He did. He wanted them on him, sliding over every inch of his hot skin until he rolled her under him and made her his. Dio. This was insanity.
He dipped his hands under the frayed edge of her T-shirt and sought out the silky-soft bare skin beneath. She was enough to tempt a levelheaded man to mad acts, even his rigidly correct grandfather who had never looked at another woman after his Rosa had died. Her swift intake of breath echoed in the silent apartment as he trailed his fingers over the bare skin of her flat stomach, her midriff, the muscles of her abdomen tensing beneath his touch. Her head dropped back against the door, eyes almost purple as she waited for his kiss.
“You could bring the strongest man to his knees,” he muttered roughly, almost angrily, as he brought his mouth down to hers. “But then you know that, don’t you, Liv?”
Her brows came together in a frown, her lips parting to answer him. He didn’t let her get that far, his mouth taking hers in an insistent kiss that allowed no hesitation. She was rigid under his hands for a moment, as if teetering in indecision. He took her tongue inside his mouth, drawing her back into the heat. She was soft and perfect and he could not resist the lure of her flesh, bare beneath the T-shirt.
He pushed her jacket off her shoulders, letting it drop to the floor. “Lift your arms.”
She did, her gaze on his as he pulled the threadbare T-shirt over her head, tossed it to the floor and drank her in. She was slim, perfect, with high, firm breasts and rose-colored nipples that were tautly aroused.
It was like being in the Garden of Eden and told not to touch. He just couldn’t do it.
Bending his head, he palmed her breast, taking the rosy tip into his mouth. Her swift intake of breath made his blood heat. He sucked on her, laved her, until she was moaning, moving restlessly against him, then he transferred his attention to the other rounded peak. The feel, the taste of her underneath his mouth, was like forbidden fruit. Irresistible. The sound of their connection filled the hot Milanese night, breathy, seeking. He slid his thigh between hers and filled his hands with the rounded, toned curves of her bottom, seeking relief for his aching flesh.
Her gasp filled his ear. “Tony.”
One word, one softly uttered admission of surrender, was all it took to bring him crashing back to earth. To know he had proved what he had come here to do.
He lifted his head, sank his hands into her waist and pushed her away.
“The name is Rocco.”
Her eyes widened, darkened. A frown furrowed her brow as her hands came up to cover herself. “Rocco? Why did you tell me your...” Her voice trailed off as the color drained from her face.
“That’s right, Liv,” he said harshly, taking great pleasure in her look of horror. “Antonio is my middle name. How does it feel to sink your hooks into two generations of Mondellis?”
Her look of complete confusion was award worthy. She shook her head, gaze fixed on his. “What are you talking about? Giovanni and I were not like that.”
“What were you, then?” His tone was savage. “You expect me to believe a man buys you a three-million-euro luxury apartment out of the goodness of his heart? Because you’re friends? My grandfather has not talked about you once, has never even mentioned you in passing conversation. And yet you were together?”
“Because I didn’t want anyone to know I was here.” She snatched her T-shirt up from the floor and pulled it over her head. “Giovanni was protecting my privacy. He was my mentor. My friend. He was not my lover. How could you even think that? It’s preposterous.”
Fury lanced through him. He stepped forward until they were nose to nose. “No more than a seventy-year-old man thinking you could be interested in him.” He waved a hand at her. “You must be good, I’ll hand you that. What man could resist you servicing him? Moaning his name as if you can’t wait to get into bed?”
She was in front of him so fast, her palm arcing through the air, she almost got it to his face before he snatched it away and yanked it down to her side.
“You bastard,” she snarled at him, her catlike eyes spitting fire as he held her hand captive. “How dare you make accusations about something you know nothing about?”
“Because I know him,” he raged. “Giovanni was hopelessly, irrevocably in love with my grandmother. There is no way he would take a twentysomething lover unless he was completely taken in. Brainwashed with lust.”
She glared at him. “He didn’t. I keep trying to tell you that.”
He kept his fingers manacled around her wrist as she tried to tug her hand free. “Why are you hiding out from the world here? Why not use your name to build your line, if that was the truth—if that is your dream?”
“It was the truth.” She wrenched her arm free, her show of strength taking him off guard. “Everything I said tonight was the truth. I needed to get away from modeling, from everything, so I came here.”
“To escape your creditors?”
“To escape my life.” She pointed to the door. “Get the hell out of my apartment. Now.”
“My apartment, you mean.” He gave her a searching look. “Why Giovanni, Olivia? Why choose a seventy-year-old man as your lover when you could have anyone? Any rich man on this planet would welcome you into his bed. Pleasure you with the youth of a much younger man. All you would have to do is snap your fingers.”
Her hands curled into fists by her sides. “You are so unbelievably wrong.”
“Then why the checks? Why was Giovanni doling out cash to you on a regular basis? Was that also friendship?”
Her mouth flattened into a defiant line. She closed her eyes, a long silence stretching between them. When she opened them, her eyes glimmered with a wealth of emotion he couldn’t read.
“We were building a line together. The money was for fabrics. For suppliers.”
He gave her an incredulous look. “I am the CEO of House of Mondelli, Olivia. I know every project Giovanni was working on because he was a creative and he tended to go off half-cocked with new ideas without exploring their viability. There was no line.”
She stalked around him and headed down the hallway. He followed her into the bright, large room at the back of the apartment. Dozens of designs hung from a rack along the back wall. A sewing machine sat on a table. Stacks of illustrations lay scattered across a table.
He walked over and fingered some of the designs. They were beautiful, ethereal creations that even the noncreative in him could see were sensational, different, stamped with a unique sense of freedom of fabric and color that was distinct from anything he’d seen before. But they also featured a Giovanni-like sense of symmetry.
An odd emotion stirred to life inside of him. Riled him. “This doesn’t prove anything. All it proves is that you were using my grandfather to further your ambition. What did you say in the café? You do what it takes to make your dreams come true?”
Some of her newly found color drained from her face. “You’re taking that way out of context.”
“I think I’ve got it just right. You have a drink with a complete stranger, a man with an expensive watch who clearly does well, you see your opportunity for another rich benefactor and you make your move.” He tossed his head in disgust. “I could have had you against that door. You were ready to replace Giovanni seven days after his death.”
Her pallor took on a grayish tinge. “You set that all up tonight to see if I was a gold digger?”
“And wasn’t it telling?” He gave her a mirthless, half smile. “The idea actually didn’t come into my head until I sat there watching you and your fidanzate laughing and giggling as if your lover hadn’t just passed away. I wanted to see what kind of a woman you were before I tossed your beautiful little behind out on the street and now I know.”
Her head reared back. “I was out tonight to try to take my mind off Giovanni. I can’t expect to understand how much you must be grieving him. I know you were close. But I am grieving him, too. I cared for him. And I will not permit you to sully what we had with your wild accusations.”
“It’s the truth,” he gritted.
“It’s far from it.”
“Then spit it out. I am craving a little honesty here.”
She took a deep breath. Pushed stray strands of hair that had escaped her ponytail out of her face. “Your grandfather was in love with two women. Madly, fully in love with two people. One of those women was my mother, Tatum.”
He stared at her. “What the hell are you talking about?”
She sucked her bottom lip between her teeth. “When my mother modeled for Mondelli in the eighties, she had an affair with Giovanni. Giovanni was torn between her and Rosa, agonized over the decision, he said. In the end, he chose Rosa and severed all ties with my mother. Rosa knew about the affair, but neither she nor Giovanni spoke of it afterward.”
He gave her a look of disbelief. Giovanni in love with Tatum Fitzgerald? While he’d been married to his grandmother? He may not have much of a belief in the concept of true love, but the one person he’d seen have it was his grandfather with Rosa. They’d conceived Sandro when his grandmother was just eighteen, had been each other’s first loves and had remained deeply enamored until Rosa had passed away.