CHAPTER ONE Anna Webb fanned herself with the fancy invite in her hand as she looked around

her plush surroundings; the weather was surprisingly warm for early April in London, having lived here all her life she was used to the unpredictability of the English weather. This was her first visit to the famous Amadore department store in Knightsbridge; the lobby was packed with journalists who like herself were there at the behest of the owner of the exclusive store for a press conference. Like most of her colleagues Anna was curious to find out what was going on with Amadore Enterprises; she had heard rumours that Adolfo Amadore, head of the Amadore empire was relinquishing the reigns as head of Amadore Enterprises to his son; Alfonso. No business journalist worth their salt would miss this press conference not to mention the chance to hear the legendary Alfonso Amadore, heir to the powerful Amadore family fortune speak to the press directly for the first time. Anna like everyone there knew two things about Alfonso Amadore, one he was a very successful and ruthless financier who carved his own success in the business world without any help from his very rich and powerful family and two, it was common knowledge that Alfonso hated the press with a passion, despite numerous written articles about his conquests, financial and otherwise; as far as Anna knows Alfonso had never given an interview. With thousands of articles written about him, none had a direct quote from the man himself; legend had it that Alfonso once fired a twelve member marketing team because he suspected one of them had been acting as a source for the Business Times. Everything Anna knew about Alfonso Amadore made it clear; he was not a man to cross. Anna scanned the many faces in the lobby checking if her magazine photographer had arrived; he wasn¶t there yet instead she spotted familiar faces from rival magazines. It had been five years since she graduated as a fully fledged journalist, looking round the room, she noticed she was the only female journalist at the Amadore press conference; that was no surprise, finance and business journalism was a male dominated field. She had worked hard to break into the predominantly male field and that knowledge gave her a satisfied feeling; it hadn't been easy but she had made it; all her hard work had paid off.

Alfonso Amadore shut the door to the room he had just exited quietly and with careful control that masked the pent up frustration he felt inside. His father was driving him nuts, thanks to him, he was about to hold a press conference. The old man knew he hated journalist almost as much as he hated the people who encouraged them by leaking information but the old man insisted this was the µright¶ way to go. Alfonso told himself to relax and focus on why he was doing this in the first place. The reason was his father, Alfonso rarely saw eye to eye with his father but he had decided to give in to him this time because he was sick. Adolfo Amadore had been diagnosed with throat cancer a week and a half ago so had decided to grab the opportunity to guilt Alfonso into taking over as head of Amadore Enterprises. Adolfo had been trying for years without success to get his only son involved with the family business, a move Alfonso had politely but firmly refused. Adolfo Amadore was a hard and persistent man but so was his son Alfonso, they were both cut from the same cloth; they came from a long line of stubborn men, accustomed to getting their way. This particular fight between father and son had been going on for years, ever since Alfonso decided to step out of his family¶s¶ shadow and make a name for himself in the world of business fifteen years ago. Alfonso knew that as the only son he¶ll eventually have to take over from his father but he had always thought he had more time; his father was only fifty-five years old. Amadore men lived long, his grandfather Amadore had run the family business until he was ninety-two; Alfonso had expected his father to run it for at least another forty years before he had to take over but it looked like it wasn¶t to be. Alfonso couldn¶t help but feel unlucky; he felt as though the fates were conspiring against him, he didn¶t like the idea of taking over from his father until he was ready. Taking over as head of Amadore enterprises came with certain expectations, like getting married and producing an heir; something Alfonso at thirty-one years of age wasn¶t ready to do, he valued his freedom too much. In his minds¶ eye Alfonso could see his father interfering in his life with great relish, pressuring him to perform his duty as an Amadore and produce an heir. Adolfo Amadore was a controlling man, he controlled everything around him; the people who worked for him, his wives including Alfonso¶s mother and his business associates. The one thing he hadn¶t been able to control was his only son, this is because they were both strong characters, ruthless when it came to business and had no tolerance for weakness. Their first confrontation happened when Alfonso turned sixteen; he refused to return

to his boarding school in England, a school all his Amadore ancestors had attended; instead he had insisted on schooling in Italy so he could be near his sick mother. Adolfo had refused of course and had his burly bodyguards escort Alfonso back to school. Alfonso however found ways to escape; after his fifth escape from boarding school, Aldofo finally accepted that Alfonso could attend school in Italy. Their second confrontation happened around the same time Alfonso¶s mother died of stomach cancer, it was two months before his twenty-first birthday and he was about start university. He again refused to go along with Amadore tradition and attend Harvard; he chose Princeton instead to his father¶s annoyance. Their final showdown to date had come when Alfonso refused to join the family business after graduating top of his class; he started his own hedge fund company instead. Alfonso had always wanted to build his own success, something outside the huge Amadore cloud; something that was his own. Now after the countless fights, throat cancer meant he had to concede and take over from his father, at least until he was well enough. When Adolfo broke the news about his illness and asked Alfonso to take over Amadore enterprises, Alfonso didn¶t have the heart to tell his father he didn¶t want to. Instead they came to an uneasy agreement; Alfonso will take over until Adolfo is well enough to take up the reigns again. The beaming smile on Adolfo¶s face earlier and the fuss with this press conference gave Alfonso an uneasy feeling; perhaps his father was using his illness as an excuse to get Alfonso to takeover permanently. Deep in thought Alfonso made his way down the corridor, away from his father¶s office. He needed fresh air, before he could decide where to go for some peace and quiet, he collided with somebody, they came out of nowhere; the sheer impact of the collision had the other party scrawling on the carpeted floor. µWatch where you are going¶ Alfonso said bitingly as he turned to help the person off the floor, his faced softened when he realized he had knocked over a female; µscusilo caro¶ he said in a deep soothing voice, µI didn¶t see you there, are you ok?¶ When his question was met with silence, Alfonso started to frown, he wasn¶t sure if she was hurt or not as she didn¶t speak, she just stared at him with her intense brown eyes. µare-you-ok?¶ he asked again slowly this time; she looked ok to him, her milky white skin looked flushed and her curly red mass of hair was everywhere but she didn¶t appear to be bleeding. Pulling

her to her feet, Alfonso couldn¶t resist touching her hair, it reminded him of flames of fire. He took his hand away almost as soon as he touched it µI¶m ok¶ she finally responded in a soft almost inaudible voice, she started to straighten her skirt and tuck in her shirt, Alfonso gave her a proper look as she straightened her clothes, she was wearing a brown knee length woolen skirt and a plain white shirt. Her ensemble wasn¶t very flattering but as he looked her over, Alfonso¶s eyes rested on the soft swell of her breast and stayed there. He could feel himself reacting to her heaving bosom; he shifted uncomfortably and huskily said, µI¶m sorry I snapped at you, I wasn¶t expecting anyone here with the circus going on downstairs¶ µIt¶s not your fault¶, I should have looked where I was going¶ Anna stammered, trying desperately to regain her composure. µWhere were you going¶ Alfonso asked, his eyes narrowing with more curiosity than suspicion. µI was looking for your toilet facilities¶, Anna replied as she checked around to make sure she hadn¶t dropped anything. µIt¶s one floor down, first turn on the left¶, Alfonso said smoothly as he extended his hand µhello, I¶m Alfonso, do you work for my father?¶ µI know who you are¶ Anna replied as she took his hand µand no I don¶t work for your father; I¶m here for the press conference¶ µYou are a journalist¶? Alfonso asked with a surprised look; he still held on to her soft hand µYes I am¶ Anna replied as she raised her head to meet his black eyes; µI know you don¶t like journalists but you have nothing to worry about, I wasn¶t looking for you, I was really looking for the bathroom¶. Alfonso shrugged as he gave her a sexy smile-; µif all journalists were as sexy as you, I might tolerate them better¶. Anna was rooted to the spot, she could feel her face burning; she didn¶t know how to respond to that so she snatched her hand from his, murmured something about the press conference starting and rushed off. Alfonso watched as the mysterious woman he had crashed into rushed down the corridor towards the lifts and could help but think -the press conference wasn¶t a waste of time after all; he got to meet a sexy red headed temptress whose name he didn¶t know. Walking back to his father¶s office, he felt a rush of excitement, not a feeling he ever thought he¶d associate with a journalist or a press conference; things were about to get interesting.

People were taking their seats when Anna rushed into the conference room; her heart was still beating from her shock encounter with Alfonso Amadore, he had touched her hair«.. Her thoughts were cut short when the man dominating them walked into the room next to his father, with a PR director in tow. Anna felt a sizzling sensation go through her and settle at the base of her spine; she recognized the feeling-; desire, she'd not had such a reaction to a man before. Well he wasn't just any man; it was Alfonso Amadore she rationalised; she had seen him in magazines, but that hadn't prepared her for how handsome he was in person. Their earlier encounter had left her out of breath; she had been so rattled she barely looked at him but now with considerable distance between them, her eyes ate him up hungrily. He stood over 7ft tall, his gorgeous male body was clad in a black Italian designer suit; Anna could still feel his hard body slamming into her in the corridor earlier, she was remembering his smiling eyes when he¶d asked if she was ok-; his dark brooding eyes had looked straight into her soul. Anna tried without success to concentrate on what was going on around her, to listen to Alfonso¶s deep voice as he began to speak; 'Ladies and gentlemen of the press thank you for coming on such short notice; am sure you're wondering why you are here'. Everyone knew he was taking over but no one had anticipated the press conference so they were anxious to see what else they could find out. As he read his statement, Alfonso¶s gaze kept clashing with Anna¶s, she found herself under his spell; she was unable to tear her eyes away from his eyes or his lips. The press conference went on smoothly without a glitch, it was like the many press conferences Anna had attended before, all present were told about Alfonso taking over from Adolfo though the reasons behind that decision wasn¶t made clear; there were questions about what Adolfo was going to do and who was going to take over for Alfonso in his own company but Anna barely heard a word ; thank God for her dictaphone. Anna felt someone touch her arm, freeing her from her thoughts, apparently the press conference was over and a colleague wanted to know if she wanted to go for a drink. She declined of course, she rarely socliased with her peers or work colleagues, well who was she kidding she didn¶t socialize full stop. It's been two years since her last date as her best friend and flat mate AJ kept reminding her. She had always preferred a warm bath and a good book to dating or sex. As far as sex goes, she didn¶t know what

all the fuss was about, she tried it once and didn¶t like it. She hadn¶t thought about having a repeat performance. After the press conference Alfonso stood by the window next to the podium watching his mysterious girl as she chatted to a group of colleagues. It looked like they were hanging on her every word, who could blame them; she would steal the show in any room. He suddenly wanted to hear what she was saying, he could imagine the passion in her husky voice as she spoke about whatever had her so excited. His father¶s PA was saying something to him but he wasn't paying attention, his entire focus was on the tall leggy redhead with the milky skin. At their earlier encounter, he had noticed she had freckles on her arms and under her eyes. Her freckles were the sexiest he had ever seen; he couldn¶t help but wonder where else she had them. He felt his trousers tighten as his manhood responded to his thoughts. His reaction to her threw him a bit, he¶d always been into blondes, he knew it was a cliché but it wasn't a conscious decision on his part, it just happens that all his mistresses had been leggy blondes. But there was something about this redhead that made him take notice. Alfonso didn't understand his reaction to her; he had obviously noticed her as the only female at the press conference and because she had run into him earlier. She was taller than most of her male colleagues, curvy and slender all at the same time if that were possible and she had very clear white skin like a porcelain doll. He had spent enough time in female company to know that this one wasn't wearing any makeup and had on just a touch of lipgloss; looking at her, natural beauty came to mind. He snapped out of his daze and turned to the PA who was still rumbling on about something 'That woman in the press conference, what's her name..?' 'Oh that is Anna Webb, sir she works for the Eastern Light business magazine«¶ 'Get me her telephone number' interrupting the man again. Giving Alfonso a puzzling look-'that might not be a good idea sir, she¶s a ...¶ 'you are not paid to think¶ Alfonso snapped at him, 'just get me the number', he turned and then walked off. Back at the office, Anna was finished for the day; she was waiting for her best friend and housemate AJ so they can go home together. She loved her job because no two days were the same, she got to meet new people, she travelled to places she otherwise wouldn¶t dare to go to and she informed and educated people; that were why she became a reporter in

the first place. Sometimes the travelling part of her job, which usually meant leaving the country at the drop of a hat, was hard but she mostly enjoyed travelling and meeting new people. On a day like this when she's finished early, she felt really blessed. 'AJ will you hurry up....' she called out. He poked his head in the door way, 'what's taking you so long..?' she demanded 'Patience my dear; I'm almost done' he replied in a childlike voice which made her laugh. She loved him really he wasn't just her best friend but also her family, they had met at journalism school and hit it off straight away. When they met, Anna was twenty-two, her parents had died in a car accident the previous year and she was very withdrawn, gloomy and barely communicating with anyone. She was assigned to a flat she shared with three other people including AJ; he was the only one who had successfully made her smile when everyone else had failed. For some reason, he seemed to understand exactly what Anna was going through, mainly because his parents had died when he was just eighteen, he seemed to have coped well and embraced life, he had managed to pull Anna from the darkness she was in. They made a good team; they looked after each other, his jovial, lighter side always balanced her moody and serious side. AJ took care of her and made sure life didn¶t pass her by whilst she pulled him back from the brink of mad and ridiculous decisions. Too bad she hadn't been able to talk him out of his current hair style, one in the line of many; he had dyed his hair half blonde and the other half pink. The sound of her desk phone ringing startled Anna, she instinctively answered phone; it could be a new story. 'Anna Webb here', she was shocked by the voice on the other end, if she lived to be a hundred; she¶ll never forget that voice. 'Miss Webb, this is Alfonso Amadore;¶ there was a pause as though to give her a chance to digest that information. Anna was stunned, why would Alfonso Amadore be calling her? From what she'd heard he avoided journalists like the plague. She composed herself and calmly '«. Mr. Amadore, what can I do for you, have you got an exclusive for me?' she asked jokingly. 'I want you to have dinner with me' he said; 'Dinner««?' Anna stammered, as though the concept was entirely new to her. 'Yes dinner' he said slowly; you know a meal eaten in the evening. 'Yes Mr. Amadore I know what dinner is', he must think I'm a complete idiot, Anna thought to herself; 'can I ask why'

'Why don't you come and find out' he replied mysteriously 'you might get the scoop of the century' spiking Anna's interest even further. '««.well how can I say no to that, when do you want to have dinner?' she replied, her heart pounding. 'Tonight at 7pm I'll have my driver pick you up' there was a pause as she assimilated what was happening, 'Anna«««««is that a yes?¶ He asked a tad impatiently, of course it was a yes, there was no way she¶d let such an opportunity pass her by. 'Yes' she replied in a small voice. 'Let me give you my address, it is number«' 'I already have it' he cut her off mid sentence and then hanged up. A bemused Anna turned round to find a curious AJ looking over her shoulder, 'who was that?' 'That, was Alfonso Amadore, he wants to have dinner tonight' she replied incredulously. 'The Alfonso Amadore?' AJ asked; his shocked face transformed into one of wonder, 'oh my God you've got a date with Alfonso Amadore ', how did that happen? 'Hey' Anna said trying to calm herself and AJ down whilst looking around to make sure no one heard him 'settle down-; it's not a date, it's a working dinner¶. µAt the conference we all sensed we weren¶t told the whole story; perhaps he wants to give an exclusive for once¶. µI thought he hated journos; but even if what you are saying is right, why you?¶ AJ asked suspiciously. Anna pressed her lips tightly together in order to physically refrain from telling AJ about her encounter with Alfonso Amadore before the press conference. She didn¶t exactly understand her reaction to him and didn¶t want to incite AJ any further because it didn¶t take much to excite him. Instead, µit¶s a working dinner; I'll have my notepad and pen all night.' She replied calmly Thankfully AJ accepted her explanation and moved on; 'Oh my God what are you going to wear?' µMy usual clothes' µlike hell you will, we're going shopping.' µAJ, I really don¶t «¶ one look from him and Anna knew she was beaten, she was going dress shopping whether she liked it or not. She might as well because although Alfonso¶s invite was a working dinner, she wanted to look nice.

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