Anne Mather

The Medici Lover


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       Mills & Boon is proud to present a fabulous collection of fantastic novels by bestselling, much loved author

       ANNE MATHER

      Anne has a stellar record of achievement within the

      publishing industry, having written over one hundred and sixty books, with worldwide sales of more than forty-eight MILLION copies in multiple languages.

      This amazing collection of classic stories offers a chance

      for readers to recapture the pleasure Anne’s powerful, passionate writing has given.

      We are sure you will love them all!

      I’ve always wanted to write—which is not to say I’ve always wanted to be a professional writer. On the contrary, for years I only wrote for my own pleasure and it wasn’t until my husband suggested sending one of my stories to a publisher that we put several publishers’ names into a hat and pulled one out. The rest, as they say, is history. And now, one hundred and sixty-two books later, I’m literally—excuse the pun—staggered by what’s happened.

      I had written all through my infant and junior years and on into my teens, the stories changing from children’s adventures to torrid gypsy passions. My mother used to gather these manuscripts up from time to time, when my bedroom became too untidy, and dispose of them! In those days, I used not to finish any of the stories and Caroline, my first published novel, was the first I’d ever completed. I was newly married then and my daughter was just a baby, and it was quite a job juggling my household chores and scribbling away in exercise books every chance I got. Not very professional, as you can imagine, but that’s the way it was.

      These days, I have a bit more time to devote to my work, but that first love of writing has never changed. I can’t imagine not having a current book on the typewriter—yes, it’s my husband who transcribes everything on to the computer. He’s my partner in both life and work and I depend on his good sense more than I care to admit.

      We have two grown-up children, a son and a daughter, and two almost grown-up grandchildren, Abi and Ben. My e-mail address is [email protected] and I’d be happy to hear from any of my wonderful readers.

      The Medici Lover

       Anne Mather

       www.millsandboon.co.uk

      Table of Contents

       Cover

       About the Author

       Title Page

      CHAPTER ONE

      CHAPTER TWO

      CHAPTER THREE

      CHAPTER FOUR

      CHAPTER FIVE

       CHAPTER SIX

       CHAPTER SEVEN

       CHAPTER EIGHT

       CHAPTER NINE

       CHAPTER TEN

       CHAPTER ELEVEN

       Copyright

       CHAPTER ONE

      EVER SINCE the sleek Trident had circled low over the lagoon before making a smooth landing at Venice’s international airport, Suzanne had been concerned. No, even before that, she conceded silently to herself, watching Pietro’s square hands as they lightly circled the driving wheel of his sports car. And concerned did not seem a strong enough adjective either. Disturbed, anxious—even uneasy might have described her feelings better. For as they drew nearer and nearer Pietro’s home, she became more and more convinced that she should not have given in to the impulse to come.

      What did she know of his family, after all? That he had no brothers or sisters, and that his father was dead. More than that he had seemed curiously loath to reveal, and had Suzanne not found the opportunity to get out of London at this time to her advantage, she would probably never even have considered his invitation.

      And yet wasn’t she being unnecessarily harsh with herself? After all, she and Pietro were good friends, and although she sensed that he was hoping their friendship might blossom into something more emotional, there was no reason why she should blame herself for a situation which had been of his making.

      All the same, in other circumstances she would have thought twice, and possibly three times, before committing herself to several days in the company of people she had never met, and who were not of her own nationality. Just because she could speak the language and had spent several months last year as courier for the company she worked for at their hotel in Rimini, it did not mean she understood the people.

      She and Pietro Vitale had only known one another six weeks. At present, she was working in London, employed at the company’s hotel in the West End, and her meeting with the young Italian had been quite coincidental. Later, he had told her he was studying at the London College of Art, but that morning, in the little antique shop in the Portobello Road, he had been just another tourist trying to make himself understood to an uncomprehending assistant. Appreciating his difficulties, Suzanne had automatically intervened, forgetting for the moment her own reasons for entering the shop. The dark-skinned Italian had not been unappreciative of the combination of thickly-lashed brown eyes and streaked honey-blonde hair that swung silkily about Suzanne’s shoulders, but eventually, between them, they had made the assistant understand that he wanted to price a bronze figurine of the Virgin and Child. He wanted it as a present for his mother, he said, but it had been too expensive and he had had to decline. Afterwards, it had been natural for him to invite her to have coffee with him, and Suzanne had accepted, more out of sympathy for him than a longing to further their acquaintance. But sitting in the coffee shop only a few yards away, she had seen the sleek Mercedes, which had driven her to take refuge in the antique shop in the first place, cruising by on the opposite side of the road, and had felt more relaxed than she had done for weeks.

      Pietro had proved to be an entertaining companion, and when he had suggested a second meeting, she had agreed. If her motives had more to do with the cruising Mercedes and less with a genuine desire to go out with him, she excused herself on the grounds that Pietro had invited her, and would have been disappointed if she had refused.

      Even so, going back to the hotel in a cab which Pietro had hailed for her, she had had misgivings, and not until Abdul Fezik came storming into her office late that afternoon had she felt that her behaviour had been justified. Now, at least, she had a genuine reason for refusing the Turk’s persistent invitations, a means to divert his attentions, with luck, towards some other member of her sex. He was a powerful and wealthy man, not used to being thwarted when it came to women, particularly not women who had to work for a living.

      Suzanne, however, had had surprisingly little to do with men. From an early age, she had learned that her looks might well prove to be an obstacle in her determination to carve a career for herself. Prospective employers tended to regard attractive girls in one of two ways: either predatorily, or suspiciously; on the one hand seeking the kind of relationship Suzanne was determined to avoid,