‘Of course not,’ she answered brightly. ‘I love my brother dearly, and the two of us are very close. But I would prefer that even he doesn’t know what a complete idiot I’ve made of myself where you’re concerned.’
‘A complete idiot, Darci?’ Luc questioned.
Yes, a complete idiot, Darci repeated to herself, as she acknowledged that she really was in love with Luc, that she loved him so much that under difference circumstances she would probably have been willing to settle for the affair he had once implied he was more than willing to have with her.
Once. Because it was more than obvious that Luc now felt nothing more than contempt for her. That he had only come here this evening to listen to her apology and so witness her humiliation firsthand.
A fine mess she had made of things where Luc Gambrelli was concerned, she accepted heavily.
She grimaced. ‘I really do have to apologise to you, Luc, for the things I said and did to you earlier this week—’
‘Do you think we could leave your self-flagellation until after we have ordered our food, Darci…?’ Luc drawled in a bored voice as he picked up his menu. ‘The least you owe me is a sinfully expensive meal, don’t you think?’ he added, unabashedly reminding Darci of her own words the evening they’d first met.
The least she owed him?
Darci picked up her own menu as she stared at Luc warily.
That statement seemed to imply that he had some other form of retribution in mind, too….
‘SO,’ LUC drawled once the waiter had left with their order. ‘What did your friend Mellie have to say about me?’
The moment of truth had arrived, Darci acknowledged heavily to herself as she replaced her wineglass carefully on the table after taking a sip. ‘Well, as I’m sure you’ve obviously deduced, she admitted that the two of you have never even met each other.’
Luc gave a small inclination of his head. ‘I had already told you that. But of course you didn’t believe me,’ he reminded her after giving her a searching look.
‘Try to see this from my point of view, Luc.’ Darci looked across at him appealingly. ‘I’ve known Mellie over half my life. Of course I believed she was the one telling the truth!’
‘Of course,’ he agreed tersely.
He really was every inch the son of an Italian nobleman at this moment, Darci recognised uneasily. His usual easy-going flirtatiousness and the wicked glint in his eye were no longer in evidence at all. ‘Obviously I now know that she wasn’t—’
‘Obviously,’ Luc derided bitingly.
This was so much worse than she had imagined it would be, Darci realised, and she picked up her glass and took another fortifying sip of the red wine.
But what had she imagined? That she could make her apology and give her explanation, and then the two of them would laugh it off and go on from there?
Luc didn’t look as if he found any of this in the least funny!
Neither would she when she got the bill at the end of the evening; she would probably end up in the kitchen doing the washing up for a week to pay it off!
‘You find this situation amusing, Darci?’ Luc accused as he saw her smile.
She straightened, realising that her thoughts were starting to wander. Hysterically? Probably. She was in love with a man she had insulted to such a degree that he had become a cold, angry stranger.
‘No, of course not.’ She sighed. ‘It’s all rather sad, really,’ she said. ‘You see, Mellie told me all those things about an involvement with you in the hope of making someone else jealous.’
Luc’s eyes widened at this explanation. ‘Your friend Mellie has—feelings for you?’ Not that he particularly cared about a person’s sexual inclination—live and let live had always been his doctrine—but he somehow found it slightly distasteful that another woman should want Darci in the way that he had wanted her.
There was no denying that he did still want her, that the slightest movement of her sensually alluring body and the faintest waft of her perfume were enough to fire his arousal. But it was an arousal he was determined to keep under control!
‘Of course not,’ Darci answered him disgustedly. ‘I wasn’t the person Mellie was trying to make jealous!’