A Moment on the Lips - By Kate Hardy


IT WAS her shoes that gave her away.

Her business suit was fine. Professional. Like her pristine leather briefcase, barely there make-up and the way she wore her long hair in a simple yet elegant twist. But the heels of her shoes were much too high and much too delicate. They weren’t office shoes: they were do-me heels. And Dante Romano had known enough princessy types in his time to recognise that these were expensive do-me heels. The kind that only a rich, spoiled woman could afford.

Closing this deal was obviously going to be much less time-consuming than he’d feared. So much for his sources telling him that Carenza Tonielli was serious about taking over the family business.

‘Thank you for coming to see me, Signorina Tonielli,’ he said, standing up. ‘May I offer you some coffee? Water?’ He indicated the bottle and glasses on his desk.

‘Water would be lovely, thank you.’

‘Please, have a seat.’ He gestured to the chair on the far side of his desk and waited until she’d sat down before pouring them both a glass of water and sitting down again himself.

She picked up her glass and took a sip of water.

Beautiful hands, he thought. And shook himself mentally as a picture flashed through his head. Oh, for pity’s sake. Yes, Carenza Tonielli was beautiful. Probably the most beautiful woman he’d ever met. But she was also very aware of it, and he wasn’t interested in doing anything other than business with a spoiled princess.

Liar, his libido corrected. You were thinking about what those hands would feel like against your skin. And that mouth.

That beautiful mouth. A perfect rosebud. Well, he might be thinking about it, but he certainly wasn’t going to act on his thoughts. He didn’t have the time. Not if he was going to hit the targets for his business plan. Until the franchise was off the ground, his social life was taking a definite back seat. And he wasn’t about to indulge his libido.

‘So why did you want to see me?’ she asked.

Was she really that clueless? Poor Gino. He’d made a huge mistake, handing over the business to his wayward granddaughter in the hope that she’d come good. The girl who’d left Naples to party her way round the world—and it had taken her ten years to come home. Was she really going to exchange la dolce vita for one of sheer hard work to turn the business around?

From what his sources in London had said, Dante was pretty sure that all Carenza Tonielli was interested in was having enough money to buy herself a new designer outfit for every party she attended, drink the very best champagne, and drive the very latest sports car.

None of which she’d be able to do, given the state Tonielli’s was in right now.

Well, he wouldn’t cheat her. He’d give her a fair price, the same as he’d offered her grandfather. She’d get the cash she needed to finance her lifestyle, and he’d get a brand name that would help make his business grow. It was the perfect win-win situation for both of them. And hopefully she’d see that, too.

‘I was negotiating a deal with your grandfather. To buy out Tonielli’s,’ he said.


‘So, since he’s handed the reins over to you, I assume that you’re the one I need to negotiate with now.’

She looked at him. ‘I think there’s been some kind of mistake.’

He blinked. ‘You’re not in charge of Tonielli’s?’

‘Oh, I’m in charge, all right.’ She folded her arms. ‘But the business isn’t for sale.’

He looked shocked. As well he might—a shark in a business suit, who’d planned to buy her grandfather’s ice-cream empire at a rock-bottom price.

A handsome shark—Carenza would give him that—with dark hair brushed back from his face, a generous mouth and beautiful dark eyes. A sexy shark, even. But he was still a shark. And she wasn’t selling. Not to him, not to anyone.

‘You’re going to run Tonielli’s?’ he asked.

Carenza had seen that incredulous expression before. On her new boss’s face, when she’d made a suggestion about running the gallery. Just before she’d walked out; no way could she work with someone who treated her like an airhead, incapable of doing anything other than giggling, answering the phone and painting her nails. And it needled her that this man—a man she’d never even met before—clearly also thought that she was an airhead. Why wouldn’t he take her seriously?

Because she was blonde?

Or because she was a woman and Dante Romano was an Italian