First impressions matter, but often a heroine has to wait before she hears what a hero really thinks of her. But I decided to ring the changes a little in this book, which is the first of my ‘London Heroes’ duet.
Gabriel DeMarco wakes up in hospital with a beautiful woman by his bedside. The after-effects of the drugs that were slipped into his drink last night mean that he’s not able to stop himself from voicing exactly what’s on his mind…
Gabriel DeMarco opened his eyes. That seemed to be quite enough work for today, so he closed them again.
‘How are you feeling?’ A woman’s voice flowed over him like warm honey. It was a nice voice, quiet yet firm. The kind of voice that any man should take notice of.
‘I could go back to sleep.’ The words slipped out before he had a chance to tell himself that sleeping probably wasn’t what the voice wanted him to do. And at the moment it seemed like a siren’s call, which couldn’t be resisted. ‘Or…I could wake up.’
It sounded as if the voice was smiling. ‘Why don’t you wake up? You’re in hospital.’
Really? The thought didn’t bother him as much as it should. He was comfortable and relaxed, as if lying on a cloud. He tried opening his eyes and light seared through his brain, making his head hurt. He’d just have to keep them closed for a while…
‘Which hospital?’ Not that it mattered particularly. But talking might convince the voice that he’d complied with her request.
‘The Royal Westminster. You’re in the private wing.’
That made sense. Someone must know who he was, and that the son of Leo DeMarco, head of one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in Europe, could stand the cost of a night’s stay in hospital. Or maybe he’d been here longer than just one night. Gabriel couldn’t remember.
He flexed his fingers, running his hand across his chest and then moving his legs. Everything appeared to be working. No pain. Whatever he was in here for was probably very minor…
‘Open your eyes.’
No… He didn’t want to. Maybe he said as much, without knowing it, or maybe the voice just read his mind, because he felt the touch of a hand against the side of his face.
‘Come on. Open your eyes.’
He couldn’t resist. This time the pain wasn’t so bad, because the hand was shading his face. When he turned his head in the direction of the voice, a mass of red-blonde curls and a pair of blue eyes snapped suddenly into focus. What had happened to him suddenly came a very poor second in importance to who she was.
‘What’s your name? Are you a nurse?’ Stupid question. She wore a dark blue sleeveless summer dress, which seemed to be held together by a few buttons and a belt around her waist. Clearly not a nurse unless they’d changed the uniform from sensible to sexy.
‘My name’s Clara Holt. I’m not a nurse, although I’m medically trained. Your father sent me.’
His father? Since when had he started sending women to sit at Gabriel’s bedside? The thought occurred to him that maybe his father had, for once, made a marvellous choice. She was perfezione…molto bella… Porcelain skin and shining gold hair. Right now, making the gorgeous Clara happy was all he wanted to do…
‘Grazie.’ Her lips curved into a slight smile. He’d missed out her lips, and that was unforgivable…
‘You speak Italian?’
‘Only a few words.’
She knew the ones that mattered. Every woman should understand the words a man said when he called her beautiful.
Wait. How many of his thoughts had sprung to his lips by mistake, and what language had he voiced them in? The feeling that this wasn’t right was beginning to nag at the edge of his consciousness. If he thought a woman beautiful, he usually had the manners to wait, and make quite sure it was the kind of compliment she wanted to hear.
Gabriel shook his head, trying to clear it, and struggled to sit up. Pain shot across his temples and he suddenly felt very nauseous. The wonderful Clara reached out, gently pushing him back down onto the pillows.
‘You’ll feel better in a moment, just take it slowly.’
She was an angel. Clara could take him up to her cloud any day of the week and…
No! He still wasn’t thinking straight. He fought to locate a sensible question in his head, and came up with only one.
‘What’s the matter with me?’