He’s an art thief on the run—with her heart.
Look closer, into Totally Five Star Venice, where art curator Monique LeBres has just walked through the doors of the newly opened, swanky luxury hotel to assist with their art collection. Alessandro Bonnard, the world-renowned art connoisseur and collector, has been sent incognito to supervise Monique and oversee her acquisitions for the hotel.
Concealing his true identity, Alessandro is intrigued by the art-loving vixen with an appetite for kinky sex. He pursues Monique, charming her at every turn, taking her to places she’s never been—both in and out of the bedroom.
Monique falls hard for the man who has utterly captured her heart, only to find out he isn’t who she thought he was.
Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of anal sex, public sex, voyeurism and soft BDSM.
General Release Date: 9th June 2015
The cobblestones proved an unsuitable terrain for both her suitcases and the four-inch heels Monique had unwisely chosen to wear for her arrival at her brand new job. She dragged her luggage behind her, jet lag combined with frustration mounting for Monique Le Bres as she traversed the maze of canals, making her way impatiently through the narrow passageways of Venice. The vaporetto driver had said that her hotel was just a short walk away when she’d departed at her stop on the Grand Canal. But now, deep in the thicket of Venice’s many twists and turns, Monique would be damned if she could tell where she was.
After glancing down at the small map she clutched in one hand, Monique looked back up at the tiny storefronts crammed along the waterway, trying her best not to be overrun by the barrage of tourists filling the tight corridors that ran between buildings and the canal’s murky edge. Searching for landmarks and any discernable signage, she bumped her way between tourists who were busy ogling the unusual architecture that, at that moment, proved more of an impediment than an attractant.
Tugging at her suitcases, Monique forged on.
The last thing she wanted to do was be late for her new job.
Lurching sideways to avoid a family clutching ice cream cones and pointing enthusiastically at the sights, Monique teetered on her heels to escape bearing the brunt of their gelatos as they passed. Oblivious to the obstacle they presented to Monique, they carried on, leaving her in their wake.
The wheels on her cumbersome luggage stuck on a rogue stone at the same time her heel gave way. Tumbling downward to the uneven cobbles, Monique gasped.
Just as her bottom grazed the ground, someone reached out, swooping her back onto her feet in one swift motion.
“Mademoiselle, soyez prudent.” A deep voice urged her to be careful in French.
Monique squinted into the late-day sun at nothing short of a vision. A majestic man, early forties, with chin-length sandy blond hair, a goatee and deep-set blue eyes that were rimmed by thin metal glasses stood before her, her hand clasped in his. The man’s tailored, camel hair overcoat told her he was distinguished, as did the flash of his fancy watch, probably Swiss and very expensive from the sparkle of the crystal that caught her eye as she steadied herself.
“Stai bene, Signorina?” He asked if she was okay in a beautiful swoosh of Italian. The words slipped between his lips and seemed to pool like honey on the cool stones.
First he spoke French then Italian. It was official. Monique must be in heaven. She’d heard the stereotypes and the holiday stories of her friends vacationing in Europe, but nothing had prepared her for the man who still had her hand in his.
“Fine, yes, thank you, merci—I mean grazie,” she offered, flustered and realizing she was quite able to stand on her own. Reluctantly, she let go of his hand to reach down and remove her broken-heeled shoe. “Just tripped on a stone. Una scarpa verso il bass…dieci per andare.” She hoped her Italian wasn’t too rusty.
He just looked at her. Oh damn, it must be more rusty than I thought.
“One shoe down, ten to go,” she repeated in English with a nervous laugh, motioning to her luggage. She hoped to make a joke of how many shoes were crammed in her overstuffed bags to cover her embarrassment of nearly splaying out on the canal sidewalk if not for the efforts of her handsome savior.
“Are you sure? I can fetch someone for you if you need assistance, Signorina,” the man pressed. He then glanced anxiously over his shoulder.
Monique suspected from his unease that he must have a wife who no doubt would appear at any moment and be less than happy to find her hubby fraternizing with Monique. It wasn’t the first time that had happened.
“No, I’m fine, really. Mille grazie,” she thanked him. The depth in his eyes setting her off balance, as well as having only one shoe on and the way he called her Signorina. The words slipped from his lips like silk.
“Just tell me where I am. That would be very helpful.” She shifted her weight to the shoeless foot and immediately dropped down a few inches, making her even shorter against his tall stature.
“Calle Ostreghe.” He said the name of the street as she dipped her head down to remove her other shoe.
“See, much better,” she said, now even-footed in her stockinged feet firmly planted on the cool stones.
But her words were met by empty space.
The man was gone as quickly as he’d appeared, the swish of his long coat disappearing through the crowds, barely visible around the corner as Monique looked on as if he had been an apparition. A tall, handsome apparition. And one that was seemingly desperate to get away from her before his wife showed up. Lucky woman, having a man like that.
Shrugging, Monique resigned herself to the fact that not only had she always had lousy luck with men, but also that her favorite pair of shoes—the ones she’d blown a good chunk of last month’s paycheck on—were now of no use to her. Trudging over to a store window with her luggage, she then hunkered down and rooted through her suitcase in search of another pair of shoes to wear to her new job at the Totally Five Star Venice. That was, if she ever found the damn hotel. Gathering her belongings, she hastily stuffed her things back into her suitcase, then she hurried off in search of the hotel.
* * * *
Now in her second most favorite pair of shoes, with a smidge less of a heel, a gust of spring air pushed Monique Le Bres through the revolving glass door, abruptly depositing her in the lobby of the Totally Five Star hotel.
Stumbling, she took her first steps to her brand new job. Not exactly the initial impression she’d wanted to make as the newly hired art curator for the hotel, a sixteenth century gothic building rumored to have once been the home of Casanova. Centuries later, under the shrewd stewardship of CEO James Conroy III, the once dilapidated grand dame of the canal had been restored and renovated into a succulent feast of elegance. The latest addition to the top-notch Totally Five Star Hotels.
Surveying the lobby, Monique hoped no one noticed her less than graceful arrival. She wasn’t in Kansas anymore—that was for damn sure. She could barely believe the hotel’s refined opulence as she took in the bird’s-eye maple paneling and the swaths of white sheers that ringed the lobby, hinting at the more intimate bar and dining areas concealed beyond. The whole effect gave the hotel a sexy, clandestine feel.
Leaving her cumbersome baggage off to one side of the lobby, she clutched her brand new attaché under her arm, the leather still stiff. Monique hoped she’d remembered to remove the price sticker as she walked smartly to the reception desk. Striding across the cream mosaic marble floor, she couldn’t help but notice that despite the striking décor, there was a sparse assortment of paintings and sculptures. They definitely were in need of her help. With a budget of forty million euros and just three months to complete the task, Monique was quite sure she could establish a collection that would please the impossibly impeccable CEO James Conroy III.
The competition for the art curator position had been steep, but Monique had an ‘in’. Her boss back in the States was not only an old flame, but he also knew one of Mr. Conroy’s advisors and had not hesitated to put in a very good word for Monique.
Introducing herself at the reception desk, Monique was pleased when the woman behind the marble counter greeted her in Italian then efficiently switched to English for the important details. Monique’s Italian was adequate for her graduate degrees in art history and later for reading art catalogues, but was sorely lacking for conversing. Something she hoped wouldn’t be a determent to her employment at the Totally Five Star Venice. If she could just keep her Kansas twang under control when she spoke both English and Italian, she’d be well on her way of making a mark for herself in her field.
Smiling, the hotel clerk handed her the large gold room key.
“Signorina Le Bres, benvenuti a Venezia,” she welcomed Monique warmly, “Signor Amatus will be here un momento to escort you to your suite.”
Her mix of English and Italian enchanted Monique, who was so far from the small, dirt-filled town back home. The town she’d dragged herself out of so many years ago, where the only foreign language spoken was pig Latin if you grew up on the right side of the tracks. Monique hadn’t even been that lucky. The rusted-out trailer she’d shared with her mother couldn’t have been farther from the right side of anything.
“Grazie.” Monique took the key, noting how large and heavy it was in the palm of her hand. No slick, electronic keys at this hotel. No, this was one hundred percent Italian luxury. The key began to heat in her grasp as she glanced around for the man who was supposed to greet her.
The elevator dinged, catching her attention.
Monique opened her mouth, but no sound came out. She quickly shut it as the good-looking, twenty-something-year-old man dressed in a suit just like the ones she’d seen on the Totally Five Star website exited the elevator. His robust laughter had caught her attention. As did his momentary flirtation with a sexy young woman dressed in the same hotel uniform. Monique smirked as the man patted the attractive young employee’s ass when he passed by. He was a first-rate flirt for sure, and she made a mental note to steer clear.