent so that he could see quite plainly theflesh beneath them—her breasts round and full, shadowed by the dark aureole offlesh from which her nipples rose to push against the fabric covering them.
Howdifferent she had appeared then, without the concealment of the shapeless clothesshe had been wearing the previous day. Charlotte Wareham pressed against the balcony, her back arched, her eyes closedin a mixture of surrender and enticement, those long, long legs of hers parted, thesunlight revealing the neat covering of hair that protected her sex.
How easy itwould have been for a man to slide his hand up her thigh and beneath the cuff ofher shorts, so that he could stroke that sensual softness and explore what itconcealed. What she had been wearing—two small plain items of clothing, notsuggestive at all, so one might think—had cloaked her body in such a way thattheir mere presence and proximity to her body had filled him with a fierce urgencyto feast on all the delights her flesh had seemed to offer.
The soft, unstructured shape of the top itself, which had finishedalmost on her waist, revealing a glimmer of pale flesh, had urged him to lift it upand push it out of the way, so that he could see and touch the promised softlushness of her body. And the shorts, baggy and loose-legged…A man could takehis pleasure exploring whatever part of her he chose to reveal, knowing that he hadthe whole of her to access as and when and how he chose to do so. Cursing himself silently again, Raphael commanded his self-control to dispel bothhis thoughts and the arousal they were creating.
If he needed a woman then therewere plenty available to him who would make more suitable bedmates thanCharlotte Wareham. Charley longed to fasten her hair and hold it gripped off her face as she stood infront of the desk behind which Raphael was seated. She had been summoned to hispresence like a miscreant about to be punished—which, of course, as far as he wasconcerned was exactly what she was. In an attempt to distract herself she studied her surroundings. The fact that thelarge room was on the ground floor of the palazzo indicated that its originalpurpose would have been for business to be conducted: orders given, favourssought and deals made—the administrative centre of the ducal estate.
The ceiling was decorated with painted lozenges depicting various hereditary armsand symbols. The polished wood of the library shelving which held huge leather-covered books, their gold lettering gleaming softly, added to the imposing air ofthe room. Traditionally it would no doubt have been here where those whoadministered the estate would come to present their accounts to the duke, to answerhis questions and receive his praise—or his wrath. Charley shivered. There was no doubt which of those things Raphael believed shedeserved.
The heavy, ornately carved and inlaid desk, positioned to make the most of thelight coming in through the narrow windows, was covered in papers. Raphael looked briefly at Charley. She was wearing her hair down, and the sight ofit, freshly washed, the delicately scented smell of it and of her reawakened thedesire he had felt earlier.
What was the matter with him? He was no merehormone-driven boy, to be tempted and tormented by the thought of sliding hishands into those thick wild curls, of lacing his fingers through them as he coveredher naked body with his own, arousing her as she had aroused him. Using thedetermination with which he had always so ruthlessly crushed any challenge orresistance to his self-control, Raphael closed down his unwanted thoughts as firmlyas though he had trapped them behind an impregnable steel door.
To allow himselfto feel desire for Charlotte Wareham would be unacceptably inappropriatebehaviour and, more than that, a weakness within himself that he was not preparedto tolerate. He had no idea why she should have such an effect on him.
She wasneither groomed nor elegant. She was not witty or sophisticated. In short, there wasnothing about her that should have had any appeal for him. All he could think was that somehow his body had been confused by the anger shearoused within him and was thus acting inappropriately. The reality was thatCharlotte Wareham was proving to be a thorn in his side in more ways than one. I want you to study themand see what is to be done within the garden.
She could see the thunder in the now dark grey eyes and shewaited, knowing that she would be punished. Charley almost told him that she would do no suchthing, but just in time realised how ridiculous such a piece of defiance would be. The garden will be restored to its full glory in everydetail. If he could make thatkind of commitment to a garden then how much more intense would be thecommitment he made to the woman he loved? Her body convulsed on a small betraying shiver. Once, a long, long time ago as agirl, before she had realised that tomboys were not the kind of girls the male sexwanted to protect, she had dreamed of growing up and being loved by a manwhose love for her would be so strong that it would protect her always.
An aching sense of painful loss filled her. What on earth was going on? Love and this man had no place together inher thoughts. No place at all. She could not afford to be vulnerable. She was toovulnerable already. I shall not belong. Ciro will arrange for Anna to have some coffee sent in for you whilst youwait for me to return. What they reallywere was an order to her that she was to remain here until his return—when nodoubt she would be subjected to more contempt and more verbal castigation, shedecided as Raphael strode through the door his PA was holding open for him,leaving Ciro to follow him.
Thanking the maid for the coffee she had just brought, Charley picked up the cupthe girl had filled for her, wrapping both her hands around it for comfort—like achild holding a comfort rag or toy, Charley thought, deriding herself for her ownvulnerability. As a child it had always seemed that she had been the one to get the blame for theaccidentally naughty things the three of them had sometimes done—even whenLizzie had insisted that the fault was hers.
There had been many times when shehad gone to bed at night crying into her pillow in silent misery, feelingmisunderstood, feeling she was less worthy of parental love than her two sisters. Now the way Raphael was treating her had evoked some of that long-ago miseryand sense of injustice, adding to her existing despair. Sincethey were of the pleasure garden, there was no reason why she should not look atthem, she assured herself. She had, after all, seen the plans before, at home inEngland. These, though, were not modern drawings, but sketches and watercolours of partsof the original garden, Charley quickly recognised, immediately becoming soabsorbed in them that everything else was forgotten as she was mentally sweptback to another century, enviously imagining what it must have been like to beinvolved in such a wonderful project.
A perspective overview showed the full layout of the garden. The formal sweep ofa curved, colonnaded entrance opened in the centre, to draw the eye down a wideavenue planted with what looked like pleached limes. Either side of it the gardenwas intersected by narrower walkways, opening out into sheltered bowersdecorated with seats and statuary, beyond which lay a stone fountain, in the middleof which was a huge piece of statuary.
Charley ached withlonging to have seen the garden following its completion. Raphael was right to saythat trying to recreate such beauty using cheap manmade materials was an insult tothe original artists. Charley lifted her gaze from the desk, her eyes shadowed with all that she wasfeeling, lost in her own world—only to come abruptly out of that world when shesaw Raphael.
How long had he been there? The way he was looking at her made her feel acutelyvulnerable. She stepped back from the desk, so intent on escaping from his gazethat she forgot about the small table behind her on which the maid had placed thetray of coffee.
As she bumped into the table she dislodged the heavy thermos jug. Before she hadtime to react Raphael had reacted for her, reaching her side, pulling her away fromthe table just as hot coffee spouted from the jug and onto her jean-clad thigh. Her face was burning with a mixture of emotions. Her leg was stinging painfullybeneath the wet fabric of her jeans, but it was her own embarrassment at havingbeen so clumsy rather than any pain that was making her feel so self-conscious.
There was a small puddle of coffee on the snow-white starched linen tray clothwith its discreet monogram, and coffee on the floor as well, but thankfully it hadmissed the rug that covered part of the marble-tiled floor. How she had longed to be deft and delicate in hermovements, and not like the baby elephant her mother had always teasingly toldher she was. Raphael frowned. In fact ifanything Raphael had noticed how controlled and economical her movementswere, almost as though she was afraid to express herself. Her leg wasthrobbing and burning, the pain growing more intense with every passing second,but she was stubbornly determined not to let Raphael see that.
Raphael was on his feet immediately, opening a drawer in his desk, comingtowards her as she clung to the edge of the desktop for support. But it was no use. The cool air on her burned flesh caused Charleyto shudder. She felt slightly sick and light-headed when she looked at her leg andsaw how the flesh had reddened and blistered. Raphael had seen enough. Of all the stubborn, stupid women…Before Charleycould stop him he was lifting her into his arms, his action forcing her to hold on tohim tightly by putting her arms around his neck. Once they were inside her room, Raphael placed her on the bed and then, afterinstructing her not to move, he left.
But it hadreturned now, and if anything was even worse. It was ridiculous for her to feel asthough she had been abandoned, and even more ridiculous—dangerously so—forher to wish that Raphael had stayed with her. Charley looked down at her lowerbody which, unlike her damaged leg, was still encased in her jeans. She sat up and started to ease her jeans off, wincingas the fabric brushed against her burned flesh. I told you not to move. Raphael was coming towards her, carrying a first aid box.
Hehad seen women wearing far more provocative and revealing underwear than thelacy briefs that Charley was wearing, but right now the fact that he was acutelyaware of what lay beneath the barrier concealing her body from him was having avery unwanted effect on him physically. Charley nodded her head. Nor was itthe reason that the trembling increased when Raphael placed the dressing on herbare flesh. Her reaction to his touch horrified her. She was behaving like anadolescent with a crush.
This time it was a relief when Raphael left her. Goosebumps rose on her skin as though it had been touched, caressed. HelplesslyCharley closed her eyes. It must be the painkillers the doctor had given heryesterday, after he had looked at her burn, re-dressed it and pronounced that shemust spend the rest of the day in bed, not her wayward thoughts of Raphael. She knew better this morning than to go and stand on the balcony in her sleepwear. Shecould hardly appear in public in the loose pyjama shorts she was currently wearing,although Raphael had said that he would speak to Anna on her behalf.
She owed Raphael a debt of gratitude for dealing with the situation so properly andpromptly. The doctor had told her that the burn could have turned very nastyindeed if it had been left unattended, as she would have chosen to do left to herown devices. Luckily it was not so severe that she would need skin grafts, but hehad warned her that she might end up with an area of flesh that would forever bevulnerable to heat and sunlight.
Charley looked at her untouched breakfast tray. She was too on edge to eat. Shepushed her hand into her hair to lift it off her face. She had lost a great deal sincecoming to Italy: her hairband, her jeans, her pride and even some of her self-respect. Charleydefended her omission. Didshe really have to add to it that she was also in danger of losing the protection shehad put in place around and within herself to stop her from feeling the pain of notbeing good enough, not being woman enough to merit male attention?
She looked round the room, desperate to find something she could focus on thatwould enable her to avoid dealing with what was happening to her. The room musthave been remodelled at some stage, because its Baroque decor belonged to a laterage than the palazzo itself. The softly painted grey-blue wooden panelling wasdecorated with gilded swags and cupids, and heraldic arms were carved into theimposing bedhead. She heard someone knock on the bedroom door and, assuming it was the maidcoming to collect her untouched breakfast tray, went to open the door for her—only to discover that the person standing outside the door was not a maid, butRaphael.
The fact that he was in her room fully dressed, whilst she was wearing little morethan a vest top and a pair of shorts not intended for public view, was making herfeel far more uncomfortable than the burn on her leg. Raphael, on the other hand,looked perfectly at ease—but then Charley suspected he was far more used tobeing in a bedroom with a member of the opposite sex than she was.
Just lookingat him was enough to tell her that he was a sexually experienced man who musthave shared his life and his bed with any number of willing women. She gave an involuntary glance towards the bed, where Raphael had deposited thebox he had been carrying, unable to stop her imagination from providing her withan image of him on a wide double bed, with the woman he had just pleasured lyingin his arms. Her body had started to ache with heavy, sensual longing, and a pulsewas beginning to beat low down in her body.
A fierce stab of envy whippedthrough her. How could she beexperiencing something like this?
It was humiliating—and dangerous. It made her quakeinwardly in recognition of how much and how foolishly one part of her wonderedwhat it would be like to have that probing look transformed to one of slow, sensualexploration, followed by the even more sensual stroke of his touch against her skin. Such dangerous, reckless thoughts were not to be encouraged.
When Raphael stood in front of her and leaned towards her Charley sank downonto the bed, her heart thudding with a mixture of expectation and apprehension,her gaze fixed on the second button of his shirt, not daring to move either up to thetanned bare flesh above it or down to the waistband of his jeans below it. He wasreaching towards her—no, not towards her but past her, Charley recognised,dragging her gaze from his chest to his arm just in time to see him retrieving thepackage he had dropped on the bed earlier.
Mortified by her own misinterpretation of the situation, Charley scrambled to herfeet. Her heart sank. How on earth was she going topay for designer jeans? There was also a tee shirtand what looked like a butter-soft, fashionably shaped tan leather jacket. Dropping the lid back on the box, Charley turned to confront Raphael. Raphael crossed his arms and gave her a haughty look of arrogant disdain. I do not intend to waste time in resolving the issue of your tender pridewhilst you wait for a member of my staff to source a pair of jeans for you.
You willwear the clothes which I have provided. Once they had almost married. She wouldn't dare to dream that a youthful romance might blossom into mature love. Her goal, when writing romance fiction, is to provide readers with an enjoyment and involvement similar to that she experienced from her early reading — Penny believes in the importance of love, including the benefits and happiness it brings.
She works from home, in her kitchen, surrounded by four dogs and two cats, and welcomes interruptions from her friends and family. Penny Jordan.