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Authors: Chantelle Shaw

At Dante's Service

BOOK: At Dante's Service
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‘I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here?’

Dante gave a lazy shrug. ‘No, I can guess your reason.’

Rebekah was flummoxed. ‘You … you can?’

‘Sure. You miss me and you’re hoping I’ll take you back. And you know what,
cara
?’ he murmured as he halted in front of her and dipped his head so that his mouth was tantalisingly close to hers. ‘You’re in luck. I still want you too.’

‘No … I mean … I’m not here for that,’ Rebekah gasped. The sound of Dante’s voice had shattered the sensual web he had woven around her, and with a little cry of despair that she had succumbed to him so weakly she pulled out of his arms.

Dante lifted his brows, but made no comment.

Rebekah had rehearsed what she was going to say to him, but the kiss had thrown her.

‘I … I’m going to have a baby,’ she blurted out.

About the Author

CHANTELLE SHAW
lives on the Kent coast, five minutes from the sea, and does much of her thinking about the characters in her books while walking on the beach. She’s been an avid reader from an early age. Her schoolfriends used to hide their books when she visited—but Chantelle would retreat into her own world, and still writes stories in her head all the time. Chantelle has been blissfully married to her own tall, dark and very patient hero for over twenty years, and has six children. She began to read Mills & Boon
®
as a teenager, and throughout the years of being a stay-at-home mum to her brood found romantic fiction helped her to stay sane! She enjoys reading and writing about strong-willed, feisty women, and even stronger-willed sexy heroes. Chantelle is at her happiest when writing. She is particularly inspired while cooking dinner, which unfortunately results in a lot of culinary disasters! She also loves gardening, walking, and eating chocolate (followed by more walking!). Catch up with Chantelle’s latest news on her website: www.chantelleshaw.com

Recent titles by the same author:

THE GREEK’S ACQUISITION
BEHIND THE CASTELLO DOORS
A DANGEROUS INFATUATION
AFTER THE GREEK AFFAIR

 

Did you know these are also available as eBooks?
Visit www.millsandboon.co.uk

At Dante’s
Service
Chantelle Shaw

 

www.millsandboon.co.uk

 

For Bernadine, my aunt and dearest friend, who has filled the hole in my life left by my mum.

CHAPTER ONE

H
E STOOD
out from the crowd. Exceptionally tall and impossibly good-looking. Rebekah’s gaze was drawn to the man standing on the other side of the garden and her heart gave a jolt. Handsome did not do justice to the sculpted perfection of his features. He looked Mediterranean with olive-gold skin stretched taut over chiselled cheekbones and his black hair gleaming like raw silk in the sunshine. His jaw was square and determined; the curve of his mouth innately sensual. Heavy black brows arched above eyes that Rebekah knew were light grey and could sometimes resemble cold steel when he was annoyed, but at other times, when he was amused, gleamed like silver.

He was chatting to one of the guests but perhaps he sensed her scrutiny because he turned his head and their eyes met across the distance of the wide lawn. She tensed beneath his brooding stare. But then he smiled, and she felt a fierce surge of delight. Her lips curved into a tentative smile in response. The low hum of chatter from the guests who were milling around the garden and gathered in the marquee seemed strangely distant. To Rebekah it seemed as though only she and Dante existed on this golden summer’s day with the sun beating
down from a cloudless blue sky and the sweet scent of honeysuckle filling the air.

From behind her she heard the faint rustle of silk, and out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of a willowy blonde wearing a low-cut scarlet dress that clung to her reed-slender figure like a second skin. The woman was looking across the garden, and it suddenly dawned on Rebekah that Dante was not smiling at
her
, but at his mistress, Alicia Benson.

Flushing hotly at her mistake, she turned her back on him and forced a bright smile as she offered the tray of canapés she was holding to the group of guests standing close by.
Idiot
, she told herself, praying he had not noticed that she had been staring at him like a lovesick adolescent. In fact there was no reason why Dante Jarrell might not have been smiling at her. Over the past two months they had established a harmonious and friendly working relationship. But that relationship had never crossed the invisible boundary between an employer and a member of his staff.

She was Dante’s chef; she cooked his meals and catered for the many dinner parties and social events he hosted. Rebekah was sure he regarded her as a functional object necessary to help his busy life run smoothly, like his computer or his mobile phone. She was embarrassed by her intense awareness of him and was always on her guard to hide how she felt about him, which was why she was so annoyed with herself for thinking that his sexy smile had been directed at her.

Unlike the lovely Alicia, she hardly warranted the attention of a gorgeous multimillionaire playboy, she thought, with a rueful glance down at her uniform of black and white-checked trousers and pristine white
jacket. Her clothes were practical but did not flatter her curvaceous figure; rather they seemed to emphasise the fact that she was not beanpole-thin as fashion dictated. Beneath her chef’s hat her hair was tightly braided and pinned on top of her head, and she knew that after spending hours in a hot kitchen her face was pink and shiny. If only she’d put on a bit of make-up. But it was still unlikely that Dante would have taken any notice of her, she reminded herself as she shot another glance across the garden and watched his beautiful mistress wrap her sinuous body around him.

‘I’ve already eaten far too much, but I can’t resist one of these pastries. What’s the filling made of?’

The sound of a voice dragged Rebekah from her thoughts and she smiled at the man who had halted in front of her.

‘It’s smoked salmon with hollandaise sauce, cooked in a filo pastry case,’ she explained.

‘They’re absolutely delicious, as all the food you have provided today has been,’ the man said when he had finished his second canapé. ‘I can’t thank you enough, Rebekah. And, of course, I’m hugely grateful to Dante for allowing Susanna and I to hold the christening party for our son at his home. I was worried we would have to reschedule the whole thing, after the venue we’d booked cancelled at the last minute,’ James Portman admitted. ‘But Dante organised the marquee and the waiting staff, and assured me that he employed the best chef in London.’

Rebekah could not suppress a flare of pleasure. ‘Did he really say that?’

‘He was full of praise for your wonderful cooking. Dante’s a great guy.’ James looked self-conscious as he
continued, ‘When he took over from his father as head of Jarrell Legal, after Sir Clifford retired, the other lawyers, including myself, wondered what he would be like to work for. He has a reputation for being ruthless, but he’s proved to be an excellent boss, and I’d like to think a friend. He didn’t hesitate to offer his help with the christening party and he’s been very supportive these past few months while Susanna has been suffering from post-natal depression.’

James glanced around the large garden of the beautiful Georgian townhouse which stood opposite Regent’s Park. ‘The day has been perfect,’ he murmured. ‘I really am indebted to Dante. Especially as I know the christening must have stirred painful memories for him.’

Rebekah gave him a puzzled look. ‘What do you mean?’

Once again James’s rather florid complexion turned pinker and he looked awkward. ‘Oh, nothing—at least, just something that happened years ago, when he lived in New York.’

‘I didn’t know Dante had lived in America.’ But there was no reason why she would know. Dante did not confide in her and Rebekah had only learned a few facts about him from the Internet after she had accepted his offer to work for him.

On a page entitled ‘Britain’s Most Eligible Bachelor’ she had discovered that he was thirty-six, the only son of a High Court Judge, Sir Clifford Jarrell, and the famous Italian opera soprano, Isabella Lombardi. According to the article, the Jarrells were a hugely wealthy aristocratic family and in previous generations there had been two notable marriages with distant members of the Royal Family. But now Dante was the only heir and stood to
inherit a historic manor house and vast estate in Norfolk. Aside from the huge fortune that would one day come to him, he was wealthy in his own right from his successful career as a divorce lawyer. He had gained a reputation as a tough, no-nonsense lawyer and had represented several A-list celebrities in their divorce cases.

As for his private life—busy was the best way to describe it, Rebekah thought wryly. The list of women he had been associated with was a roll call of top models, beautiful actresses and sophisticated socialites with impeccable pedigrees. Evidently Dante preferred blondes. There had been several pictures of him with leggy, platinum-haired beauties hanging on his arm. But, tellingly, he never seemed to be photographed with the same woman twice.

She was intrigued by the notion that her tough, cynical boss might have a softer side. Admittedly she had found him to be a fair and considerate employer, but she had heard a note of genuine admiration in James Portman’s voice.

‘So, how did you come to work for Dante?’ James interrupted her thoughts.

‘I used to work for a catering company, mainly providing business lunches in the City,’ she explained. ‘Dante attended one event and immediately after the meal offered me a job as his private chef.’ The salary and the fact that the job came with live-in accommodation had been too good to turn down, Rebekah mused. But, if she was honest, one reason why she had accepted Dante’s offer was because she had been blown away by his stunning looks and charisma so that for once in her life she had ignored the voice of caution inside her head and moved into the staff apartment at Hilldeane House.

‘Well, if you ever decide to change your job and would consider working for a busy professional couple and their baby son …’

‘Are you trying to steal my chef, James?’

There was amusement in Dante’s voice but also a faint edge of steel that caused his junior lawyer to jerk guiltily away from Rebekah.

‘Not at all.’ James relaxed a little when his boss gave a lazy smile. ‘Although from the sound of it you poached her from her previous employer.’

‘I don’t deny it.’ Dante gave a shrug which drew Rebekah’s eyes to the formidable width of his shoulders. She had been unaware of his presence until he had spoken and she hoped he had not heard her swiftly indrawn breath when she had turned her head and discovered him standing beside her. Being this close to him she was conscious of his height and the raw sexual magnetism he exuded. His jacket was undone, and beneath his white silk shirt she glimpsed the shadow of dark hairs and the faint delineation of his abdominal muscles.

For a shocking, heart-stopping moment she pictured him naked, imagined skimming her hands over his bare skin. Was his body as darkly tanned as his face? The way his trousers were drawn tight over his hips emphasised his powerful thigh muscles. A quiver of awareness shot through her and she could feel heat rise to her face. Terrified that he would realise the effect he had on her, she tried to edge away from him, but to her shock he placed a firm hand on her shoulder.

‘I know a good thing when I see it,’ he drawled, slanting an amused smile at her. ‘I recognized the minute I sampled her food that Rebekah is a talented chef, and I was determined to persuade her to work for me.’

Rebekah stiffened. Dante’s words confirmed what she had already guessed, she thought heavily. To him she was simply a cog in the wheel of his busy life. When they had first met he had been impressed by her cooking—while she had fallen in lust with him. It wasn’t love, of course. She wouldn’t be that stupid. But her inconvenient attraction to him was all the more surprising because after the way Gareth had treated her she had vowed to steer clear of men and allow her bruised heart to recover from the battering it had received.

Maybe after two years of being single her body was coming out of its self-imposed hibernation, she mused. And perhaps she had hit on Dante because, like the pop star she’d had a crush on when she was thirteen, he was way out of her league and therefore she could safely fancy him without the risk that he would ever notice her. Why would he, when he was used to dating beautiful women like Alicia Benson? she thought wryly as she watched the stunning blonde walk across the lawn towards them, accompanied by Susanna Portman, who was carrying a baby.

‘Here he is—the star of the show!’ James declared as he lifted his seven-month-old son from his wife’s arms. ‘You’re too young to appreciate it, Alexander, but Dante and Rebekah have made your christening day very special.’

At the sound of his father’s voice Alexander gave a wide grin, revealing his pink gums and two tiny front teeth.

Rebekah felt a sudden, intense pain in her chest and drew a sharp breath.

‘He’s gorgeous, isn’t he?’ James said proudly. ‘Would you like to hold him?’ he asked, noticing how she was
transfixed by the baby. ‘Let me take that tray from you so that you can give Alexander a cuddle.’

Alexander was indeed adorable, with chubby arms and legs and wispy golden curls covering his head. Rebekah knew his skin would be as soft as satin, and the scent of him, a unique perfume of milk and baby powder, was so evocative that the pain inside her became an ache of longing—and loss.

She gripped the tray in her hands so tightly that her knuckles whitened as she fought to suppress the agonising emotions surging through her. An awkward silence had fallen over the group and, realising that James was waiting for her to reply, she somehow forced a smile.

‘Alexander looks very happy with his daddy, so I won’t disturb him,’ she mumbled. She looked over at the marquee and added in a brisker tone, ‘The waiters are clearing the tables. I’d better go and help them. Please excuse me.’

What had that been about? Dante wondered with a frown as he watched Rebekah practically run across the lawn. His hand had been resting on her shoulder and he had felt the fierce tension that had gripped her when James had invited her to hold his son. At first he had assumed she was one of those women who could not bear the idea of getting baby dribble on her clothes—he’d noticed Alicia had kept her distance from Alexander, no doubt terrified he might leak from one end or the other and ruin her designer dress, he thought derisively.

He was surprised by Rebekah’s reaction, though. She did not strike him as someone who cared about getting messy. He had watched her in the kitchen a few times and seen how she clearly enjoyed touching food, mixing
ingredients with her hands and kneading dough when she made bread. In fact he had found her earthiness curiously sensual and had found himself imagining those firm fingers kneading and stroking his flesh.

Dio
, where had that thought come from? He dismissed the image from his mind with an impatient shake of his head. Far harder to dismiss was the
devastated
expression he had just glimpsed in Rebekah’s eyes. He was tempted to follow her and ask what was wrong. But it was unlikely she would confide in him, Dante acknowledged. She had worked for him for two months but, although she was unfailingly polite, her reserved nature meant that he had not really got to know her and usually he did not spare her much thought other than that he was pleased with the way she did her job.

Today’s christening party that he had hosted for the Portmans was a prime example of Rebekah’s admirable work ethic. He knew she had spent all the previous day preparing the food, and she’d been hard at work when he had walked into the kitchen at seven this morning. Since then she had been rushing about making sure that the party ran smoothly. He had tried to catch her eye earlier, hoping to express his thanks, but she had simply given him a cool look and turned away from him, leaving him feeling strangely irritated.

But there were other reasons for his dark mood, he accepted. The christening had stirred up memories he thought he had buried, and watching James with his baby son had evoked a dull ache in his gut. He remembered how proud he had felt at Ben’s christening. At the time he’d believed he had everything a man could want—a beautiful wife and child, a successful career
and an expensive home. He still had two out of the four, Dante reminded himself grimly.

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